The word for today is “refuse.” In today’s reading of Hebrew 12:25-26, 13:22-25, we hear that we should not disregard the Word of the Lord when He proclaims it to us. The apostle writes, “See that you do not refuse Him who speaks… (vs. 25).
To understand this warning, we must explain the preceding verses. Beginning with Chapter 12:18, the apostle contrasts Mt. Sinai where Moses received the Law with Mt. Zion, the city of the living God” (vs.22). This heavenly city is the meeting place of angels and the assembly of those whose names are “registered in heaven.” Thus, it is the company of the righteous who are “firstborn,” firstborn in the sense that they are first in the line of inheritance of the heavenly Jerusalem.
In this heavenly city, the blood of Christ speaks “better things than the blood of Abel” (vs. 24). Recall that the blood of Abel cried out from the ground for vengeance (Genesis 4:10). But on Mt. Zion, the blood of Christ proclaims the mercy of the Christ who is the mediator, the “go-between” (Strong’s #3316, 161) of a New Covenant. The blood which seals this new relationship between God and man is the effectual Word of purification and cleansing of sin (Hebrews 1:3) (Strong’s #2980, #148).
With this in mind, the apostle turns to warn that those who belong to the celestial city must be attentive to the voice of the Lord. In Chapter 12:18, the apostle refers to the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai. When the Almighty decreed the Law, thunder roared, lightning flashed, and a thick cloud enveloped the sacred mountain (Exodus 19:16). The mountain smoked (Exodus 20:18), and the sound of a trumpet was so loud that the people trembled (Exodus 19:16). Then God called Moses to ascend the mountain. And the Lord spoke the commandments of the Law (Exodus 20:1).
But the voice of God, accompanied as it was by thunder, lightning, and thick smoke, so terrified the people that they begged that God would no longer speak to them but only Moses (Exodus 20:19 and Hebrews 12:19). To the apostle, that meant that they “ refused,” that is, they “rejected” the Word of God spoken to them (Strong’s #3868). The apostle explained that they spurned the Word of God because they could not “endure what was commanded” (vs.12:20). And so, they did not escape God’s displeasure.
But the Word which terrorized even Moses (Exodus 12:21), was spoken from Mt. Sinai, an earthly mountain. And yet, the sound of God’s voice (the loud trumpet) shook the earth. But the prophet Haggai prophesied that God would speak not from earth but from heaven. Then both earth and heaven would be shaken (Haggai 2:6 and Hebrews 12.26). The apostle asked rhetorically if the people could not escape the wrath of God when He spoke on earth about earthly things, how can anyone escape if they turn away from the Almighty who speaks from heaven regarding heavenly things (vs. 25).
Indeed, the apostle adds, there will be such a “shake-up.” For the time will come when earthly things will be shaken and destroyed as in a worldwide earthquake. And what will remain are the heavenly things of the “Kingdom that cannot be shaken” (vs. 12: 28).
Today’s reading addresses the temptation to count on our standing with God. We take God’s grace for granted. We presume on God’s mercy. We adopt a casual attitude toward sacred things. The teaching of our reading against spiritual sloppiness comes in two parts: first, the surpassing worth of the heavenly city to which the Lord has invited us; and second, the peril of losing that inheritance by our heedlessness of the Word of God and our disregard for the direction of the Spirit. The apostle gives us two words to avoid the spiritual laxity that can creep up on us over time: reverence and godly fear (Hebrews 12:28).