The mountain shook, and God spoke. When the Lord’s voice thundered from Sinai, a covenant was made with Israel, and mankind was educated in the ways of God.

When Israel arrived at Horeb, God required three days of preparation (Exodus 19:3-25). The divine manifestation was an epic moment in redemptive history; that’s the way Israel was to consider it. God said, “I am Jehovah thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Exodus 20:2). He saved them; he was their God.

God’s ongoing providence was dependent, however, on Israel’s faithfulness—four commands regarding God, six about fellowman, and numerous other moral, civil, and ceremonial laws were given. True religion has never been mere philanthropy, nor is there any place for a “just-me-and-God” theology. Love for God and one’s neighbor were the principles upon which the law and the prophets rested (cf. Matthew 22:37-39).

God commanded, he did not propose. When God prohibited “any other gods before me,” he required Israel’s fidelity to him alone. When he forbade idol construction, he insisted on love and obedience (cf. Exodus 20:6). When he banned vain talk of his name, he enlisted their love and honor. When he commanded Sabbath keeping in Israel, he condemned religious neglect and a secular worldview.

In all his prohibitions, God enjoined the positive implications. With positive commands, God necessarily prohibited certain actions. As Creator and Redeemer, he says what we can and cannot do; he always has our best interest in mind (cf. Deuteronomy 10:13).

Christians need “Sinai insight.” They need to learn how God deals with men and how men ought to respond to God. Employing this defining moment, the writer of Hebrews reveals the essence of the Christian dispensation.

The inspired writer says we are come unto a mountain, but not Sinai. He said we’re come to Zion. We’ve received a revelation from God concerning his covenant through Jesus Christ. We’ve been saved; he is our God.

This mount of Zion, before which we stand, is the city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and we’ve come before innumerable hosts of angels. This is the general assembly and church of the firstborn people who are enrolled in heaven. It is an awe-inspiring and humbling thing to view the church as God does.

But what of the cost? It is that of blood that speaks better than Abel’s, the blood of God’s Son. One commandment seems adequate for the moment: “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh” (Hebrews 12:25).

From these great texts we learn truths—depending on how we receive them — that will determine where we spend eternity. God is our Creator; he is our Savior. He has the right to command; he will judge us. He always operates for our good, and he has made our redemption possible through the blood of his Son. Through Christ’s blood, Christians relate to God through the New Covenant, and are in the church, a kingdom that cannot be shaken.

A shaking-up is coming; a judgment looms. Only those who maintain a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ will escape God’s wrath. He has lovingly provided for our eternal welfare by the laying upon his Son the iniquity of us all.

Kiss the Son, lest God be angry (cf. Psalms 2). So the encouragement comes: embrace these truths, for our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).