The Throne of Grace

Exalted above his subjects, the one who fills a throne sits in a position of power. His throne is a symbol of his might – and down through the ages, many have shamelessly abused the sovereign authority invested in their thrones in heartless, self-serving domination. The people have gone hungry while the throne sitter has gorged himself. The people have struggled as serfs, labouring to scrounge together an existence, while the throne sitter has lived in the lap of luxury. The people have approached his throne cowering, fearful of an outburst of anger, while the throne sitter gleefully prides himself in his ability to invoke trepidation in his subjects. But praise God it is not so at the throne of grace.

The Entrants to the Throne Room

“We” are the ones who draw near to this throne of grace. Not seraphim or cherubim, not the independently wealthy or the arrogant living at ease, but six times in three verses (Heb 4:14-16), we have the words “we” or “us.” We feel our weakness and are overwhelmed in our need. We are students struggling with being different from our peers. We are parents wondering how to direct a straying child. We are spouses fruitlessly trying to reinvigorate a marriage that is wilting. We are sufferers, weary of the daily burden of physical pain. We enter the throne room as people of faith, yet due to our many trials, we are weak and needy.

Inside the Throne Room

There we find our great high priest, Jesus the Son of God. He has passed through the heavens and sits in a realm beyond trials – but He was once here and knows exactly what it’s like. Ostracization, physical weakness, unrequited affection – He felt these and much more. His human experience was real, and that is why weary pilgrims in this wilderness of the world can find genuine sympathy in the throne room of heaven. There is a risen man in the glory who has been “tempted as we are” (v15). “Because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Heb 2:18 ESV). The Son of God intimately understands our circumstances, because the Jesus inside the throne room is the Jesus who walked a path like ours here on earth. He walked it differently than us, mind you. He experienced real human life, “yet without sin” (v15). Isn’t He exactly what we long for, then? He is like us, yet different from us. He understands, but He was not overcome. He sympathizes, yet He is sufficient “to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb 7:25 ESV). He is always there for us, in sinless strength.

The Manner of Our Approach

Remarkably, we who have been exposed in our failure and weakness are invited to draw near to God’s throne. We come to the Majesty of heaven (Heb 8:1), yet we don’t come cowering in fear or in trepidation, wondering about our right to be there. Our great high priest has irrevocably secured our place there by His blood having been shed “once for all” (4x in Hebrews in the ESV).[1] Now we are told to come “boldly” (KJV), or “with confidence” (ESV). It is not that we approach with brazen self-assuredness, but with the absolute certainty of the blood-bought privilege of being there. We are free to tell Him everything. We are confident He will listen to us. There is no reason to conceal our weakness or our need, for that is exactly the reason we have come.

What God Dispenses to Us

God is a giving God, beloved. He already gave us the greatest gift – salvation in His Son, a gift of grace (Rom 3:24; Eph 2:8). And He continues to give. As “the God of all grace” (1Pe 5:10), He gives us the grace that we need to be strengthened for a walk of faithfulness, despite life’s many challenges.[2] And as the times of need occur and reoccur, so God gives and gives again. Annie Johnson Flint (1866-1932) knew plenty of weakness and need: a mother’s death when she was three, a period of time in a home that didn’t want her, poverty, the death of both of her faithful foster parents in quick succession while she was still a young woman, and then abundant physical suffering.[3] From her mid-twenties, she was confined to be a helpless invalid for the remainder of her life. But at eight years old, Annie had come to know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (2Co 8:9), and shortly thereafter began to pen poetry. Her writing was evidence of her experience at this throne of God:

“He giveth more grace
when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength
when the labors increase;
To added afflictions
He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials,
His multiplied peace.

We might feel like our circumstances are beyond hope – but from this throne, mercy flows to save us in our pitiable condition. We might feel like we don’t deserve the help – but the throne is a throne of grace, intended to be a dispensary of strength for those who are unworthy, yet in need. We might feel like we have come too often, as if we have abused our privileges, but that is impossible. As often and great as our times of need, so is our welcome at the throne of grace. And at the threshold of a trial, we might wonder how we will ever cope – the answer is found in this heavenly throne room. The help will be just what we need and just when we need it at God’s throne of grace.

[1] The background in Hebrews is the Tabernacle and the Day of Atonement. Interestingly and beautifully, William Tyndale’s translation renders both this throne in Hebrews 4:15 and the mercy seat in Hebrews 9:5 as “the seat of grace.”

[2] See 2 Timothy 2:1 and its context.

[3] Search Annie’s Story by Rowland Bingham.