Hebrews 12:20

Friday, 26 April 2019

(For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.” Hebrews 12:20

The author now continues with his description of what occurred at Mount Sinai at the giving of the Old Covenant. Here he says while speaking of the people of Israel, “For they could not endure what was commanded.” This means that what was commanded them was so terrifying that they couldn’t bear it. The thought conveyed to them simply overwhelmed them.

The Lord was to descend on the mountain, making the entire mountain holy. How could such a thing be? How holy must the Lord be that the entire mountain would then be set apart from them! And this was after they had consecrated themselves. Even after that, they were still not to come near the mountain. And even more, this mandate included animals. As it says, “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.”

The account in Exodus speaks of both man and beast being forbidden from coming near the mountain. The author here is focusing on the beasts because, unlike man, they are simply unreasoning animals. To have them killed may sound unnecessary or even vindictive, but this is not the case. The holiness of God is something that is referred to throughout Scripture. The fallen nature of creation is also mentioned explicitly by Paul in Romans 8. Even animals with no sense of reason were to be killed if they violated this precept.

Secondly, if an animal were to be allowed to live after touching the mountain of the Lord, it could then be turned itself into an idol by the people who saw it. In essence, “Holy Cow! This is a holy cow because it was sanctified by the Lord atop the holy mountain.” If you don’t believe this is possible, take a peek at the millions of relics, or beasts, adored and worshiped by countless false religions.

With this understanding, the reason it was to be stoned or shot was to keep a distance between the offender and the executioners. The animal (or person) was, from the moment it touched the mountain, considered devoted to the Lord through destruction. To touch such a thing so devoted would then mean the one who touched it was also so devoted. And so to maintain a separation from it, the animal (or person) was to be killed from a distance.

The purpose of this was to instill in the minds of the people an absolute sense of the holiness of God. The word translated as “touches” is rather rare, being found only in Colossians 2:21, Hebrews 11:28, and here. It gives the sense of touching something which then affects the object. The mountain was sacred and holy. Touching it was, therefore, not permitted.

Another reason for this prohibition, which is only implied, but it stands as a correct interpretation, is that the Lord had accepted Moses (who would go to the mountain) and that he was the people’s chosen representative to the Lord. This is indicated in verse 9 of the chapter, “Behold, I come to you in the thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you forever” (Exodus 19:9).

Life application: Everything in creation fell at the fall. All things are corruptible and in need of the restoration promised in Scripture. Paul indicates this in Romans 8 –

“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” Romans 8:20, 21

As you can see, the taint of Adam’s sin has affected everything, but all things will be restored in due time. As Jesus says in Revelation, “Behold, I make all things new.” We have a great hope which will come about in due time. Don’t let the temporary, fallen, and often vile nature of the world around you steal your joy. Keep looking ahead to that which is promised, and which is also absolutely guaranteed, because of the work of the Lord Jesus. Good things are ahead.

O God! Thank You for the promise of restoration and renewal spoken of in Your word. Thank You that backaches, eye problems, sadness, and even death will be wiped away forever. And above all, thank You for Jesus who made the bridge to You possible. We bow at His glorious feet and hail, “Worthy is the Lamb!” Hallelujah and Amen.

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