You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.” The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear”
“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” ( Hebrews 12:18-24 )
God’s desire has always been to create a people for himself. As He assembled the Israelites together at Mount Sinai to give them the law, He told them that if they obeyed His decrees and kept His covenant they would be for Him, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation ( Exodus 19:6 ). They were to be His people, a treasured possession ( Exodus 19:5 ).
At this time, the Lord had Moses assemble the entire nation to speak directly to them from a cloud so the people would hear Him and put their trust in Him, following Moses as their leader and mediator ( Exodus 19:9 ). However they were strictly warned not to touch the mountain or they would be killed ( Exodus 19:12 ). The people washed and consecrated themselves as Moses led them out, to meet face to face with God ( Exodus 19:14, 17 ).
The whole sight was terrifying ( Exodus 19:18-19, 20:18-21, Deuteronomy 4:11-12, 5:4-5), 5:22-27 ). God gave the Ten Commandments to the entire nation of Israel and afterwards they begged Moses to speak directly to God on their behalf.“When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die” ( Exodus 20:18-19 ). They wanted Moses to mediate for them, it was such a terrifying experience that they did not want to hear directly from God because they were afraid. They told Moses “Go near and listen to all that the Lord our God says. Then tell us whatever the Lord our God tells you. We will listen and obey” ( Deuteronomy 5:27 ).
This was how it was under the Old Covenant. God’s awesomeness was magnificent but also terrifying. Because of this, the Israelites did not wish to approach God individually they chose to let Moses speak to God on their behalf. However, we as New Testament believers have not come to a mountain burning with fire and to a sight so terrifying that we run and hide. Instead we come to the Mount Zion to the city of the living God and the perfect mediator Jesus Christ ( I Timothy 2:5).
In fact, this illustration is a perfect summary of Hebrews and the differences between the Old and New Covenants. This entire book is focused solely on Jesus Christ and the change He has made in how we approach God now that we are holy and righteous in His sight.
Unlike the Israelites who trembled at the sight and sound of God, we can boldly approach His throne and will always receive grace and acceptance ( Hebrews 4:16, 10:19-23 ). If Abel’s blood poured out on the ground cried out to God for vengeance ( Genesis 4:10 ), Jesus’ blood poured out on the mercy seat continually speaks for grace upon grace ( Zechariah 4:7, John 1:16, Hebrews 9:12, 14, 15 ).
In light of this, we should have no fear or trepidation in coming to God the Father for anything. We should take a biblical view of what Jesus has done for us and run to Him knowing we are accepted and loved and God considers us holy and righteous. He holds us in high regard and sons and daughters. Therefore, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” ( Hebrews 4:16 ).