“Let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in the time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
This month we acknowledge several special days: Ascension Day, Prayer Day, and Pentecost. Rev. Hyde has offered a meditation on Pentecost, so this meditation focuses upon Ascension Day and Prayer Day. Millions of people in the United States will gather together at noon on Prayer Day to pray for our nation. Many will gather together in churches throughout the country that same evening for prayer. Yet, only a handful of people will gather to praise God on Ascension Day for the glorious event that we read about in Acts 1.
Isn’t it ironic? Here we are storming the gates of heaven on behalf of this nation on Prayer Day, but on Ascension Day, we fail to acknowledge the great event that permits us to do the very thing we are doing: storm the gates of heaven.
This Vast Universe
Not so long ago I read a description of this great and vast universe in which we live. The writer put it this way: suppose the earth were reduced to the size of a period at the end of a printed sentence, that is, a diameter of only 1/50th of an inch. Now suppose that everything else in this universe were reduced proportionately in the same way and then we lined everything up next to each other with the distance also being proportionately reduced, as well.
On that same microscopic scale, in which the earth were reduced to the size of a period, the sun, which in reality is ninety three million miles away, would only be nineteen and a half feet away. The nearest star, on that same scale, would be one thousand five miles away. Using that same scale, with the earth the size of the period at the end of a sentence, the farthest galaxy that we know of would still be almost eighty two billion miles away.
Wow! Doesn’t that make you feel important as a tiny little speck upon this tiny little planet? It should make us feel very small and insignificant. We live on that little speck—that period at the end of the sentence. We cannot even be seen according to the scale of that picture. If we could somehow travel at a speed of 2,500 miles per hour, it would still take us several hundred years to reach the more distant planets, to say nothing of the stars. Our little planet is so small you could pack a million of them in the sun and still have room to spare.
There certainly is no reason for us to have big ideas about ourselves. We make a lot of noise on this little planet of ours, don’t we? We toil and we sweat to gain possession of just a little piece of ground—a mere scrap in the universe. Nations fight against one another about setting boundary lines on this little speck.
The way we talk, one could get the impression that all the other planets in our solar system are eagerly anticipating what great documents of peace will be signed so that we will stop fighting one another here on our planet, as though the future of all the universe depended on the balance of power as we find it here on earth. One has to ask, if you will pardon the pun, what is the point?
The Great Creator
Holding this enormous universe in His almighty hands is God, the great Creator and Sustainer of it all. One would think that as the God who upholds this vast universe, He must be very, very busy. What a tremendous responsibility He has! It all depends upon Him. What power, what wisdom, what infinite care it must take to handle this universe and to preserve it and to move it toward its destiny. The little we know of this creation staggers our minds. Consider how great God must be to be able to know it all and take care of it all!
He made it. He knows every part of it. In fact, compared with God, this vast creation is small. The maker of a thing is always superior to the thing that he has made. In this case, God is not only the Maker; He is the Master of it. The entire universe obeys His will and serves His purpose. It cannot exist without Him even for one split second.
So here we are, tiny little people on a tiny little speck of this creation called earth, this little period at the end of a sentence in a billion mile big creation. And what do we do? We gather around the flagpole to pray to this great God. We dare to bother Him with our little needs and with our little wants.
We just open our mouths and talk to Him—sometimes without any formality—acting as if we can just burst in on Him whenever we want to, even in the midst of His taking care of this vast creation of His. We take for granted that we can pray to Him anytime, any place, and that He is going to drop all that He is doing, so to speak, and take the time to listen to us.
We assume that He is always in the office, waiting for us to pray to Him with no appointment needed well in advance. No. Just come as you are, wherever you are, whenever you want. It never occurs to us that God might be too busy with other commitments to give His full attention to us. When we get up in the morning, when we go to bed at night, at meal times, and any time during the day, we just call on Him and we expect Him to hear us. We even will get impatient with Him when He does not answer us promptly or give to us what we ask of Him.
Where do we get courage like that? What makes us think that we have any business at all expecting the almighty God to hear us? Let me add this as well: we are not only small in comparison to this vast creation, but we are sinful besides. We have rebelled against this God who holds this vast creation in His hands.
We have absolutely no right whatsoever to come before Him seeking His favor. If we deserve anything at all, we deserve His wrath. If God were to deal with the people on this little speck of a planet the way we deserve to be dealt with, He would not allow us to have a place even on this little planet.
God cannot tolerate sin in His presence, for He is holy. His very nature will not permit the invasion of sinful mankind to come into His midst. And yet, the Bible encourages us with these words: “Let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in the time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Let us draw near with confidence! We can come boldly before the throne of God. The author of Hebrews gives us two very good reasons that allow us to do so. They allow us to come to the great Creator God in prayer.
There to Intercede
The very first reason why we who dwell on this little planet can have courage enough to come to the almighty God in prayer is because Jesus Christ ascended into heaven (Hebrews 4:14). Jesus is there to intercede for all those who pray in His name. Forty days after His resurrection from the dead, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ ascended into heaven. Ascension Day is just as important as Christmas; it is just as important as Easter or any other day that we celebrate on the Christian calendar.
Many people forget about the significance of this glorious day. They have no trouble celebrating the fact that the Son of God came from heaven as a little tiny baby to this little tiny planet. His coming to earth is very important to them, but His leaving earth and going back to heaven is not. Yet if Jesus had not returned to heaven, none of our prayers would mean anything. The celebration of Prayer Day would be meaningless if it were not for Ascension Day.
Christianity would be nothing if all we had was the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. For that matter, Christianity would be nothing if Jesus had risen from the dead but never returned to heaven. What access would we have to God if Christ did not actually open the gates for us? He is our High Priest who sacrificed Himself on the cross. Through His sacrifice, Jesus Christ gained the right to enter into the Holy of Holies on our behalf.
If we come to the Father in Jesus name, He will look upon us, not in terms of our smallness or our sinfulness. Rather, the almighty God will look upon us in terms of the greatness and the righteousness of His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. With Christ as our intercessor, we are not only declared to be without guilt, but we have a real claim on the blessings of God.
God the Father does that which His only begotten Son desires. His Son has been given authority over all of heaven and all of earth—over this whole creation, vast as it is! Jesus has earned first place in the whole universe because He has redeemed it with His own precious blood.
Because of Christ, we can come confidently to the throne of grace. We can come before Him because the Christ who came down to us as that infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, the Christ who bore our sins on Calvary’s cross, the Christ who rose from the dead, has gone back to the glory of heaven into the very presence of this great Creator God. He is there to represent us. He has gone into heaven and taken our human nature with Him there.
In addition, we have a High Priest in heaven who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities (Hebrews 4:15). He was tempted just as we are but without falling into sin as we do. He conquered all the temptations of life for us. He knows about it from personal experience. You do not have to explain it to Him.
Whatever your need may be, He suffered it, too. Whatever your temptation may be, Jesus will help you to overcome it. Jesus knows all about suffering and pain. He understands sorrow. Whatever the experience you are going through in this life, Jesus knows all about it. He can help us in our time of sorrow, in the burdens we bear, in the temptations we face, because He experienced them.
If Jesus is truly your Savior, Lord, and High Priest, then you have that glad assurance that He has passed into the heavens where you can come to Him with all your prayers. You can know with certainty that the one who has been given all authority in this vast creation is one who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. We may be small and sinful, but through faith in Jesus, the ascended Christ, we can pray to the great God of the universe, knowing that He will both hear and answer us for the sake of His Son.
Rev. Wybren H. Oord is the Pastor of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He is also the editor of The Outlook.