And now it’s time for Bible trivia!
Question #1: Who built the ark?
Answer: If you said “Noah”, you’re right! (And if you said, “Noah, Noah!” … you probably grew up in church.)
Question #2: What’s brown and has a bushy tail and climbs in trees?
Answer: If you grew up in church, you probably said, “Jesus”, even though it sounds like an awful lot like a squirrel.
Question #3: And in what book of the Bible would you find the quote, “God helps those who help themselves”?
Even if you grew up in church, you might be a little stumped on this one. The answer? Nowhere.
In fact, a careful reading of God’s word reveals that God helps those who cannot help themselves.
We use that phrase a lot in our culture. For example: if my wife is making homemade chocolate chip cookies and she has them cooling on a rack, regardless of who or what they may be for … I’m taking one. I just can’t help myself. Or I guess I could, but I don’t want to. So I don’t.
Temptation isn’t such a bad thing when it comes to chocolate chip cookies, but it can have devastating effects in other areas of our lives. While some people might want to minimize it or poke fun at it, temptation is a real issue that we must all come to terms with. Fortunately for us, our Savior already has.
The writer of Hebrews says that this Savior knows a thing or two about temptation, but not quite in the same way you and I do:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
It’s that last part – the “without sin” part – that separates Jesus from you and me. But it’s the “in every respect has been tempted as we are” part that makes Him close to us.
Because Jesus is the perfect Son of God, we might imagine him to be far above the realities and struggles of our daily existence. We may envision Him as a king on a throne who has no understanding of what it’s like to live in a peasant’s world. But the reality is that He was a peasant. His manger was not a royal birthplace. His hands did not bear the softness of privilege but the hard callouses of a carpenter. He did not have friends in high places but instead rubbed shoulders with the regular people of His day. And for the most part, His life on earth was as everyday as yours and mine.
So although He is now our high priest, exalted at the right hand of God, forever glorified above all creation … He has not forgotten what it’s like to be a peasant within that creation. This is why He is, for us, the perfect Savior. His perfection gives Him a place at the Father’s side to advocate for us, but His humble humanity makes Him able to understand the peasant’s pleas. And He is not above those pleas – He actually welcomes them.
For this reason, the writer of Hebrews says,
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Christ’s throne is a throne of grace, and our coming before that throne is not based on our own merit but on His grace. In fact, those who have no need for grace or mercy need not approach. But those who recognize their own weaknesses – and His ability to sympathize with them – are welcome.
If we think that in the midst of all our temptations and weaknesses we can somehow help ourselves, that we can spiritually muscle our way through and make it on our own by sheer determination, the throne of grace is not for us. But if we honestly admit that quite often we are more weakness than willpower, we must draw near to it. We need our High Priest’s help – simply because we cannot help ourselves. And that goes for way more than just chocolate chip cookies.