1. This Hope is Better (verses 18-19).
2. An Oath is Better (verses 20-22).
3. Forever is Better (verses 23-25).

I want to take some of you down memory lane. Perhaps some of you will remember the old television commercials for Parkay margarine. The commercials would normally go something like this. The main actor would be seated at the table with bread in front of him, butter knife in hand, and a tub of Parkay margarine. Just as he was about to scoop out some margarine to place upon his piece of bread, the tub of margarine would speak quickly, "Butter." The one with the butter knife in hand would be a bit startled. After all it's not often that your food speaks with you. But, soon the actor would object, saying, "No. Margarine." And again, the tub of bread spread would speak, "Butter." Again, the actor in the commercial would reply, "Margarine." Back and forth they would go. Eventually, the actor would reach into the tub and taste some of the margarine. Then, a broad smile would develop on his face and he would say, "Butter." And then, the tub would say, "Parkay."

The commercial was all about being better. Parkay spent many, many dollars, seeking to convince you that margarine was better than butter; so much so that thirty years later in my life, I (and many of you) can still remember those commercials.

Well, in the same way, the author of the book of Hebrews has been seeking to convince us that Jesus is better than anything that the Old Covenant had to offer. And here's my hope as we go through the book of Hebrews: I hope and pray that thirty years from now, all of you will still remember these messages in the book of Hebrews. I don't care that you remember any of them specifically. I don't care that you remember any of my illustrations. I just want for you to remember that "Jesus is better!" Thirty years from now, I'm seventy years old and slowing down. Thirty years from now, the children in this congregation will have children of their own. I pray that they would remember the message of the book of Hebrews: "Jesus is better."

Due to Easter and our trip to California last week, it's been a few weeks since we have been in the book of Hebrews. So, rather than merely jumping into Hebrews 7 (where our text is this week), let's begin with a brief review.

The argument of the book of Hebrews goes like this. Jesus is better than the prophets (Heb. 1:1-2). Jesus is better than the angels (Heb. 1:4). Jesus is better than Moses (Heb. 3:3). Jesus is better than Joshua (Heb. 4:8). Jesus is better than the high priest (Heb. 5:9). Jesus is better than Melchizedek (Heb. 6:19-20) Jesus is better than Abraham (Heb. 7:6).

Last time we were in the book of Hebrews, we looked at how the priesthood of Jesus was better than Levitical priesthood. My message was entitled, "A Better Priesthood." We saw how the priesthood of Jesus was A Perfect Priesthood (verses 11-12) Perfection never came through the Levitical priesthood. That's the reason why they needed another priesthood, which was according to the order of Melchizedek and not according to the order of Aaron. The priesthood of Christ was (1) A Perfect Priesthood.

Hebrews 7:11-12
Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also.

Last time, we saw how the priesthood of Jesus was (2) A Royal Priesthood (verses 13-14) That is, it is from the line of Judah, the line of kings. None of the Levites were kings. In fact, it was impossible for them to be kings. But, Jesus had to be a king. He had to be a king-priest, which made Him better.

Hebrews 7:13-14
For the one concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests.

Last time, we also saw how the priesthood of Jesus was (3) A Worthy Priesthood (verses 15-17). In other word, Jesus didn't become a priest because He was a member of the good-ole boy's club. That's not it at all. Rather, His life was indestructible. It was perfect. And there was no tearing it down.

Hebrews 7:15-17
And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life. For it is attested of Him, "You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek."

As we approach verse 18, we see that the same theme is continuing. And thus, it is appropriate for me to entitle my message this morning, "A Better Priesthood (part 2)."

As I read our text, I want for you to listen for the three contrasts. Look for them as I read. When you see them, the outline of this passage merely unfolds itself. As you go home today, I want for you to say, "Yeah, I see that in the text. There it is." Two of these contrasts are very clear with the wording, "On the one hand; ... on the other hand." The third contrast is a bit more difficult to find, and I'm not quite sure why the translators didn't use another "On the one hand, ... [and] on the other hand," because such a translation is possible from the Greek text. But I bet that some of you will pick it up.

Hebrews 7:18-25
For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. And inasmuch as it was not without an oath (for they indeed [on the one hand] became priests without an oath, but He [on the other hand] with an oath through the One who said to Him, "The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, 'You are a priest forever'"); so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

Did you see the contrasts? If not, you will by the end of my message this morning. The first comes in verses 18 and 19. It is the contrast of hope. The priesthood of Jesus is better because ...

1. His Hope is Better (verses 18-19)

Do you see it there in verse 19? In Jesus Christ, "there is a bringing in of a better hope." The contrast here is between the hope of the Law and the hope of Jesus Christ. And by comparison, the hope of the law is nothing. In fact, this is the parenthetical statement of verse 19: "For the Law made nothing perfect." Whereas in Christ, we are made perfect! "By one offering [Jesus] has perfected for all time those who are sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14).

Parents, I encourage you to understand this. Law cannot make your children righteous. Law cannot make your children perfect. Oh, you may lay down a law and expect your children to obey it first time, every time, with a happy heart. And they may be able to have some outward conformity. They may be moral children. But, that's not going to make them perfect. The only thing that will make them perfect is to have an alien righteousness. The only thing that will make them perfect is to have Jesus Christ. The only thing that will make them perfect is to be born again. So, press Jesus upon your children, and not rules and regulations which will only frustrate them. Call them to believe in Christ and know His transforming power in their lives. Commend them to "draw near to Him" (as verse 19 says).

In his excellent book, "Gospel-powered Parenting: How the gospel shapes and transforms parenting," William Farley says this, ...

It is important to note that the primary focus of Christian parenting is not morality. Well-behaved children are not the ultimate end. Saving faith, deeply rooted in the children's hearts, is the supreme goal of Christian parents. God saves the child who transfers all his trust from his own works to Christ's and expresses that faith with repentance. Therefore, Christian parenting is all about the transfer of Dad and Mom's faith. Morality is important, but it follows faith. It does not produce it.

In fact, moralism--the idea that we merit God's favor by being good--is the deadly enemy of Christian parenting. Moralism trusts in its own goodness, virtue, and principled intentions to get a "not guilty" verdict from God on the day of judgment. It is deceptive. A cloak of morality over an unregenerate heart can make it difficult to discern the child's truth spiritual condition. Paul rejects moralism: "We hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law" (Rom. 3:28). And in Galatians he adds, "We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ" (Gal. 2:16). [1]

Later on, Farley shares seven ways in which the gospel affect parents. They are worthy of your note. (My comments are in the parentheses).

1. The gospel teaches Christian parents to fear God.
2. The gospel motivates parents to lead by example. (i.e. Christ laid down His life for us.)
3. The gospel centers families in their male servant leaders.
4. The gospel teaches and motivates parents to discipline their children. (i.e. to teach them of the horrors of sin.)
5. The gospel motivates parents to teach their children.
6. The gospel motivates parents to lavish their children with love and affection. (i.e. we have been loved greatly, so we love greatly.)
7. The gospel is the solution for inadequate parents. (i.e. the gospel covers all lack in us.) [2]

These are worthy words to digest and take to heart. Too often parents seek to control their children by law, rather than motivate by grace. In the end they often find their children rebelling, because the law can never make perfect. Regarding the Jews, there was much activity in the law. There were feasts. There were festivals. There were sacrifices. There were priests and animals and blood and smoke and incense. There were buildings and altars and tables. There were laws of morality. But, in the end, with all of this activity, nothing was made perfect.

It says in Hebrews 9:9-10, "Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation." It says the same thing in Hebrews 10:1, "For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near."

The good news is that in Jesus Christ, we are perfected! By faith, we stand before Jesus without any spot or wrinkle. By faith, by His will, "we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb. 10:10). Our sins are completely forgiven (Heb. 10:18) through the death of Christ. God will remember them no more (Heb. 10:17). Our hearts are "sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies [are] wished with pure water" (Heb. 10:22).

The reason why the law never made us perfect is seen there in verse 18. The former commandment was "weak" and "useless." What an amazing statement this is about the law of God!! We hear such a statement and think nothing of it. But, do you have any idea of how hard this would have hit the original hearers of this letter? To speak about the law in this way was to bring great scorn from the Jews. When Stephen spoke this way about the Law, namely that "Jesus will destroy [the temple] and altar the customs which Moses handed down," (Acts 6:14), he was stoned to death (Acts 7).

To the Jews, the law was everything! Moses said, "Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this law. For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life. And by this word you will prolong your days in the land, which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess" (Deut. 32:46-47). The Psalmist said in Psalm 119:14, "I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches.". And Psalm 119:129 records, "Your testimonies are wonderful; Therefore my soul observes them." Isaiah remarked how "the LORD was pleased for His righteousness' sake to make the law great and glorious" (Is. 42:21).

And yet, we read here that the law was "weak" and "useless." How can this be in light of the great statements that I just read for you? How can the law be great and glorious, while at the same time being weak and useless? In many ways, the law can be viewed as a baby. A baby isn't bad in any way. We value babies highly, even the unborn babies. And babies give us great joy. Yet, if you think about it, babies are "weak" and "useless." Not weak as in bad, but weak as in young and powerless. Babies need us to bring them their food. Babies need us to change their diapers. Babies need us to clothe them. Babies need us to put them to bed and to get them up. Babies need us, because they are feeble and helpless.

In a similar way, such was the law. It was weak and useless, never able to make perfect those who draw year. Rather, the law of the Old Testament prepares us for something greater. In Galatians 3:24, Paul said that "the law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ." Jesus, Himself, said that the law "prophesied" of something better to come (Matt. 11:13). Jesus said that "[Moses] wrote about Me" (John 5:46). Indeed, Hebrews 10:1 says that the law is "a shadow of the good things to come." That is, it gives us a glimpse of what would come in the future, which would be fully colored and three dimensional, unlike the shadow, which is black and two-dimensional and merely represents the originator of the shadow.

The purpose of the law was to show us our sin (Rom. 3:20) and to prepare us for something greater. You even get a sense of this in verse 18, where the law is referred to as the "former commandment." It's not former in that it is old and past. Rather, it's former in that it is first, and something is coming later. Or, to use the Biblical language, "there is a bringing in of a better hope." And what's being "brought in"? Jesus is being brought in Jesus is the "better hope."

Oh, the law had a hope. It had a hope in what we could do. We found an animal to sacrifice. We brought the animal to the altar. The priest, weak as he was, sacrificed the animal. We hoped that God would accept it. But, Jesus has a better hope. He gives us a hope in Himself. The hope of Jesus is in all of what He did. He didn't find an animal to sacrifice, He sacrificed Himself. He brought Himself to the cross. He wasn't constrained by another (John 10:18). God has declared that He has accepted His sacrifice. "Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool for Your feet" (Heb. 1:13). The hope that we have in Jesus far exceeds any hope that we might have in any law.

The priesthood of Jesus is better because, ...
2. An Oath is Better (verses 20-22)

Hebrews 7:20
And inasmuch as it was not without an oath.

This verse sets up the second contrast of our text. The first contrast had to do with hope. This contrast has to do with an oath. Verse 21 gives us the contrast. You could well read verse 21, ...

Hebrews 7:21
for they indeed, on the one hand, became priests without an oath, but He, on the other hand, with an oath through the One who said to Him, "The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, 'You are a priest forever'".

At this point, the writer is reflecting back upon the process of becoming a high priest. You can read all about it in Leviticus 8 and 9. It's really a remarkable story. The LORD told Moses, "Take Aaron and his sons with him, and the garments and the anointing oil and the bull of the sin offering, and the two rams and the basket of unleavened bread, and assemble all the congregation at the doorway of the tent of meeting" (Lev. 8:2-3). And Moses did so (Lev. 8:4). Then Moses washed them with water (Lev. 8:6). Then, he clothed them with a tunic and with a sash and a robe (Lev. 8:7). Moses then placed the breast piece on him (Lev. 8:8). He placed a turban on his head (Lev. 8:9). Then, Moses anointed him with oil (Lev. 8:10), pouring it upon Aaron's head (Lev. 8:10-13).

After these things, the bull of the sin offering was brought near to Aaron and his sons (Lev. 8:14). They laid their hands on the head of the bull (Lev. 8:14). Then Moses slaughtered the bull and sprinkled the blood upon the altar. He burned the fat of the bull upon the altar as a sacrifice (Lev. 8:16). Then, one of the rams was brought before Aaron and his sons (Lev. 8:18). They laid their hands upon the head of the ram (Lev. 8:18). Moses slaughtered the ram and sprinkled the blood upon the altar. He burned the rest of the ram upon the altar (Lev. 8:18).

Then, the other ram was brought before Aaron and his sons (Lev. 8:22). They laid their hands upon the head of the second ram (Lev. 8:22). Moses slaughtered it (Lev. 8:23). This time, he took the blood and placed it upon Aaron's right ear, upon his right thumb, and upon the big toe of his right foot (Lev. 8:23). Moses did the same with Aaron's sons (right ear, right thumb, big toe of the right foot) (Lev. 8:24). Moses burned the ram upon the altar (Lev. 8:25).

Then, Moses took some of the smoking flesh from the altar and placed it upon the unleavened bread and distributed it to Aaron and his sons as a wave offering (Lev. 8:27). Moses then took back the bread and burned it upon the altar (Lev. 8:28). Finally, "Moses took some of the anointing oil and some of the blood which was on the altar and sprinkled it on Aaron, on his garments, on his sons, and on the garments of his sons with him; and he consecrated Aaron, his garments, and his sons, and the garments of his sons with him" (Lev. 8:30). Then, Aaron and his sons remained in the tent of meeting for seven days and nights (Lev. 8:35). On the eighth day, Aaron and his sons came out and offered a calf and a lamb and an ox and a ram as a burnt offering before the LORD(Lev. 9:7). When they had done that, "fire came down out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the portions of fat on the altar" (Lev. 9:24). It was an awesome sight. So awesome, that the people "shouted and fell on their faces" (Lev. 9:24).

Such was the ordination of the priests. A similar pattern was followed for every other priest who was ordained into the priesthood. It sounds amazing and elaborate. But, one thing was missing: an oath.

To be sure, they followed God's instructions for becoming priests. To be sure, God affirmed their process by consuming the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. But, God made no oath at this time, or at any other time when men became priests.

Eugene Peterson writes in his translation of this passage, "The old priesthood of Aaron perpetuated itself automatically, father to son, without explicit confirmation by God." [3]Jesus is different than the Old Covenant priests. The LORD made no oath with them, but He did make an oath with Jesus. Peterson translates it like this, "But then God intervened and called this new, permanent priesthood into being with an added promise: God gave his word; he won't take it back: 'You're the permanent priest'" [4]

Again, these words come Psalm 110, which the writer has been expositing throughout chapter 7. And note how verse 21 says it. "The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind." God decreed the priesthood of Jesus, and that settled it.

This is so unlike the priests of the Old Testament. When Nadab and Abihu offered up strange fire before the LORD, fire came down from heaven and consumed them (Lev. 10:2). Their priesthood didn't last. It didn't last because it wasn't confirmed with an oath. Had the LORDsworn in the sons of Aaron like He swore Jesus into the priesthood, such strange fire wouldn't have disqualified Nadab and Abihu. They would have continued to serve as priests, regardless of how disobedient they were. Why? Such is the nature of the oath.

When God swears, it will come to pass. Hebrews 6:18, "It is impossible for God to lie." Such is yet another reason why the priesthood of Jesus is better. It comes with an oath. That's the point of verse 22, ...

Hebrews 7:22
so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.

With the oath comes a guarantee. In our house, we have an electronic keyboard. It requires a sustaining pedal, which you push with your feet. Well, over the years, we have gone through several sustaining pedals, because they have broken. I have tried to fix them by soldering the wires that have become loose, which has helped for a bit. But, soon, they don't work any more. This past week, I went into Guitar Center to ask them if they had any other sorts of pedals, because the last two that I have bought there have broken. I was looking for a different technology, a different brand.

Several of the workers in the store asked me, the same question, "Did you purchase the replacement guarantee? It costs only $4." Their guarantee is the way of securing the quality of the product that you purchase. If, for any reason, the product fails, they will give you a new one for free. Well, I found a different brand. And, I did purchase a different brand. And I also purchased the guarantee.

This is a bit like what God did with Jesus. His oath has become the guarantee that Jesus will be a better priest than any of the Old Testament priests that had preceded Him. In chapter 8, the writer will pick up the topic of the better covenant, which is the New Covenant. So, we'll put this on the shelf for a few weeks (see 9:15).

But, now, I want for you to notice the oath that the LORD swore. He said, (in verse 21), "You are a priest forever." I believe that the emphasis is upon the word, "forever," as it's the point of the next contrast that comes in verse 23.

Jesus has a better priesthood because, ...
3. Forever is Better (verses 23-25)

Notice the contrast.

Hebrews 7:23-24
The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently.

The obvious point here is that the Levitical priests were many, because they died. A priest could only remain in office while he was alive. But, since they kept dying off, they needed to be replaced. Josephus, the Jewish historian, recorded the number of priests from the day of Aaron until the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A. D., giving many of their names. He recorded 83 of them. [5]

The need for so many was because of the shortness of life. There were 20 kings in Israel, because they all died and had to be replaced. There were 19 kings in Judah, because they all died and had to be replaced. We have had more than forty presidents of the United States in our young history, because they all die. Every man is expendable, because every man is mortal.

But the contrast comes in verse 24, where it speaks about Jesus, continuing forever. The priesthood of Melchizedek was forever. Look back at verse 3, "Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually." So also is the priesthood of Jesus. "He holds His priesthood permanently." Jesus Christ gave Himself as a sacrifice and died. But, as we celebrated two weeks ago, He rose from the dead to hold His priesthood permanently. Which obviously makes His priesthood better, because it is a forever priesthood.

Nobody will ever come along and say to Jesus, "Excuse me, your days are over. I'm the high priest now." No, Jesus holds His position forever.

So, you say, "So what? Steve, you have said that (1) This Hope is Better (verses 18-19), that (2) An Oath is Better (verses 20-22), and that (3) Forever is Better (verses 23-25). "So what?" Well, verse 25 is the "So what." It is the great application of our text this morning.

Hebrews 7:25
Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

And as I bring my message this morning to a close, we are going to linger here for some time. Because, this is the point of priesthood. A priest brings us to God! And we have a priest. His name is Jesus Christ. He is a perfect priest. He is a royal priest. He is a worthy priest. Our hope in Him is better than any human priest. He has been confirmed by God as a priest. He will never lose His priesthood. And, He is able to bring us to God!

And this is ultimately what our text is aiming at. It shows us the greatness of the priesthood of Jesus and calls us to go to God through Him. That's what verse 25 says, "[Jesus] is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him."

Jesus is the only way that you will come to God. Jesus, Himself said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." Paul affirms that "There is one God, and none mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5). Peter said, "There is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). And this is a matter of salvation. Notice what verse 25 says, "[Jesus] is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him." The NIV says that Jesus is able to save "completely." The ESV, KJV, and NKJV all say that Jesus is able to save "to the uttermost." You get a sense of the idea. Jesus is able to fully save us, always and forever.

On the one hand, this is a call to all of you who don't know God. Do you need to be saved this morning? Come to God through Jesus Christ. He is able to save you. He is able to save you forever. One of the features of the book of Hebrews is the warning sections in the book. Don't drift (Hebrews 2:1ff). Don't harden your heart (Heb. 3:7ff) Don't fall away (Heb. 6:4ff). With each of these warnings, the call is to heed the salvation that God has provided. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" (Heb. 2:3). "Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God" (Heb. 3:12).

And how do you do this? You draw near to God through Jesus Christ, and Jesus is able to save you and keep you forever. How do you think that we will ever heed the warnings? Only by the power of Jesus! So, believe in Him. Draw near to Him.

But, verse 25 isn't written to unbelievers as a warning. Rather, it is written to believers for our comfort. Now, if you think about this for a moment, this will blow you away. Right now, Jesus is interceding for untold millions of people around the world. It speaks to His omniscience; it speaks to His love and care for us.

In his autobiography, John Newton, the former slave-trader, tells of the comfort that this verse was to him in a time of crisis. He had been recently converted and sick with fever. He had just seen one of his friends die of fever. He thought that he was soon to follow. It caused him to think of his death own death. Later, he reflected, ...

My trust, though weak in degree, was fixed upon the blood and righteousness of Jesus. The words, 'He is able to save to the uttermost,' gave me great relief. I was for a while troubled with a very singular thought; whether it was a temptation, or that the fever disordered my faculties, I cannot say. I seemed no so much afraid of wrath and punishment, as of being lost and overlooked amid the myriads continually entering the unseen world. What is my soul, though I, among such an innumerable multitude? Perhaps the Lord will take no notice of me. I was perplexed thus for some time; But at last a text of Scripture occurred to my mind, and put an end to the doubt: "The Lord knoweth them that are His." [6]

Jesus knows who we are. Jesus is able to keep us saved forever. And how does Jesus do this? "He always lives to make intercession for them." This word, "intercession," has the idea of appealing to another as in the process of law (see Acts 25:24).

Do you realize that right now, Jesus Christ is praying for you? He is coming before His Father and making intercession for you. This should blow your mind. The Son prays to the Father.

Have you ever wondered what sort of prayers they might be? He might be praying: "I pray for Steve at this moment. I see the temptation that is facing him. Father, I pray that you would strengthen him during this time, so that he might trust in your power to live a pure life."

He might be praying: "I pray for Steve at this moment. He sinned greatly. He knows it. He obviously feels very bad about it. Father, I pray that you would show him the merits of My blood. Lead him away from depression. Keep him from thinking that he needs to do penance for his sin. Show him that I paid it all."

He might be praying: "I pray for Steve at this moment. You have brought him into a trial. His sickness is so that he wouldn't trust in Himself. Father, I pray that you might help him to learn his lesson quickly."

He might be praying: "I pray for Steve at this moment. As you know, things are going very well for him. His job is going well. His family is strong. His financial investments are doing well. But, he is in danger right now. His danger right now is pride. Father, I pray that you would humble him. Father, I pray that you would bring something difficult into his life, so that his heart won't stray from you."

He might be praying: "I pray for Steve at this moment. I see the conflict that he has had with his friend. It is tearing him up. Father, I pray that you would strengthen him to seek humility and grace and kindness with his friend. Father, secure him in our love for him, not his own love for others."

He might be praying: "I pray for Steve at this moment. He has an opportunity with his neighbors to share the glories of the gospel. They are talking about their yard and their families. Father, I pray that you would transition the conversation to spiritual matters. May You glorify Yourself by prompting him to speak forth of My work on the cross. Surely that will glorify You and me.

He might be praying: "I pray for Steve at this moment. He's struggling to get out of bed, so that he might have his daily time with you. Father, show him how much he needs You at this moment. Help him to get up."

He might be praying: "I pray for Steve at this moment. It seems as if he has become very busy with the affairs of life and lost sight of My glory. Father, show him My glory."

And He's praying these sorts of prayers for many around the globe. In fact, we easily get the sense from verse 25 that this pretty much consumes Jesus right now. He "always lives" to do this. This is His full-time job. It makes sense. Jesus is a priest.

Next week, we will talk about John 17, the high priestly prayer of Jesus. It is where Jesus prays for His people. He prays for joy (17:13). He prays for God to protect them (17:15). Jesus prays for the sanctification of His people (17:17) and for His glorification (17:24). He prays that they may know God's love (17:26).

But now, before we close, I do want to ask you, "For whom is Jesus praying?" He's praying for those who "draw near to God through Him." Is that you? Are you "drawing near" to God? Are you?

Verse 19 says that Jesus has brought in a better hope, "through which we draw near to God." The hope isn't the demands of the law. The hope is that we have a sympathizing Savior. On several other occasions in Hebrews, we have seen this mentioned. Hebrews 2:18, "For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted."

As Jesus prays for us, he doesn't pray as a disinterested party; He doesn't pray as one who doesn't understand the difficulties of life. On the contrary, Jesus was tempted in His suffering. He is willing to come and help. Therefore, He can help us. So, let's draw near to Him.

Hebrews 4:14-16
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 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.

Jesus is able to sympathize with us. So, let us draw near to the throne of grace. I love how these verses call us to draw near to God. They aren't calling us to draw near, because that's the right thing to do. No, they are calling us to draw near, because that's where we will find help. Mercy and grace await us. We merely need to draw near.

These verses are calling us by appealing to the beauty of Jesus. It's like the call of the park, "Come here and have a picnic. You look tired and need a break from the busyness of life." These verses are calling us like the Sabbath calls. "You have been working hard for six days. You need a rest. Come with me and rest." Jesus is a ready sympathizer, so draw near to Him.

This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on April 18, 2010 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.

[1] William Farley, Gospel Powered Parenting, pp. 42-43.

[2] Ibid, pp. 46-48.

[3] Eugene Peterson, The Message New Testament.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Josephus, Antiquities 20:10:1.

[6] John Newton. Out of the Depths, pp. 113-114