Saturday, March 15, 2008

Access to God

As a New Testament believer raised in a Christian environment, I tend to take my access to God for granted. Being from a more informal society increases my lack of understanding just how significant it is that I can come boldly before God's throne.

Esther wouldn't have had that problem. She knew the Persian law of her day, and the restrictions on access were severe:

When Mordecai learned all that had been done, Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and he cried out with a loud and bitter cry. He went up to the entrance of the king's gate, for no one was allowed to enter the king's gate clothed in sackcloth. (Est 4:1-2 ESV)

Then Esther spoke to Hathach and commanded him to go to Mordecai and say, "All the king's servants and the people of the king's provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law--to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days." (Est 4:10-11 ESV)

"Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish." (Est 4:16 ESV)

On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king's palace, in front of the king's quarters, while the king was sitting on his royal throne inside the throne room opposite the entrance to the palace. And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter. (Est 5:1-2 ESV)

Studying Esther has given me a glimpse into the severe restrictions of access that most people experience worldwide - and that most people perceive of their "gods". No wonder the good news of Christ is so liberating - with the Gospel, we gain access to God.

Paul writes of this access in Romans 5: 1-2

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

"Access" here is a word "commonly used for the audience of right of approach granted to someone by high officials and monarchs" (The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament edited by Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D.). In other words, the same sort of access that the Persian kings guarded carefully, God gives openly. And consistently. This verb tense indicates ongoing access - not just a one-time visit.

And this access is different from that of the kings of Persia in another way. Mordecai, you recall from the first passage above, could not even go in the city gates, much less the king's presence, in sackcloth. But through Christ, we have access to God at our point of deepest need. In fact, the author of Hebrews exhorts us to make a habit of such actions:

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. (Heb 4:16 ESV)

Access to God. What an amazing element of the Gospel. May we never take for granted one of the very reasons He died.

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