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MERCY AND GRACE IN TIME OF NEED (Hebrews 4:16b) 

We need mercy and grace. And there are special times when we need this mercy and grace. It is called in the text “the time of need.” These times of need arise because of our sins and our weaknesses. Such times we think of in the cases of a David when he flees before the face of Saul, or the same David after he had sinned both the sins of adultery and murder, in the matter of Bathsheba and Uriah. It was then that David wrote the great confession of Psalm 51 in which he pours out his heart in contrition and draws nigh to the throne of grace, and pleads for mercy and grace in the time of his great need.

The time of need is exactly the fit time (eukairon) for receiving grace and mercy. The Lord’s eyes are upon the righteous and His ears are directed to their cry. He is like a mother hearing the cry for help from her infant child. He hears from afar the faintest rustlings of this cry. For the term “need” is really a word in the Greek which comes from the verb “boee-thew” which means: to run to the cry of those in danger. Hence: to help, succor, bring aid. What a kind consideration of God to us in the great high priest, who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. Does he not say, call upon me in the day of trouble and I will help thee? How wonderfully this is exhibited in the prayer of the Canaanitish woman, who cried saying “Lord, help me.” She came in the humility of one who would be as the little dogs who eats the crumbs under their masters’ tables. (Matthew 15:25) Thus the father of the son, who had a dumb spirit, pleads with Christ saying “but if thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.” (Mark 9:22) And who can be untouched by the heart moving confession of this same man when he says “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) Thus also in the vision of the Macedonian to Paul in Troas when he says “come over and help us.” (Acts 16:9) In all of these cases there is a time of need. It is really deep calling unto deep to God for pity, for mercy and grace. God has appointed a high priest who is able to succor us in time of need, at a time when we are tempted. (Hebrews 2:18

Mercy and grace. These two are not the same, although they are most closely related. Mercy isreceived and grace is found. Perhaps there is truth in the presentation of Dr. Westcott when he says “The twofold aim corresponds with the twofold necessity of life. Man needs mercy for past failures, and grace for present and future works. There is also a difference as to the mode of the attainment in each case. Mercy is to be “taken” as it is extended to man in his weakness; grace is to be ‘sought’ by man according to his necessity.” However, we prefer to see in mercy the great “help” of God as He is moved by inner love and compassion to save the “helpless,” those, who are weak and defenseless in themselves: while in grace we see the redemptive love of God as he comes to help us in our worthlessness in ourselves. Hence, we find grace in seeking pardon, and receive mercy in our own helplessness.

Only they, who thus come to the throne of grace, receive mercy and grace. Thus one enters into the rest of God, does not fall away from the living God, but clings to him in firm faith, lively hope and ardent love. 

Hebrews 5:1-10 (Read from own Bible) 

A MASTERFUL TRANSITION 

In the foregoing section the writer admonishes the Hebrew readers to look to Christ, the greater than Moses. In so doing he had touched upon the high priesthood of the Christ. (Hebrews 2:17, 3:1) Now he will proceed with a more elaborate and basic discussion and exposition of the high priesthood of Christ, contrasting it with the priesthood of Aaron. He will introduce Christ as the priest according to the order of Melchizedek. 

In this section here in the verses 1-10 the writer develops briefly the two basic requirements of any priest. Both Aaron and Christ prove to possess these qualifications, although each in his own way and in his own order. As to becoming a priest the requirement is that one be called, appointed directly by God. (verses 4-6) This is a very important point which must not be overlooked. The outstanding spiritual qualification in any priest is that he be able to bear gently with the ignorant and the erring. 

Upon this last qualification the writer had already touched in the former Chapter where he spoke of Christ’s being able to be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He is the great sympathizer; he suffers, as it were, with us. Here, however, the earthly priest did not measure up to the heavenly. In this, too, he was but a shadow and a type. 

This entire subject will be pursued more in depth in this section, the verses 1-10. We will see how Christ is indeed the great high priest who passed through the heavens 

CHRIST, THE DIVINELY APPOINTED HIGH PRIEST (verses 5, 6) 

Christ was not merely a priest called from “among men,” Thus it was with any priest in the Old Testament dispensation. Yet, even so, the priest had to be called directly by God. Aaron was called to the priesthood not by popular vote, nor by the mere appointment of Moses and the elders of the people, but he was appointed by God. The text says that Aaron was called by God. (alla kaloumenos hupo tou theou). The preposition “Hupo” with the genitive indicates direct agency. Aaron was called immediately as we read in Exodus 28:1“And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons.” These are to be clothed with the office of the priesthood, and these only. Therefore we read “And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and beauty.” (Exodus 28:2) Yes, it was for “glory and beauty!” 

However, this was not a glory which Aaron took upon himself. This is not only evident from the Scripture passages which we have just cited, but became evident from God’s direct intervention when Korah, Dathan and Abiram became guilty of insurrection against Moses and Aaron. It was then that the Lord told all the heads of the tribes to place their respective rods before the tent of the congregation, even before the testimony “where I will meet you.” We read “And Moses laid up the rods before the LORD in the tabernacle of witness. And it came to pass that on the morrow Moses went into the tabernacle of witness; and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds.” This indicated that Aaron only was appointed of God to “bear the iniquity of the sanctuary”. Any one not appointed by God, who then cometh “unto the tabernacle (to minister) shall die.” We see this very significantly in the case of Uzziah, king of Judah. (Numbers 17:7, 8, 13, and Numbers 18:1)

Yet, even so, this glory of Aaron had no glory by reason of the glory of Christ’s priesthood which excelled. Aaron could never be a proper candidate to bring the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the people. Only the Christ of God could perform this work in “my Father’s house,” where he must be busy in the things which pertain to God. (Luke 2:49II Cor. 3:7-11

For the Christ is the anointed of God. And this anointing implied both appointment and qualification for the office of prophet, priest and king. He is appointed in the decree of God, in the counsel of peace. Here the eternal Son was appointed by the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Before the foundation of the world he had this “glory” of appointment to the priesthood. Wherefore he says in the high-priestly prayer in John 17:5 “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” And again in John 17:24 “. . .and that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovest me before the foundation of the world.” This must refer to the glory of the Son in his office as he ministers to the saints in God’s house, the Father’s house with its many mansions. 

To substantiate this glory and, that too a glory by appointment, the writer to the Hebrews quotes Psalm 2:7, where we read “my son thou art, this day have I begotten thee.” The writer had referred to this same passage from Psalm 2 already in Hebrews 1:5. There he proves the fact that this refers to Christ’s exaltation at God’s right hand. Such glory has never been accorded to any of the angels. This is only for the Son, who, after he had brought about the purging away of our sins, sat down on the right hand of the majesty of God. Here the writer emphasizes not so much the distinction from the angels, as he does the fact of the appointment as such. In the context of Psalm 2 the poet speaks of the raging of the nations. They imagine vain things. They would cast off the cords of God and his anointed Son. It is then that we hear the divine laughter which has the nations in derision. He speaks unto the nations in his wrath, and he vexes them in sore displeasure. God will declare of the decree, that is, he will send his Son in the fulness of time; the Son will suffer and die, and be raised from the dead on the third day to fulfill Psalm 2:7. Thus the passage is clearly interpreted by Paul in the memorable sermon in Antioch of Pisidia as recorded in Acts 13. We read inActs 13:30-34. Thus the promise which was made to the fathers was fulfilled by God unto us the children, in that he raised up Jesus again. From this it is evident: 

1. That Psalm 2:7 does not refer to the eternal generation of the. Son by the Father in the intertrinitarian life of God’s own Being, but rather refers to the Son in the counsel of peace and in the economy of salvation. 

2. That the actual “begetting” refers to Christ’s receiving the glory to which he is appointed in the suffering and death, resurrection and ascension at the right hand of God. The “begetting” in this sense is glorious exhibition that He is the Son of Man whom God hath sealed. 

3. And this Psalm was written of the christ and not of Aaron and his priesthood by David, at the very time when the priesthood of Aaron was “bearing the iniquities of the sanctuary,” and to cleanse the people as they came before the Lord. 

4. Thus he is proved to be an authentic priest, who did not take this “glory” upon himself, but was called of God, and presented to the people at the Jordan River, when a voice came from the cloud: this is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased. (John 1:32, 34Matthew 3:17)