Perhaps one of the most well-known verses of Scripture is Hebrews 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.” This precious text is often quoted in public prayer. The words are often repeated by God’s people in times of particular and pressing trouble.
As we enter into a new year in the Lord’s will, we ought to be conscious that this is indeed a time of need. The year 2020 was one of great upheaval for many people across the world. As we consider a new year, unaware of what lies before us, the Scriptures exhort us in time of need to “come boldly unto the throne of grace.”
When the Lord’s people pray, we need to bear in mind that we are coming to a throne. Prior to us seeing the provision of the gospel in Christ, we lived in terror of God’s throne of justice and judgment, but now it is our privilege to come to God’s throne of grace. Thinking of the throne of grace, Spurgeon said these words are a “gem in a golden setting.”
We Come to God on the Basis of the Lord’s Reign
When we think of a throne, immediately we think of royalty. In the context of these great words, we read of Christ’s entrance into glory (Hebrews 4:14). Christ has ascended and taken the throne of glory and honor (Acts 2:30, 32).
As the Christian approaches the Lord in prayer, he must recognize that he is approaching the royal courts of heaven. We are instructed, therefore, to come reverently, recognizing the greatness of the One we approach. The “boldness” of Hebrews 4:16 is not associated with carelessness, but it is accompanied by a great sense of awe concerning the One into whose presence we enter.
When people are granted the privilege to approach an earthly king on an earthly throne, they are ordinarily expected to come in humility and submission, recognizing their own lowly position and the honorable position of the king. So, with the warrant of Hebrews 4:16 in our hands, we come confessing our own unworthiness, and the greatness of our God enthroned. While an earthly visitor to an earthly palace may feel his own inadequacy, and hesitate to make his request, the gospel here exceeds the parallel! We may come to our King “boldly” because there is liberty without restraint. God is not asking us to hold back in our words! He is not asking us to perfectly frame our request before it could be considered! Rather, He wants us to pour out our souls before Him in prayer. In most circumstances, for a citizen to approach a throne would be considered privileged access and he would come with a sense of affection for the monarch, and admiration of his greatness; however, he would also feel the need to keep a respectful distance. Dear Christian, do not meditate only on your unworthiness, but see the wonderful access you have to the throne of grace and come with a great sense of overwhelming joy. God’s grace has made a way for you to meet with the Almighty Sovereign. May this year be one when we “serve (or worship) the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing” (Psalm 100:2). We do not keep our distance, because we have been told to draw nigh. We have the privilege of entering the King’s throne room and enjoying the most intimate communion!
If a subject is needy, and is invited to come to the throne, he would rejoice in the opportunity, knowing that the king would have power to bring about a change of circumstances. Perhaps John Newton had this thought in mind when he said:
Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and pow’r are such,
None can ever ask too much.
We Come to God on the Basis of the Lord’s Redemption
In the Old Testament, the mercy seat was considered to be God’s throne on earth (see Psalm 99:1). The great theme of the book of Hebrews is the superiority of the New Covenant administration over the Old Testament economy. The Old Testament types are pictures of the heavenly realities. Christ has not gone into a tabernacle made with hands, but into heaven itself (Hebrews 9:24). He has ascended to the heavenly throne– that which was pictured in the earthly mercy seat.
When we consider that the throne of God on earth was considered to be the mercy seat, some wonderful thoughts open up regarding the throne of grace in glory today. The mercy seat was considered the place of propitiation, where God’s wrath was appeased by means of the sacrifice. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would enter into the Holiest of all with the blood of the sacrificial animal. The blood was sprinkled seven times upon the mercy seat. This all pointed forward to the death of Christ and the shedding of His blood that would satisfy God’s justice.
As the believer comes to the throne of grace, his thoughts should be filled with the victory of Calvary. The way to God has been opened up through the shed blood of Christ. He has torn away the veil, and today in glory Christ presents all the merits of His finished work. He has met the demands of justice. The throne to us then is one of grace. Your admission to the throne, dear believer, is not because you have been a good Christian this week! Your admission is not because you have successfully overcome a particular sin of late. Your admission is solely by God’s grace, grounded upon the work of Christ!
The Old Testament mercy seat was upon the ark of the covenant; our approach to the throne of grace is to the God of the covenant. When we come to God, we often feel our failure, and it is right to confess it; however, the thought that is to grip our hearts is this: our access is not on account of any faithfulness on our part, but rather the faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God! This is a throne, like no earthly throne, from which all promises are made good!
Under the Levitical economy, God was said to meet with His people at the mercy seat, and would commune with His people from that place (Exodus 25:22). How clearly we are directed to God’s throne of grace. Today the believer is not being sent like Adam from the place of meeting, rather he is being brought right into it through the merits of Christ’s work.
These great redemptive truths are suggested by the context of the invitation and summons to come to the throne of grace. We come enabled through our Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-15). How glad we ought to be that as we come to God’s throne, we come through our Mediator. He is the “Son of God” (Hebrews 4:14) entitled to entrance to glory, yet He is man, who took our flesh and understands our need (Hebrews 4:15).
Our requests are full of flaws, yet Christ takes them and perfects them before the throne. Our faults will not prevent the success of prayer, because our whole confidence is centered upon the victory of Christ.
We Come to God on the Basis of the Lord’s Resources
What help, grace, and mercy there is that proceeds from God’s throne! As the book of Revelation comes to a close, we read these words: “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Revelation 22:1).
In the eternal state, there will be that continual supply from the throne of God and the Lamb. But this great stream that is so full of grace is flowing today! How much we forfeit when we fail to come and drink! There is a supply for us in our insufficiency. He is gracious, He grants grace that is sufficient for us (2 Corinthians 12:9). There is a supply for us in our unworthiness; He is merciful. There is a supply to us in our weakness; He gives us help in our time of need.
Perhaps as you think of this great summons to come to the throne of grace, you fear because you know you are still in the place of condemnation. Dear unconverted one, lay this text to your heart as an invitation in the gospel. Do you feel your need of help, of saving help? Do you feel your need of grace? Do you feel your need of mercy? Come to this throne. No longer do you need to stay in your sin! Do not hope to come when you are improved, but come today in all your need to the God of provision.
May we each know the blessing of drawing near in this year.
Approach, my soul, the mercy-seat,
Where Jesus answers prayer;
There humbly fall before His feet,
For none can perish there.
Thy promise is my only plea;
With this I venture nigh;
Thou callest burdened souls to Thee,
And such, O Lord, am I!