Before the Throne of God Above (1)

Every Friday in 2015 we consider a verse from our “Hymn of the Month.”

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea
A great High Priest whose name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me
My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in heav'n He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart

Before the Throne of God Above is a powerful hymn that has really only come into popularity in the past 20 years. The text was written by Charitie Lees Bancroft in 1863, but it was usually paired with tunes that didn’t fit with the text that well. As a result, the hymn, originally titled “The Advocate,” enjoyed relatively little use. All of that changed when Vikki Cook wrote a new tune for the text in 1997. Since then it has grown in popularity and is widely sung today.

The setting that Bancroft sets for us is in the throne room of God. It is standing in his presence. To stand before God’s throne one must be perfectly holy and righteous. Without exception when fallen man is confronted with the holy God in Scripture the response is fear or an attempt to hide.

It began in the Garden when Adam and Eve hid from God’s presence because of their shame (Genesis 3:8ff). When having a vision of God, the prophet Isaiah’s immediate reaction was to cry out “woe is me!” because of his sin (Isaiah 6:5). And looking to the future when Christ returns people will cry out “…to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?’” (Revelation 6:16-17).

If all of that is true, how is it that Bancroft can write of the Christians confidence before God’s throne? In a word, it is because of Jesus. He is our redeemer. He is our great High Priest. He is our righteousness. He is our holiness. The book of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). In Christ, God is merciful. In Christ, God is love. And as Bancroft writes, if we belong to Christ, then no one has the authority to ever cast us away from God’s throne. Hallelujah!