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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Derek Prince » Derek Prince - Renew Your Spiritual Vitality

Derek Prince - Renew Your Spiritual Vitality

Derek Prince - Renew Your Spiritual Vitality
TOPICS: Hebrews Bible Study

We'll read verse 15 and proceed from there. Hebrews 12:15. Watching [or taking care] lest there be anybody who comes short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up offend [or cause trouble] and through this many be defiled. Though I said "many," the Greek says "the many". It's almost like most of them will be defiled. So this warning then is against coming short of the grace of God and that is described as a root of bitterness that springs up and causes trouble to many and many are defiled by it.

We need to look back at the passage in the Old Testament to which that refers, and it's Deuteronomy 29:18–21. This passage here is one of the most terrifying warnings of the judgment of God impending that I know of anywhere in the Bible. I read it through this evening and I was quite astonished at how powerful it was. Deuteronomy 29:18–21. These are words of Moses and I'll not go back to the beginning of the sentence, which is a long one, but beginning at verse 18: "...lest there shall be among you a man or woman, or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of those nations; lest there shall be among you a root bearing poisonous fruit and wormwood".

That's the passage that's referred to in Hebrews 12, "Lest there be any root of bitterness". But I want you to see that the root is a person, a person who turns away from the true faith of the Lord and is involved with other gods, which very frequently in our contemporary culture would be the occult. Listen to what Moses goes on to say: "And it shall be when he hears the words of this curse..." "that he will boast". The Hebrew says literally "he'll bless himself in his heart". Saying in effect, "I'm all right, that doesn't refer to me. I'm okay". He says: "'I have peace though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart in order to destroy the watered land with the dry.'"

The effect of this is that it destroys not only the dry land but the green, fertile land. I would suggest to you that God views this much more seriously than most of us would. Then listen to what follows, it's quite frightening. "The LORD shall never be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the LORD and His jealously will burn against that man, and every curse which is written in this book will rest on him". And if you read just one chapter back, the curses are numerous. The whole of the latter part of chapter 28 consists of curses. "...and every curse which is written in this book will rest on him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven. Then the LORD will single him out for adversity from all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant which are written in this book of the law".

That's really a frightening pronouncement of judgment on the person who belongs to God's covenant people but turns away to another God. Such a person, he or she, is described as a root of bitterness that bears wormwood, it's poisonous. The suggestion is that not only does such a person err from the way of God, but he causes many others to err with him and many are defiled by that. You could also look at the other two references. Second Timothy 3:5, which is the end of a long list of the kind of corruptness of character which will emerge among humanity in the closing period of this age. Speaking of such a person it says: ...holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these. It's a very strong word, "avoid them", have nothing to do with them.

And then you could look in Ecclesiastes 9:18 if you know where to find Ecclesiastes. A rather little, read book most times. Ecclesiastes 9:18: Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good. We have the saying, "One rotten apple spoils the whole bunch". So there's a warning against a certain kind of person who by his very presence, and influence corrupts many others. You see from what I've said that this is a theme that runs right throughout the Bible. Now we go on to the next verse and we'll see something very remarkable which is the examples of such a root. We're in Hebrews 12 and we're looking at verse 16. It's really interesting, I can't go into it, but it's written in Greek but it's written by somebody who thinks in Hebrew because the construction is not the least bit Greek, it's Hebrew.

In Hebrew, as some of you know, they leave out the word "is". In Greek you can't do that. But continually this writer leaves out the "is" and you have to supply it. It's a very clear advertisement that whoever wrote it was a Hebrew. He thought in Hebrew and wrote in Greek. ...lest there be any fornicator [or immoral person]... And that's one example of a bitter root. A corrupting influence is an immoral person. I have to say in the course of my ministry I've seen that happen. I've seen one immoral person tolerated and influence others to their destruction. This is not an idle warning. ...or profane person as Esau, who for one meal sold his own birthright [or his rights as the firstborn would be better].

What impresses me is the second example of a bitter root, the kind of person that you shouldn't tolerate. We could all understand with our background in Christian ethics that an immoral person is not to be tolerated in the company of God's people. But here we have the other kind of person, profane. Whom would you think of as an example of a profane person? The Scripture gives us the example of Esau and I think that really needs to make us ponder because Esau was not an immoral person. He married two wives but he was legally married. Why is he held up as an example of something that must not be tolerated? What did he do? He despised what God had made available to him. He never did any wrong; he just wasn't interested in spiritual inheritance. There's some amazing statements about Esau.

Let's look at the story first. We'll have to turn to the Old Testament to Genesis 25 and verses 27 throught the end of the chapter. Having lived in the land of Israel, this is so very vivid to me because I can picture the scene. I picture it more in a context of Arab culture than Jewish culture today because in the land of Israel the Arabs probably retain, in some respects, more biblical culture than some aspects of Jewish culture. When the boys grew up [that's Esau and Jacob], Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents. A peaceful man or a quiet man. Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game... You remember I had said that I once had a sermon on how a wrong attitude, for food corrupted the family life is Isaac?

Well, there's an example. He loved the wrong one because he liked game. ...but Rebekah loved Jacob. Let me say this, there are many who can appreciate this. Rebekah is the first yiddish yamama. She is the real pattern. She was going to arrange the future of their family no matter what happened. When Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished;, and Esau said to Jacob, "Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished". Therefore his name was called Edom [because Edom is the word for "red"]. But Jacob said, "First, sell me your birthright". And Esau said, "Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me"? [I'm so hungry I'm going to die.] Jacob said, "First swear to me"; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew...

Now this is what makes it so vivid to me because in amongst the Arabs still today, and also amongst Oriental Jews, this is what's called in Arabic ?shore-o-but addis?. It's a soup made of lentils, and when we lived in that country in 1946, around about there, we had an Arab maid named Jameela who made the most delicious shore-o-but addis, lentil stew. And it's got a very pungent smell. I mean, when it's in the house and you're hungry, all you can think about is that lentil stew. There you see "that red stuff" simmering there on the stove and your mouth begins to water, and your sense of values disappears and all you think about is that stew. So I'm not justifying Esau, but I can understand his reaction. So: ...he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way.

Then there's that little comment on the end that you mustn't miss. Thus Esau despised his birthright. That's why he's held up as an example of a profane person, the kind of person who's dangerous to have in the company of God's people. And again I have to say I have seen persons of that kind in the company of God's people whose company has been harmful. Let me go back to my outline. He attached no importance to the inheritance promised to Abraham and Isaac. He was entitled to it because he was the firstborn by a few minutes. Then my comment is God hates this attitude. Let's look for a moment in Malachi 1:2–3. Verses 2 and 3: The Lord is remonstrating with Israel, the descendants of Jacob. "I have loved you," says the LORD. But you say, "How hast Thou loved us"? [Now the Lord's answer:] "Was not Esau Jacob's brother?" declares the LORD. "Yet I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau..."

One of the important things in the spiritual life is to get God's standards of value and that attitude God says I hate. Esau was not immoral, he wasn't a thief. He was a good guy. As I said in my outline, today most people would consider Esau the good guy and Jacob the heel, the bad guy. His name means "heel". I want to point out to you that once Jacob had purchased the birthright of the firstborn he was legally entitled to the blessing that went with it. So all he did when he got the blessing was make sure he got what was his legal right. I'm not justifying what he did to his brother, but I'm pointing out that the blessing was legally his and the Holy Spirit prophetically bore testimony to that because once Isaac had pronounced the blessing on him, even though he thought it was Esau, he knew he could never retract that blessing.

The problem with both Rebekah and Jacob, and it's a problem some of us share, is they couldn't leave God to work it out. They had to help Him. And helping God is a dangerous thing to do because if you read the story you'll find that almost immediately Jacob became a fugitive and spent the next twenty years out of his inheritance working for his uncle. And as far as I understand the story, Rebekah never saw again the son she loved. So let that be a warning. If you've got something coming from God to you, you don't have to work it out yourself by some very carnal means. Have the faith to let God bring it to you. I still want to emphasize this fact of how different God's standards are from those that would be accepted in the world today.

You see, in a certain sense, if God has made something available to you that He believes is very precious and you despise it, what have you done? You've despised Him and you've insulted Him. So I think we need to examine ourselves that there be no Esau attitude in any of us, that when God makes the unsearchable riches of Christ available to us we don't shrug our shoulders and say, "That's nice, but I've got other things to do," because that's really being an Esau. Let's go on, verse 17. For you know that even afterwards, when he wished to inherit the blessing, he was rejected [he was found unfit], for he did not find a place of repentance, although having sought it with tears. Because of the genders in the Greek language, place is masculine and repentance is feminine.

If you know any language with genders, like French or Italian or German, you'll understand that. Because of the genders, the Greek makes it clear that what Esau sought was the blessing, not the place of repentance. He wanted to bypass repentance, and still get the blessing. There again, he's a warning. If you've ever stepped out of God's will, there's only one way back and that's repentance. You can't say, "God, I made a mistake. But anyhow, it's really mine". God says, "No, there's no way back if you bypass the place of repentance". One of the greatest needs in the contemporary church is a real understanding of repentance. I've come to the conclusion when I was counseling people, which I don't do much today, that if people knew and practiced what repentance really is, half of the counseling problems wouldn't exist. Their problems are basically due to a failure to meet the basic requirement of repentance.

The word repentance that we have here in Greek is "change of mind". It's not emotion. It may be accompanied by emotion, it may not. But emotion is not the point. Esau was very emotional. He sobbed and wept, but he didn't meet the conditions. Going on now, verse 18. We'll look at what's referred to in verses 18–24. It says the seventh comparison between Mount Sinai and Mount Zion, Mount Sinai being the place where the covenant or the Law was given; Mount Zion being the headquarters of the new covenant in Jesus.

Let's read the passages that are referred to. First of all, we'll read verses 18–21. Here the writer is portraying what was involved in the covenant of the Law as represented by Mount Sinai. He says: You have not come... And you more or less have to put in a word, to a mountain [or to something]... Then he lists seven features of the scene of Mount Sinai... you have not come to something that could be touched, that burned with fire, to gloom, and to black darkness, and to tempest, or to the blast of a trumpet, and the sound of words which those who heard besought that no word further should be added. For they could not endure that which was commanded, [this is what was commanded:] "If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned". And so fearful was the spectacle that Moses said, "I am exceedingly afraid and I tremble".

Now that's where we stop, that's the scene at Mount Sinai. I think we need to turn there and look at it. Let me just read the outline first. Mount Sinai represents the covenant of the Law based on carnal sacrifices and regulations. I think the key word is the word tangible. It was in the realm of that which could be touched, apprehended by the senses. It had seven physically perceptible characteristics. If you go through this note outline and count the number of things that are in sevens, I think it will astonish you. Number one, it was tangible. Number two, there was blazing fire. Number three, there was darkness. Number four, there was, I prefer to put it the other way around. Gloom, darkness, a whirlwind, a trumpet blast and audible words that terrified all who heard. Then I add this comment, which is very important.

Notice, the Law did not bring the people near to God. On the contrary, it kept them at a distance. It's very, very important to see that. Now let's look at the description in Exodus 19. We'll read verses 16–25 rather quickly. Exodus 19: 16-25: So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder.

See the emphasis on thunder, fire, smoke, earthquake? And the LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain;, and the LORD called Moses [up] to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. Then the LORD spoke to Moses, "Go down, warn the people, lest they break through to the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish. And also let the priests who come near to the LORD consecrate themselves, lest the LORD break out against them". And Moses said to the LORD, "The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for Thou didst warn us, saying, 'Set bounds about the mountain and consecrate it.'" Then the LORD said to him, "Go down and come up again, you and Aaron with you; but do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the LORD, lest He break forth upon them".

So Moses went down to the people and told them. The whole of that scene is in the realm of that which can be perceived by the senses. It was awesome, frightening, but not inviting. And as I've said already, its effect was to keep the people away, not to bring them near. We go on to the passage which describes the Mount Zion. We need to bear in mind that according to the revelation of the New Testament there are two Mount Zions. The one is the one actually on earth near the city of Jerusalem. The other is what's called the "heavenly Mount Zion".

Let's read the words now in Hebrews 12:22–24. But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, in festal array... There's two different ways of translating that according to the way you put the comma. But to me that makes much better sense. Myriads of angels in festal array. ...and to the church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men who have been made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks a better word than that of Abel. Now we'll look at the features of the headquarters of the new covenant. I'll read my outline because I can't improve on it. Mount Zion represents all that is made available through the new covenant in Christ. And it has seven spiritually discernible features.

Notice the difference between "physically perceptible," which was the mark of Sinai, and "spiritually discernible," which is the mark of Mount Zion. The first feature is it's God's city, the heavenly Jerusalem. This is referred to also in Galatians 4:26. It would be good to turn there. Galatians 4:26. We'll read 25 to get the context. Paul is here using Abraham's two wives as an analogy of the two covenants. Hagar the bondwoman, an analogy of the covenant made at Sinai, and then Sarah, the free woman, the mother of the son of promise, as an analogy of the new covenant. This is what he says: Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. [verse 26:] But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. In Hebrews 12 we have a picture not of the earthly Jerusalem, but of the heavenly Jerusalem, the Jerusalem above which is free.

Then the second feature of this Mount Zion is myriads of angels in festal assembly. That really blesses me. Note that Scripture says we have come there. It's not in the future. It's not in the physical, because this is not speaking about the physical or that which is physically perceptible. This is in the Spirit. When we meet together in divine order we have come to the heavenly Mount Zion. I believe that's why Paul gives instructions about how we ought to behave "because of the angels". I think we ought to bear in mind that we're in the presence of angels and we should do the things which make angels feel at home, not the things which embarrass them.

The third feature is it's the gathering of the first-born, those who've been born again of the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus. That is, it's the New Testament church enrolled in heaven. Notice that the roll of the New Testament church is not kept on earth. There are a lot of church rolls on earth which serve certain purposes, but to have your name on the roll of a church on earth is no guarantee that you have your name in the heavenly roll. Let's look at the Scriptures there, James 1:18. Speaking about God and how He brought us into His family and made us His children: In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth [brought us forth in the new birth], so that we might be, as it were, the first fruits among His creatures. See?

The world is not yet changed. It's going to be brought in line with God's purposes but we are the first fruits, the guarantee that the harvest will follow. We who are already born again by the Spirit of God in this time. Let's look at Luke 10:20. The disciples had just been telling Jesus how excited they are that they can cast out demons in His name. He takes note of that but He gives them a warning: "Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven". He says, "When you have become My disciples, born again of the Spirit of God, your names are recorded in heaven".

The third passage is Revelation 21:27 speaking about the heavenly Jerusalem. Revelation 21:27: ...nothing unclean and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life. So three times we have this picture of the roll of God's people kept in heaven. Going back to the outline, the fourth aspect of Mount Zion in heaven is God, the judge of all. I think it's rather significant that it's right in the center, it's the fourth. There are three before and three afterwards. I think we all need to bear in mind that God is still the judge of all. I think sometimes Christians tend to forget that God is not only a Savior but He's also a judge. He's the judge of all.

Now, if it weren't for the things that follow, we would have no hope of ever gaining access to that city. If it stopped with God the judge of all, we would be excluded. But you see, there's something added. The next one is the spirits of just men who have been made perfect. That is, I believe, the great saints of the Old Testament. If you turn back for a moment to the end of Hebrews 11, speaking about these heroes of the faith, verses 39 and 40: And these all, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect. The way was not opened for them to take their place until Jesus had died and risen from the dead. And then they and we in the Spirit meet together in the New Jerusalem.

The sixth aspect of the heavenly Mount Zion, the sixth presence there is Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant. Because of the new covenant we understand we need the seventh which is the sprinkled blood of Jesus. And only because of that sprinkled blood can we have access there. If it stopped merely at God the judge of all, we would have no place. Let's look at just two passages. First of all, turning back to Hebrews 9:23–26, which we've already commented on earlier, speaking about the necessity of blood for the purifying of the things that belong to God: Therefore it was necessary, for the copies of the things in heaven to be cleansed with these [with the blood of the sacrifice], but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood not his own.

The implication is that Jesus entered into the heavenly sanctuary with His own blood, which is what the writer of Hebrew says. The sprinkled blood of Jesus that speaks better things than that of Abel. Now if we turn back to the record of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4 we remember the story, we don't have to look into that how, through jealousy of his brother's faith and righteousness, the older brother Cain murdered the younger one, Abel. Then disclaimed responsibility when God held him accountable for it. Verse 9: Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother"? And he said, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper"? And He said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground".

Abel's shed blood cried out to the Lord from the ground for vengeance, for justice. It was sprinkled on the earth. But the blood of Jesus sprinkled in heaven cries out to the Lord for mercy and forgiveness. To me, it's always important to remember that the blood is continually speaking in the presence of God. Even when I'm not praying, even when I'm not being extremely spiritual, the blood is still there pleading on my behalf for mercy and forgiveness. I am so glad for that. Turn back to Hebrews 12 and we'll just look at one more verse to close this session.

Verse 25. Hebrews 12:25: Take care that you do not reject the one who speaks. For if they did not escape who rejected on earth the one who was speaking on behalf of God... There's a word there that means "to speak on behalf of God". It's used in secular Greek for the answer of an oracle. ...much less shall we who reject [or turn away] from Him who speaks from heaven. Because we have a better covenant, because of all that God has done for us, the writer of Hebrews says take care about your attitude. I think his mind goes back to Esau. Don't be like Esau who despised what God offered him. Treat it with reverence, realize what it cost to purchase your redemption and walk carefully.

I have to say again, I don't think that message is heard often enough in contemporary Christianity. We're really presenting a false view of God if we talk only about His mercy, and His forgiveness and His grace. Paul says in Romans, "Behold then the goodness of God, and His severity". A coin which has one side defaced is no longer valid currency. I think that's true of our presentation of God. If we deface the side of severity and only present the side of goodness, it's not valid currency. It's not true. I don't say that to bring anybody under condemnation but if you read on to the end of the chapter, which we'll be considering in our next session, it speaks about how we ought to serve this God. And the words used are reverence and awe.
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