Christianity is very bloody. It seems like we’re always talking about the blood of Jesus and the blood of the old covenant. For Pete’s sake, we drink a blood substitute every time we take communion, which is every week at our church. It’s all about the blood.
In vs. 24 of this chapter, the author mentions that Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant, and that we have come to God through this covenant and the sprinkled blood of Jesus that speaks a better word than that of Abel. What in the world is the author talking about?
Just in case you don’t remember, Cain and Abel were the first two children of Adam & Eve. Not long after that, both Cain & Abel bring something to God. Cain brought and offering but Abel brought a sacrifice. When Cain was upset about not getting the same recognition from God, he killed his brother. When God came asking for Abel, Cain lied about what had happened by asking “am I my brother’s keeper?” To which God responded: “The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.” (Gen. 4:10)
Later in the Old Testament we learn that the life is in the blood. And actually, “in Rabbinic tradition, the blood of all the descendants who would have been born from Abel cried out to God against Cain, and Cain thus had no share in the world to come.” Zechariah’s blood also testified and other rabbinic stories suggest that they believed that the blood of a murdered person kept seething till it had been avenged.*
It would appear that the life that is in the blood isn’t just limited to the fact that blood is what keeps us alive. But, it’s also connected to our family line and anyone who would come after us. Think about everything we know to be in blood today. Cells and DNA alone contain identifying characteristics that can pinpoint the identity of a human. Our Blood is an important part of who we are.
The Old Covenant was mediated by Moses and used the blood of animals. Just a theory, but maybe the reason the blood of goats and bulls couldn’t permanently deal with the sin of humans is because the identity contained with in the blood is that of an animal instead of a human. And maybe, we needed a blood sacrifice of an identity that was the same as us and at the same time contained the identifying characteristics that we were intended to experience?
But here we find the difference between the Old and New Covenant. The Old Covenant was essentially fear-based. God speaking to Moses on the mountain was terrifying. Probably intentionally. As we read in today’s text, they couldn’t touch the mountain that was burning with fire, gloom and storm or they would be put to death. Even an animal that touched the mountain would be stoned to death. Moses himself, when the people had sinned against God and had to go and be the mediator between the rebellious ones he was leading and God trembled with fear.
But there is a New Covenant. We don’t come to that old mountain, we come to the new one, Mt. Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. Not only do we come to this mountain, but we are invited up it. Not just touch it, but to ascend it. We get to come to God, the Judge of all. Why? Because of the better blood of Jesus. The blood that speaks a better word than Abel.
Abel’s blood cried out from the ground. Abel’s blood was spilled because of rebellion. Abel’s blood was the blood of Adam and Eve, the son of the man God formed from the dust and the woman that was formed from Adam’s rib. God breathed his life into Adam, so it was literally God’s life that was passed on from Adam to Abel. The blood that was in Abel’s body was the blood of faith. “By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.” (Heb. 11:4)
The blood of Abel was crying out because he wasn’t guilty, yet his brother murdered him. And even though Abel’s blood still speaks the word of faith and righteousness today, we can see that the blood of Jesus speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. This blood wasn’t of someone who had faith in God, but was himself God. Like Abel, he was innocent and yet his blood was spilled. Moses mediated the covenant of fear, but Jesus mediates the covenant of joy, righteousness and perfection.
This is why I am so passionate about the book of Hebrews. As I have said many times before, too many believers have settled for a vicarious relationship with God when Jesus died to give them direct access to the Father. Too many believers are settling for an old covenant approach to the new covenant. Too many people would rather let Moses, aka their pastor, their favorite internet preacher, their favorite podcast (including this one), their favorite author or their favorite friend have the experience with God and then hear about it from them. Let me say this in the strongest way I possible can: THAT IS NOT WHAT JESUS DIED FOR! Jesus did not pour out his blood on our behalf so that someone else could go into the Holy of holies on our behalf. Jesus died so you could go in there!
We have got to stop settling for an old covenant approach to the new covenant. You should not be dependent on your preacher or me on this podcast or anyone else to meet with God. We are only changed when we meet with God for ourselves. It’s only by being in His presence, by enjoying that thing Jesus died to give us that we will ever actually become more like Christ.
Yes it’s easier to let someone else do the work. But like the Old Covenant, it’s a glow that fades. Remember 2 Cor. 3 where Pauls mentions how Moses had to cover his face with a veil after being in God’s presence because it was literally glowing and it freaked people out? That doesn’t happen vicariously. It only happens when we’re in God’s presence personally. We shouldn’t be surprised that the world doesn’t know we’re Christians by our love for one another because not very many of us are spending much time in the presence of love so that we can actually become love.
The glow on Moses’ face faded, ours will too if we don’t get near the light. When was the last time you let God light you up? This is one the most constant prayer I pray for our church and believers everywhere, “God, would you light us up!” We need to get lit up by the light of the presence of God in our lives. We need to get into God’s presence, we need to ascend the mountain and join with the thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly.
We need to receive our identity as the church of the firstborn. We need to let the blood of Christ and his identity as the firstborn son of God almighty wash over every aspect of our lives. we need to let the contemptuous, rebellious spirit of blood that courses through our veins be constantly sanctified by the blood of Christ and let him change us from the inside out.
There’s only one way that happens: “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Heb 10:19-22)
*The IVP Bible Background Commentary, pg. 681