Hebrews 4:14-16 (10 Oct 2021)

The Lectionary is a three-year cycle of Bible readings. It follows the seasons of the Christian year and offers congregations a balanced diet of readings. It is used by many churches around the world. There are readings for each Sunday of the year.

I am happy to use the Lectionary because that assures you that I am not cherry-picking my favourite passages.  It also means that there is some relationship between the passages from one week to the next. There is also a relationship between the passages set for each day. 

The Lectionary readings for October 12 2021 include passages from Job, Psalms and Hebrews.  Why are these readings together?  What have they got to do with each other?

We read in the book of Job that God allowed Satan to put Job’s faith to the test. Satan did this by taking from Job all that was precious to him. He took his family, his wealth and then his health. Job was left grieving, desolate, in pain and, it seemed to him, isolated from God. From the depths of his agony he said, 

(Job 23:1-5) 

‘Even today my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy in spite of my groaning.

If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling!

I would state my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments.

I would find out what he would answer me, and consider what he would say to me.

Would he vigorously oppose me with great power?

No, he would not press charges against me.

Hopefully you have never had Job’s extreme losses but you may know how he felt. You can relate to what he says.

It’s not fair.  It’s too much. Where is God when I need him? Where is God when I want him?

If only I could get onto him I would tell him why it’s unfair, why it’s unreasonable. I would tell him what is the fair and sensible thing to do. If he doesn’t understand me now I am sure I could explain it all to him and get him to give me what I want.

I am prepared to hear his answer.  I am prepared to learn from him.

If I could only just get through to him I don’t think he would come down on me like a ton of bricks. In fact, he would see I am innocent and don’t deserve this pain and loss. He wouldn’t blame me.

If I could just explain myself to him I am sure he would pay attention to me, that he would see my plight, give me a break, help me up.

Job’s not the only one to feel so bad.  The Psalmists had the same feelings from time to time.

For example, Psalm 22:1-3

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?

My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises.

Just as it was for Job so it was for the Psalm writer.

He wrote, I cry out.  Every day, day by day I cry out.  During the night I cry out to God.  What good does it do? I get no rest.

I have been forsaken, left, abandoned, far, far from God. 

Why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me? Don’t you hear my cries of anguish? Why don’t you answer me?

Like all the other believers I have praised you, enthroned you, but so far away, so far above.

Do you recognise the words of verse 1 of this Psalm? My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Jesus himself cried out with these very words as he suffered, dying on the cross.

The agony and extremity of separation from God was a chasm, an abyss so deep and absolute that it is beyond our perception, let alone our understanding. With praise and gratitude we know that because of Jesus it is an experience which can be beyond our experience. Being able to avoid such desperate separation and loneliness is something for which we can be so thankful.

Why did Jesus  sink to such a level of despair? Because of who he was, what he had, where he had come from.

Philippians 2:5(b)-11 tells us 

Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

None of us has been so close to God so none of us can understand the pain of such separation.

His cry from the depths of his suffering did not save him. He was crucified. Jesus died. He was dead and buried.

Jesus humbled himself.  He was obedient to the Father’s will.  He was obedient to death – even death on a cross. He was buried in a borrowed tomb. 

If he who was in very nature God, felt such ghastly desperation in his separation from God his Father what hope is there for us when we can’t even seem to get in touch with God?

On the third day God the Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead! 

Even the grave doesn’t put us out of reach of God!

There’s a wonderful encouragement in this, a great source of hope in even the  darkest times.  

Satan was prevented from taking Job’s life — but he took Jesus’ life.  

Eventually Job was given restitution — but Jesus was given resurrection.

However, that was not the end.  

As it was for Jesus so it is for you.   No matter how bad, how extreme your circumstances seem to have become and God seems to have abandoned you, is out of your reach, know that the truth is different.  He remains near, he remains caring, he remains in control. 

Therefore.  Note the word in this passage is “therefore”! Following Jesus’ obedience, his suffering and his death on a cross, therefore, God exalted him to the highest place, to a place above every name, to a place of such honour that inevitably every knee of every person who has ever lived will bow in submission and worship before him and every one of us will speak out to acknowledge him, Jesus, that he is Lord of Lords and King of kings and we will give God the praise and glory.

When God seems far away, to be uncaring, to be out of touch, to be out of reach, to be too hard to pray to, to be too unimaginable, to be too hard to worship then look to Jesus.

Hope is poured into our hearts because of the merciful and gracious crucifixion of Christ, his victorious resurrection, the outpouring of his Holy Spirit into each of us and in the expectation of his inevitable return in full authority and glory. 

(Hebrews 4:14-16) Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

We can relate to Jesus because Jesus relates to us.  Jesus truly understands you perfectly.  Jesus has been there, He has done that. 

He experienced every temptation you have ever experienced and then the ones you haven’t come across. Jesus had the same experiences as you but did not sin

When you feel remote and separated from God, know that because Jesus had the same experience and came through with flying colours he is qualified and able and ready to speak to God on your behalf.

Being your Saviour and Lord means that Jesus’ death on your behalf brings you forgiveness and cleansing and makes you, too, a child of God the Father.  Jesus speaks to God on your behalf because you have been cleansed and forgiven, been made acceptable by Jesus himself. He speaks to the Father on your behalf as a loving and concerned brother.

He experienced the failures of his friends, the let-downs, the separation from family, the death of loved ones.  He experienced homelessness, hunger, thirst, exhaustion and destitution.

He experienced the utter devastation of separation from God, from the closeness of a son who had been with his Father God from the beginning of time to being totally abandoned to the hands of evil men who beat and killed him.

Jesus now sits at the right hand of God in heavenly perfection and will one day return to fulfil his right to rule over all of creation.  Being seated at the right hand of God means he can speak to God any time he likes about anything he likes. If it seems you don’t have God’s ear know that Jesus does!

Jesus is our high priest who speaks to God on your behalf, on my behalf. But he is not a priest who is so out of touch with reality that he is not really able or qualified to be the go-between for you and God. He understands our weakness.  He relates to our experience. 

And he is not far away, either! He knows all about you because his Spirit is present within you – you are the temple of his Holy Spirit.  

Romans 8:26-27 encourages us with the wonderful assurance that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

When you don’t know how to pray or what to pray for, know that you are not alone. Acknowledge the dryness, the weakness, the emptiness and ask the Holy Spirit of God within you to pray for you.

Remember when Jesus told his disciples he was going to be killed and leave them he promised to send his Holy Spirit to be with them and he called him “another comforter”.  The Holy Spirit of Jesus within you is there as “another comforter”.

Job bemoaned his situation, saying “If only I knew where to find God; if only I could go to his dwelling!” 

But we do know where to find him. We don’t have to go to his dwelling because his dwelling is right there within you.

Do what Job wanted to do, state your case before him and fill your mouth with arguments. Pour your heart out.  Tell him how you feel.  Tell him how it is.  Explain why you are appealing to him.

Naturally, when we put our arguments before God, crying out, asking why he is so far away, asking why things are so hard, we need to be prepared for the probability that God will answer our questions and explain what’s wrong with our arguments.  Or, quite likely, what’s wrong with us.

It’s worth considering the question, “if God seems far away guess who moved?”

Hebrews 4:16 urges us, Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

There’s so much encouragement in this verse.  Whatever the situation you are in you are encouraged to approach God on his throne through Jesus at his right hand. And you are encouraged to do so with confidence, confidence because Jesus has made the way open to you, has made the invitation.

With confidence it says.  Not with arrogance or pride or on the basis of having  deserved anything or earned anything from God but with humility, with thankfulness and with the righteousness that your Saviour Jesus has given you — yet with confidence.

These readings have taken us from the depths of despair to the heights of heaven, from our helplessness and weakness to the one with all power, to the seat of the King of heaven whom we can approach without hesitation and to whom we can speak with great freedom and confidence.

Then, in response to our need, God will give us his precious and loving mercy and empower us with his grace to come through every time with renewed gratitude, thankfulness, praise and worship.

Last Updated on October 10, 2021 by Ken Joyce