The writer to the Hebrews has a skill that only the Holy Spirit can give. He expresses glorious and mind-blowing truth in just a few short sentences. We will never unpack everything these verses contain, even when they form the delightful subject of our thoughts and praises in heaven. It’s so good we get to spend this time considering them now!

LOOKING BACK (Hebrews 4:12-13)

We have already seen that faith is the key that opens the door to God’s rest. How, then, are we to get that faith so that we don’t “fall by the same sort of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11) as Israel did, hardening their hearts in the deceitful unbelief of sin and being unable to enter? The answer is provided in these verses – Faith comes by encountering God in his living Word.

We saw that the word functions as a two-way mirror. On the one hand, we saw that:

  • The Word is living, in the sense that it is imbued with God’s life and power.
  • The Word is at work. It is not passive when we read it; it works to change us, either softening or (if we are not careful) hardening our hearts. It works to accomplish the eternal purpose for which God sends it out.
  • The Word is a surgical scalpel – it cuts as deep as necessary to expose our maladies, and then if we do not reject it, it cuts to remove them and to heal us.
  • The Word is a spotlight – it shines on us to expose our sinfulness. We cannot hide from its searching beam.

But on the other hand, the word shows us Christ dying in our place, taking our guilt and shame, becoming to us a healing balm for all our wretched sin and rebellion and restoring us to a right relationship with God.

How we need Him! Verse 13 reminds us that not only does God know us through and through, thoughts, words, secret sins and all. But in addition, God is going to require an account from us for all these things unless we have trusted ourselves fully to Jesus. That is where we get faith – as we see that God has comprehensive knowledge of our hopelessness and our sinfulness but that He sent Jesus to take away our sins and to give us hope.

LOOKING AHEAD (Hebrews 4:14-16)

I hope you are excited to look into this passage! Verses 12-13 are intended to lay us open and to make us feel our unworthiness. We are born on the wrong side of an infinite and holy God.  He knows and keeps a record of every impure and selfish thought, every word that arises from hatred and jealousy, every lie that attempts to persuade even ourselves that we are good enough for God, every deed that seeks to belittle others and exalt ourselves. And we must all face a day of reckoning for even the smallest of these offences. We naturally run away from such thoughts, but it is good for us to be faced with these hard truths, because they make us run all the faster and cling all the harder to Jesus.

Note, though, that the writer at the end of Hebrews 4:13 seems to personify the word of God: “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Who is the One that God has appointed to be Judge on the last day? It is Jesus, the Word of God:

Acts 17:30–31 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Jesus is God. Jesus knows our every sin and imperfection. Jesus has been appointed Judge. Where is the good news in this? It is in Hebrews 4:14-16, because this same Jesus has been appointed by God as our High Priest! He came to this world as a man so that he could become experientially familiar with our condition and our temptations (while remaining sinless). He offered Himself as a spotless sacrifice for us and entered the heavenly temple by means of His own blood to make full atonement for us! This means that our Judge has now become our friend and our brother, our advocate (who now uses His intimate and personal knowledge of our circumstances in our defense) and the one who pays our debt in full so we may go free. 

Paul says the same thing in Romans 8:

Romans 8:33–34 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

The answer to the question, “Who is to condemn?” is “the Judge whom God has appointed for that purpose”. And that Judge is Jesus. But, Paul reminds his believing readers, God has justified us – this same Jesus died, rose and ascended for that purpose! Now we find that the Judge, Jesus, has become our Savior and is at the right hand of God, pleading the merits of His own blood in intercession for us! He cannot condemn us if He is actively engaged in and working for our acquittal! Amazing gospel! 

And this is where we get faith. We look to God’s right hand and we see a great High Priest and we trust Him to save us from ourselves and from our justly-deserved day of reckoning. We see Him lay aside His judge’s robes (for us and others who have this same faith) and stand before God, making a perfect plea in our defense, on the basis of His own life and His shed blood. We can come to Him in complete confidence in the light of His heart of love toward us. And we enter into God’s rest, because if God is for us, who can be against us?

Do you have this faith?

Where high the heavenly temple stands,
the house of God not made with hands,
a great High Priest our nature wears,
Jesus, the Son of God, appears.

He who for us our surety stood,
and poured on earth his precious blood,
pursues in heaven his mighty plan,
eternal God and Son of Man.

Though now ascended up on high,
he bends on earth a brother’s eye;
partaker of the human name,
he knows the frailty of our frame.

Our fellow-sufferer yet retains
a fellow-feeling of our pains;
and still remembers in the skies
his tears, his agonies and cries.

In every pang that rends the heart
the Man of Sorrows has a part;
he sympathizes with our grief,
and to the sufferer sends relief.

With boldness, therefore, at the throne,
let us make all our sorrows known;
and ask the aid of heavenly power
to help us in the evil hour.