"Do Not Refuse Him Who Speaks"

     “See that you do not refuse Him who speaks.” We find these words in Hebrews 12:25. The passage is an echo from Haggai 2:6. It is a warning and an encouragement to the readers of the Book of Hebrews to be faithful to God. The book was written to keep these people from leaving the Christian faith. The argument of Hebrews is that it makes no sense to leave faith in Christ to return to the Law of Moses. Not only is it nonsense to do so; it is spiritually fatal.

     That the echo is from Haggai is important. That prophet encouraged the people who had returned from Babylonian captivity to build the temple that would be called Zerubbabel’s. Some of the older people in Haggai’s time did not think too much of the new temple. They remembered the good old days. Haggai told them of a greater glory that would be in the new temple. That glory, of course, was the truth that Jesus would preach and teach in the “new” temple.

     Part of Haggai’s response to the skeptics then was to remind them of what God had done with Egypt in the past and Babylon in their present. Yet we know, as the people reading Hebrews then did not, that even the beautiful first-century temple, elaborately redone by Herod the Great and his family, would soon be destroyed by the Romans. Paul reminded them and us they we have a kingdom that cannot be shaken. We are not tied to any material entity. We are the spiritual kingdom of God, the church.

     We serve God in this spiritual kingdom and that service is to be done in certain ways and with particular attitudes. The text has, “Let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29). These words were a definite encouragement to their first readers to straighten up and fly right. They have the same sort of implication for us.

     There are three expressions here that characterize the nature of our service to God: (1) acceptably, (2) reverence, and (3) godly fear. Whatever we are to do in our work and worship is to be acceptable to God. Abel’s sacrifice was acceptable while Cain’s was not. The pattern of sound words revealed in the Biblical text determines what is acceptable. We follow the pattern of the first century church because we know that those people were being led by inspired men (Acts 2, 2 Timothy 1:13, etc.).

     The trend today is for folks to do whatever they want and call it service to God. This is a symptom of the modern problem of subjectivism in religion. It is manifested in the popularity of so-called “contemporary” worship services. True worship is in spirit and truth (John 4:24) and is neither contemporary nor traditional. If it is to be acceptable to God it must be Biblical.

     The second word here is “reverence.” Reverence is a concept that has fallen on hard times. To be reverent toward God is to recognize His power, majesty and authority. It is also to recognize that we must humble ourselves before Him at all times. We may often bow before Him physically but we must always bow before Him spiritually.

     The third expression here is “godly fear.” This is the idea of profound respect for God and the things He has commanded us to do. Think of these ideas in connection with worship. Are we doing our best in worship if we are habitually late, if we get up and down unnecessarily during the service, if we as adults bring in drinks and snacks, and if we do other things to occupy our minds during the worship hour? To ask these questions is to answer them.

     There is a danger in allowing our casual culture to move us away from serving God in the ways He desires to be served. Remember, He is a “consuming fire.” It is largely a matter of where we have our minds during worship. It helps me in worship to think of God as being right beside me, right in front of me and right behind me. Because He really is.