Monday, March 4, 2013

Two Words


Heb 12:24  (We are come to…) and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.  Heb 12:25  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. 

Verse 24 is one of the many passages in the book of Hebrews in which the commentators offer various interpretations.  Before I look at two of them let’s remind ourselves of the context.  The writer is contrasting two mountains, Sinai and Zion.  They represent two systems of attaining salvation which we can boil down to works and grace, do or done.  One attempts to get to God on Mt. Sinai by walking to the top yourself.  The other option, and the only one that works, is letting Jesus carry you to the top of Mt. Zion by his work on the cross. 

It is here that we read of two types of blood that speak a word to us; Jesus’s and Abel’s.  What are we to make of this?  One view is that Abel’s blood is the blood of the sacrifice that he offered the Lord and was accepted.  Thus it is assumed that the writer’s point is that the blood of the New Covenant forgives sin while the blood of animals cannot.  It is the point that has been made especially in chapters 7 through 10 of Hebrews.  So we might say that the writer restates it here, although I wonder why he didn’t just say the blood of bulls and goats like he has done before.   

Now obviously this view is a truism and to see this passage as saying that will get you to his overall point, but I think there is a little more here.  For one thing, the author doesn’t just say that Jesus’ blood is better than Abel’s but that it speaks a better word than Abel’s.  So to understand his point we need to know what words he is referring to. 

Admittedly in Hebrews 11:4 Abel’s faith is said to speak and there it is referring to the testimony that his sacrifice was better than Cain’s.  But I don’t think this is the word that the writer is referring to in ch. 12.  I think he is referring to Gen. 4:10, “And the LORD said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground.”   This would mean it is Abel’s spilt blood being murdered by Cain that he is referring to.  And it seems pretty clear that in that case his blood was saying one thing, vengeance and justice!   

With this in mind, I think we can see this statement in its context.  Jesus’ blood is a sacrifice which speaks mercy and forgiveness while Abel’s blood was the result of murder which demands justice.  And that is precisely the difference in these two mountains and these two systems.  The Law demands justice and gives no mercy when one fails and everyone who lives by the law fails to obey it.  But those who come to Christ by faith in his work find the Law satisfied and forgiveness to those to whom it is applied.   

Notice he refers to Jesus’ blood as sprinkled.  When blood is sprinkled on something it means its value is applied.  Christ’s shed blood saves when it is appropriated by faith.  These Hebrews who were thinking about going back to Sinai were in danger of not having the blood of Christ applied to them and so die in their sins.  Everyone is born with the Law crying for vengeance and justice against them as sinners.  But the blood of Christ can give the grace of God in forgiveness when one will trust in him.  In verse 25 we see that God speaks to us in the gospel warning us that the only option is Zion.  To live trying to earn your way to heaven will only leave you unprepared to meet our God who is a consuming fire.

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