Approach The Throne of Grace
Key Verse 4:16
“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
As we read these verses here, there are many things to talk about. But mainly three subjects really come to mind in the order of their importance. The first of course is the subject of priesthood in general, which brings us to the priesthood of our Lord Jesus. The author talks a lot about it. Jesus Christ is many things to us. But clearly he is our Great High Priest. We have talked about that a lot, and we will be talking about it again today and probably a few more times in the study of this letter. And the reason for that is simple. It’s very important. The subject of priesthood and especially Jesus’ priesthood is very important. We’ll get back to this later. Next is the subject of acceptance before God, that is, who may be accepted before God and who may not! Or how can one be accepted by God! Or who may be allowed into God’s presence and who may not! This too will become clearer as we get into the passage a little later. And the third subject that we find very important as we look at these verses is the subject of worship. I hope that we can see their importance as we reflect on the passage today.
As I said, the subject of Jesus’ High Priesthood is important and the author writes about it extensively. So we really need to hear very carefully what he says about it. I cannot repeat all that we said in the many reflections we have had in the past. But let me just remind you that in Hebrews 2.17 the apostle tells us that “He had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” Jesus is our merciful and faithful High Priest who atones for our sins. In Hebrews 3:1, the apostle exhorts us to fix our thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. And now we come to the passage we ended with last time in chapter 4:14 where we are told that we have a Great High Priest who has gone into or ascended the heavens, to embrace and hold firmly to this faith.
Read Hebrews 4:14-16 “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are— yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Therefore, the subject of priesthood is very important to us. Why? Because whether we know it or not or accept such a truth or not, no person, no matter who they may be can be accepted by God the way they are. Which brings us to the subject of acceptance by God. No one can or will be accepted by God. Sin made sure that none of us can be accepted by God. That’s why God instituted the office of priesthood in the first place for his people. Priests in the Old Testament became the agents or ministers who helped people bring their sin offerings to God, to plead for forgiveness. It was only for forgiveness of sin, not even to enter into God’s presence for no one was allowed into God’s presence. And even then, when the people brought their sin offering, without the right heart forgiveness was not guaranteed, and people were ever in danger of being rejected by God. The priests themselves who ministered to the people were not allowed to enter into God’s presence themselves. They were forbidden. There was one man chosen by God who was allowed to enter into God’s presence and only once a year and that was the high priest.
Read Hebrews 5:1-3. “Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people.” This chosen high priest alone entered on behalf on the people. But he himself needed to first sacrifice a sin offering for himself before he entered into the presence of God, because he himself was a sinner too. Only then was he accepted into the presence of God. Only then he was able to carry out his duties as a high priest on behalf of the people. He prayed for the forgiveness of the people. He interceded for them according to his duties as a prayer servant and intercessor. He pleaded their case before God. It’s all he could do that the Almighty God would forgive them, accept them and bless them. Why are we getting into all this? Because the subject of being accepted or not being accepted by God is serious. The question is how can we be accepted when it was impossible to be accepted— when the way to God was so absolutely shut? Well, that’s the good news the author is telling us. We have a high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God. Our Lord Jesus Christ became our High Priest who opened the way for us. He shed his blood as the offering for our sins. He pierced the heavens and intercedes for us at the Holy Altar in the presence of God. What’s more, he calls us to come. How? By faith through grace! That’s the way now to be accepted into the presence of God. We should ask the Lord to give us insight into this, for if we have a glimpse at this kind of privilege we have in this, nothing would be able to contain our joy and exaltation of the Almighty.
Look again at what the Lord says. I want us to read 4:16 together. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” He says to come with confidence so that you can receive mercy and find grace in your time of need. Now you must listen carefully! This is the way of worship. These days so many people don’t know how to worship. Most either worship formally or worship emotionally, and neither kind of worship is spiritual worship in essence— the kind of worship God seeks. Yet this here is true worship as the Lord Jesus once described it— a worship in spirit and in truth— a spiritual worship based on truth (John 4:24). And the truth is that we have been given access to God through Christ Jesus to enjoy the most precious privilege a child of God can ever receive and enjoy. Come worship, he tells us and receive mercy. Come worship at the altar and find grace.
There isn’t one among us who doesn’t need to be shown mercy from God and not one who shouldn’t expect to find grace. What do we come to do when we come together to worship? I know that we are mostly deficient in this kind of spiritual knowledge, that we need to grow in it, and mature until we have grown inwardly intimately familiar with the truth of worship. What then do we come here to do when we come together to worship? We are coming in his presence right now. That’s what we are doing. And not by our merit, but by the merit of our Lord Jesus who himself gave us that privilege to enter into the presence of God. And now that we are in his presence, you the congregation and I the minister of his word, what are we to do in worship? How must we worship him in his holy presence, now that we have that access to that throne of grace? Well he tells us to approach with confidence. How confident are we that we are actually in the throne room at the moment? I think this kind of confidence is paramount! Without it, we are only a classroom waiting for the bell to ring! But the truth is that we are in the throne room of the Almighty because we have entered by faith through grace the moment we prayed to meet with him.
Then he tells us that’s once you’re there, now your ready to receive my mercy. He tells us to expect it. He tells us that once you’re in the presence of God you’re in the presence of mercy himself! So he wants us to bask in that mercy. That too is part of worship. Worship is throwing yourself at the mercy of God and receiving it with humility and gratitude. But think about it— why most of us fail to experience glorious worship. We can’t properly worship God if your heart is full of pride and anger and frustration and bitterness and indifference and un-forgiveness and lack of love and all that rubbish that pollutes our heart all week long. Worship is to know that you’re a weak pathetic sinner but that your Father is a merciful Father waiting to bathe you with his mercy because your High Priest has already made all the necessary sacrifices and offered all the gifts even unto eternity. Worship is to know that you have a high priest who understands you perfectly and all your weaknesses and failings and will never judge nor condemn you and that he’s right here at his throne room making intercession for you so that every sin is wiped out. Why? So you can worship properly. So you can experience his love and beauty and majesty and glory and lift your head and rejoice and give thanks and be clean and know and know and know and know that your father loves you and loves you and loves and it never ends. And if he loves you he also loves your brother and your sister and there is harmony in mercy because mercy is God’s most beautiful gift that we can share among each other as we worship. This is true worship in spirit and in truth.
When we come to worship at the throne of God, right here in the throne room, where the high priest stands to advocate and defend and forgive and cleanse every sin, we have to know that mercy is not something we plead for but something that is freely offered because God our Father knows who we are. We are weak and sinful. And we need his mercy because whether it was deliberate or not, whether we knew it or not, intended it or not, we have sinned. We have trespassed. We have done wrong. We have violated his commands. Our conscience tells us we have. If our consciences don’t bother us in the throne room of God in his presence, then our spirit is in real bad shape and we’re in real need of even more mercy than we imagine. But God’s mercy is abundant right here in worship. It is here where we receive all the mercy we need if we humble ourselves before the Almighty and throw off all that shackle our hearts and souls from the day’s or week’s burdens. God our Father invites us to worship him. He invites us to his throne of mercy. When your heart knows his mercy, then all your burdens are lifted. Then you can experience his true rest. You can truly rest in his presence and adore and worship him.
And he tells us something else as well. He tells us that in worship we must come to find grace. How do we find grace in the presence of God? When you receive mercy you have found grace, for God’s mercy is God’s forgiveness for all our sins and God’s forgiveness is surely God’s mercy to us. What is the heaviest burden on the human heart and soul? There is no burden heavier on the heart than the burden of our sins— the burden of our failure to live up to our own expectation— the burden of our weaknesses in the face of temptations— the burden of our hearts and souls that yearn to do the will of God and find that we have fallen short of it— the burden of prayers gone stale— the burden of promises to the Lord unfulfilled— the burden of holy desires become lax. There are no burdens heavier on the heart than such burdens. But in worship the Lord tells us to come with confidence to receive mercy and to find grace. These are immortal words. They are the true words of worship because they tell us that when we come into the holy presence of God to worship, all these burdens can be lifted— should be lifted. They are forgiven, and we should find that grace has replaced them. If we don’t, then we should not leave the place of worship until we have repented of our unbelief and have put our faith in Christ Jesus our High Priest who invites us to come before the throne of grace with confidence. We must not leave the throne of grace until every burden has been put aside and in its place grace is found.
Of course many times we don’t have such burdens at all. But that does not mean that we are burden-less. It means we are dull or dead spiritually, and either need to recover our first love for the Lord by falling before him in sincere repentance for a cold and callous heart and plead for the warmth of a recreated heart— or we may need to be born again. Anyone who comes to worship and doesn’t have a burden of sin on their heart is a person whose soul has been dulled by pride and ingratitude to the Lord of grace, or a soul that hasn’t yet seen its own ruin and it’s own darkness. That soul really needs to know that God calls it to repentance and to faith in Christ Jesus. Right now Christ Jesus is the Great High Priest in heaven who intercedes for those whose faith is in him, who have put all their hope in him, who look to him for grace and mercy, who call on his name for strength, who await his return. But the day will come when Christ Jesus will return according to his promise— but as the High Priest but as the King of kings and the Judge of the living and the dead, and will call this world to give an account for every sin that has been committed. On that day, blessed are those whose sins have been covered by the blood of the Lamb. As we worship receiving mercy and finding grace, we should rejoice before this High Priest of ours. At the same time we should stand in reverence and awe of him because he is the Son of God and the King of Glory.