Hear the Heavenly Voice

That's the title given to a sub-section of Hebrews 12 that I read in my Bible last night. (Who creates those subtitles, anyway? Was that really someone's job, once upon a time when this particular translation was authorized, to section off chapters and create pithy summations for each part? Sounds like a great main idea/summarizing exercise. Hmmm.)

But I digress. "Hear the Heavenly Voice" was an interesting choice for this particular sub-section. The scripture reads (all emphasis mine):

Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking. For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, the earthly messenger, we will certainly not escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven! When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: “Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.” This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain. Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. For our God is a devouring fire. (Hebrews 12:25-29)

Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also? That's deep--a little too deep for for me at 11:30 on a Sunday night. I was ready to go to sleep, but I couldn't resist checking the footnotes to find the Old Testament reference. It turns out the phrase is from a passage in Haggai, when the prophet was warning God's people of the judgment to come:

“For this is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: In just a little while I will again shake the heavens and the earth, the oceans and the dry land. I will shake all the nations, and the treasures of all the nations will be brought to this Temple. I will fill this place with glory, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. The future glory of this Temple will be greater than its past glory, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. And in this place I will bring peace. I, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!” (Haggai 2:6-9)
What a tremendously powerful passage. Don't miss this. God repeatedly refers to Himself as The Lord of Heaven's Armies. He is the ultimate authority and center of power. And His promise is to shake up the nations and bring all their treasures to Him. And then there will be peace.

All of creation will be shaken and removed,
so that only unshakable things will remain.

This verse stayed with me all day, and drew me back into study this evening. Now in my fully awake mode, I read the previous sub-section in Hebrews 12: 18-24 and I saw how the big picture fits together. We don't have to be fearful, as the Israelites were on Mt. Sinai. No--we come before Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, with Jesus as our Mediator. God's promises are not meant to intimidate us; they are meant to inspire gratitude and awe. And it is the eloquence of these scriptures in Hebrews and Haggai that shape my prayer tonight:

I want to be an unshakable being, surrounded by things that will remain.

I want to let go of everything that prevents me from being thankful and pleasing God.

I want to worship God with holy fear and awe. I want to stay focused on the future glory of His temple.

I want to inhabit the place of peace.

May the Lord of Heaven's Armies consume me in His fire 'till there's nothing left but Him.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Lord Of Heaven's Armies is the expression that led me to your blog post. After 33 years of walking with the Lord, I have just recently become aware of this expression. God refers to himself in this way A LOT through out the Bible. It is a very curious name, that I am determined to understand the full meaning of. It seems to be pregnant with meaning. I hope to discover soon! Thanks for your insights.