What Does “Drawing Near to God” Look Like?

The writer of Hebrews follows a pattern found throughout the New Testament.  He exhorts his readers in highly metaphorical language and then repeats the exhortation in concrete terms, commending actions that embody obedience.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Heb. 10:19-25).

In Heb. 7:1-10:18, the writer compared the work of Christ to the Law’s sacrificial system in order to talk about how Jesus had fully and finally provided for the forgiveness of sins.

Under the first covenant, only one person could enter the inner court—the presence of God—and only once a year.  The Levitical arrangement reminded God’s people of the distance between God and them.

Because of the work of Christ, however, all followers of Jesus have full access to the presence of God.  The new arrangement with Jesus as High Priest reminds us of our nearness to God. 

Turning to exhortation, the writer says, “let us draw near to God” (v. 22)  This is metaphorical language that corresponds to the heavenly and cosmic realities he has described thus far.

His subsequent parallel exhortation in v. 23 (“let us hold unswervingly”) is slightly more concrete, having to do with the readers’ faithfulness to their Christian confession.

But how do we embody these abstracted notions?  How do we “draw near to God” and “hold firmly to our hope?”  What does this look like in practical terms?

The writer makes all of this concrete in vv. 24-25 with a third parallel exhortation—“let us consider.”  Faithful participation in these heavenly and cosmic realities is embodied through creative and fruitful commitment to the Christian community.

The writer does not leave “drawing near to God” in Christian cliché-land—uninterpreted language that sounds spiritual but doesn’t have any value for taking concrete steps of obedience.

“Drawing near to God” looks like the specific behaviors of provoking others to deeds of love and renewed perseverance in obedience to Jesus.

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