I can't stop thinking about God's grace today.
A new worship song we sang at church (see below) has captured my heart with its reminder of His faithfulness. Listening to it about a dozen times today alone I find myself reflecting most on one line: "Carried by His constant grace". And that reminds me of a lesson He taught me last year.
My dear friend and pastor's wife was teaching through Hebrews and had to be out so she asked me to teach on Hebrews 4. I've long been convinced, like Beth Moore says, that God called me to teach because I have so much to learn. Out of that night's study, the biggest lesson was the one God wrote on this teacher's heart.
Hebrews 4:13-16 above fit into the context of a chapter that teaches us about entering His rest. Only after we enter His rest can we embrace Him as our faithful high priest. We have confidence to draw near and receive mercy and grace when we come through Christ, not works. But once we draw near, we find something that is so intimate, so precious, that it's hard to imagine.
He was fully God, but also fully man. In His humanity, His incarnation, He faced every temptation and overcame by the power of the Holy Spirit in His life. And by drawing near, the passage says, we will find "mercy and grace" to help when we need it most.
The help is in times of need, of weakness, of humanity. We get a rich understanding when we compare Hebrews 4:16 with 1:14 and 2:18. In Hebrews 1:14 "help" actually means “minister” or “render service”; this same word is used to refer to disciples and to practical acts of service. In Hebrews 2:18 "help" means “succor”, help in the idea of relief or rescue. But "help" as in Hebrews 4:16 is used ONLY twice in the New Testament, the other time in Acts 27:17:
(Acts 27:17) After they had hoisted it up, they used supporting cables [literally = helps] in undergirding the ship; and fearing that they might run aground on the shallows of Syrtis, they let down the sea anchor and in this way let themselves be driven along.
John MacArthur describes this: “They would throw ropes around during the midst of the storm. throwing ropes around and securing and tightening and...with winches, to literally tighten the boards together so the whole ship wouldn't fall apart.” In classical Greek this word was used of the device used to make a ship secure, to help in times like Paul experienced.
And the author of Hebrews uses that same word, a word that gives the picture of making a ship secure by supporting cables, to describe the help God gives when we are tempted.
What are our supporting cables? Mercy and grace. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve.
Jesus comes to our aid to relieve and rescue us from temptation – He knows what it is like. When the temptation builds, He provides the way out. (1 Cor. 10:13) However, there are other times when we need more than a way out. We need to be held together! We need to be saved from falling apart due to our weakness. In those times He wraps His “supporting cables” around us to give us the two things we need most when we come face to face with our weaknesses: Mercy and grace.
I know God’s grace is there for my temptation – but sometimes I think my weaknesses don’t deserve it. Sometimes weaknesses aren’t even sins – physical illness; limitations due to disability; fatigue from having too many toddlers pulling at you all day; the demands of work and family life. At those times, I don’t just need “succor”. I need His supporting cables of mercy and grace to hoist me up out of myself so I can see the throne of grace – the throne where He waits with nailscarred hands to welcome me to His table.
Even after salvation, even walking in freedom and wholeness and obedience, we still have weaknesses – physical and emotional, sometimes spiritual. Paul had them – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 records what he learned:
(7) Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! (8) Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. (9) And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (10) Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. - (2Cr 12:7-10 NASB)
We can be strong when weak, because He supports us. In the storms of life, He puts His supporting cables around us, lifts us up, and undergirds us with mercy and grace. Baldwin Hall Bible Study describes it this way: “For those who have trusted Christ for salvation, mercy and grace are available in these tempests. Instead of being beaten by the waves and taken away to isolation in the deep, the grace of God secures us in place. A rope has been tied to our boat to secure us so we do not drift away in the storm. We are helpless on our own, but the grace of God keeps us from sinking or wandering away. His grace does not promise that the storms will not come, only that He sovereignly keeps us through them.”
Scripture says that David was a man after God’s own heart. We see a picture of this type of help in weakness in David’s dealings with Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth. Mephibosheth was crippled in both feet – 2 Sam. 4:4 says he was lame. He couldn’t walk. Here’s the story from 2 Samuel 9:
(1) Then David said, "Is there yet anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake?" (2) Now there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba, and they called him to David; and the king said to him, "Are you Ziba?" And he said, "I am your servant." (3) The king said, "Is there not yet anyone of the house of Saul to whom I may show the kindness of God?" And Ziba said to the king, "There is still a son of Jonathan who is crippled in both feet." (4) So the king said to him, "Where is he?" And Ziba said to the king, "Behold, he is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel in Lo-debar." (5) Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, from Lo-debar. (6) Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and prostrated himself. And David said, "Mephibosheth." And he said, "Here is your servant!" (7) David said to him, "Do not fear, for I will surely show kindness to you for the sake of your father Jonathan, and will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul; and you shall eat at my table regularly." (8) Again he prostrated himself and said, "What is your servant, that you should regard a dead dog like me?" (9) Then the king called Saul's servant Ziba and said to him, "All that belonged to Saul and to all his house I have given to your master's grandson. (10) "You and your sons and your servants shall cultivate the land for him, and you shall bring in the produce so that your master's grandson may have food; nevertheless Mephibosheth your master's grandson shall eat at my table regularly." Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. (11) Then Ziba said to the king, "According to all that my lord the king commands his servant so your servant will do." So Mephibosheth ate at David's table as one of the king's sons. (12) Mephibosheth had a young son whose name was Mica. And all who lived in the house of Ziba were servants to Mephibosheth. (13) So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate at the king's table regularly. Now he was lame in both feet. - (2Sa 9:1-13 NASB)
Verse 5 is key to our point. David sent and “brought him” to the palace. The word used here is used in a form that can literally mean “carry”. Since Mephibosheth was lame, someone likely did carry him, quite literally, to the king’s table. This reminds me of Deut. 33:26-27: “There is none like the God is Jeshurun who rides the heavens to your help, and through the skies in His majesty. The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
A dwelling place. John 14 invites us to join Him and promises He will make His abode with us. Through the Holy Spirit, He does just that. When that happens, we are at rest in Him. We have His everlasting arms underneath us. One is Mercy – not getting what we deserve. The other is Grace – getting what we don’t deserve.
That’s the thought I want us to close with. Entering God’s rest happens by faith; the rest results in heart obedience; and we are carried along in that rest by relationship. When we enter His rest, we have the assurance of knowing that no matter how weak we are, His grace and mercy sustain us. We are always welcome at the throne of grace … even if He has to carry us there Himself.
"Carried by His constant grace." Consider that truth as you worship Him for His faithfulness tonight.