Suppose you’ve been invited to meet the Queen of England. You don’t just walk in, wave, and say, “Hey there Elizabeth.” There are rules, protocol, and etiquette. You should bring a gift, remember to use the right form of address (“Your Majesty” first, then “ma’am”), and not turn reach out and touch her. These days, you won’t get in too much trouble for a slip in convention. But there have been many countries and many times throughout history that approaching royalty in the wrong way could get you killed.
Traditionally, people have recognized something special about royalty. Part of this was religious — rulers were seen as gods, or representatives of the gods, or appointed by God. It’s also a matter of recognizing and respecting an authority role. Even in countries without a monarchy, we’ll still tend to recognize that some social positions command a certain amount of respect (i.e. you won’t talk with your boss the same way as a close friend and you’d probably show the President even more respect).
A Question From God
The Bible applies several titles to God that demand respect, including Father, Master, Lord, and King. But do we take them seriously? Historically, God’s people have fallen short in this regard.
A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, then where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is the respect due me? Says Yahweh of Armies to you, priests, who despise my name. (Mal. 1:6, WEB)
Yes, God loves you and He wants to be your friend. But we’re not to forget who He is and the respect due Him. “‘For I am a great King,’ says Yahweh of Armies, ‘and my name is awesome among the nations’.” (Mal. 1″14, WEB). God deserves more respect than worldly authority figures, but do we even give Him that much?
Bring A Good Gift
It’s easy to let God slip down our priority list. For example, if God commands “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8, WEB) but your boss says you have to work that day, what do you do? You might think that since the consequences for disobeying your boss are more immediate then that’s who you should follow. Besides, God will forgive you. Right?
God does forgive people. He knows we’re human and make mistakes. But when we go against His commands on purpose there’s a deeper issue at stake. It’s a question of whether we respect and honor God more than selfish and/or worldly concerns and fears. And this isn’t just theoretical. I personally know Christians who’ve had that conversation with their boss and lost their jobs rather than compromise their convictions. It wasn’t always easy, but God took care of and provided for the people who gifted Him with their obedience.
When you offer the blind for sacrifice, isn’t that evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, isn’t that evil? Present it now to your governor! Will he be pleased with you? Or will he accept your person?” says Yahweh of Armies. (Mal. 1:8, WEB)
God deserves so much better than our leftovers and rejects. He deserves our profound respect as well as our love and devotion. You don’t come into the presence of a great king without gifts. Today, a Christian’s offerings include giving Him our obedience, faith, time, money, praise — in short, our lives. We gift Him ourselves and we bring Him the best we can offer in terms of praise, faithfulness, use of our talents, etc.
Respecting His Presence
You can’t buy your way into the king’s presence, though. The gift is a freely given offering showing your respect and love. It’s not a bribe. The king has to want you in his presence if you have any hope of getting there. We see an example of this in the book of Esther.
All the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces, know, that whoever, whether man or woman, comes to the king into the inner court without being called, there is one law for him, that he be put to death, except those to whom the king might hold out the golden scepter, that he may live. I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days. (Est. 4:11, WEB)
Approaching kings isn’t done casually. When priests in the Old Testament went into the temple they had to wash and bring offerings and follow God’s rules for being in a house where He placed His presence. They couldn’t even enter the most holy place except once a year and then only the high priest. And even then he didn’t get to see God becasue, as Yahweh told Moses, “no man may see me and live” (Ex. 33:20, WEB).
Things are different for us today. We are part of God’s temple and have access to His presence through the High Priest Jesus Christ. There’s still something incredibly precious about being allowed in His presence, though, and we mustn’t take that for granted. When Ester spoke to her king, she prefaced her requests with the phrase, “If I have found favor in the sight of the king” (Est. 5:8; 7:3, WEB). Favor also plays a role for us.
Favor With The King
My main point so far has been that coming before God is not something to be taken lightly. He deserves respect and honor. But we can’t actually do all the things we’d need to do in order to be acceptable in this King’s presence. And so we come to what’s really the main point of this blog post.
Jesus’ sacrifice paid the debt for our sin and made it possible for us to have eternal life. He also did much more than that. When He gave Himself as “an offering and a sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:2, WEB), He opened the way into God’s presence.
Having then a great high priest, who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold tightly to our confession. For we don’t have a high priest who can’t be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but one who has been in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with boldness to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace for help in time of need. (Heb. 4:14-16, WEB)
The Hebrew word translated “favor” back in Ester is chen (H2580). It’s also the world for grace. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we have favor in the king’s eyes and can come before God at any time with the assurance we’ll be granted an audience. We also don’t have to worry about bringing a “good enough” gift. You yourself are good enough because of what Jesus did when He gave Himself as a gift. His blo0d was so precious it opened “the way into the holy place” (Heb. 9:6-16, see also Matt. 27:50-51).
We have the incredible gift and privilege of choosing life in God’s presence. He isn’t just granting us a temporary audience. He’s making us the temple where He wants to live and He’s inviting us to one day make our permanent residence with Him for eternity as kings and priests ourselves (John 14:1-4; Rev. 5:9-10). So let’s give Him the honor He is due, bring our lives to Him as a gift, and come boldly to Him assured we will find favor in His eyes.