18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly 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 that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. 25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:18-29 ESV).
Summary: Since believers have encountered glorious spiritual realities, they must not reject Jesus’ voice but thank him for his kingdom and worship him acceptably.
This passage should impact both our daily worship of God and our Sunday worship as we gather with God’s people.
Notice that the first half of this passage, verses 18-24, are structured as a Negative-Positive. The readers have not come to a physical place (described in 18b-21); rather they have come to spiritual realities (described in 22-24).
Then the second half, verses 25-29, is a Bilateral. And the two halves of the Inference in this relationship are a negative and a positive command, which are both grounded upon the reality of God’s warnings from heaven and his promised destruction of everything except what cannot be shaken. Here are the two Inferences: Do not reject the voice of Jesus (25a) - his covenant and blood - but rather do thank God for his kingdom and worship him acceptably (28a-c).
And all of verses 25-29 is an Inference from the spiritual realities of the New Covenant, contrasted with the Old, in 18-24.
Because the proposition containing the Inference is the emphasized half of the whole Inference relationship, the two emphases of the whole passage are found in 25a and 28-29. Because believers are God’s New Covenant people, the recipients of tremendous spiritual and eternal blessings, they must be thankful for his kingdom, and worship him in an acceptable way.
And what way is that? “With reverence” and with “awe” (28). Why reverence and awe? Because “our God,” the God of the New Covenant, “is a consuming fire” (29).
How do you view God? How do you respond to God’s words? How do you feel when you read or sing or hear about the majesty and glory and love of God? How you respond shows whether or not you are truly encountering God or just a figment of your imagination.
For a quick look at people who encountered God shows this! Isaiah saw his glory in Isaiah 6:1-7 and denounced himself as full of sin in the light of God’s holiness. This isn’t just an Old Testament reality either, for when John, the beloved disciple, saw the glory of the ascended Christ, he “fell at his feet as though dead” (Rev 1:17). And the sinless, perfected saints in Heaven fall down before the throne of God in worship (Rev 4:9-11; 5:8-10).
This reveals that those who “see” the glory of God today worship him with reverence and with awe. They fear him in his unapproachable majesty, yet rest in his undeserved favor in Christ. They bow in amazement at the incomparable companionship of glory and mercy, justice and grace, shining from the face of Christ.
So ask the Lord for a godly, reverential awe of him as you read his Word. Ask him to show you his glory in Christ as you hear the Scriptures read and preached. Without the fear of the Lord, you cannot truly know anything at all, or live in a way that pleases him (Psalm 111:10; Prov 1:7).
(In another study on worship, I briefly described and applied three NT passages: Romans 15:1-6, 1 Corinthians 9:3-14, and 1 Corinthians 10:1-13. In a study of 2 Timothy 3:10-17, I demonstrated that we must study what God commanded Israel in the OT if we want to please him in the NT era). And in an examination of Matthew 15:1-9, I showed that Jesus would condemn our own passion for any elements of worship that are not directly commanded by God in his Word.)