Faith Inspires Gratitude
Devotional Reading: II Thessolonians 1:1-7
Lesson Scripture: Hebrews 12:18-29
Lesson Aims: To understand that faith is active; to recognize the difference between the Old and New Covenants;and to always be grateful to God for His grace and mercy.
Background: Have you ever tried to convince a person or group to stay the course using familiar examples? The writer of Hebrews is doing just that to encourage the Jewish converts to remain faithful to Jesus versus going back to the old way (Old Testament). Faith is belief and acting on that belief! Too often, people say that they believe but when trouble or discomfort comes, they fall away. Believing and actions go together. A simple illustration of faith is believing that God loves you when facing uncertainty. Whether it is praying, singing or talking to one’s self to convince you to hold on, God is there with you.
In verses 12-17 of chapter 12, the author tells them to get fit and live for God. This goes back to last week’s lesson. Their conduct influences one another. They don’t want to be responsible for leading others astray! Through holiness – a life of love, goodness and kindness– one sees God. Believers are not to be callous with God’s gifts like Esau. Remember he cared so little for his birthright that he sold it for food. He did all that he could to undo the situation to no avail. The writer goes on to warn the converts what they would lose if they turned back.
Lesson: Every Jew knows the significance of Mount Sinai (Horeb)! It is the place where Moses, while tending sheep, first met God. The Burning Bush that wasn’t consumed was there; Moses had to remove his sandals. Located in the Wilderness of Sin on the Sinai Peninsula, although scholars disagree on the specific location of the mountain and the exact day of their freedom. After leaving bondage in Egypt, they were led there in the third month. Exodus 19 explains the fear and trembling associated with the place. No one, including animals, could touch the mountain without fear of death! It was there that The Law was given. Sinai symbolizes God’s dealings with them under those 621 Laws (Old Testament).
The newly freed slaves first heard God’s Voice at this site and asked Moses to speak for God. He became their intercessor until his death. Mount Zion (New Testament), the other mountain highlighted in today’s lesson, is located southeast of Jerusalem. This fortified plateau was a stronghold (citadel) that was captured by David and became his capital (II Samuel 5:7; I Kings 8:1). Zion became a synonym for Jerusalem. At times, the term also refers to the nation of Israel and the “New Jerusalem.” Mt. Zion symbolizes God’s grace with the Jews first, and then the entire world of believers. Like Sinai in the Old Covenant, God resides there! Christ is the firstborn of the inheritance and believers share in that inheritance. Don’t act like Esau! Due to Jesus’ sacrifice (our intercessor); believers come into the presence of God without fear! The converts are encouraged not to turn away from Him. The “shaking of the earth” refers to God getting people’s attention and the coming Judgment. God’s future shaking will touch everything in heaven and earth! Only those who have faith will survive and rejoice in Him with reverence and awe (profound respect)!
Application: We have so much to be thankful for. Stop and take inventory if you will, and be reignited to worship Him in spirit and truth. God’s grace can be witnessed in our personal and corporate inventories. We become more grateful as He continues to shower His mercy and grace upon us. Our rejoicing doesn’t stop here in the present but stretches to the coming Judgment, which is sure. Where the Old Covenant weighed down, the New Covenant makes the load lighter.
The future is bright because believers use their “faithful eye” to remain steadfast. Believers are not afraid as those who have no hope. God is good thus motivating us to be grateful for His grace and mercy. Know yourself and what you believe, God takes care of the rest. AMEN!