Glorifying God in Heaven
“You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels … and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect” (vv. 22–23).- Hebrews 12:18–29
Taking God’s weightiness into full account as we worship Him is an essential part of ascribing the glory to His name that He is due (Lev. 10:1–3). There are many ways to ensure that we always regard the Lord with reverence, not the least of which is understanding His dignity and the awe that He evokes from all of those who know His holiness and mercy. Yet, we can also take steps to revere our transcendent Creator in His majestic beauty by comprehending just what happens when we gather for corporate worship under the new covenant. Hebrews 12:18–29 guides us in this understanding.
Today’s passage alludes to Exodus 19 and the initial meeting at Sinai between God and the Israelites He redeemed from slavery in Egypt. At that point in redemptive history, Israel met with the Lord on earth. God had to descend from heaven and commune with the nation on a mountain. However, as Exodus 19 tells us, the Lord did not meet with the whole nation but only with its covenant mediator—Moses. The people were left below and could approach the holy mountain only after a period of cleansing. Even then, barriers were set up to keep anyone who was even potentially unclean from touching the mountain and causing the holiness of God to break forth and destroy the camp (vv. 10–15).
Obviously, this was not a casual meeting, and neither should worship be considered as such today. For although Hebrews 12:18–29 tells us that we who are in Christ need not fear the presence of God any longer, it by no means encourages us to be flippant or irreverent before the Lord’s holy face. In fact, we should be even more conscious of our need to honor the name of our triune Creator, for those who do not keep the new covenant with the Lord will receive an even harsher judgment than those who failed to keep the old covenant (vv. 25–29).
Moreover, in new covenant worship, God does not descend to earth but we ascend to heaven. We enter into the company of angels and the saints who have gone before us, worshiping the Lord when we gather with His people every Lord’s Day (vv. 18–24). This should indeed inspire us to approach God only with reverence, for we are entering His abode in worship. That is why we must structure our worship in a way that is pleasing to Him according to the standards revealed in His Word.
At issue in the worship wars is not old versus new but God-honoring worship versus irreverence. There are contemporary forms of worship that strive to keep God at the center, and there are traditional forms of worship that fail to take the Lord seriously. The important thing about worship is making sure that it takes God and His weightiness seriously and that it is designed for His people, that they might glorify Him and hear His Word.
Passages for Further Study