Draw Near God
A meditation on Hebrews 4:15-16
The Christian life is full of difficulties. We struggle against sin and temptation day after day. As we grow in holiness and obedience we realize that temptations also grow stronger and stronger. And sometimes the battle can be tiresome and lonely. One sobering reality in our Christian life is that as we seek to live godly lives we are going to face many trials.
Good thing is these trials are designed not to put us down or to destroy our faith for in God's providence He sends them for our good. Through suffering, God purges us from our dross so we might come out pure and pleasing in His sight, fit to be used by Him. We have many weaknesses that need to be dealt with continually so we can grow more and more obedient to God.
But holiness does not come easy and it doesn't come fast. It's by patient endurance and fervent prayer, through many trials, that we move forward in the Christian life. The author of the book of Hebrews is aware of this and so for several times he summons his readers to persevere in the faith and draw strength from God through prayer.
In this passage, the author of Hebrews deals with the issue of fervent and bold prayer as an effective means to holiness and maturity in the faith. He is aware of his readers' tiresome battle against sin and temptation and against various trials in the Christian life, compounded by the reality of their own weaknesses. So in this passage God calls us to draw near Him. He calls us, weary and troubled as we are, to approach His throne of grace.
I would like to focus our attention on the main exhortation of the passage which is in v. 16, considering the question, “On what basis can we enter the throne of grace?”
To draw near to the throne of grace is the same as to draw near God. The picture of drawing near has an Old Testament background. I have particularly in mind the duty of the high priest who enters the most holy place of the tabernacle appearing before God on behalf of Israel. Only the high priest is allowed to enter the most holy place. And he can only do that once a year after purifying himself through various ceremonies and sacrificial rites prescribed by the Word of God. There in the most holy place the high priest will sprinkle the blood of the animals on the mercy seat to make atonement for the sins of Israel.
The Word of God is clear that anyone who attempts to enter that place other than the high priest at anytime except on the Day of Atonement ‘must be put to death’ (Num 3.10). God allows no presumptuous sinner to draw near Him. He doesn't want to be approached without proper recognition of who He is and how He is to be approached. On our own we are not worthy to draw near God. He is holy. We are not. He is a 'consuming fire' (Heb 12.29). Somebody must go between us.
So now v. 16 calls us to come into the presence of God, into His 'throne of grace', because Someone mediates for us before God. Now what does this 'throne of grace' remind you? Is it not the mercy seat in the Most Holy Place where the high priest sprinkles the sacrificial blood? And though this sacrifice does not actually take away the sins of the people, God accepts it on the basis of the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. As our great high priest Jesus has become both the Offering and the Offerer on our behalf. Through His ‘once-for-all’ sacrifice Christ took away our sins and paved the way for us into God's presence.
Then in His ascension our Lord Jesus passed through the heavens and has become our trailblazer in the presence of God. He is now at the right hand of the throne of God in heaven, ministering continually in the most holy place, in the very presence of His Father and your Father.
Does it encourage you to know that Jesus is in the heavenly sanctuary praying for you and me 24 hours a day, seven days a week? Yes, our Lord Jesus never stops praying for you and for me that we may persevere in the faith until we grow mature, sharing in His suffering and resembling in His obedience and faithfulness to God.
Friends, we must heed God’s call to draw near Him for Christ has now enabled us to enter in. He took away the barrier that separates us from God. So God summons you to His presence. And I just want to emphasize that the author's exhortation to draw near in verse 16 is in the present tense. That means he wants his readers to keep on drawing near God through Jesus Christ. That means He wants you to keep coming to Him in prayer.
What prevents you from coming to God in prayer? Your sins? Christ has already paid for them all. Your weaknesses? Your unworthiness? Read verse 15 again. Do you notice the double negative? In effect, it emphatically says that we have a high priest in the presence of God.
A possible misunderstanding may have occured in the mind of the Hebrew Christians as far as the heavenly ministry of Christ is concerned. The readers may have been asking, “If Christ is now exalted in heaven, how can He effectively minister to those who are struggling against temptation and are facing difficulties here on earth?” We might have asked this question ourselves.
We need to understand that Christ's state of exaltation in heaven is not separated from His state of humiliation when He became man and walked here on earth. For in His incarnation Christ has been tempted in every way as we are yet without sin (v.15). Therefore as One who has endured and prevailed over temptations (v.15), Jesus Christ is able to help and sympathize with us in all our sufferings (cf. 2:18).
From the start of Jesus’ ministry to the very end, Satan leveled all of his evil power and strategies to try to get Jesus to sin. But the devil never succeeded. Jesus always obeyed the Father on our behalf. Oh, how grateful you must be to your faithful Savior and Mediator!
Your sinless Savior resisted sin. So He knows the pressure of sin. But He also triumphed over sin and temptation. His sinlessness enables Him to sympathize with your struggles and to energize you in your weakness. And how does He do that? He prays for you before God effectively and wisely since He knows the problems you and I face.
Our Lord knows exactly how you and I struggle against lingering or besetting sin. He knows that you are assaulted by the world, the flesh and the devil each day, enticing you to do what is not pleasing to God. The fact that He is in heaven doesn't mean that He is totally remote and uninvolved in your daily struggles. In fact, when Christ sympathizes with us He looks at us with compassion and He does something for us so we can deal with our struggles and misery.
This is where you must see the role of the Holy Spirit as vital in the Christian life. He is our Comforter and Power. The Spirit's work in us and through us is connected with the high priestly work of our Lord Jesus Christ. As Christ intercedes for us in the presence of the Father, the Spirit empowers us to do the will of God and to resist every impulse of our sinful nature to sin (Gal 5.16-25). He helps us endure every trial and affliction with joy (1 Thess 1.4-7). He strengthens us in our weakness and even intercedes for us when we do not know what to pray (Rom 8.26-27).
So we should bear in mind that the three persons of the Holy Trinity continue to work together to keep us and sanctify us.
Are you troubled by sin? Or persecuted by someone or afflicted by illness? Christ calls you to pray. Do you need forgiveness, wisdom, healing or strength? The Lord calls you to draw near.
Or maybe you feel spiritually weak you need strength from God to persevere but you feel so unworthy to ask Him. Come, draw near Him not on the basis of your feelings or eloquence in praying. Come to Him on the basis of the finished work of His Son on your behalf. He will never drive you away. Come to God in the person of Jesus Christ, boldly, with confidence, that you may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.