As we walk through Hebrews in our reading plan, below are a few additional thoughts, questions, commentary, and quotes. These aren’t designed to substitute your personal study and reflectionon God’s Word, but they’re small supplements to your study. It’s always helpful to begin your study by reading the passage and making some basic observations. See the post “Making Observations” for basic questions to help you understand and apply what you’re reading.
Draw Near to the One Who Drew Near to Us
John Piper writes, “The great aim of this writer is that we get near God, that we have fellowship with him, that we not settle for a Christian life at a distance from God, that God not be a distant thought, but a near and present reality, that we experience what the old Puritans called communion with God. Drawing near is not moving from one place to another. It is a directing of the heart into the presence of God who is as distant as the holy of holies in heaven, and yet as near as the door of faith. He is commanding us to come. To approach him. To draw near to him.”
The author writes this section because his readers needed it, just like we do. The temptation is to believe because God is so perfect, above us, beyond us, transcendent, and holy, he could not and would not relate to us. We’re tempted to believe that we as sinners, who constantly stumble and fall, giving in to our flesh, and running after silly idols, could not be loved and cared for. We wonder if God would draw near to us or let us come near to him. But this section reminds us that Jesus is transcendent, but he is also tender. He is full of glory and full of grace. He is above and beyond us, yet chooses to draw near to us. We can draw near to God because Jesus drew near to us, and now lives to intercede for us.
“The way of approach to God through [Jesus] is a way that is always open, because in the presence of God he represents his people ‘as a priest forever.’ He is no mediator in the ordinary sense, a go-between who places his good offices at the disposal of two parties in the hope of bringing them in agreement. He is the unique Mediator between God and man because He combines Godhead and manhood perfectly in His own person; in Him God draws near to men and in Him men many draw near to God, with the assurance of constant and immediate access.”
In Time of Need
We must not miss the last phrase from verse 16. We’re told to draw near in our time of need. While we know that because of Jesus we have full access to the Father at any point of time, and with any issue, this verse mentions one time where we especially can and should draw near. We should not hide from him in our struggles, sorrows, or sinfulness. Instead, the author says those times you feel least fit to approach God’s throne, come to “receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
The biblical truth isn’t that God helps those who help themselves, but he helps the helpless who ask him for help. Think about that thing in your life that weighs heavy right now. What worries you or wakes you up at night? What’s causing anxiety or fear? In these and many more circumstances, the gracious and glorious King tells you to draw near to his throne of grace. Receive mercy and find grace in time of need. As Charles Spurgeon said when preaching on this passage, “When circumstances are particularly trying, Jesus is particularly tender.”
My encouragement is to not let hard days push you away from God but lead you to him. Leverage these lonely, frustrating, or painful moments to draw near to God. Remember this week the line from Spurgeon and believe when things get especially trying, Jesus is especially tender. What is your time of need today? How is the challenging season making you weak? Dwell on the tenderness of Christ and go to him in your time of need.
Study, Reflection, and Discussion Questions
- What is the reason for why we can and should “hold fast our confession” (4:14)?
- Why does seeing how Jesus first drew near to us (in his incarnation, temptation, and suffering) encourage us to draw near to him?
- Read Heb. 4:14; 6:19-20; 7:25; 9:11-12, 24. What does it mean that Jesus as priest “passed through the heavens,” and how is this building off the OT work of the high priest?
- How does understanding the finished work of Christ and his ongoing priestly ministry give us confidence to draw near to God? When do you most need to remember and apply this?
- Hebrews 4:14-16 gives at least five reasons we should boldly approach the throne of grace through Christ. Jesus is a great high priest, he ascended into heaven, he is the Son of God, he can sympathize with our weakness, and he gives mercy and grace in our time of need. Discuss what each of phrase means and why they encourage us to draw near to God rather than drifting away.
- Why is it important that Jesus is like us as our priest (see also Heb. 2:17-18)? Why is it important that he is also unlike us, as the sinless Son of God?
- Jesus offers grace in our “time of need,” (4:16) when we desperately need his mercy, grace, and help. Are there any circumstances in your life today where you need the mercy, grace, or help of Christ? Share with the group. Use this as part of your prayer request to have others pray over you, now or later.
For Further Study
- High Priest: Lev. 16:4-15; Heb. 7:25; 8:1; 10:21; John 17.
- Let us: 4:1, 11, 14, 16; 6:1; 10:22-24; 12:1, 2, 28; 13:13, 15.
- Read these Spurgeon sermons on Jesus our High Priest at spurgeongems.org. “The Tenderness of Jesus,” “Boldness at the Throne,” or “Our Sympathetic High Priest.”
- Read “Pastor, Jesus Gets You” (even if you’re not a pastor) by Dave Harvey at thegospelcoalition.org.
- Ask Pastor John, “Can Jesus Really Understand My Temptations?” at desiringgod.org.
- Read “Celebrating Ascension Day: 4 Things Jesus is Doing Right Now” by Dustin Crowe at indycrowe.com.
Ideas for Response
- Write down a short summary (one phrase or sentence) of what each of the “let us” passages in Hebrews is exhorting us to do. Read 4:1, 11, 14, 16; 6:1; 10:22-24; 12:1, 2, 28; 13:13, 15. Circle the top 2-3 you think apply to most right now. Write down a one-sentence summary of when and how you can apply it.
- This passage encourages us to draw near to God, knowing Jesus is our High Priest at the Father’s right hand who intercedes for us and understands what we’re going through. This should motivate us to draw near to God in prayer. Spend some time praying to God, knowing you’re invited to draw near.
Additional Thoughts or Quotes
“For the writer, there are two things primarily that the heavenly high priestly ministry of Christ involves. For one thing Jesus Christ is high priest in heaven as he continues to present himself before our heavenly Father. And how does he present himself there? He presents himself as our righteousness. Jesus Christ is the seal, the living exhibition of that perfect righteousness which God the Father declares to be ours. The righteousness that we need is a righteousness that continues to exist, a righteousness that is established where it really counts–in heaven. And that is why we can be so confident today, if our faith is in Jesus Christ, that our sins are forgiven. Because Jesus Christ, the righteous one, is there in heaven, in the sanctuary, on our behalf.
Secondly, the writer of Hebrews stresses that the ongoing activity of the exalted Christ is an activity of prayer. Jesus, he says, “always lives to intercede for those who come to God through him” (7:25). The heavenly high priestly ministry of Christ, it would seem, is especially a ministry of intercessory prayer.” Richard Gaffin
 John Piper, “Let Us Draw Near to God,” http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/let-us-draw-near-to-god
 F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 153-54.