Hebrews 4:16

Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

Heb. 4:16a “Let us…”

This is the call of someone inviting us to go with him. The author, a man like us, had often enjoyed the power of prayer.

Heb. 4:16b “…therefore…”

This word points back to our High Priest. We must use the infinite privileges, which Jesus has gained for us. Also, be ever mindful we pray “in Jesus name.” He is the sole reason for our right to pray.

Heb. 4:16c “…come…”

Believers have a great privilege. They are authorized to come into God’s presence. This eliminates distance between ourselves and God, one of the most formidable barriers to effective Christian service.

Under the Old Covenant, common people could not enter the Temple. At best, they came to the outer court. Only Priests could enter the Holy Place, and only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies. But in Christ, every believer, including the youngest, weakest, and most unlearned, is allowed to enter into the very presence of God.

Our Holy of Holies is not a private room in an earthly Temple, but an audience-chamber in Heaven itself. We do not catch God’s eye at a distance. We get His heart, and enjoy the very fullness of His love.

“Come” is present tense. It is something we should do constantly, continually. Form the habit of coming. We must always be in a state of constant dependence on God. The path leading to God’s throne should be trampled, well trodden, as a beaten path, which is a bare as stone.

Heb. 4:16d “…boldly…”

“Boldly” literally means, “saying all.” We have confidence to be totally honest, frank, and full of speech. We discuss any need we possess, and come with all sorts of petitions, confident of being heard.

We do not come timidly, as if we might be rejected. We come persuaded God will hear our prayer. This attitude gives honor to the Lord, for it shows we believe He is gracious.

Heb. 4:16e “…unto the throne…”

A throne is a seat of majesty, a symbol of dominion. Since God has a throne, we are reminded to give Him due reverence and godly fear. We do not come before Him to dictate. Audacity and presumption are left behind. We come realizing we are sinners, knowing all access is due solely to the blood of our High Priest.

Few sights could ever be more humbling than a glimpse of God’s throne. In mercy, God hides it from our view (JB 26:9). It has rarely been seen, and the few descriptions of it evoke awe within us. It is ancient, established of old (PS 93:2). It will last from generation to generation (LM 5:19) forever and ever (PS 45:6a). It is in the heavens (PS 103:19), dispensing holiness (PS 47:8), righteousness (PS 92:2), justice, judgment, mercy, and truth (PS 89:14).

On the throne sits One who glistens like jasper (RV 4:3), the Ancient of Days, whose garment is white as snow, and whose hair is like pure wool (DN 7:9). At the throne’s right hand is the Great High Priest, a Lamb bearing in his body the marks of death (RV 5:6). Before the throne, the Holy Spirit burns as a lamp of fire (RV 4:5). Seated round the throne are twenty-four elders, who cast their gold crowns before God (RV 4:10). Angels, ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousand of thousands, worship at God’s right and left (I Kings 22:19; RV 5:11).

A fiery stream issues from the throne (DN 7:10), purging dross and keeping the throne unspotted. The flickering flames cause the throne to look sometimes like a sapphire stone (Ezk. 1:26), and at other times pure white (RV 20:11). From the blaze proceed lightenings and thunderings and voices (RV 4:5).

This scene tempers any thoughts of being presumptuous in God’s presence. I am awed, intimidated, yea, even frightened by contemplating these graphic details. It almost makes me afraid to come before the throne at all. Fortunately, more is said about the throne of God…

Heb. 4:16f “…of grace,…”Sensing the fear and apprehension we might feel, the author adds a touch of gentleness. He gives the throne a name, which allures by its sweetness. Be not dismayed by the spectacular throne. It is not one of terror, but one of grace. The living heart and center of God’s throne is a pure glow of tenderness.

Grace reigns there, and grace loves to exert itself toward us. Grace does not seek to hide itself, or to drive us away. It wants to be revealed and wants to receive the weak.

An inviting rainbow, lovely as an emerald, envelops the throne (RV 4:3). Before the throne is a sea of glass, beautifully clear, as a crystal (RV 4:6). The sea is fed by a pure river of water of life, which flows out the throne itself. On both banks of the river, the tree of life bears twelve varieties of fruit, and bears leaves, which provide healing for the nations (RV 22:1-2).

As if this were not enough to draw us to the throne, one other detail is added for our comfort. Immediately in front of the throne is an altar of incense. Its smoke, picturing the prayers of God’s people, ever ascends to god (RV 8:3-4). Thus we are reminded God ever hears and receives prayer from His people.

It truly is a throne of grace. We are invited to it. Let us come, ready to receive…

Heb. 4:16g “…that we may obtain mercy,…”We do not come to impress God. We come with our misery, seeking someone who will have compassion on us. We want to be reminded that God cares.

Heb. 4:16h “…and find grace to help in time of need.”

At the throne we receive mercy, the full heart of God, and also helping grace, the full hand of God. We are weak, in need of help. We come to God with an empty hand, knowing He alone can bestow the gift. This should not dishearten us. The very fact it is a throne of grace means it is available only to those who do not deserve it.

The safest Christian is the one who feels his needs most keenly. When you know yourself to be poor and wretched, you have begun the journey to victory. People whose stomachs are full do not reach up to take fruit from a tree. Men who see themselves as strong do not look elsewhere for strength. This attitude offends God (RV 3:16-17).

Let us ever be touching the hem of His garment, receiving responses from the healing power of God. It is prayer that brings help in the time of need. When is the time of need? A better question is, when is there not a time of need? We need prayer every hour of our lives.

Prayer brings help. The help may not come as quickly as impatience wants it, nor will it come early enough to prevent an agony of prayer. But it will come in the nick of time, based on God’s clock, not ours. The prayerless person is going to have trouble, but the man in prayer will find grace sufficient to meet his needs.