Title: He Speaks a Better Word
Text: Hebrews 12:22-13:21
Date: January 14-15, 2017
He’s bringing the book to a great crescendo. He’s been challenging them in their faith to strengthen, to take hold of the word of God in their life, and it’s interesting because in these verses that we’re going to look at today, he says some really interesting words to challenge them where he says, “Those things that can be shaken will be shaken, in order that those things which cannot be shaken will remain”. What does this mean? It’s very important that we grasp what he is really referring to is the fact that we should put our hope on those things which cannot be shaken. So, you take hold of the promises of God, you strengthen your faith; and then he gets very practical because he’s going to transform your living. It should be seen in how you respond by your living.
All right, let’s read that. Starting in verse 22, he’s showing you here. What does this come to? What has this great salvation brought them to? So, he says in verse 22, “You have come to Mt. Zion and the city of the living God. You’ve come to the heavenly Jerusalem. Great, deep words that encourages us tremendously to look heavenward, and you come to millions of angels, to the general assembly, to the church of the First Born--you are enrolled in heaven; and you've received Jesus Christ. Your name is written on the Lamb's Book of Life, and your citizenship is in heaven. You've come to God, the Judge of all, and you've come to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, and you’ve come to Jesus who is the mediator of the new covenant and you’ve come to the sprinkled blood which speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. That's where we get the title of our message and it's really important that we grasp this meaning.
Verse 25, “Therefore, see to it 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 are we to escape who turn away from him who warns from heaven, and His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying "Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, I will shake the heaven”. Now this expression "yet once more" denotes the removing of those things, the shaking of those things which can be shaken as He created them. In order that those things which cannot be shaken may remain, therefore--that's the response--since we have received a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe for our God is a consuming Father. Very, very important words, and I want to us to focus on where he says, "The blood of Jesus speaks a better word”.
Now, one of the great themes that runs through this book is that everything that we have in Jesus is superior to anything that's come before. He's been so careful to point it out. Jesus is greater than Moses. He's greater than Abraham. He's greater than all the Biblical priests. He's better than all of the Old Testament sacrifices, on and on and on, and he goes then to speak about the blood of Jesus, and he says, "Do you see what the blood of Jesus speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.' What does this mean? Well, the blood of Jesus, you might say, speaks, and it speaks grace, and it's a comparison to the blood of Abel. What is this story? How does it relate to this?
Well, you might remember Cain and Abel were the sons of Adam, and that God had asked them to bring an offering, a sacrifice, and this was the picture all the way back in the book of Genesis. It's a picture of Jesus and the sacrifice of his blood on the cross. Way back then, and so Abel brought a lamb as God has asked, but Cain didn't do what God asked. He brought the produce that he himself had raised with his own hand, and was a reflection of himself, and so he brought that to God, but God did not have regard for it, and so Cain getting in trouble from the Lord like that, got angry. Now, I've raised enough kids to know how that works. They get in trouble, and they get angry about it, and so Cain gets angry, and he gets angry at Abel. In fact, they go into the field and he attacks him and kills him. So, God, this is Genesis, Chapter 4, verses 9 and 10, The Lord said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" And he said, "I don't know. Am I my brother's keeper?" That's where we get that famous saying, and He said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground”. Well, what was it crying? What was the blood of Abel crying out? It was crying out "Vengeance. Retribution. An eye for an eye. A life for a life”. He says, but the blood of Jesus has a better word than that. Now, we should be very, very thankful. Very thankful that the blood of Jesus speaks grace and mercy and kindness and forgiveness and life and love. "The favor of God”, he says, “is spread and brought about by the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus upon us”.
Now, you come to sprinkle blood--see, the Jewish Christians would adopt that. Old Testament symbolism. Now we've got to dig into it a little bit more, but they got it because they are brought back into their minds about the time in Israel when they gathered as a nation before Moses, and he is sanctifying the people, and he literally took blood and he sprinkled it out. He sprinkles it out. He picks it up and he says, "Splashing it like this onto the people,” what a dramatic scene, and of course, it's symbolic. It's meaning is found in Christ. His blood sanctifies. His blood gives life. His blood forgives. His blood speaks a better word, and the sprinkling of his blood is really, you might say, on every aspect of your life.
Now, the implications of that are absolutely marvelous. To understand what it means that the sprinkling of blood is on every area of your life. It means the favor of God is poured out upon you. Now this is powerful insight. Do you believe it? Do you believe that the favor of God is upon your life? It's in every area of your life, and so this is important for us to grasp. I have always believed that the favor of God is on my life, from the very early days of coming to faith in Christ when I was young. I don't know exactly how that happened, but somehow my faith connected those dots and I believe that if God has given me that amazing salvation that he's giving me the favor of God in my life. Even when bad things happen, I believe that. Now, I've never thought that I would be immune from bad things. I've always believed, though, that if bad things should happen, that God is able to bring that which is good out of it, be able to bring some glory, he's able to bring that which is good out of bad things. So, I look for that favor in my life, and I've said before, I'd love to write a book about all the amazing ways that the favor of God has been revealed in my life. Some of them to me are famous in my mind and my history.
One of them stands out to me quite vividly. I remember one time I was supposed to speak at this stockholders' meeting because the executives of this company were Christians and friends of mine, and they were heavily invested, you might say, in our missions' work, and they were providing a lot of money for our work in Russia, and so I was supposed to come and fly to this other city and give this report to the stockholders, and then the executives after that were going to make a decision to invest in another year of missions work in Russia. Okay, so this is like pretty important right there, and my flight was scheduled for 7:05 a.m. Well, my wife woke me up at 6:30 a.m. “Hey, aren't you supposed to be at the airport right now?” Oh, that sinking feeling that comes over you. I had set the alarm for p.m. rather than a.m., and so I get my clothes on, jump in the car, called the airlines, [because in those days you could talk on the phone while driving], and it's like, hey, do you have another flight that you can get me on that would get me there on time? And no, there were no other flights. Well, are there any other airlines? Well, Southwest has a 7:16 flight. Okay, give me that number. So, I called Southwest. Can I get a ticket? No, you're too close to departure, but there's a kiosk if you go inside. And so I thought, that's it. So, I drive all the way through downtown Beaverton, and I never hit one red light. Now if you know downtown Beaverton, then you know there's a miracle right there! So, I drive through downtown Beaverton. There's only one red light, and so I start praying. Okay, Lord, there's one and I need nine more and they’ve got to be in exactly the right order or I've got a lot of problems here.
So, I get to the airport, drive in the wrong parking lane, but there was a bus by itself, and there was a driver on it, so I got on. Could you take me...Okay, so he drives me up. Right at the top of the stairs there's a Southwest kiosk. I buy a ticket, go through security and in those days, you had to open your laptop and turn it on. You know, and I turned it off, and I literally have to run. I am sprinting down--of course, my gate has to be the last gate! And so I am sprinting down and sprinting--and I run past the lady at the gate counter, found the jet way, only to see a big gaping hole where my plane should have been, and the tractor dragging the plane away. An attendant was there and I said, "Bring the plane back,” and he said, "No, it's not coming back”. I said, "You don't understand. That is the only plane that would get me where I have to be on time. You have to bring that plane back”. He said, "You know, I don't know who you are and I don't know who you think you are, but that plane is not coming back for anybody”. And then I realized, okay. That's it. So, I said, "How do I get a refund?" He said, "See the Southwest lady there”.
So, I start walking to the jet way, and I'm having a conversation with God that goes like this, "God, this is me. I did this. I have nothing to complain about. You have blessed my life in so many ways. You have revealed your favor to my life in so many ways. I have nothing to complain about. This is me. I did this. I don't blame you at all”. And I walked up and gave the lady my ticket and told her I needed a refund. She was kind of snippy. "Oh, there's always one of you runners”. "Oh, that's so funny. Give me my refund”. And I'm looking and I see my plane. I can see my plane. You know they tractored it all the way back and turned it, and I'm thinking, what do I say? How do I explain it? I said, well, they're not responsible. I'm looking at the plane, and then I see it move forward and turn toward the gate, and I look at that, so she sees me looking like that, and she turns around and says, "What are they doing?" “I don't know, but give me a boarding pass”. I didn't have a boarding pass. So, and I'm not embellishing none of this. The airplane comes back, I hand the guy my boarding pass, I get on the plane, they close the door and take off.
Now, my uncle is a retired pilot for United and said, "I cannot explain that”. The pilot would not have authorized that, but the flight attendant must have said something. So, I'm standing there now, you know, in front of the plane full of people, and here's what they do. I'm standing there, they close the door, they started to go back, and they all started clapping. So, we take off, I'm like sweating and I'm still out of breath. We take off, and the flight attendant comes by, and I said, "Excuse me, what time do we land?" And she looks at me and says, "Excuse me, but are you the one that made us late?" "Yeah, that's true, but see, I've got about three more miracles still to go”. I'm on the wrong plane, we left late, and now we're really late, and they don't know who I am. They’re just going to have a sign with my name on it. I'm not even on the right plane--"What time do we land?" So, she told me, and I kind of called them on that, and the phone, you know, on the plane--I'm paging them and they won't answer. I can't get through, and, oh, Lord, give me more miracles. And there must have been a tail wind or something, because we landed just a few minutes later than the other one was scheduled.
But before we land, I say to the flight attendant, "Hey, do you think there's any way that I could get off the plane first?" And she said, literally she said, "Oh, anything for you”. Thank you. So, she brought me up front, and I was the first one off, and there was a train there, you know, a little shuttle train. So I jumped on, that means I was the first one off at the main terminal, and they're paging me, and so I get off, I pick up the paging phone. "I'm here, I'm here, I'm in the terminal," and so they drive me right to the meeting, literally, I got to the meeting. I was introduced and walked right up to the podium, and I had a story to tell. I explained to them, I got on the wrong plane to get me there. The CEO, when I finished giving the report that I worked in Russia and all this stuff, the CEO walks up and literally refers to me and says, "Give that man some money. We're going to support these people," and, you know, I've seen the favor of God in so many ways. I could go on and on. Now, at the same time, I've missed planes and they haven't come back. Now, I should not give you the impression I miss a lot of flights, okay. I generally make my flight, but I'm just saying, whether the plane comes back or whether the plane doesn't come back, I look for the favor of God. I believe that he orders my way regardless. I look to His life, I look to His hope, and that's why He says, "Now listen, the blood of Jesus is speaking. God is speaking. God is blessing. God is sprinkling his blood.
He says in verse 25, "See to it that you do not refuse him who's speaking. Hey, if God is speaking through his son, this is the God of the universe who created all things. He’s speaking about his only begotten son to speak His heart, and we should listen to that. In fact, he makes this emphatically as a point in Hebrews chapter 2, he says, "We must pay much closer attention to what we heard less we drift away from it. See, the Jewish Christians here were in danger of that because they were being pressured by these other Jewish, you know, other Jews around them. "Hey, give us this Jesus as the Messiah business. Go back to the old ways of Moses,” and so he's writing to them to say, "Don't you do it. Don't you do it. You know what you have in Jesus. God Himself is speaking through his son. You need to pay closer attention to it”. Then he adds to it, "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? Hey, after it was spoken first by the Lord. It was confirmed by those who heard it, and then God testifying himself with them both by signs, wonders and by gifts of the Holy Spirit. "I suggest we listen," he said. He's calling out a warning. "If they did not escape when they refused Him who warned them on earth, much less shall we escape who turned away from Him who warns from heaven.
Moses came down from Mt. Sinai and brought the Word of God to them, but they didn't listen to him. Jesus comes from heaven with the Word of God who died for us, and he said, "Don't refuse it. Don't refuse to hear it. Now, some can hear that and say, "Well, I don't think I like the wordwarningthere. That's a little heavy. Why do we have to have that? It's ominous. Warning?" To put in reality, it's a warning that helps us. It's a warning that's there. The heart behind it is loving. It's like this. You're driving on the road and there's a sign "Bridge out ahead”. Well, apparently, that's a warning sign and it's there to help us. See, you ignore it to your peril. Can you imagine someone coming up on a sign like that and saying, "I don't think I like the tone of that warning. That sounds a little bossy to me. Now, when they learn to write signs more nicely, then we'll listen. Keep driving honey”. It’s to your own peril. It's written there because there's concern for your safety. There's concern for your outcome, that's why the thing was written. See, God's heart is always relationship. You can go all the way back to Israel in the Old Testament. It was about relationship even then. Let me give you a beautiful--I mean, a beautiful verse. Exodus 19, verse 4-6, You yourselves God says to Israel, you yourselves have seen how I bore you on eagles' wings. How beautiful a picture is that? I bore you up on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now, if you were indeed to heed my voice and keep my covenant, then you will be my own possession among all the people, for all the earth is mine. You will be unto me a kingdom of priests and a whole nation. What does that mean? Invitation. What a great heart that's behind that. He gives a word of warning. Be careful, listen to these words. He says the same thing to us. It's for our good. It's like saying, "Hey, that's the last train out of there. Make sure you're on that train because there's no other trains”. That's a warning.
I'll use an illustration. A few weeks ago, there was a--this is a joke story, but I want to just summarize it now as a joke, but as an illustration of an important point. The story goes like this: There's a great flood rising. The guy's on his house and a rowboat comes and says, "Get in because the waters are rising”. He waves them off. "No, no. God's going to save me”. And so he goes up a little further on the roof and a powerboat comes by. "Get in the waters are rising. Quickly, get in”. He waves them off. "No, no, God will save me”. So the next thing he's on the peak of the house and a helicopter comes by and lowers down a basket. "Get in, get in. The waters are rising”. He waves them off. "No, no. God is going to save me”. You've heard this story, right?
Of course, he dies. And he goes to heaven. "God, what happened? Why didn't you save me? I thought for sure you were going to save me”. And the Lord responds, "What are you talking about? I sent you a rowboat, a powerboat and a helicopter”. All right, that's a funny story. But here's the point. Nobody can go to heaven and say, "God, why didn't you do something about my condition? Why didn't you save me?" "What are you talking about. I sent you my son. Wake up. Did you refuse to hear? I sent you my son, my only begotten son who died on the cross. He paid the penalty for your sins, who was raised from the grave on the third day as proof of evidence of my power. Why, didn't you receive my son?" There is no other train out of there. There is no other way. There is no other salvation. I sent you my son. Acts, Chapter 4, verse 12 makes this very clear. There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved. There is no other name. I don't care what me and you want to name, there is no other name. Joseph Smith or Mohammad, there is no other name. There's no other name under heaven by which we might be saved. Jesus himself says in John, Chapter 14, verse 6, "I am the way. I am that truth. I am the light. No one comes to the Father” -- no one, none. He says to us, “no one comes to the Father but through me”. It has this interesting warning to it. He says, “everything that can be shaken will be shaken”. Take hold of this, take hold of his words. If God is speaking through His Son, the blood of Jesus is sprinkled upon you. It speaks a better word. Take hold of it because everything that can be shaken will be shaken. I promise you this, he says, and he quotes from the prophet Hagaii, “I promise you this, whereas before, he said, the earth was shaken. I'll tell you, I'll shake the earth and the heaven”.
What is your hope fixed on? That's what He's telling us. What is your hope fixed on? Hope fixed on the earth? Everything is going to be shaken. We were reading in the book of Hebrews, this famous chapter where he gives one hero a faith after the other, these great men and women who accomplish so much by faith, but why? He explains. Because their sights were heavenward. They didn't look on earth for their hope. Their signs were heavenward. It says they were looking for a city whose foundations and architect and builder was God. They were looking heavenward to the heavenly city. He says the same thing here in Hebrew 13, verse 14, it's not here on this earth. We do not have a lasting city. We are seeking the city which is to come. Every city will be shaken. Every city will be shaken. Now, you know it's interesting.
Jesus was asked by the disciples, "Tell us, what is the sign of your coming and the end of the age?" For He--this is Mathew 24, He lists for them these conditions: Signs of the times that we would perceive to understand that the end was near, and one of the things He listed was that there would be earthquakes like a woman in childbirth, which is to say, any woman knows that the nearer you get to the head of the child that the birth pains were greater in intensity and closer together. That's one of the indications. You can look at a graph of the intensity and the frequency of earthquakes just over the last 100 years, it's like a spike graph. In other words, the earth itself will literally shake with greater and greater intensity, but it's also symbolic in that God promises that everything that can be shaken will be shaken, not only He's speaking physically in regards to the end of the time indications, but the powerful symbolism is the fact that all things, institutions, whatever, manmade whatever, it's going to be shaken to the core. That's why He says here, "We don't have a lasting city. We are seeking that city which is to come”.
I mentioned a few weeks ago the unimaginable happening when Rome--when the great city of Rome which was given the name "The eternal city", the most populated city, the wealthiest city, the most powerful city, sacked and pillaged in 14 A.D. Unbelievable. Shocked the known world at the time. How is this even possible? And it disturbed the faith of Christians, and so Augustine wrote the famous book called "The City of God," the theme of which is the eternal heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, that we should be fixing our hope and sights upon, because he said, "You've got your hopes and sights fixed on Rome, you've got your hopes fixed on the wrong city.
There's nothing on this earth on which you should fix your hope. Jesus said, "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal”. These will not be destroyed and thieves will not break in and steal it. If the city of Rome can fall, the United States could fall. Cause frankly everything that will be shaken, will be shaken. Don 't be so comfortable here, he says. This earth is not our home. We're aliens and strangers here. We're just passing through. Our citizenship is in heaven, and we're going home. That's the point. He says, "Where's your hope fixed? See, things that are of God cannot be shaken. We have a kingdom that cannot be shaken. We have the Word of God that will last for eternity. We have our hope. We have our salvation. We have a savior and his name is Jesus Christ, the Rock on which we stand. Put your hope on that, he says, and then he adds our response to it in verse 28. “Therefore, since we have received a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe, for as God is a consuming fire. Let us, therefore, show gratitude”. Now that's a particular phrase. In other words, there's a difference between being thankful and showing gratitude. They're very different things. See, thankfulness is a condition of the heart. You can be thankful, but he says, "I want you to show gratitude”. It's a whole different thing. See, you show gratitude when you do something about your thankfulness.
Let me give you an illustration. I had mentioned earlier about the favor of God, and I tell you I see the favor of God in my life in so many ways. When I was praying about becoming a pastor and my wife and I were praying about that, we knew we needed a good solid viable education so that we could--you know, I wanted to teach the word of God verse by verse, and I wanted to go and really understand, so amazingly, miraculously, a man came up to me in the church I was going to at the time and said, "God has pulled on my heart that I'm going to pay your way to Bible College and as far as you want to go. And he was absolutely true to his word. Show more gratitude--that's amazing. I went and got a Bachelors' degree, went into a Masters' program over at Western Seminary, and he frankly told me, you want to get your Doctorate, go on. I'll pay the whole thing. Wealthy businessman.
I'm amazed, and I'll tell you what, I was thankful in my heart. It is a heart condition. I am very thankful. But I knew that I must show gratitude, and here's what I felt in my heart. If God's doing that for me, then I'm going to get everything I can out of that Bible education. I'm going to take notes, I'm going to fill notebooks with everything I'm hearing, I want to do well and do well on every project I do. I'm going to attend every class. I'm going to sit where I can be attentive, and I ended up being valedictorian. That was not by goal and I'm not that smart. I just wanted to show gratitude. God has blessed me. I've got to do something. See, showing gratitude is different from being thankful. It's a whole different thing. That's why he says in verse 28, "Let us offer to God an acceptable service. See, Jesus did not come to be served. Jesus came to serve and to give His life as a ransom for me”. Want to show God gratitude, have the same heart like Jesus in serving, in doing, in blessing. He says in verse 29, “for our Gold is a consuming fire”. Someone said, "Oh, that's ominous”. No, it's straightforward. What it means is that every aspect of man's worth will be tested by fire. That's in 1 Corinthians 3:13, “Each man's worth will become evidence, for they will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's worth”. You know, if a man or woman does things which are eternal in nature, then they survive the fire, you might say. There's a blessing heavenward. Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. Do those things which are eternal in nature. If a person ends up spending their efforts and their time and their investments and all that sort of thing on earthly things, all that can be burned up, everything that can be shaken will be shaken. All these things are going to be burned up. Heavenward. Set your sights heavenward, he says.
And then someone might say, "Well what about me, what should I do?" Well, he writes it out in chapter 13. You want some ideas, what it looks like to show your gratitude? Well, he starts to list it. Verse 1, “Let love of the brethren continue, don't neglect to show hospitality to strangers, remember prisoners as though in prison with them”, because there were many Christians being arrested. “Let marriage be held with honor among all. You want to show gratitude? Bless your wife, bless your husband. Do it for the Lord. He's done so much for you can you not give a blessing?” And then he adds, "And let your character be freed from the love of money. Don't fix your hopes and your heart and your affections on things that are just going to be burned up anyway. Be content with what you have. Respect those who are in authority over you, and keep the faith”. On and on the list goes, and then he brings us to the fruit of lips, chapter 13 verse 15, "Let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise”. What a great word. But notice how he says it. “Let us continually”, continually “offer a sacrifice of praise to God”. That is the fruit of lips that give praise or give thanks in His name. The fruit of lips. What a great way of saying it. Fruit is good. Fruit is sweet. Fruit is tasty. Fruit is delicious. And so the fruit of your lips should be too. He said, "Let the fruit of your lips give praise”. You thankful? Do you have a thankful heart--show it. Show your gratitude. Say it. Sing it. Shout it. Give praise unto the Lord. This is hard for us. It's good for the soul. Here's why. Our human nature, our flesh, doesn't naturally want to show gratitude. It's not part of our natural condition. That's why it's a sacrifice at first. See, in our flesh, in our human nature, you want to feel sorry for ourselves. We want to be cynical, grumpy, caustic, say every rude thing that we feel. Some people, they have no filter. You know, if they feel bad, they speak out. If they feel grumpy, they say grumpy. If they don't feel well, they act not well. They have no filter whatsoever and the fruit of that is not good. It's the fruit of your lips. Say it, sing it, shout it, be thankful. He said, "Put in perspective. You want God to hear you. He sent His only Son to give to you an eternal salvation, and His blood speaks the word of forgiveness and grace and it's sprinkled over your life. Be thankful for that. Show gratitude. Show it, say it, sing it, shout it, and there's something that happens by faith. There's something that happens when we get together with the church family and sing it, shout it, and worship together. There's just something about that.
Now, I love being in my car, worshipping and thinking about the blood. I'll tell you, I like a lot of worship, and I can turn it up as loud as I want when I'm by myself in my car. I can just turn it up, and I love to worship by myself. But there's something different that happens when we are with the church. There's something amazing that happens together. It's like stacking wood on the fire. There's just something amazing. Beautiful. Because it gives honor to the Lord. That's what he says in Psalm 50, verse 23. “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving, honors me”. See, that sacrifice of thanksgiving. It's not just a condition. You're doing something. Psalm 100, verses 4 and 5, “Enter His gate with thanksgiving. Enter His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and bless His name for the Lord is good, and his loving kindness is ever lasting, and his faithfulness is for all generations”. He is worthy of giving thanks. You thankful? Show it. Say it. Sing it. Shout it. Do something about it. He's done so much for you.