For the vast number of God’s people living under the old covenant, access to God was only by way of the high priest. Only he was able to physically draw near to God with any sense of intimacy—and this only once a year, on the Day of Atonement! It was therefore dramatic and revolutionary for the writer of Hebrews to exhort his readers to “draw near” to God as they prayed.
What happened to cause such a seismic change in the way people are able to approach God? The answer is, in short, Calvary. When “Jesus cried out … with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit … the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:50-51). Under the old covenant, this curtain had restricted access to the presence of God—but now the barrier was obliterated. Now it was possible for men and women, on the basis of Christ’s atoning death, to make their way directly into God’s presence. Now they could draw near to the God who is majestic in His holiness and in whose presence no sinner could live—until Calvary.
How should we respond to the writer’s invitation? First, we ought to draw near with confidence. The writer prefaces his exhortation by saying, “Since we have confidence…” (Hebrews 10:19). Whereas previously our approach to God could only ever have been tentative and fearful, now we’re able to come confidently in faith and great joy on the basis of “the blood of Jesus” (v 19).
Second, we ought to draw near with gratitude. We should recognize the wonder of being able to come into His presence directly. We are not to draw near haphazardly or flippantly, for it took the death of the Son of God to open “the new and living way” to God (Hebrews 10:20). We are therefore to approach Him in humble and reverent thankfulness.
Whereas the Old Testament way, as Franz Delitzsch puts it, “was simply a lifeless pavement trodden by the high priest, and by him alone,” the way that we now walk is indeed new and living. Thanks be to God that we now draw near through Jesus, fully assured that we are accepted by our Maker. Are you holding back from praying to your almighty Father out of an awareness of your sin? Be sure that the blood of Jesus has covered it. Are you under the impression that you need to clean up your act and bring your good deeds before God if He is to accept you? Be clear that the curtain is torn and Jesus has done it all. Do you skip drawing near to God out of complacency or busyness? Be aware that Jesus died to give you that privilege. Because of Calvary, we can, and should, draw near with confident, grateful joy today.
A Kingdom That Cannot Be Shaken
18For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23and to the assembly1 of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
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