“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” (Hebrews 4:16).
That verse sounds comforting to our modern ears, but undoubtedly it was very shocking to those who read it two thousand years ago.
Here is why. In ancient days a monarch’s throne was scary, not only because it was impressive, but also because of the power of the person who sat on it.
King Solomon’s throne is an elaborate example. I think you will agree that he sat on a very impressive throne: “Moreover, the king made a great throne of ivory and overlaid it with refined gold. There were six steps to the throne… and arms on each side of the seat, and two lions standing beside the arms. Twelve lions were standing there on the six steps on the one side and on the other; nothing like it was made for any other kingdom” (1 Kings 10:18–20).
A king’s throne was also scary because of the power of the one who sat on it. It was well-known that it was dangerous to approach a king on his throne unless you first had an invitation. The king could order the immediate execution of anyone who approached his throne uninvited.
This custom is illustrated in the Bible’s story of Esther. Esther was a queen, married to a pagan king, and she knew that even her life would be in danger if she came uninvited into her own husband’s throne room. The threat of a Jewish massacre compelled her to approach her husband’s throne and ask for his help. Because she knew she was risking her life (see Esther 4:16-5:2), she asked her fellow Jews to pray and fast for three days before she dared to approach her husband. (By the way, God answered their prayers. Read the book of Esther. It is a fascinating story.)
If earthly thrones were scary, imagine what the throne of the Creator must be like. We know a little about that because of Isaiah’s vision of God’s throne. “… I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.’ And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, ‘Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts’” (Isaiah 6:1–5).
The Bible always describes the throne of God in awe-inspiring terms. Here are some examples.
“God reigns over the nations, God sits on His holy throne” (Psalm 47:8).
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom” (Psalm 45:6).
“A glorious throne on high from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary. O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake You will be put to shame. Those who turn away on earth will be written down, because they have forsaken the fountain of living water, even the Lord” (Jeremiah 17:12–13).
“I kept looking until thrones were set up, and the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow and the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames…” (Daniel 7:9).
“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them” (Revelation 20:11).
If God’s throne is so frighteningly awesome, how could it be possible for us to “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace”? The answer is simple, but glorious.
Jesus has made the way! “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus… let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith….” (Hebrews 10:22).
The Apostle John records this song that he heard during his vision of God’s throne: “… Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).
Whether you know it or not, Jesus has already purchased a free pass into God’s holy presence for you. That is good news indeed! All you need to do is to accept that pass, stop following your own way, and begin following Him. Jesus told us plainly how we can have access to God’s throne: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
Don’t be like the religious rulers who Jesus said were “… unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life” (John 5:40). Surrender your heart to Jesus. His invitation is for you: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28–29).