The verses that conclude this chapter come as a warning: God has shaken the earth and will again shake the earth and the heavens. The writer of Hebrews urges the readers and hearers to cling to the kingdom that cannot be shaken.
This passage makes me think back to where I was when I experienced my first earthquake. As luck would have it, I was on Mount Scopus, just north of Mount Zion and the Mount of Olives. I had come to the Holy Land and felt the shaking of the earth in a subterranean computer lab at the Hebrew University. No one else seemed particularly worried (it was only a small earthquake), but I was, forgive the pun, rather shaken up. I kept feeling phantom vibrations under my sandals in class and under my bed at night. I could not get rid of the feeling that the earth was unstable under my feet.
I think that is the goal of this passage—to remind us what is stable and unshakable (God and God’s kingdom) and what is shakable and combustible (everything else). This realization of what is and is not stable then leads to worship. The letter to the Hebrews urges us to show God gratitude, reverence, and awe “since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.” On our journey of faith, we travel with an unshakable God who leads us to an unshakable kingdom—both here and in heaven.
God, help us to put our trust in you alone. You and your kingdom are the only refuge to escape the shaking of creation and the consuming fire. Thank you for your love and grace that call us to safety. Amen.
The readings in Jeremiah and Psalm 71 are repeated in a pair from earlier in the year (January 24–30). They describe the authors’ confidence that God has had plans for their lives since even before they were born. God similarly knows each one of us and has a calling on our lives. The reading in Hebrews gives us confidence in the permanence of the kingdom of God, to which we have access through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We are not to take this lightly; we should worship God with due respect. In a synagogue on the sabbath, Jesus teaches a lesson about mercy. When he encounters a woman in need, he places her need above religious regulations. If religious traditions trump mercy, then our priorities are out of alignment.
Read Jeremiah 1:4-10. How can you trust God to empower you to follow God’s call? How can you encourage others to live into their calling?
Read Psalm 71:1-6. How can you continually praise God as your refuge?
Read Hebrews 12:18-29. How do you discern what is required of you in praising God in the new covenant?
Read Luke 13:10-17. How do you observe the sabbath now? What sabbath practice might you start that puts God’s reign into action?
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