Faithlife Sermons

Approaching the Throne

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When I was just a kid I remember my brother and I playing down by the river near our house. It was just down the road, only a 2-3 minute walk. I would walk down the road with my little brother and we would approach the “Bridge Out” sign that stopped traffic from careening off the road into the river below.
We would walk up to this overgrown sign, it had been years since the bridge had actually gone out, and we would walk down the embankment to the river’s edge. Now, this wasn’t anything like the size of the Susquehanna, but as a kid this was a vast river that could sweep us away at any moment, even though it was more like a slow trickling spring.
We would step onto stones, over fallen trees, through the stream. We traversed from one side to the other, up and down the stream. In the middle, just about a quarter of a mile down stream was a little island in the middle of the stream. It was our island, we claimed it! We made a flag, built a fort, had a fire ring. If anyone dared to enter our island they would know it was taken!
Well, our island became somewhat of a local legend and pretty soon kids from around the neighborhood and town would come out to see what we had done. It was magnificent. Of course, as more people came, the more we played.
This small trickling stream and piece of land in the middle transformed for us into something massive. The island became a kingdom, the stream became a moat of protection. Kids would take turns every day being the king, the court jester, the captain of the army, and of course the villain. The villain was either a petty thief, a spy, or even a rival king.
We would chase each other through the stream, through the woods, and bring the captive back to be punished. Of course, our punishments were silly things like “drink an entire 2-liter of Mountain Dew in one gulp!” or “go home and tell your mother she smells bad.” It was silly childish stuff, but we had fun.
Well, what became an important part of our game was presenting yourself to the king. Whoever the king was would sit on their throne and rule the kingdom that day. The throne was just a fallen tree with a still standing tree behind it, close enough to sit and lean back a little.
In order for someone to come to the king though they had to make their request known to the captain, who then approached the king, and the king would grant or deny permission to approach his throne. If someone would approach the throne without proper permission their punishment was banishment. They had to leave for the day. There was nothing more embarrassing in our game than to be the one who would be banished for the day. But, that’s how our game worked.
While this was the creation our childlike minds, and something made in our imagination, this scenario was not unique or even original. It was a theme in many monarchies all over the world. In fact, Scripture even shows a similar situation in the book of Esther.
Esther eventually marries King Ahasuerus, who reigned over 127 different provinces between India and Ethiopia. Well, one of the rules in the Persian Empire was that one could not make a request of the king, or appear before the king unsummoned. If they did, they faced death.
However, Esther does so in spite of that, she makes a plea, and saves all of the Jews that lived in the kingdom. It’s a wonderful story for the people of God, but it goes to show that appearing before a king without certain permissions, whether it was a child’s imagination or Scripture, can prove to be a costly mistake.
Coming before a king in such a manner would have been considered an unworthy, unrighteous, and even insulting thing to do. With that mindset, the people were completely cutoff from the ruling authority unless that ruler wanted them to appear before them. It’s certainly not a perfect system, and it has caused a lot of years of pain and suffering.
This morning, as we have read through our Scriptures together, you may have noticed a common theme. In our Job Scripture, Job lays out his heart before God. He shares with him the deep and longing pains that he feels. He goes as far as to say that it would be better for him to vanish into darkness, to have thick blackening darkness cover his face. He presents all of this to God.
Then, in our Gospel reading there is a rich young man who so desperately wants to know how he can inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. He wants to know how he can have salvation and eternal life. He doesn’t wait in line to make this request, nor does he wait to be summoned. Instead, this young man runs up to Jesus, kneels before him, and begins asking about what he needs to do.
In Hebrews 4:12-16 we are told something incredibly interesting about Jesus. Jesus is called the great high priest! Now, when we hear that today we may not know exactly what it means and why it’s important.
In the Old Testament the High Priest was the mediator between Yahweh and the people of Israel who, in addition to performing sacrifices and rituals like other priests, acted to expiate the sins of the nation on the annual Day of Atonement.
Jesus is painted as being not just another high priest that stands on the outskirts of human suffering or the troubles of the day, but instead, he is a high priest who “sympathizes with our weaknesses.” We are told that Jesus is one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.
Have you ever struggled so hard with something and gone to somebody about the issue and then at the end of you pouring out your heart they say, “I know how you feel?” It’s so incredibly frustrating, mostly because…they likely DON’T know what you are going through.
While we are share in similar struggles, we all have unique issues and problems that bring about their weight on our hearts and minds. We each have decisions to be made that have differing impacts on ourselves and our families. We all struggle with sin, but different sins and with different severity.
All of us here, today, struggle. As we talked about it last week, pain and hurt are not absent in this world, even for Christians. Even as believers in Jesus Christ we are susceptible to the hurts of this world and we are not immune.
But, what the author of Hebrews is saying here is that while yes we suffer, yes our lives are difficult, yes we struggle…we aren’t out here doing it alone.
We are told that the High Priest, the one who is God himself, has suffered and endured pain and death in a way that we suffer too. It means that Jesus himself struggled the struggles that we face, He bore the weight of pain and agony. He saw the depth of human evil and corruption. Jesus took on every single hardship and heartache alongside his people.
He was the High Priest that didn’t stand at a distance and say, “Good luck in your struggles,” but said, “Don’t worry child, I’m here with you.” The presence of Jesus as High Priest to the original audience of Hebrews, and to us today, is so incredibly important.
As we discussed last week, there is no real and true escape from the pain of this world until Christ returns again. Until that happens, we will continue to see pain, hardship, and even agony. But, the reassurance that we have is that we are not doing this all on our own, and we are not alone through it.
While this is all so incredibly comforting, the last verse, Hebrews 4:16, really stood out to me this week. It says,
Hebrews 4:16 NRSV
16 Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Can you imagine what our lives would be like if Jesus was the type of King who needed to grant us permission before we could approach His throne?
Imagine, just a for a second, that Jesus refused to hear the pleas of His people unless he felt we were worthy enough to approach Him. Folks, if that was the case, if that was true, none of us would be here this morning before his altar because none of us are righteous and worthy to approach the holy God.
Now, it used to be so. Before Jesus, God’s dwelling place was in the Temple of Jerusalem. It was layered so that as you went in closer and closer to the Ark of the Covenant, where God dwelled, you had to be holier and holier. The unholy could gather outside of the temple, and then for each room closer to the Ark of the Covenant you had to be holier. The holiest of people, the High Priest, was only aloud to be in the presence of God one day a year, the day of Atonement.
So, what makes Jesus being the High Priest so important? It means that God left his dwelling place, took on humanity, endured the sufferings and sins of the world and remained sinless, died, was resurrected, and ascended into Heaven.
It means that we no longer have to be “holy enough” to come before God.
In fact, that’s what makes verse 16 here so incredible. Instead of waiting for a High Priest to be able to be in the presence of God and make the wishes of the people known, we are now, because of Jesus, encouraged to go before Him ourselves.
We are told to approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace.
Brothers and sisters, what this means for us today is that we are capable and encouraged to by God’s own Word to approach him unannounced. We are told to go before Him with our requests and needs in mind. We are told to boldly approach His thrown without being summoned, but in every and all circumstance.
Unlike the games I played in my childhood and unlike King Ahasuerus, the Lord has spoken through the author of Hebrews and told us to boldly approach Him.
It means that while God hears us and knows our heartache, he is also the one who can change it. We are to make our needs known to the one who is both favorably disposed to help and supremely able to assist.
Jesus, being the high priest, has given us direct access to the Father, to His throne. He makes our supplications known to Father, while we are also able to come to the Father through the Son.
With Jesus as the High Priest, we are able to approach the throne of God with boldness, relying on His grace and mercy.
Folks, I don’t know what you are struggling with right now. I don’t know all of your pains, your problems, your addictions, or the things that keep you up at night.
I don’t know the broken relationships you have, the bruised egos you may encounter, or even the wickedness you see in others around you. But, what I do know is that we are all suffering through the wickedness of this world. We are all suffering with pain and agony, heartache and tears.
But, we are not suffering alone. We do not weep at night in solitude, for the Lord is there with us. We do not cry out to the void with no ear to hear, because the Lord your God is always listening. We do not quake under the pressure and anxiety we face without God wrapping his everlasting and ever longing arms around us.
We have a Great High Priest who not only hears our supplications, but he shares in the sorrows we have.
The Good News for us today is that not only have we been forgiven, not only has Christ died for us, but he has given us access to God that was at one point not available. He has given us access to God’s great throne room and said, “Go!”
We, as believers in Christ, are fully capable and encouraged to go before God with everything we need. So, my question to you this morning is this, are you approaching the throne of God with boldness, or are you afraid to? Are you afraid that God might see what you have to say and be repulsed?
Are you afraid that God might only see your wickedness and sin and cast you out? Are you afraid that maybe you aren’t holy enough to be in the presence of God?
Well, let us look back to verses 12 and 13
Hebrews 4:12–13 NRSV
12 Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.
Brothers and sisters, not one of us is hidden from God. We are all naked before Him and laid bare. He sees and feels the depths of our hearts and minds and still, despite our wickedness, despite our unholiness, despite our brokenness, he says, Matthew 11:28
Matthew 11:28 NRSV
28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
Unlike any king in the history of humanity, God, the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, longs for us to approach his throne with all that we have. He already knows of our brokenness, he already knows of our burdens and pains, and he already knows that we are unworthy to be before Him.
But, he has still opened the door to us. He has still called us to come before Him and lay before his feet that which we need.
So to all of you who are weary, to all of you who are in pain, to all of you who suffer… come, approach the throne of God in every single instance. Lay before Him your struggles, your griefs, and yes even your desires. For the Lord has, through the Son, opened his royal court to us so that we could receive his endless and boundless grace.
Come, approach the throne. Amen.
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