I am sitting here in my study at church reflecting on the past year. All of our lives have been impacted by the ‘unexpected’ this year. Typically, in the past years of our lives there has been a certain amount of predictability. Yes, the ‘unexpected’ would come into our lives, but for the most part, our lives have been peaceful and predictable.
Perhaps because of all the ‘unexpected’, unsettling, and extreme happenings, the thought has crossed your mind – “Jesus, where are you in all of this?” Recently, I started reading through the Psalms. In some psalms you can hear the writer often echo the same question, “God, where are you? Help!” Have you ‘been there’ this year? If I am honest, I have asked that question as well.
As you know, I am a reader. A few weeks ago, I selected three books on Kindle that interested me. One was titled “Gentle and Lowly” by Dane Ortlund. I had read a review on the book and it was highly recommended.
I will have to admit, initially I had a hard time engaging with it. I persisted though and stayed the course. Then I came to chapter 8. This was in the midst of being laid up at home, suffering from Covid-19. The chapter was titled “To the Uttermost.” Under the title, the last part of Hebrews 7:25 (ESV) was quoted, “he always lives to make intercession for them.”
As I moved into the chapter, the Spirit of God pulled me into the truths that were being written. Ortlund stages the writing with speaking of justification. He states, “as a way of framing what intercession is and its present neglect, consider it in relation to the doctrine of justification. Much has been written and preached and taught about this glorious doctrine in recent years—as it should be. To be justified is to be declared righteous in the sight of God, fully legally exonerated in the divine court, based entirely on what another (Jesus) has done in our place.”
As a child of God, we can rejoice in the justification God has provided for us through His Son Jesus! But what Ortlund notes is, justification is what Jesus has done in the past through His death and resurrection. With this context, Ortlund then states “justification is tied to what Christ did in the past. Intercession is what he is doing in the present.”
What do you think of when you hear the word intercession? My mind immediately thinks of prayer. Some have thought, ‘Why would Christ be interceding for us? Wouldn’t that make justification incomplete?’ Ortlund explains intercession like this, “in general terms it means that a third party comes between two others and makes a case to one on behalf of the other. Intercession applies what the atonement accomplished. Christ’s present heavenly intercession on our behalf is a reflection of the fullness and victory and completeness of his earthly work, not a reflection of anything lacking in his earthly work. The atonement accomplished our salvation; intercession is the moment-by-moment application of that atoning work.”
The insights from Ortlund opened my mind to understanding Christ’s intercession. Think about this. “His interceding for us reflects his heart—the same heart that carried him through life and down into death on behalf of his people is the heart that now manifests itself in constant pleading with and reminding and prevailing upon his Father to always welcome us.”
The explanation from Ortlund spoke to my heart. So much so, I read these insights to the Governing Board at our December monthly meeting. What impacted me was the reminder that, “his posture right now as he is in heaven, his disposition, his deepest desire, is to pour his heart out on our behalf before the Father. The intercession of Christ is his heart connecting our heart to the Father’s heart.”
In the first part of verse 25, the writer of Hebrews says, “he is able to save to the uttermost” (ESV). What is being said here? Ortlund explains, “’to the uttermost’ in Hebrews 7:25 means: God’s forgiving, redeeming, restoring touch reaches down into the darkest crevices of our souls, those places where we are most ashamed, most defeated. More than this: those crevices of sin are themselves the places where Christ loves us the most. His heart willingly goes there. His heart is most strongly drawn there.”
What a great truth to be reminded of! Jesus goes to the extreme places in our lives because He loves us. There is no limit of His love. We cannot become a too messed up, hopeless case for Him. He goes to the uttermost of our souls! As I read this a couple of weeks ago, it again gave me the assurance that my Savior is before the throne always interceding for me before the Father. And there is nothing in my life, too far out that His love will not reach.
As I came near to the end of the chapter in Ortlund’s book, he reminds us that Jesus is praying for us now. Even when we struggle with maintaining our prayer life with Him.
Then he makes this comment, “what if you heard Jesus praying aloud for you in the next room? Few things would calm us more deeply.” I pictured that in my mind and tears began to flow down my cheeks. To think, the Creator of the universe, the Creator of the large things and the microscopic, is praying for me! His love has no limits.
Oh my, what a fresh reminder of my Savior. He is not sitting up there, work done, and simply being a spectator of my life. No, He is always actively making intercession for me!
Walking with you,
*Quotes taken from Ortlund, Dane C. Gentle and Lowly, chapter 8. Crossway. Kindle Edition.