A Meditation on Hebrews 12

Kevin J Youngblood

18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 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, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.(Hebrews 12:18-24)

The author of Hebrews allegorizes Mt. Sinai and Mt. Zion so that they represent two contrasting covenants: the Mosaic covenant (associated with Sinai) and the Davidic covenant (associated with Zion). Though both covenants are fulfilled in Christ, the Davidic covenant reaches a special climax in Jesus’ resurrection and ascension as these constitute the coronation and enthronement of the Davidic descendent who will finally make good on God’s promise to have a descendent of David reign forever. Heb 12:22-24 proceeds to describe a royal courtroom scene with all of the royal attendants celebrating Jesus’ accession to the throne.

The scene culminates, rather surprisingly, in “the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” This appears to be a double allusion to both the sprinkling of the blood of the covenant over the people of Israel at the initial covenant ceremony on Sinai (Exod 24:8) and to the blood of Abel which cried out to YHWH from the ground (Gen 4:10). This double allusion would be utterly baffling were it not for the way that both of them connect to Jesus’ shed blood. On the one hand, Jesus has sprinkled us with his blood so as to initiate us into the new covenant in a manner parallel to Moses’ act of sprinkling sacrificial blood on Israel. On the other hand, Jesus’ blood is the climax of Israel’s legacy of persecuting the righteous, a legacy that began with Cain’s murder of Abel (cf. Matt 23:35; Lk 11:51). The point therefore seems to be that Jesus’ blood with which we are sprinkled and by which we are initiated into the new covenant, is THE answer to the cry for vindication that was first uttered by Abel’s blood and finally at the end of the biblical canon, echoed by the blood of the martyred souls under the altar in the fifth seal of the Book of Revelation (Rev 6:9-10).

After a week like the one we’ve just had in which the lives of 19 innocent children were suddenly and brutally taken, much blood is crying from the ground for vindication. These voices join theirs with those of Abel and the martyrs along with all whose blood was wrongfully spilled in a chorus of questions: How long? Why? When? The divine/human answer rises from the shed blood of Jesus which says “Watch me make all things new. Take heart, surely I am coming soon.” (Rev 3:11; 21:5; 22:20; 22:27)

In the meantime, we humans still here in this life argue and scramble as if we could come up with the answer, as if our pathetic politicking, side-taking, finger-pointing, legislating could somehow penetrate the dark mystery of evil and strike the poisonous taproot of sin that infects us all.


We come to you broken beyond words. We shudder at what we are capable of and we gasp at what we’ve become. There is nowhere else to turn but to you. Help your people to lead the way. Give your church the voice to say what needs to be said, the mind to say it articulately and sensibly, and the heart to say it gently, lovingly, and passionately. Lord Jesus, thank you for adding your blood to the pool of the persecuted. For yours is the blood that redeems, vindicates, and makes meaningful all wrongfully shed blood before and after your own. Holy Spirit, fill God’s people with boldness, power, love, wisdom, and the healing words of God. Provide the balm in Gilead that we may apply it to these broken hearts. Though it stings at first, it always eventually heals and its healing is always complete.