Senator Flynn and Senator Little emerged into the Senate chamber from the meeting rooms behind them, still involved in animated conversation. Looking up into the Senate gallery, they motioned for me to come down and join them. I quickly descended the 39 iron steps of the spiral staircase from the Senate gallery to the Capitol Rotunda just outside the entrance to the Senate.
As I approached them, Senator Flynn spoke first. “The funding just came through. How much did your group need again?” After a short give-and-take with the two senators, we agreed on an appropriate amount. They made their way to a budget meeting, and I was left to consider the extraordinary event which had just taken place. The three of us had determined how millions of dollars of state money would be spent.
It was a case of the right person being in the right place at the right time. My graduate degree in education, along with considerable experience in the classroom, and being a known homeschooler, enabled me to converse with state Education Department officials and public school advocates in their language. Both communities knew that I had their interests at heart. I was their advocate at the highest levels of state government. The key to my effectiveness was that both sides knew I understood their concerns.
Our heavenly Advocate
The book of Hebrews tells us that we have an even better Advocate—and He’s at the highest level of all: “We have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God,” and “he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 4:14; 7:25).
What a remarkable statement! No merely human advocate can be continually active. Humans need to eat, sleep, and take care of life’s necessities. But Jesus lives forever. He never needs to sleep. Whatever needs we want brought before God, Jesus is continually there for us.
First-century Christians were very familiar with the Jewish temple and its services. But, like us, many of them had become so focused on the rites and ceremonies that they had forgotten that the rituals were intended to point to something greater.
The book of Hebrews reminds us that the earthly priests “serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain’ ” (Hebrews 8:5; see Exodus 25:9, 40).
Hebrews reminds us that the real action takes place, not on earth, but in heaven. If you want to summarize Hebrews in one word, it would be better. Jesus is a better high priest, offering a better sacrifice (Himself) in a better temple. The earthly high priest went into the Most Holy Place, representing the throne of God, only once a year, but Jesus “always lives to intercede for [us]” (Hebrews 7:25).
Why we need continual intercession
You may wonder why we need such an ever-present Advocate. To answer that, look at the earthly sanctuary. Every morning and evening, the priests offered a sin offering for all of Israel. Individuals also brought offerings of their own. These included, but were far from limited to, offerings for sin. There were also thank offerings given in praise and dedication to God, peace offerings to celebrate an agreement or solemnize a vow, and trespass offerings for unintentional offenses against another Israelite. So there would be a continual stream of worshipers bringing offerings to the temple and priests presenting those offerings before God.
But we have a better High Priest. We do not physically travel to the temple gates; rather, we send our prayers heavenward. And these prayers include not only confession and repentance, but requests for guidance, prayers of concern for children and loved ones—petitions of all kinds. Is a friend having marriage problems? Do you face financial difficulties? Has a loved one contracted a virulent disease? Is your pastor facing discouragement? Should you take the job offer you received today? Did you hurt someone’s feelings? Is one of your children being tempted? You can bring all of these and innumerable other concerns to your heavenly High Priest.
Do you think some of these concerns too many or too trivial? Hebrews assures us that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15, 16).
Remember that the ancient believer could not enter the temple itself, but in Christ, Hebrews tells us, we can approach God’s throne of grace with confidence. We need not worry about the time of day or how much time we take up, for Jesus “always lives to intercede for [us],” and he neither “slumber[s] nor sleep[s]” (Psalm 121:4). And “You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern” (1 Peter 5:7, Phillips).
And there’s more
For about a decade I served in the capacity of unofficial consultant to my state government on homeschooling issues. The governor and the legislature called upon me to serve on study committees and legislative advisory groups or to assist in writing regulations in a way that protected homeschool families. Most of this never made the news media. In some instances, a legislator would simply come to me and say, “We’re planning on putting forward this legislation in the next session, and someone suggested it might affect homeschooling. Would you please look it over?” After examining it, I might suggest a change in wording that would still accomplish what the lawmaker wanted but would not impact homeschoolers adversely. In other words, some legislation was altered before it even was officially filed. Homeschooling families across the state never realized that anything that concerned them had been discussed in the state legislature.
In the stories of both Job and Ahab, the Bible reveals that their names came before the heavenly courts without their request and without their knowledge (Job 1:6–12; 2:1–7; 2 Chronicles 18:18–21). Does that happen to us as well? We will know about that only in eternity. But it is reassuring to realize that whatever comes up, from whatever source, Jesus “always lives” as our High Priest.
Now there’s an Advocate. Despite my best efforts at the legislature, I didn’t have continual access to the governor’s office. But we can come before God’s throne with confidence because our Advocate lives in heaven, never sleeps, and is God’s Son!