In the wilderness, only Moses and Aaron had access to the mercy seat, the one to get commandments (see Ex. 25: 22), the other to make atonement for sin (see Lev. 16: 14, 15). What a contrast with the true mercy seat! The believer does not know that as a throne of judgment, or a place from where commandments are given, but as “throne of grace” (Heb. 4: 16) from which mercy, grace and help are dispensed. God is still known there in all His glorious holiness, but all now speaks of propitiation made, salvation already accomplished, and full, unmixed favour flowing unhindered from heaven. Under the old system, Aaron would have approached the throne with dread, for there he had to present blood for himself as well as for the sins of the people. In the very act of going in to the Holy Place, he had to call sin to the remembrance—and what if in some part of the prescribed ritual he failed? Judgment might break out against him, as it had against his own sons (see Lev. 10: 2). On the contrary, the believer’s access is now with “boldness” (Heb. 4: 16)—and not only once a year, but at all times. He has access “in time of need” (v16, AV)—every moment it is his blessed privilege to enter there to commune with God and to “receive mercy, and find grace for seasonable help” (v16). He does not fear the want of fitness in himself for he knows that Christ alone is his fitness for God’s holy presence. Indeed it is the very consciousness of his need that bids the believer in confidence to draw near.
Now Satan desires to keep our souls away from this place of blessing and to interrupt our communion with God. Thus he often suggests arguments for staying away from the throne of grace: ‘You have failed’, ‘You have sinned’, ‘You have neglected or abused God’s mercy’ and, therefore, ‘You are not fit to draw near’. In consequence, ‘You must wait till you are in a better state and until you have proved the reality of your love for God’ and ‘Now you do not have the same title to approach God as you once had’—these and similar suggestions are often whispered in our hearts by the enemy of souls. What though are all such thoughts but mistrust of the grace of God and ignorance or doubt as to His character and the value of Christ’s sacrifice? If a believer has sinned it is in God’s presence and not afar off that he must judge the sin. It is only in the light of God’s unchanging love that he will be able to come to a proper appreciation of the depth of his own ingratitude and evil. Surely there is no time when the throne of grace is more required than when the believer has been wandering from the right path? It is too often the habit of Christians to wait until time has blunted their consciences as to the sin into which they have fallen before they fancy they are ready to venture into God’s presence again. The truth is that to stay away from the presence of God is to continue unbroken on account of sin. Real lowliness and contrition of spirit will only be found in the consciousness of the glory, holiness and grace of His presence. Let us, then, draw near!