Summary: Because of our High Priest Jesus Christ, we may now approach the throne of God and receive mercy.
Hebrews 4:14-16 Our High Priest
Poor Dorothy – she wants to go home. A tornado has lifted her up into the land of Oz, and only the Wizard of Oz can help her. She travels along the yellow brick road and picks up three friends, each of whom who is hoping the wizard will help them. They finally arrive to his capital, then timidly, even fearfully walk the long hallway into the entrance of the throne room. There before them in all of his terribleness is the frowning wizard, demanding to know what right they have to appear before him. He condescends to give them what they ask, but for a price – to bring to him the broomstick of the evil witch of the East. They have got to earn his favor, even if it means risking their lives.
Poor Dorothy; poor cowardly lion who jumped through a window so frightened he was by the wizard. But we know the truth – that the wizard was a fraud, no more than a mere man with nothing to give. And yet, what then can we expect, standing before the true holy God? We truly are unworthy. We stand before a truly almighty, all holy God and there is no brain, no heart, no courage to win his favor. How can we appear before him for help? Do we look to Jesus for help? Do we dare, when we know how we have failed him? He said his friends were those who obeyed his commands. Considering our track record, will he consider us his friends?
Let’s look at our text. The context is that believers are wavering in their faith (2:1; 3:19) leading to transgression or disobedience (2:2; 3:12-18). And so the author writes in 2:1-3:
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?
Be careful of drifting from the faith. Don’t be disobedient. At the end of chapter 3, he gives the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness as an example of unbelief:
For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief (3:16-19).
There is that connection again between unbelief and disobedience. One leads to the other. Why are they wavering? They lack confidence in Christ – either that his work is not sufficient or that he begrudges interceding for them. Why do they lack confidence? It appears that the trials they are going through are making them waver. Maybe they didn’t realize what they were buying into. Maybe they were looking at their neighbors around them and see that their neighbors seemed to be doing fine. Maybe they engaged in sin and found out that it felt good. Whatever the reason, they waver, and their wavering leads to sin, which all the more leads to wavering.
And so the author solemnly warns them. Take heed; don’t be like the disobedient, unbelieving Israelites in the wilderness. Then the conclusion in 4:11-13:
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Those are sobering words. Don’t they make you squirm a little bit? Every thought, every intention of the heart are exposed to our judge. How now do you feel about appearing before him?
Verses 14-16 lay forth what our author wants us to know and do.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
He wants us to “hold fast our confession.” What does that mean? Our confession is our confession of the gospel. It is the confession by which we are saved – that Jesus is Lord (Rom 10:9); it is the confession of Christ’s incarnation, that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (1 John 4:2); that he is the Son of God (1 John 4:15); it is the confession of our hope that we have in Jesus Christ to return (Heb 10:23).