In our Older Testament, there is the account of a spiritual leader named Nehemiah who, in the providence of God, assumed a tough assignment. His burden was to regather the Jews who had returned to Judah after the exile to Babylon in order to rebuild God’s city, Jerusalem, and return the people of God to the Word of God.
The Bible says that, while Nehemiah served as cupbearer to the king in Susa, the principal city of the Persian Empire, certain men from Judah came to visit him. Therefore, he inquired of them “concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem” (Nehemiah 1:2). And they answered, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire” (Nehemiah 1:3).
“As soon as I heard these words,” Nehemiah wrote, “I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4). As he prayed, he declared his faith in the covenant keeping promises of God, confessed the sins of his people, and asked God to regather and bless his people as they obeyed God’s commandments. Even more specifically, Nehemiah asked God to grant him favor in the eyes of the king.
The king asked Nehemiah about his sadness and said, “What are you requesting?” As Nehemiah described the needs of his people, he made three requests.
- A leave of absence to return to Jerusalem and oversee the work
- Authoritative letters from the king allowing him to travel abroad freely; i.e. passports
- Provisions of timber and supplies for the repairs and to build himself a house
The king granted his requests for the good hand of God was upon him (Nehemiah 2:8).
In this actual event in world history we have an illustration of prayer. Because of the work of Jesus Christ the Redeemer, believers have full access to the throne room of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews says it this way.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 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. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
The writer of the book of Hebrews demonstrates how the priesthood of Jesus Christ is superior to the Old Testament priesthood and, in reality, is its full and final fulfillment.
Two qualities of Jesus, our high priest, are presented.
His Deity guaranteed His victory (v. 14a). Jesus has “passed through the heavens;” that is, He has already passed through and is still there. This is a reference to His ascension. Forty days after the Resurrection, the Bible says that Jesus physically ascended to heaven. There He exercises authority at God’s right hand. Who is this Jesus? It is “Jesus, the Son of God.” Jesus accomplished His redeeming work on behalf of sinners and re-entered the presence of God the Father. We, too, can enter the presence of God at any time because we go there in the authority of King Jesus. Read Hebrews 10:19-22.
His humanity guarantees His sympathy (v.15). The word “sympathize” means to share in experience. Jesus can do this because He was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”
Luke 4:1-13 describes one specific time when the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness for the purpose of being tempted/tested by the devil.
- Jesus was tempted with pride. He could have turned the stone to bread. He could have taken matters into his own hands instead of waiting on the Lord. But He resisted.
- Jesus was tempted by power. He could have throne Himself off the roof of the temple. He could have saved Himself, but He resisted. He knew it was not the Father’s will for Him to be saved, but to suffer for our sins.
- Jesus was tempted by position. He could have reached out and taken authority over all the kingdoms of the world, but it was not the Father’ time. He will…someday. But Jesus resisted the temptation of being in a position of authority.
“But,” you say, “what about the trials and tests of life itself? Can He relate to my suffering?” Yes, a thousand times, yes.
- Jesus was tested by poverty. He never owned His own home. A rock was His only pillow.
- Jesus was tested by physical suffering. His abuse was beyond description (scourging, crucifixion).
- Jesus experienced loneliness. One minute crowds gathered to hear Him preach. The next minute, He was alone—even His friends ran away.
- Jesus knows the feeling of betrayal. His companions and coworkers forsook Him.
- Jesus was mocked and falsely accused. His enemies utilized gossip and gang dynamics to attack Him and His reputation and put Him out of their midst.
There are two privileges mentioned in the verses from Hebrews.
We can hold fast to our confession (v. 14b). This confession is not merely individual or personal. We confess Jesus as Lord, together, as a body of Christ (Hebrews 10:24-25).
We can draw near with confidence (v. 16). To draw near is to continually take advantage of our access to God through Christ, which is always available. We do this with “confidence;” that is, boldness and assurance, because our security is not in ourselves, but in Jesus Christ. We are encouraged to draw near to seek God’s help for continued mercy and grace.
For the one who is hiding in the safety and security provided by the Savior, Jesus Christ, God’s throne is not a throne of fear, but of grace. In Christ, the Father welcomes us into His presence. We may enter the throne room and make our needs fully known to our compassionate God. Let us draw near to Him with confidence and assurance in Christ. Let us bring our need for mercy and grace to Him.
[This post is drawn from last Sunday’s sermon at Cornerstone Community Church in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.]