Let Us Come To God’s Throne | Hebrews 4:14-16
Over January, we have had a month’s window before we launch into an exciting year with vision, new sermon series, ministry groups returning. I’m really looking forward to 2018.
And so, in January, we are looking at Hebrews chapter 4 and at the three times the writer uses the phrase “Let us”. Three times in chapter 4 the writer says, “Let us”. I like that instead of saying, “You need to do this”, he says, "Let us." He's encouraging all of us together to do these things and so, what I want to do is cover one "let us" per week over the next 3 weeks.
The writer has written, “Let us enter a spiritual rest”, he said, "Let us hold firmly to what we believe”, and he said, “Let us enter before God's throne to find help”.
Three weeks, we looked at the first one, from verse 9 “So let us do our best to enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:9-11 NLT). We looked at doing our best to enter the eternal rest in heaven – that room in the mansion that Jesus is preparing so that those who died in the Lord will rest from sorrow, rest from sickness, rest from loss (Isaiah 57:2 NLT). We also looked at earthly rest and how God created us to rest, in fact this really pleases God when we rest in Him when we actually take time out, just like God who created the world in six days and then rested on the seventh. It’s a spiritual act to rest, so much so that God made it as part of the ten commandments. So, how are you going through this month? Did you create those margins that we spoke about? Are you finding those times to just rest – not a nanna nap. I mean are you actually saying that you are going to rest on a certain day?
Two weeks ago, we looked at second “let us”. It is from verse 14, “So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe” (Hebrews 4:14 NLT). There’s the second let us – “let us hold firmly to what we believe”.
Hebrews was written to a group of Jews who were new Christians and some of these new Christians were wavering in their faith because they either feared being persecuted or they were being led back to their Jewish faith. Whatever the reason they were waving. And so, the Hebrew writer tells them to hold firmly to what they believe. I said a couple of weeks ago that according to statistics, that the most vulnerable age group for the church are those aged 18 to 40. Study after study reveals that we are losing our own in this age group and so according to statistics, some of you will waver in your faith. God says to you, “hold firmly two what you believe”. I shared that through the generations of wars and technological and scientific advances, and the changes in our society today, the one constant we have is the never changing Word of God, The Bible. It is the one constant we have that keeps us anchored from the tide of extremes – the far-right fundamentalism and the far-left liberalism. As God told Joshua twice, “So be very careful to follow everything Moses wrote in the Book of Instruction. Do not deviate from it, turning either to the right or to the left” (Joshua 23:6; 1:7 NLT). We are to hold firmly to what we believe the Bible teaches.
Last week we heard a great sermon by Jeff Davis and so we had a break from the “Let Us” series. Today, we are looking at the third let us and its found in the final verse of chapter 4, “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (Hebrews 4:16 NLT). What a beautiful passage.
To have a deeper understanding of this passage, we need to understand the context. Look at two verses earlier, verse 14, “So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God…” (Hebrews 4:14 NLT). Note that the writer inserted the word “great” before the position “high priest”. Of the 80 or so High Priests that spanned 1500 years from the very first high priest till that last high priest in 70AD, none were ever given the description “great”. Under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, the writer strategically called Jesus the great High Priest. More about the reasons why in a moment.
For these Jewish Christians, they knew what the high priests were all about. They knew that the high priest was the highest religious authority in the land. He alone entered the Most Holy Place in the Temple once a year to make atonement for the sins of the whole nation (Leviticus 16). Once a year, on the Day of Atonement the high priest, representing all the people, went through three areas. First, he took the sacrificial blood through the door into the outer court. Second, he entered another door into the Holy Place. And third, he entered through the veil of the Holy of Holies where God dwelled and the High Priest sprinkled the blood on the mercy-seat to symbolically atone for all the sins of the people.
The writer then compared Jesus with these priests and therefore inserted the word great because Jesus work as a High Priest was greater. And we looked at some of the reasons why two weeks. Intertestingly, the writer of Hebrews really wanted to drive his point that Jesus is greater because in chapter 5 he goes writes about the qualifications for high priests and how Jesus far exceeded them. Let’s look at them.
The first qualification mentioned of a high priest is they were to be a representative of the people. Verse one says, “Every high priest is a man chosen to represent other people in their dealings with God. He presents their gifts to God and offers sacrifices for their sins” (Hebrews 5:1 NLT). Having oneness with people was fundamental to the priestly ministry. No angel, no celestial being, no deceased “so called” saint could function as high priest. He had to be a living human being like everyone else. The reason, of course, is that his primary function was representative.
The second qualification for priesthood is compassion and sympathy. The Hebrew writer wrote in chapter 4:15 we are reminded that “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do, yet He did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15 NLT). The ideal high priest needed to have some compassion for those who have gone off the rails for two reasons. First, he was representing them to God, particularly on the Day of Atonement. The other reason why he needed to have compassion was that he himself, as verse 2 puts it “tempted in every way”. Again, the writer suggests that Jesus being our Great High Priest “understands our weaknesses” (4:15). We know that in His earthly life Jesus showed practical compassion to those with disabilities, those who have gone off the tracks, and to those who were searching.
The third qualification for priesthood is how one is selected. A high priest must be a divine appointment. Verse 4 says, “And no one can become a high priest simply because he wants such an honor. He must be called by God for this work, just as Aaron was” (Hebrews 5:4 NLT). All Israel’s priests wer