The encouragement given in the previous passage is reinforced with a comparison of two mountains in Israel’s history.
18 For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, 19 and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. 20 For they could not bear the command, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned.” 21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, “I am full of fear and trembling.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.
The comparison here is between Mount Sinai where Moses received the commandments from God and Mount Zion, the city of hope and promise. In the previous passage, we read the author’s encouragement of who we are in Christ and that we have nothing to fear. Here he is trying to get us out of the mentality of our relationship with God as revealed in the Old Testament and into how our relationship has changed because of what Christ did (what we learn in the New Testament). The comparison isn’t just between mountains, but is between the old and new covenants.
It’s interesting how people talk about the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. He was and is always the same God. The difference is that before we were enemies of God because of our sinfulness and now we are sons and daughters of God because of what He did for us. Before we were living in our own little corrupt worlds and now we get to live in the Kingdom of God. By understanding this, we get to appreciate better what Jesus really accomplished on the cross. This is why the author references the blood of Abel, the first innocent blood that was shed on the earth. Even though his blood being shed was a tragedy, Jesus’ innocent blood actually accomplished something. The blood of unblemished or innocent animals was sprinkled to cover the sins of the people in the past but all it did was cover them. Jesus’ blood actually washed them away once and for all.
It is important we understand these concepts. This is why I believe reading through the book of Hebrews and investigating why the traditions of the Jews exist. They aren’t just religious rituals that God told them to do as they wandered through the desert because He has control issues. They help us understand the gravity and importance of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection. Thousands of years of history and tradition reveal the depth of our sinfulness, the awesomeness of God, and ultimately (as the author of this book is trying to reveal) His love for us and our need for Him. The more we understand how unworthy we are of His love, the better we can appreciate His grace, love, and mercy for us.
So, when we compare man’s relationship with God in the Old Testament with the New, yes, there is a huge difference! It’s supposed to be that way. If there wasn’t a difference, then what would have been the point of Jesus’ death on Calvary?