Title:  The Joy of Zion


Summary:  You are better off if you remain worshipping and serving at Mt Zion rather than Mt Sinai because we meet God at Mt Zion where there is a joyful gathering of all the firstborn who will be vindicated by God because they have been redeemed by the blood of Christ.  Only Mt Zion and those in it will remain when God in the end shakes away the temporal things.


Know:  It is important to remember not to forget your place in the eternal kingdom by selling it away for temporary relief or pleasure


Feel:  Hopeful and strengthened


Do:  Reflect on characteristics of both mountains.  Discuss how this passage might have encouraged or strengthened the original readers.  Discuss why the passage closes with God as a consuming fire after the uplifting picture of Zion.  Identify what a "Sinai" might be for us today.  Discuss why we need to be reminded of both Sinai and Zion today and what it means to stay with Zion.


Text:  Heb 12:18-29


Scripture Reading:  Ps 48:1-3



1.  What happens when your kids get tired on a trip, get cranky, irritable

            a.  You could scold them and tell them to be quiet

            b.  Could play a game, tell jokes, talk about fun you will have, sing, etc.

            c.  In other words, you might try and lifts spirits in the car

            d.  That is what this text is trying to do for the readers

2.  Context:

            a.  Stay on the straight path, don't let world poison you with bitter root

            b.  Don't be like Esau, sold away his inheritance for temporary relief

            c.  Text continues with instruction for staying on the path

            d.  Compares two destinations, two mountains, Sinai and Zion

3. (Heb 12:18-29) - Text tells us our goal is Zion, not Sinai

            a.  Remember the readers' challenge

                        - Jews who became Christians

                        - Persecution, property seized, thrown into prison, lose jobs

                        - Time has passed, now they are tired, worn out

                        - Some tempted to stray away by going back to Judaism - Sinai

            b.  Text tells them the goal is Zion, not Sinai

            c.  If not familiar with Sinai and Zion, this may not mean a lot

                        - Fortunately, the text includes details of each

                        - We will look at them as we look closer

            d.  Message:  You will find God, rest, and joy only if you cling to the

                 Kingdom of God and nothing else.  Why?  Reasons


I.  You cannot find rest, joy, peace anywhere else

            A.  All experiments to find meaning, fulfillment, joy without God will fail

            B.  Text describes a place where God no longer is - Sinai

                        1.  Background - Sinai was the mountain of God in the desert

                                    a.  Moses first met God there in burning bush

                                    b.  After deliverance from Egypt, Israel met God there

                                    c.  Wouldn't you like to meet God?

                                                -  Would like to see him face to face

                                                -  Would like to touch him

                                                -  Would like to hear him speak to you?

                                                -  Wouldn't this be just "awe-some"

                        2.  It was awesome, but not in the way you think

                                    a.  Mountain of God could not be touched

                                                - Ex 19:12 - Anyone touching mountain will be stoned

                                                - Ex 19:13 - Any beast touching the mountain stoned

                                    b.  It was covered with fire, darkness, gloom, whirlwind

                                                - Imagine the sight!

                                                - God in all his power, glory descended on mountain

                                    c.  They were terrified at the sound of God

                                                - Ex 20:18 - People stood at a distance

                                                - Ex 20:19 - People not want God to speak to them

                                                - Wanted Moses to relay God's message

                                    d.  Even Moses was filled with fear and trembling

                                                - From Dt 9:19 after golden calf

                                                - Moses pleaded for the people in fear

                                                - God was angry

                        3.  What all this tells us

                                    a.  It is dangerous to be a sinner in God's presence

                                    b.  They could not approach God or they would die

                                    c.  Not until the tabernacle could they be in his presence

                                                - But it was in the camp, not in the holy of holies

                                                - Only the High Priest, after preparations could go

                                                   there once a year

                                    d.  Sinai a place of fear, trembling, danger, darkness

                        4.  Text says - You have not come to Mount Sinai

                                    a.  Mt Sinai was in the desert

                                    b.  Mt Sinai was not the ultimate destination

            C.  ILL:  Remember climbing Mt Wantassequit

                        1.  Stopped part way up, found a spring which refreshed us

                        2.  Could have stayed there, but would never reach destination

                        3.  That little spring was just a stop along the way

                        4.  In the same way, Sinai was just an oasis stop in the desert

            D.  Remember, this is not your final destination

                        1.  The path did not end at Sinai

                        2.  Path doesn't end here either

                                    a.  Doesn't end in America

                                    b.  Doesn't end with High School, College

                                    c.  Doesn't end with retirement

                        3.  Sometimes we get too wrapped up in here and now

                                    a.  Our goal and destination is not here

                                    b.  Life is bigger than the here and now

                        4.  Our Goal is to meet God, our creator


II.  You can only find rest, peace, and joy in his Kingdom

            A.  The Kingdom of God is the only place with lasting joy and peace

            B.  Look at how the text describes it (v.22-24)

                        1.  Three titles for it:

                                    a.  Mount Zion - Originally mountain of original city of David

                                                - Place where the temple was built

                                                - Became the symbol for the dwelling of God

                                    b.  The City of the Living God

                                                - Zion and Jerusalem became synonymous

                                                - This was the center of God's kingdom

                                                - Peace, justice, salvation all would come from Zion

                                    c.  The Heavenly Jerusalem

                                                - Not talking about worldly city or kingdom

                                                - Talking about a heavenly one

                                                - Something much greater than worldly city

                        2.  A place of festive joy

                                    a.  "General assembly" is panhguris - festal, joyful gathering

                                                - In non-biblical sources, used of parties

                                                - Also used of celebratory atmosphere at the games

                                                - In Septuagint, used of joy of feasts

                                    b.  So, the gathering is a joyful, celebratory one

                                                - Spirits of the righteous made perfect are rejoicing

                                                - The myriads of angels are rejoicing

                                                - The assembly of the firstborn ones are rejoicing

                                                            = Assembly is ekklhsia - "church"

                                                            = Firstborn is plural, so it is talking about us

                                                                        > We are God's firstborn

                                                                        > We have inheritance

                                    c.  Festive time of feasting, of joy, delight

                        3. To God - We meet God in Zion, not Sinai

                                    a.  Text calls God the judge of all (Ps 9:7-12)

                                                - Lord's throne established for judgment, he is King

                                                - Lord also a stronghold for the oppressed

                                                - v.12 - He who avenges bloodshed remembers

                                                - God does not forget the cry of the afflicted

                                    b.  Knowing God will make it right is an encouragement

                                    c.  Will vindicate the righteous oppressed, judge the wicked

                        4.  To Jesus

                                    a.  Mediator of a new covenant

                                                - She his blood on the cross

                                                - He enacted a new covenant of forgiveness

                                                - Our redemption to God is based on his blood

                                    b.  His sprinkled blood - speaks better than Abel

                                                - Abel's blood cried to God from the ground, Gen 4:10

                                                            = It convicted Cain as guilty

                                                            = It was a cry for justice

                                                - Christ's blood has a different cry - For mercy

                                                            = Jesus prayed for his murderers

                                                            = Jesus shed his blood for our sin

                                                - Because of Christ's blood, we can approach God

                                                            = We can enter the New Jerusalem

                                                            = We can find joy, peace, life

            C.  ILL:  Let me ask you a question

                        1.  Where would you rather live?

                                    a.  North Korea or South Korea?

                                    b.  Iran or

                                    c.  Mexico or USA?

                                    d.  Afghanistan or Australia?

                        2.  Questions are no-brainers.  Why?

                                    a.  Some of these are very dangerous places

                                    b.  Some of these are starving places

                                    c.  People from those places usually want to come here

                        3.  Another question - Sinai or Zion?  Also a no-brainer

            D.  The destination is Zion, the Eternal Kingdom of God

                        1.  There is joy here, but also sorrow from hardships

                        2.  Rom 8:18 - Sufferings now not even worthy to be compared with

                             the glory to be revealed to us

                        3.  Stay on the right path, stay on the road to Zion

                        4.  If you choose to leave God's rule & kingdom, it will be disaster


III.  Only God's Kingdom will survive the final earthquake

            A.  Everything of this world will be abolished

            B.  Text speaks of the end (v.25-29)

                        1.  Background Hag 2 - God shakes away old order & bring the new

                        2.  Image of the end is a final, very, very violent earthquake

                                    a.  Not just the ground, but even the sky will shake

                                    b.  Not just buildings and trees falling, but everything

                        3.  Only thing that will remain is what can't be shaken - Kingdom

                        4.  Bible gives other images for this as well

                                    a.  Dragnet fish, then separate good from bad, Mt 13:37

                                    b.  Harvest, Wheat in barn, tares burned, Mt 13:30

                                    c.  Separate sheep from the goats, sheep into joy of master,

                                         goats to eternal punishment, Mt 25:31

                                    d.  Will be a separation process

            C.  ILL:  Like panning for gold

                        1.  Dirt, sand, mud all goes into the pan

                        2.  Shake it, sift it, till you have the gold

                        3.  Throw away the junk, keep the gold

            D.  The only thing that will remain is the Kingdom

                        1.  Are you in the Kingdom of God?  Does he rule your life?

                        2.  You want to be the gold, not the sand when he shakes it up


1.  The Heavenly Jerusalem will be full of gold!

            a.  Festive place of joy, peace, plenty, no sickness, dying, pain or evil

            b.  It is where God is

            c.  Are you ready to go when he calls? (inv)

            d.  If you have, then remember, you are sons of Zion, not Sinai

2.  We need to be reminded of this so it can change our disposition

            a.  Do we live as though we are people of Zion or Sinai?

                        - Do we really believe the difficulty of this world not worthy to

                          compare to glory that will be revealed?

                        - Do we really believe along with Paul that God will bring us safely                                   to his heavenly Kingdom? 2 Tim 4:18

                        - Do we really believe that we are God's firstborn?

                        - Does it show in our lives?

            b.  Reminded of fictitious story about Martians observing our world

                        - Said this planet was obviously sun worshippers

                                    = Once a week, they go out into the sun

                                    = Some go out to large green fields and hit a ball (solar

                                       symbol) with long clubs into holes

                                    = Others go to the ocean and hurl themselves into the waves

                                        with ecstasy, and sit in the sun afterwards after anointing

                                        their bodies with holy oils

                                    = Everyone joyfully revels in their worship of the sun

                        - Martian describes small group of unbelievers

                                    = They sit in stained glass buildings to block out the sun

                                    = Their faces do not reflect any of the passion and frenzy the

                                        sun worshippers exhibit in their devotion

                                    = In fact, they appear placid, indicating minds that are devoid

                                       of thought or emotion

                        - Are you challenged by the possible truth of this?

            c.  Imagine a man with a sour face - "I am a Christian.  I take it very

                 seriously.  Don't you want to be one too?"

                        - Allow yourself to express joy and jubilation due to our Lord's work

                        - Allow others to do the same, build up don't tear down

3.  Need to remind each other this not end of journey, difficulty will pass

            a.  Don't get stuck in Sinai, look to Zion - that is what we come to in Christ

            b.  Along the way, lets laugh, sing, be joyful, take hold of the hope

            c.  Lets build each other up to stay on the right path, take hold of joy


Small Group Notes:  The Joy of Zion



Summary:  You are better off if you remain worshipping and serving at Mt Zion rather than Mt Sinai because we meet God at Mt Zion where there is a joyful gathering of all the firstborn who will be vindicated by God because they have been redeemed by the blood of Christ.  Only Mt Zion and those in it will remain when God in the end shakes away the temporal things.




- What is the tallest mountain you have ever been on?



Explore: Heb 12:18-29


1.  What are the differences between Mount Sinai and Mount Zion?


2.  Why did the readers have to be reminded of which mountain they came to?  How would this have strengthened them?


3.  What is the "shaking" this passage is talking about?  What will happen when this "shaking" comes about?


4.  What is the relationship between Mount Zion and the Kingdom?


5.  Discuss the exhortations in this passage.  How do they fit in with Hebrews 13:14; and 11:13ff. 





6.  Why would we need to be reminded of both Sinai and Zion today?  What are some things we, as non-Jews, might be tempted to turn to instead of Sinai?


7.  Since we have come to a "festive" or "joyful" gathering, what are some ways we can advance this so that we can mutually strengthen and encourage each other?