Thursday, July 17, 2008

The throne of grace

Heb. 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
We live in a culture, in which the reality of God has been watered down, to some it is nothing more than an exclamation of surprise, others honestly believe in God but his holiness and purity have been belittled by the televangelists with their catch phrases, like, "Just say 'Jesus, I take you!' and he's yours". The Jews lived in the polar opposite of this culture, under the Old Testament law there was only one group of people that could offer sacrifices for the sins of the people. Of this group of people there was only one man that could come before the mercy seat, (the mercy seat being the throne of God in the holy of holies, where a single sacrifice was placed once a year to atone for all the sins of the Israelites that year). When this high priest would go into the holy of holies to offer this sacrifice, he would go in with bells tied to the bottom of his robe and a rope tied around his ankle, because the people knew that if he went before the throne of God in the wrong way, God would strike him dead. Therefore, if the bells stopped jingling for a certain period of time, the people outside would know to pull his dead body out of the holy of holies, for they could not go in to retrieve him.
The writer of Hebrews then, is telling the recipients of his letter (who were Jews), that since Jesus had been crucified for all God's children, the veil separating the holy of holies from the rest of the temple had been miraculously torn in two pieces. This signifying that anyone could now come to the mercy seat to find grace, and come boldly not fearing the wrath of God on their unrighteousness. The difference is, that before the death of Christ the high priest would go before God, hoping that he had done everything necessary to appease the wrath of God. Now we come before God with the full understanding that we can do nothing good enough to appease God's wrath, but instead fully trusting that Jesus' death and resurrection did fully satisfy him. The high priest went before God the same way that those that trust their good works to save them do, without any assurance that they had done everything necessary to appease God. The writer of Hebrews wants to make sure that we understand this old covenant is no longer in place, but instead we can come boldly before the throne of grace, trusting in nothing but the finished work on Calvary to save us from our sins.
All of this does not negate the fact that we still must honor God's holiness, and fear his justice, boldly does not equal impishly or arrogantly. Instead it implies the same healthy relationship between a father and son, we still honor, respect, and in God's case worship him, but we do it with complete trust that he is looking out for our best interests, and no matter what offenses we have committed against him, he will always be our father. We can disappoint, offend, or displease him, and it ought to break our heart when we do, but that does not bar us from boldly and humbly approaching the mercy seat and asking for forgiveness for the sake of Christ.

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