Life-Study of Hebrewsby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we come to a very exciting subject—the contrast between the sight of the old covenant and the scene of the new covenant (12:18-24). Paul was undoubtedly marvelous both in the spirit and in the mind. He was a very brilliant man. Like one of today’s writers who includes photographs in his books, Paul gave us some pictures in 12:18-24. The two scenes portrayed in these verses not only give us a comparison but also a clear view of the situation of both the old and new covenants.
If we read these seven verses carefully, we can see that there are six items belonging to the old covenant and eight belonging to the new covenant. Six is the number of the old creation, which was made in six days (Gen. 1). Eight is the number of resurrection. The Lord Jesus was resurrected on the first day of the week (John 20:1), which is the eighth day. The six items of the old covenant indicate that the old covenant was on the side of the old creation. The eight items of the new covenant indicate that the new covenant is on the side of resurrection. The number eight signifies a new beginning after the passing of a period of time. A week is the first period of time, and the first day of the second week, the eighth day, is a new beginning. Hence, the number eight signifies resurrection, a new beginning. The new covenant is a new start after the period of the old covenant has passed.
The old covenant was of the law, whose position is that of a concubine. The new covenant is of grace, whose position is that of the proper wife. Sarah, Abraham’s wife, symbolizes grace in resurrection, and Hagar, the concubine, symbolizes the law related to the flesh. Paul makes this quite clear in Galatians 4, where he tells us that these two women, Hagar and Sarah, are two covenants, Hagar being the old covenant and Sarah the new. In other words, Hagar stands for the law and Sarah for grace. We Christians today are not the children of Hagar but of Sarah. We are children of grace. These two women also symbolize two mountains. Hagar signifies Mount Sinai, and Sarah signifies Mount Zion, which is the heavenly Jerusalem, our mother.
Let us now look into the six items of the old covenant presented in verses 18 through 21. This side is the side of the law.
Verse 18 says, “You have not come to the mountain which might be touched and which was set on fire.” The first item in the sight of the old covenant was the mountain which was set on fire (Exo. 19:11-12, 18). Do you like such a mountain? I prefer a mountain covered with trees and flowing streams, but I do not like a mountain that is set on fire. That would terrify me. Paul seemed to be saying, “Hebrew brothers, do you still want to go back to the old covenant? Don’t you know that that belongs to the mountain which was set on fire?” After saying so many things in the foregoing chapters, he showed them such a picture.
The second item in the sight of the old covenant is darkness (v. 18; Deut. 5:23). Ordinarily, when there is a great fire, there is also some shining and enlightening. But the Bible says that while the fire was burning on Mount Sinai, there was darkness. This darkness came from two sources: from the thick cloud in the air and from the heavy smoke on the earth. The mingling of the cloud and the smoke produced a thick darkness. This picture depicts the negative situation of the old covenant.
The third item in the sight of the old covenant is gloom (v. 18; Exo. 20:21; Deut. 5:22, Heb.). What is the difference between darkness and gloom? According to my understanding and experience, darkness is objective and gloom is subjective. When darkness is afar off, it remains darkness, but once we enter into it, it becomes gloom. Gloom is an atmosphere in which we dwell. When we enter into darkness and dwell in it, that darkness becomes gloom. Darkness was not only an objective condition for those in the old covenant; it had become the gloom in which they dwelt.
The same is true in our spiritual experience. When we were not seeking the Lord, we were in darkness. But when we began to pursue spiritual things, we immediately had the deep sense that we were in gloom. Before we were revived, we were in darkness. After we were revived, we were in a gloomy situation. If the Hebrew brothers had returned to the old covenant where the darkness was, that darkness would have brought them into gloom.
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