“He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying ‘God be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went done to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted‘” (Luke 18:9-14).
The Pharisee’s attitude was wrong. He was self-righteous. He looked down on others. God was not impressed.
The tax-collector’s attitude was entirely different. He knew that he needed mercy. It was not about comparing himself to others. It was about his relationship with God. This man received mercy (hilaskomai), justification. The original word (hilaskomai) means “to be propitious, be placated or appeased” (Thayer). It refers to reconciliation with God.
Do you want mercy? If so, be humble. The Christian can pray for forgiveness (1 John 1:9). However, we must humbly acknowledge our sins to Him.
“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God… Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).
How does one approach God? Gaining an audience with a King, Prime Minister, or President is difficult. How does one approach God? The children of Israel were not allowed on the mountain (Exodus 19:12); only Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, Joshua, and seventy elders were allowed to be on the mountain (Exodus 19:3; 19:24; 24:1-2; 24:9; 24:13), and only Moses was allowed up all the way (Exodus 24:1-2). The people witnessed enough to be afraid to be in His presence (Exodus 20:18-21). The children of Israel were not allowed into the Most Holy Place, only the Levitical High Priest once per year (Hebrews 9:7 cf. Exodus 30; Leviticus 16; Numbers 29).
Man can approach God through the compassionate High Priesthood of Jesus, the Son of God. He sympathizes with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). He is the Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). He is our Advocate before the throne (1 John 2:1). He “always lives to make intercession” for us (Hebrews 7:15).
Therefore, let us come boldly to the throne of grace. Boldly (parrhesia) refers to freedom of speech, unreserved utterance (Vine’s). The throne of grace refers to God throne (Hebrews 4:16 cf. 8:1). it is called the throne of grace because it is from this throne grace and mercy (eleos) are bestowed. Robert Milligan comments, “It is generally thought that the Apostle here makes allusion to the mercy-seat on which rested the Shekinah, God’s presence in the ancient Tabernacle” (Milligan, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, p 183).
Christians, do you want grace and mercy? If so, boldly (openly) pray.