Do not come any closer.
These were the words of God to Moses at the burning bush. Throughout the Old Testament, God repeatedly warned his people not to come close. He commanded Moses to put a barrier around the mountain of the Lord lest the people climb it and be destroyed by their holy God. The children of Israel were commanded to keep their distance from the Ark of the Covenant, which was symbolic of the presence of the Lord. Even the priests were not to enter the Most Holy place because the presence of the Lord was there. This distance between God and His people is dealt with all throughout the Old Testament.
In the New Testament, however, we see a startling contrast. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
In the Greek, the word “come” has the idea of drawing near. This passage invites us to draw near the throne of grace. Unlike in the Old Testament where God’s people were told to keep their distance, now we are invited into the very near presence of God. Why? What has changed?
Throughout the Old Testament, God commanded His people to keep their distance not because He did not love them but because He wanted to protect them. God is holy holy holy. We are unrighteous, completely defiled by sin. Unrighteousness cannot stand in the presence of the Holy God. He is a consuming fire. He commanded His people to keep their distance lest He consume them.
So what about now? Why can we draw near? Are we better than the people of the Old Testament? Has God changed?
We are as unrighteous as ever. God is unchanging. He is righteous and holy. In our unholy state, we have no access to God.
The invitation to come into the very near presence of God is not based upon our holiness. It is based upon the holiness of another. Because Jesus Christ lived a perfectly righteous life, died and rose again, we can stand before God.
We can draw near not on our own merits but rather on the merit of Christ. As believers, we are clothed in His righteousness. It is only through the holiness and perfection of Christ that we can draw near.
What an incredible reality! No longer do we have to keep our distance from God. No longer is there a chasm between our Lord and us. Christ has bridged that chasm for us and we can draw near to God.
Hebrews 10:19-22 says, “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
Because of the work of Christ on our behalf, we can draw near with full assurance of faith. We do not have to fear being rejected by God. If we are in Christ, He invites us into His presence. He desires that we would draw near and discover the joy of intimacy and sweet fellowship with Him.