Wednesday, October 15, 2014

IN TIME OF NEED (Hebrews Chapter 4)

Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

A time of need.  Who doesn’t experience such a thing?  We are needy creatures.  In the world we have tribulation (Cf. John 16:33).  Each day has “its own trouble” (Cf. Matthew 6:34).  So we experience all kinds of needs.  We are confronted by temptations.  We fail in sin.  We face all sorts of needs.  There are soul needs, physical needs, and emotional needs.  There are big needs and small needs.  There are needs which would work to bring us to a degree of despair God alone can understand and sympathize with.  Jesus knows all about our struggles (Cf. Hebrews 4:15).  We are invited, on the basis of His high priestly ministry, to take our needs to the throne of grace.

Men and women of old would approach the thrones of earthly kings with much fear and trepidation lest they displeasure the king and risk their lives.  How is it possible that we, as sinners, could be availed the privilege of confident access to the throne of the thrice-holy God?  In the Levitical system that preceded Christ’s death only the high priest was permitted access to the holy of holies and then only once a year.  The people were excluded.  But Jesus, by means of His sacrifice, has opened up a way of access to God (Cf. Ephesians 2:13, 18).  This was dramatically demonstrated at the cross.  “Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.  And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:50-51).  It is “by the blood of Jesus” that the believer can have “confidence to enter the holy places” (Cf. Hebrews 10:19-22).  As the hymn puts it, “No condemnation now I dread: Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!  Alive in Him, my living Head, and clothed in righteousness divine.  Bold I approach the eternal throne” (“And Can It Be?”).

The Greek word translated confidence means “the absence of fear in speaking boldly; hence, confidence, cheerful courage, boldness” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary).  On the basis of Christ’s shed blood we have the freedom to speak without fear to our Creator God.  We were previously, as rebel sinners, shut off from Him.  But now, by the Spirit, we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15).  He who saved us “according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us,” bids us come to His throne of grace (Cf. Ephesians 1:7b-8).  His throne is according to His nature.  He “gives generously to all without reproach” to those who ask of Him (Cf. James 1:5).  

What can we hope to receive from Him?  Two particular things are mentioned.  The first, “mercy,” has to do with God’s sympathetic response to our need.  It is defined as “the outward manifestation of pity; it assumes need on the part of him who receives it, and resources adequate to meet the need on the part of him who shows it” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary).  From His throne God, who is “rich in mercy” (Cf. Ephesians 2:4), freely dispenses help to us according to His own wisdom and abundant resources.  The second term, “grace,” has to do with God’s unmerited favor.  There is a need for God’s saving grace and then His sustaining grace which is essential to one’s walk and sanctification (Cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9).  Both are freely bestowed apart from any merit on our part.  Though we come to the throne of God with empty hands, we leave abundantly provisioned by the One who is rich in grace and mercy with all that is necessary “to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

One might imagine, in such a needy day as this, that the throne of grace would be much visited by God’s children.  But the evidence suggests otherwise.  The storehouses and God’s grace and mercy bid us come, but we too often look to ourselves or others for assistance.  J. Vernon McGee exhorts us to avail ourselves of God’s gracious invitation: “By the way, have you been to Him today?  What did you tell Him?  Did you tell Him that you love Him?  Did you confess your sins to Him?  Well, why don’t you?  He already knows it, but why don’t you tell Him?  Don’t put up a front to Him.  He already knows that you can come to Him only on His merit.  God to Him with freedom and talk to Him—there is mercy and grace to help in time of need.”

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