In the midst of a violent storm, God's promise transforms the outcome. Standing on them requires work, sacrifice, and faith instead of fear. Paul goes on to lead the men in a hearty meal before tossing grain overboard to lighten the load. Whatever we have to cast out along the way, we have the presence of God with us and the assurance that those "sailing with us" will also come through.
This reminds me of the lyrics of a worship song:
"I will not fear the war
I will not fear the storm
My help is on the way."
Paul's experience in this chapter is a beautiful illustration of the help God gives us in the midst of the storm. Hebrews 4:15-16 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.
For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help. -Hebrews 4:15-16 NET
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 earlier in Acts 27:
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 literally 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.
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.”
Are you facing a storm today? I hope this lesson God has taught me resonates with you.