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Approaching the Unapproachable


When Abraham Lincoln became president, he had an open-door policy to the public. For a couple of hours each week, Americans could air their grievances to the President, or ask for a job. As the Civil War waged on, President Lincoln asked the applicants to keep it short, “as if waiting to be shaved at a barber’s shop.”

For 21st-Century Americans, it is impossible to imagine the White House having such an open-door policy. With successful and attempted assassinations of American presidents, security around the leader of our nation is very tight. Today, one has to go through background checks and screening from the U.S. Secret Service to approach the president.

If that is the case with an elected leader of the people, access becomes even more controlled to those who are the supreme leaders of their kingdom. When Mordecai begged Queen Esther to speak to King Ahasuerus that he might spare the lives of all the Jews in the kingdom, Queen Esther replied, “If any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death.” (Esther 4:11 ESV) The king was too important and his reign too majestic for just anyone to approach his throne.

Scripture speaks in similar terms when it comes to the majesty of God. Paul writes to Timothy that God is “dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see.” (1 Timothy 6:16) Like the unapproachable blazing sun at the center of our solar system, God is so great, so holy, so powerful and awesome that we cannot approach Him. When Moses asked to see the Lord’s glory, the Lord said He would make His goodness pass before him and proclaim His name, but he said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” (Exodus 33:20) God is so majestic that even the seraphim, those mighty six-winged angels, cover their faces and their feet in His presence.

Confronted with the majesty of God which caused the seraphim to cover themselves, Isaiah also wanted to cover himself, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5) The tax collector would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven as he pleaded, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13) After the miraculous catch of fish, Peter fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8)

As sinful mortals who have rebelled against our Creator time without number, we have no business approaching God or even looking upon Him. His majesty is too great.

Marvel, then, that while we had no business approaching God, God in His amazing grace approached us. The eternal and almighty Son of God took on flesh to be our Brother. Though we could not approach God because of our sin, Jesus, Who was with God and Who was God from the beginning, took our sin on Himself in order to reconcile us to God. Paul says, “God erased the record of our debt brought against us by his legal demands. This record stood against us, but he took it away by nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:14 EHV)

Emboldened by the need of her people and her relationship with King Ahasuerus, Queen Esther went to the inner court of the king’s house. The king heard her pleas and acted in her favor. Cleansed from our sin and credited with Christ’s righteousness, we now regard God as our Father Whom we can approach with any and every need. Through Christ we can approach Him Who dwells in unapproachable light. “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 4:16)

“To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen.” ( Jude 1:25)

Nathan Pfeiffer is pastor of Berea Lutheran Church in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota.