Let’s take our Bibles this morning and turn to Hebrews 4 and then bow together in a Word of prayer. Lord, we come before You this morning as a people who need your help. We need it every day. We need it to the end of our lives. Thank You, Lord, that You are our great High Priest, that You have done everything that You had to do for our complete and total salvation. And yet Lord, You left us here to live a Christian life of struggling, suffering, testing and trials. But I pray, Lord, in all these things that it would only prove that we are genuine, that we know You as our Lord and Savior. Lord, I pray this morning that You would teach us from the Word of God how we can continue to come to You, our great High Priest, and that we can experience the help that we need when we need it by the One who can give it. And we praise You, Lord. Help me this morning as Your servant, to preach the Word of God. Help Your people to listen, hear and apply it and to use it in their lives every day. And I pray this in Christ’s Name, Amen.
We are looking at the only unique High Priest today in Hebrews. I left off last time mentioning that this comes out of a context of talking about the Word of God in the sense that the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces as far as division of soul and spirit, joints, and marrow and is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. You have heard about the Word of God in a mostly favorable light. But the problem is that this passage is right in the context of the Word of God being a judge.
In fact, it is the terror of the Word of God that he is warning the people about. The reason for that is because there is no escape when it comes to the Word of God. It can verily cut through all of our defenses. It can cut through the smokescreen and right to the innermost thoughts of the heart, our intentions, everything. There is nothing that God cannot judge by the Word of God. And He is going to do that someday.
God Almighty is perfectly aware and can deal with us not according to what we appear to be, but according to what we really are. He knows what we really are, as it says in Hebrews 4:13:
And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
That is the terror of the Word of God, and that is to those who disbelieve. That is something that should come to them with great force, but in that context the next thing he does is speaks to those who are believers but who are also struggling in their belief. They are struggling to continue because of things going on around them. But nonetheless, it is good news brethren to those who trust God, trust His promises and believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. They will enter into God’s rest. Instead for them, the Word of God is not a terror, but we see in this passage that we have a merciful High Priest who is for us and intercedes on our behalf, helping us to hold fast our profession and our confession.
The reason for that is because we are weak, we are frail, prone to wander, and we have remaining corruption and indwelling sin in which we are easily tempted. See once we are cleansed of our sin, and we start down the road on our Christian pilgrimage, how is it possible to find strength to continue when sometimes you and I know very well that we do not always sense that we can do it.
We do not always feel that we can finish the race! There are too many variables going on, we cannot handle life because it is too big and problems are too complex. And we realize that we are getting crushed! The point is we have a High Priest, Someone to come to our aid who is much stronger than we are.
In other words, we can continue to press on in our pilgrimage because of the four essentials of Christ’s priesthood. Today I would like to examine at least the second of the four. The first one, remember, was that we can continue to press on in our pilgrimage because Jesus is our Victorious High Priest. The second one is that we can continue to press on in our pilgrimage because Jesus is our Compassionate High Priest.
These passages this morning really should be a great source of encouragement to you and I, to those who believe and know Christ and the reason why is because Jesus knows exactly the way you feel. He knows the pressures and testing of life in this godless world. He knows very well those things and He knows how to help you and I in the moment of temptation. He knows how to do that.
As a matter of fact, He knows when we do not know. But we come to Him for that help and He provides what we need. Why should we come to Him? We know that He helps us in our moments of temptations and there are really four apparent reasons, the first of which is in Hebrews 4:15. Jesus Christ is deeply concerned about our weaknesses. It says in the verse:
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
That is incredibly encouraging to me and it stresses the word our in the phrase. The very word sympathize means to be affected with the same feelings as another. It means to feel for, to be touched with the feelings of another person. That is what the word means! That is what this word sympathize means. In this word there is a sense that the affections are inwardly moved by what one sees, what one understands, or what one hears from someone else as far as their needs are concerned.
During our sufferings and trials God is able to empathize with us. In fact, if we were to trace this particular word through out our Bibles, we would find in almost every case that the feelings are affected. Here are a few examples for you and I to get the sense of this.
Remember when the prodigal son left the father in Jesus’ famous parable? The father shows incredible compassion to the son, who could no longer live on his own. The son realizes his circumstances and comes back to the father. And this is what it says in Luke 15:20:
So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
We know the son squandered all his wealth, left his father in a very bad way and yet when the father sees him coming back, he feels compassion and is moved in his spirit and soul to do something. And then there is a passage in Luke 10 where the man who is left for dead on the side of the road and was unable to help himself because he was beaten so badly. The Bible says that a certain Samaritan who was on a journey came upon him and when he saw him, he felt compassion. That compassion moved him to dress his wounds, put him on a donkey and get him a place to stay. And anything he could not do for him at the moment, he would pay for later.
It moved him to do something. This is the sense of this word and then in Matthew 3 where the Lord Himself has compassion on His lost people, it says in verse 36:
Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.
Why? Because they were distressed and down cast like sheep without a shepherd. So he understood their spiritual condition. He saw that they were wandering all over the place. They were not being guided at all or in a good way so the Lord felt compassion on them. And what does He do for them? He dies for them and becomes their great Shepherd.
Jesus is inwardly moved by our weaknesses. When we have a want of strength and when we sense our infirmities and our disabilities. And the word weaknesses is actually used in all kinds of ways in Scripture. It is used to refer to bodily weaknesses, the weaknesses and frailties of our bodies and health. It is like when Paul told Timothy to not only drink water exclusively, but to also use a little wine for the sake of the stomach and frequent ailments. Have you ever felt like that physically?
The word is also used to refer to the weakness of the soul. In other words, when the soul is deficient in strength and does not have the capacity to understand or do something because of a lack of skill in speaking or management. Or even the ability to restrain the corrupt desires and the various kinds of proclivity to sin that we have. We feel our weaknesses when we are tempted and fall into this sin. We feel incredibly weak and we ask what went wrong?! The Bible is saying here that the Lord understands that kind of weakness.
Of course, there is also the weakness of spirit in the sense that when we struggle spiritually it leads to doubt, despair and disobedience towards God. The weakness leads really to lovelessness towards others and a selfish preoccupation of one’s own desires. When we are led in that way, God understands those weaknesses too.
In fact, if you look in your Bible in Hebrews 5:2, it says this:
He can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is beset with weakness.
That is the high priest in the Old Testament. He understood his weaknesses and was therefore able to administer to people. The Lord is saying to us that He understands this weaknesses and feels compassion when we experience those kinds of weaknesses. Why does He feel inwardly moved? Because a second reason is that Jesus is able to help us. Look in Hebrews 4:15, where it says:
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
Jesus in His perfect humanity is familiar with all our needs, all our concerns, He is familiar with temptations and our problems. He is familiar with all those things so here one great confirmation of Jesus’ humanity. He was tempted and not only that, but tempted by every means and by all instruments and directions, as we are. This is not foreign to the Lord Jesus Christ. He knows exactly what you and I are going through. So here is the great difference that separates Jesus from all other high priests, it is in verse 15. He did that yet without sin. He was tempted without succumbing to temptation.
Now that does not mean that he experienced every individual temptation that we do. He did not experience the specific temptations particular to women, married people, or even the elderly. It can be argued though, that far from being less than ours, Christ’s temptation was even greater because He had certain powers and abilities which we do not possess that only added to His stress and exposed Him to all the more fully to the assaults of temptation and to the assaults of Satan himself. Therefore, Jesus is aware of our need because He experienced to the full the pressures and testings of life without giving in.
Some people would say that He was Jesus, that He was God, and that is why He did not sin. But that is not the point that Scripture is making. He felt the full brunt of temptation, but we do not. The reason why is because we give in way too soon. C. S. Lewis says this on this point: “A silly idea that people have is that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie, only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of the wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives into temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour from then.That is why bad people in one sense know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life of always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside of us until we fight it. And Christ because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full extent what temptation really means.”
Jesus in another way was tempted without sin and He went the full sixteen rounds and never gave in. He was still standing. That is our Lord. No one could have done what He had done. That is why we are to put sin to death, because we cannot do it on our own but we have a High Priest that can enable us to do it. That is the strength that we receive, and the Lord did that not for Himself but for us!
Let me just say a few things about temptation. The term tempted can be taken in several different ways. Remember, to be tempted by someone or something is not sin. It is merely a trial which may have a positive or negative effect, depending on how long you bear with it. In a good sense, it could mean to go through a trial or to go through a test for the purpose of ascertaining quality, what one thinks, or how one will behave themselves. That is in a good sense.
But in a bad sense, and that is probably the way that we understand it the best and the way the Scriptures describes it for us, is one that is malicious and crafty. It is when one is put to a reproof in his feelings and judgments. In other words, to try or test one’s faith or one’s virtuous character. Or it could mean to be enticed into one’s desire for sin, or to ultimately be tempted by the devil.
When we consider temptation, we have to consider it also in relation to sin. And the reason for that is that there are two sources of sin. There is indwelling sin, which the Bible is clear about teaching us. That is probably the greatest source of temptation for sinners, and that is probably the inner weakness to be tempted or lured away from the path that we ought to be going on. It is the principle of sin that works within us that Paul talks about and which the epistle of James informs us in James 1:14:
But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.
The that is a problem you and I have in our hearts is that there is this remaining, indwelling sin. So this sin will move us to lust our passion after it becomes something that we should not be drawn to anymore. Nonetheless, we are because we are still in the flesh so the Bible says to listen. We will be carried away and enticed in our own hearts. It is already there! And then it says in James 1:15:
Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
And when sin takes place, destruction and havoc take place. Sin destroys people’s lives, shatters them until they are sometimes irreparable.
A second source of sin is the result from temptation. In other words, from the depraved intention of the tempter. Satan and his demons have no good will toward you. They want to implement what is in your heart, as to the lust of sin, and present opportunities of temptation to you and I to lure us away from what God really want us to do. Therefore, we cannot win that battle alone. We must depend on the High Priest.
Our High Priest, Jesus Christ knows all about sin without having sinned! Because He has passed through the heavens, into God’s presence, Jesus has broken down all the obstacles that good hinder a sinful human being from coming into God’s perfect presence. Now, He invites us to come boldly to His throne. This is where the practical meets the theological in this passage of Scripture.
It leads us to a third reason why Jesus is able to help us. In Hebrews 4:16, it says:
Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
You know what that is? That is an invitation to pray! That is an invitation to come! This kind of confident approach to God’s throne would have brought severe consequences to one approaching in the Old Testament. Remember all the warnings, like when Moses came down with the Ten Commandments. He warned them to stay back because they could not approach a Holy God as a sinful people.
Therefore there are all these warnings throughout Scripture, like when the high priest went into the Holy of Holies and did this elaborate ritual of purification in order to approach God. And here what the Lord is doing is to tell the people to approach Him boldly and with confidence. Boldly, or confidence, means freedom in speaking. That is incredible! The custom to freely speak before a king on a throne could have disastrous results. For example, Esther was even nervous about coming before the king without going throughout the right procedures because the king could take her life.
But here the language is saying for us to draw near with confidence to the throne of grace. And we can speak freely there. That means this, that the throne of judgment has been changed to the throne of mercy. Because the blood of Jesus had been sprinkled upon it as even Hebrews 10:19 says:
Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus.
The free right to approach God with bold frankness was given in the sacrifice of Christ. This means believers have daily access to God for grace and assistance. Every day, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. You do not have to go through a human priest, any rituals, or any purification rites. You just come to the Lord, just the fact that you are coming shows something about understanding you have about what He has done for you. All the formalities have been fulfilled, then removed in Christ. All we need to do is come and receive continual help. Come to your High Priest and call on the name of the Lord! Here is an invitation to come into the presence of the King and speak freely what is on your heart. That is an amazing invitation. You find that invitation nowhere except here.
This passage of Scripture is tremendous to show how much Christ loves us and what the extent of what He has done on the cross. This also means something though, that we cannot be prayerless. Do not think that you can cope with life without divine help. So we must accept the invitation right here in Scripture and follow our Lord Jesus boldly into the holy place.
One old theologian, P. T. Forsyth, used this to insist that prayerlessness is the root of all sin. When we do not give time each day to earnest and believing prayer, we are saying that we can cope with life without divine aid. It is human arrogance at its worst. Jesus knew that He had to pray and He did so gladly, necessarily, and effectively. In fact, if you followed Jesus around in the New Testament, you will find that He does something in Matthew 14:23 after He sent the crowds away. He went up the mountain by Himself to pray. When it was evening, He was there alone.
Mark 1:35 also says:
In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.
Luke 5:16 says:
But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.
If Jesus has to pray, if Jesus shows an example of prayer, what about us? I think if we are tempted to do one thing more often than any other sin, it is the sin of not praying. The sin of not accepting Christ’s invitation. The sin of doing it on our own, using our own resources and not going to the Lord for help. Maybe it is because we do not even believe the Lord will help, so to be prayerless is to be guilty of the worst form of practical atheism. We are saying that we believe in God but we can do without Him. But all it does is make us careless about our former sins and heedless to our immediate needs.
The admonition, then, is to come into the presence of your compassionate High Priest Jesus Christ, who invites you to do so. He understands everything you could possibly bring to Him in prayer. Keep this in mind also, to neglect the place of prayer is to rob yourself of immense and timely resources. Maybe we are weak because we are not praying as we ought to. For the Christian the Throne of Grace is the place of help, the place where our God, who is a Person, can be moved. So thank God we have a High Priest who can hear our prayers! He understands every one of them and is compassionate and eager to hear us! What an inestimable privilege it is to have to have access to prayer. It is a privilege that we esteem all too lightly and take for granted.
This is the greatest tool in our arsenal and we often do not use it. While we are tempted by the lusts of our hearts, we are tired, our favorite program is on, someone is going to visit us tonight, etc. And Satan gives to you all the interruptions, which may be good and with legitimate excuses, why prevent you from praying in the morning, afternoon, and evening.And yet we are robbing ourselves of us the very thing God gives us to approach the throne of grace and to receive what we need to receive.
It was D. James Kennedy who said this, “I wonder if God sometimes when we pray thinks that He has a mechanical voice talking to Him as we go through our vain repetitions of the same prayers over and over again and have little thought and no heart in them at all. And we wonder why they are not answered.”
Now look back at our text for a minute in Hebrews 4:16. Why should believers expect when we come to the Throne of Grace? Jesus our Great High Priest comes to the Throne of Grace with an inclination to relieve us. It says:
Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Mercy is kindness. We receive mercy and find grace. That is the gracious acceptance of God to help in time of need. Now do we believe this? Here we have two essential aspects of God’s deep and continual love for His children. He is just saying to us to come and listen and we will receive kindness from Him and find gracious acceptance in His presence. He will help us in our time of need. That is what He is promising. From His own heart, He gives us help and relief as is necessary. The High Priest is intimately involved in our infirmities and weaknesses and wants to remove them. He wants to remove them from us.
Now I was thinking when I was looking at this passage, whether we should ever be tempted to doubt God’s love and care for and to fall for it after a passage like this. I think not! The great lie and the great temptation of the devil is that we God does not love you because you are weak and you are frail and you are prone to sin and you do wander off. He will beat us to death with that. But at the same time, the Scripture is saying to go to Him with all our weaknesses and needs and problems and He will give us necessary help!
There is no twinge of judgment in this passage here. There is no twinge of being afraid to come to God. He has His arms open with kindness and acceptance. Who would not want to go to Someone like that? God has already made provision for our failures so that His love continues constantly and in spite of what we do. It says in 1 John 2:1:
And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
Who is that? That is Jesus Christ the Righteous One! That is Jesus Christ the High Priest, interceding for us. He is the atoning sacrifice for sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. For all those who would come and believe in Him. He is the answer. One reason why we doubt God’s love is that we have an adversary who uses every little offense to accuse us of being good for nothing. But our advocate Jesus Christ, however, is more powerful than your adversary. He has cancelled the debt of your past, present, and future sins. No matter what you do or how you fail, God will still love you. God’s people need to hear this.
The love of God is not dependent on its object. It is dependent on His character and the Bible says is love. You cannot change that. Do you realize what awesome privilege we have? Now that does not mean that God is going to approve of everything you do and let you go on doing it. That is why it says in Hebrews 12 that when you sin you will be disciplined for your good that you will be able to share in His holiness. He will bring you back to the path of righteousness.
In my readings, I came across a story I thought I would share with you that kind of illustrates how God loves us no matter what we do. It was an article from Neil T. Anderson who was writing a book called Victory Over the Darkness. He said that when his children were small, he had babysitters that came and connected with his kids. The babysitters gave the boy and girl hamsters as a gift. One night, he came home from work and found his wife, Joanne, at the door telling him to talk to Carl, his son. She said that Carl threw Johnny, the hamster, that afternoon. So Neil asked his son point blank if he threw Johnny and he said no, while his big sister, Heidi, accused him back of doing so. But Carl would not admit to throwing the hamster. Unfortunately for poor Carl, it was an eyewitness that afternoon, Heidi’s friend, that attested to the act.
The next time Neil confronted Carl, he came with an oversized whiffle bats, that makes a loud sound on a child’s behind but inflict very little damage. Neil told him that throwing Johnny was not that big of a deal, but being honest with him was. Neil again asked his son if he threw Johnny, but every time he said no. So Neil gave him a good whack. But still, he refused to confess.
A couple of days later, his wife Joanne met him at the door and told him to talk to Carl. This time, Johnny was dead. Neil found Carl in the backyard mourning over his hamster stretched out on the black cloth. They talked about death and dying and then went to the pet store to buy a new hamster.
The next day, Neil’s wife meets him at the door again. She said that Carl dug up Johnny. Carl was in the back again mourning over his stiff, dirt-encrusted hamster lying on a piece of cloth. So Neil made a little cross and told his son that they did not have a Christian funeral. They talked about death and dying some more, and we buried Johnny again and placed the cross over the grave. And Neil told Carl to pray, and this is what he said, “Dear Jesus, help me not to throw my new hamster.”
Neil said that what he could not coax out of his son, God was able to. The question is though, why did Carl lie? Because he thought that if he admitted to throwing the pet, his father would not love him anymore. And he was willing to lie so he could hold on to his love and respect, which he feared more than lying to his father. So his father reached down and wrapped his arms around his son and said, “Carl I want you to know something, no matter what you do, I will always love you. You can be honest with me and tell me the truth. I may not approve of everything you do, but I will always love you.”
And that is just a small reflection of how God loves us, even from a passage of Scripture like this. He says to us that no matter what we do in life, He is always going to love His children. We can be honest with Him and tell Him the truth. He may not approve of everything we do, and I may discipline you for what you do, but He will always love you. He understands us and He welcome us to come into His presence. He wants to help us.
Live your Christian life so that you make it to the end and persevere by faith. That is the promise we have in this passage of Scripture, which to me is a great encouragement and practical application. The thing is that we need now to apply it. We can say that we love and want to memorize this passage of Scripture, but that is not the ultimate point. We need to actually do it. Let us actually go out on a limb and come to the Lord and tell Him impossible things. Ask Him to rescue you from a severe temptation that has been occurring in your life, and rescue you from the sin that you have committed. If you are one of His children, ask Him for the help that you need.
If you are not one of His children, then the terror God’s Words still stand. You are under God’s judgment, not under God’s acceptance and grace. So today maybe the day you come and receive the gospel of Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection on your behalf and become a believer. But if you are a believer, today is the day you are going to commit yourself and say to the Lord that you will live this way. He will deliver you from temptation where no one else or even yourself can. He will help you in your problems and needs, weaknesses and whatever else.
And you will find that God keeps His promises and that we should have testimonies about what the Lord is doing in this area of our lives. We should give Him the praise and worship because of what He is doing. We are too easily satisfied when it comes to our spiritual lives. Let us go for it! Let us hold to these promises and make it to Hebrews 11, the Hall of Faith, and see what those people endured. They saw, lived, and died by faith. And now they live by sight.
Let us pray. Lord, thank You this morning for Your tremendous grace towards us. Thank You, Lord, for Your kindness to us. Thank You for Your gracious acceptance of us. Lord, help us to know and believe and practice these things. Lord, I pray that when we are tempted to doubt Your great love and care for us, that we would not go there. That You would give us the strength to say no. That we would pray, “My Lord, loves me and cares for me. My Lord is there for me and has provided for all my needs. He hears my prayers and welcomes me to come into His throne room where He accepts me. I find grace and help there.” Lord, help us to think like that. Lord, give us victory after victory after victory in Christ so we can praise Your Name and live by faith and help others in their weaknesses. That we can again find our worth in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior, and our Great high Priest. Lord, we praise and thank You for what You will do this morning in the hearts of Your people. And I pray this in Your Name, Amen.