These verses are ones that might easily be overlooked, but they demand our attention and call for strenuous application: “make every effort”. There are two things we are to strive for: peace and holiness. “Peace with all” certainly includes all our relationships, but the particular concern seems to be our relationships within the church community. That concern for peace is to be expressed not least in active pastoral concern for one another(so v.15): they are to be concerned not simply that they themselves don’t miss the grace of God, but that no-one does. To miss the grace of God might refer to final salvation, but might also have the sense of failing to appropriate the grace of God that is available to us because of not drawing near to God (10:22); we need make sure we are all drawing near to God, because someone who begins to drift might become a “bitter root” (cf Deut.29:18), which speaks of someone who apostatizes, and in so doing they very easily drag others down with them – when one pulls out of the race, others are tempted to give up too. Notice this is shared responsibility (“see to it” is in the plural): it’s not the job just of the pastor or Fellowship Group leader, but one we all share.
As well as peace, we are to strive after holiness – “without which no one will see the Lord”, which is why Christ’s work in making us holy was essential (10:10), and the mark of those sharing in his salvation are those “being made holy” (10:14). Indeed it is what our Father is determined to see in his children (12:10). A number of aspects of holiness will be mentioned in what remains of the letter; here the writer mentions sexual immorality (v.16) – not that it is a more serious sin than others, but it can be a particularly dangerous sin, leading people away from Christ. The godlessness mentioned has the sense of being earthbound, wholly taken up with the present and the physical, which is the antithesis of Heb.11:1 faith. Esau serves as a warning of such godlessness, reminding us again that there is a point of no return.
The contrast between Mt Sinai and Mt Zion speaks of the experience of God’s people under the old and new covenants, showing us the amazing privilege that is now ours. The description of Sinai emphasises the unapproachability of God: they could not draw near, the whole experience was one of dread and foreboding. By contrast Zion is crowded with people and angels, and God is present with his people. The atmosphere is one of joy and intimacy. It is the same God – “the judge of all men” – but the blood of Christ assures us now of sins forgiven (unlike Abel’s blood which cries out for vengeance). Notice that we “have come” already, though not in heaven yet, nevertheless this experience of God and access to God is ours to enjoy now. We can now “approach the throne of grace with confidence” (Heb.4:16) and “draw near to God” (10:22).
If God’s people refused to heed God’s word at Sinai there was inevitable punishment. If we now refuse God’s word to us in Christ, how much more certain and more dreadful will the punishment be. To “refuse him who speaks” is to harden our hearts and to refuse to believe the gospel. Sinai shook at the voice of God, but one day God will shake entire cosmos when his justice and holiness will be finally and fully expressed. On that day there will be only one place of safety – Mt Zion. So hold on to faith, and gratefully worship this gracious and awesome God. What acceptable worship looks like will be unpacked further in the final chapter, but here it means heeding and trusting the Gospel, being thankful that we have indeed come to Mt Zion, and showing the reverent awe that should mark us as we draw near to God.