(This is the third article in a series. The first article can be found here, and the second article can be found here.)

 

The Missed Opportunity

Now that we’ve seen the expectation of the salvation of the returning king in the very heart of the gospel declaration, we must return to Hebrews 4, and the question of when the Israelites in the wilderness had the chance at YHWH living in their midst and declined.

For we also have had Good News proclaimed to us, just as they did. But the word they heard did not help them, because they were not unified with those who listened in faith. (Heb 4:2, TLV) (emphasis added)

The Good News, the Gospel, was proclaimed to those the author of the book of Hebrews was writing to in the same way that it was proclaimed to the Israelites in the wilderness. If this is the case, and it’s recorded in Scripture so we know that it is the case, we’re looking for a time during the exodus where YHWH invited the people to meet with him where he would speak with them openly, and they balked at the idea.

I could be wrong here, and there are certainly those whom I respect who would disagree with me[1], but I think we find the answer when we look at Exodus 19-20. We’ll start with verses 16-17:

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, as well as a thick cloud on the mountain, and a blast of a trumpet so loud that all the people who were in the camp trembled. Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God. They took their stand at the foot of the mountain. (Exo 19:16-17, NRSV)

YHWH had Moses bring the people to the foot of Mt Sinai. Seemingly, YHWH wanted the each of the people to hear his voice, speaking with them all as he would end up doing solely with Moses. YHWH descends on Sinai and his voice rings out like trumpet blasts when Moses speaks to him. His voice reverberates through the camp as he gives out the Ten Commandments. If I put myself in their place, I can understand being frightened beyond belief.

And, as we continue reading, we see that is precisely how the people feel. After the giving of the 10 Commandments, when we get to Ex 20:18-21, we see what I believe to be the missed opportunity that Hebrews 4:2 is talking about:

When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.” Then the people stood at a distance, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was. (Exo 20:18-21, NRSV)

Israel was presented with the opportunity of having the God of the universe speak directly to them and they asked Moses to be the go-between for them.

Israel was presented with the opportunity of having the God of the universe speak directly to them and they asked Moses to be the go-between for them. God wanted to be the one in their ears, and the fear of YHWH – healthy, though it may be – pushed them to distance themselves from YHWH. While I think that it’s not likely that reverence is a thing that’s going to push us away from God in the here and now, this is something that we should always be willing to test in our lives and make sure that we’re not leaning too far to either side of the scales. But, to be sure, this was a moment which would seem to fit the Hebrews 4:2 pronouncement: If the gospel is that, in part, through the death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua we have entered into an age where YHWH has brought us salvation while returning us from exile and that is now living out his reign while in the midst of the his people, there is an amazing similarity between then and now.

Truly, the gospel has been preached to us, just as it was proclaimed to them.

Truly, the gospel has been preached to us, just as it was proclaimed to them.

The question is, should we move forward in a different way than we normally would have if the gospel was the personal salvation message we’ve grown up with? The answer is a very real, ‘yes!’. Frankly, the entire point of the life of the Christian is changed, and I don’t think that’s hyperbole. Instead of the gospel being a thing that we’ve made about ourselves (you can attain personal salvation because of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ), the gospel is that the God of creation is living in the midst of his people and our job is to grow his kingdom in the same way that Adam and Even were to grow and cultivate the garden. In this new creation that we’re entrusted with cultivating, we are the ambassadors which bring the image of God out into the world. We are those images of God.

This is both awe inspiring and frightening at the same time. The fact that we are to be the very image of God to the world around us should drive us to our knees. Likewise, the fact that the King of Kings has entrusted us with being his representatives should be all you need to have all the confidence in the world.

The gospel is so much more than telling people they can be saved if they accept Christ into their hearts. The gospel is a way of life. We are the messengers proclaiming the return of the supreme King. We are the ambassadors of the Kingdom of Heaven. The gospel is not just about you; the gospel is about the renewal of creation’s perfection, and we get to be the hand of the king.

And I can’t think of a better note to end on.

 

 

Resources Leaned On For This Article

Obviously, the Bible

(Just a disclaimer that I don’t fully agree with someone just because I list them below. These are just sources which I found helpful.)

deSilva, David A. 2000. Perseverance in Gratitude: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing.

McKee, J. K. 2012. Hebrews for the Practical Messianic. McKinney, TX: Messianic Apologetics.

McKnight, Scot. 2016. The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited. Zondervan.

“Two Takes on the Test at Mount Sinai Podcast | BibleProjectTM.” n.d. BibleProject. Accessed May 25, 2022. https://bibleproject.com/podcast/two-takes-test-mount-sinai/.

[1] “Two Takes on the Test at Mount Sinai Podcast | BibleProjectTM.” n.d. BibleProject. Accessed May 25, 2022. https://bibleproject.com/podcast/two-takes-test-mount-sinai/.

 

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About the Seeking Scripture Team: We are a group of believers from all walks of the faith, saved by grace alone through faith in our Messiah. While we are of one accord in many things, we are all works in progress and lifelong learners. Therefore the opinions of one may not always represent the opinions of all.

Aaron Baker