Connections 10.10.2021: Sympathizing with Our Weaknesses

Hebrews 4:4-16

When I was in middle school, I came across Psalm 127:2 for the first time. Amongst other things, the verse says that God “grants sleep to those he loves” (NIV). I didn’t take that well.

I was, even in middle school, incredibly busy, overscheduled and anxious. I didn’t know how not to be busy. My anxiety didn’t let my mind rest much during the school year, even when I wasn’t at choir practice or guitar lessons or church or tutoring or working on homework. I kept busy, but I often had trouble sleeping.

This verse meant God was upset with me, or so I believed.

I don’t remember thinking about our passage in Hebrews, which outlines God’s standards and God’s ability to discern what’s in our hearts, but I felt weighed down by God’s judgment and disapproval. I believed productivity was just about equal to godliness, so I assumed my heart was the problem. I must complain too much. God must see how much I dislike my guitar lessons, how I hate to practice. I was ungrateful, I decided, and God was withholding sleep because of it.

Except, after a few weeks of trying to be very grateful for my guitar lessons and to practice without grumbling aloud or in my heart, I was still tired. I still had trouble turning off my anxiety when it was time to sleep. Except, I’d been busy and longing for weekends and breaks since I was about 8. And I’d always been immensely anxious. If God was unhappy with me, it couldn’t just be about the guitar lessons.

Psalm 127 promises God’s provision. It may have been written by King Solomon amidst one of the most prosperous times of Israel’s history. The Israelites who left Egypt, who the writer of Hebrews recalls, longed for the type of rest the Israelites in Solomon’s time enjoyed. They dreamed of the land promised to them, where no one would take the products of their labor, where they would be safe from pursing slavers and snug behind their own borders. Maybe they imagined homes with real stone walls and a well that never ran dry, a temple for the ark of the covenant, meat on their tables as well as on the altar.

Today’s passage uses the memory of the Israelites’ hope to help us understand the Sabbath rest we will enjoy in heaven. A place we won’t be cheated or threatened. A place where we won’t have to labor for our needs to be met. Moreover, the writer tells us that Jesus, as the great high priest (v. 14), provides the way that we will reach this perfect rest in heaven.

I’m sure my attempt at intentional gratitude about guitar lessons was pleasing to both God and my parents, but it was still a relief when my parents let me quit. More important, though, was my realization that God’s moods and whims aren’t as variable as my own. Our high priest can “sympathize with our weaknesses” (v. 15). And because Jesus did not succumb to sin as we do, we can call on our high priest to help us grow beyond our weaknesses. We must always remember that Christ’s perfection, not our imperfect imitation of it, is what allows us “to approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (v. 16).

Discussion

  • Do you feel you most need mercy or grace to help right now?
  • What “weaknesses” makes you hesitate to approach God’s throne? What do you worry might happen there?
  • How has God shown you grace about this or another area of sin in the past?
  • How can you remind yourself that you aren’t alone in your efforts to live up to God’s standards?

Katie Cummings is the web editor of NextSunday Resources and editor of the Preaching the Word series (Smyth & Helwys). Her husband Tyler and their two cats live in Macon, GA.

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