J. S. Bertram.
The blessed God would have us to know where in infinite grace He has brought us; but infinite grace on the part of God avails us nothing unless faith is active on our part for the laying hold of these matters. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, so God by His word is the producer of faith. Grace on the part of God, and faith on their part linked the worthies of Heb 11 with an order outside the sphere of nature, where everything was stable! Abraham looked for a city which had foundations, whose builder and architect was God. Moses esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt; he had learned not to trust in the shadow of Egypt (Isa. 30:2), although brought up in all the learning of Egypt. The light of another day and order had dawned on their souls and enabled them to make calculations according to God. Now in faith we come to something positive, a new day; a new order; another world (the world to come). Alas, to many Christians the world to come remains such, in place of allowing the Spirit of God to make future things (which now obtain the Spirit's realm) present to our souls.
The apostle says, "Ye are not come to Mount Sinai, which brings to light God's righteous claim relative to man, man's unsuitability to Him, and maintains the distance already brought in by sin, whence comes the ministration of condemnation and death. But "ye are come to Mount Zion" (Heb. 12:22), introduces grace and gives righteousness, i.e., something positive. Here is a moral journey; not only come to Jesus the Saviour, thank God for that step! Mount Zion is where God has chosen to put His name, it speaks of Christ risen, all the era of shadows gone, the dawn of a new day, having its inception in His resurrection. After His resurrection Mary would have embraced Him as previously, His word to her was, "touch Me not"; that order was past. He was now graciously and tenderly leading her and eventually the other disciples into the light of a new day which must essentially take its character from Himself risen, not only a new day, but a new order and system, the city of the living God, which reflects the glory of God, the new seat of authority. When the people, the priests, and the king had failed God introduced Mount Zion and Jerusalem, wrested from the hand of the Jebusite as the seat of authority and the centre of the kingdom.
In the new day, the seat of authority is in the city of the living God on the heavenly Zion. As heavenly in constitution, it is independent of outside contribution, self-supporting, perfect in harmony, and administration. Our souls derive from such now, whose builder and architect is God, in which there is the consummation of that hope connected with faith referred to in Heb. 11; they looked for a city; the day of display will bring all this out to a redeemed universe. Connected with the city is the innumerable company of angels, the servants of the Divine Will, swift to do His bidding, messengers of mercy, a "vast universal gathering" (J. N. D. Tr.). The apostle in the thought of the city seems to touch on the line of the other apostles relative to the kingdom, now hid, but known to faith, and soon to be seen in display. He then comes to what is peculiar to his own ministry, viz., the church of the first-born whose names are written in heaven; this surely connects us with the eternal purpose of God, i.e., His thought from the outset relative to Christ. No power in earth or hell can erase these names; the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Now we come to the supremacy of God, who is Judge of all, manifestly relating to the world to come, but at present evinced in connection with the spirits of just men made perfect. That perfection could only be imparted in virtue of redemption, God must be just to the work of Christ, How this enhances the perfect work of Christ, hence God is the great discriminator, His word is final. What follows touches the depths of our moral being. Jesus the mediator of the new Covenant (what He has done, and what He is in Himself) has endeared Himself to our hearts. He is the centre of all God's thoughts. In Him alone there could be a perfect display of all that God is. The terms of the new Covenant (the new conditions on which God can be with His people), are all of grace, forgiveness, and moral suitability to Himself. The writing of the Spirit of God on the fleshy (i.e., the impressionable) tables of the heart, implies that capacity in the Spirit for the reception of the revelation.
Finally we come to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. The blood of Abel cried for vengeance. "The blood of thy brother crieth out of the ground." The earth was not to yield its strength to Cain on account of his foul deed. The blood of Christ speaks of cleansing, and sanctification. The better things speak, too, of the bringing in of the world to come on the sure foundation of the precious blood of Christ. All now known to faith in Mount Zion shall be in manifestation in that morning without clouds, when the curse shall be removed, and the earth shall yield her increase, and be in accord with heaven. The desert shall blossom and all shall know the Lord from the least to the greatest. What a place of privilege is ours to be in the light of these things. May we then in these days of constant upheaval live in the constant good of these superb matters!