After his extended warning about the dangers of falling away, the author of Hebrews returns to his discussion of Jesus’ priesthood. This discussion extends through the next few chapters. The passage in this article is dealing with the certainty of God’s promise to Abraham, and to us.
The Certainity of God’s Promise to Abraham
When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.Hebrews 6:13-15 NIV
Genesis records this promise that God made to Abraham a number of times and in various forms. God’s promise to Abraham was based on Abraham’s obedience to God. When God called him to leave his home behind and go into a strange land, Abraham went. There were times when Abraham fell short. But by and large, he sets an example for us in believing God.
In Genesis 22:1-19 we find an account of God testing Abraham. God called on him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. And Abraham did. Or at least he got as far as raising the knife to kill him. But at that point, God stopped him. And reiterated the promise had already been made to him several times in the past. This time though, he confirmed the promise with an oath, swearing by himself.
The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”Genesis 22:15-18 NIV
This passage may seem a little strange to us. Especially since Jesus told us to not take oaths (to swear), but to let our yes be yes, and our no be no (Matt. 5:33-37). But I don’t believe that God is violating that here. Jesus’ instruction was that my integrity should be enough. When I say something, I should not need to call a higher witness to affirm my words. And, in essence, that is what God did. There was no higher witness to call. So his promise to Abraham was based on his own nature and integrity.
Receiving the Promise
The promise made to Abraham was not fulfilled during his lifetime. He died only owning a burial plot and the one son of promise. But God’s promise to him was fulfilled. He has become the father of many nations and peoples. And God has given him the land that he walked on.
Two Unchangable Things
People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged.Hebrews 6:16-18 NIV
Our author here continues to talk about the oath that God made to Abraham. He starts by describing the purpose of an oath. An oath is essentially calling someone recognized as an authority to testify on your behalf. A childhood chant, like “cross my heart and hope to die”, is not an oath because it is not calling on an authority that both parties recognize. However, “As God is my witness” would be an oath. You are claiming that God himself would back you up. And, if you are not being truthful, God will hold you accountable.
The Unchanging Nature of God’s Purpose
What is God’s purpose that the author of Hebrews refers to here? I believe, based on the promise that he made to Abraham, that it has to do with the redemption of humanity. His promise to Abraham was not just a random act to bless an individual. But that through Abraham all the nations would be blessed (Gen. 22:17-18).
This blessing to Abraham finds its fulfillment in Jesus and the work he came to do (Gal. 3:18). The promise made to Abraham was looking well beyond the limits of Abraham’s physical descendants. God’s ultimate purpose was to make a new humanity out of us. And to do that through what Jesus did on the cross (Eph. 2:14-16).
The Promise and an Oath
God made a promise to Abraham. And he backed it up with an oath. And these two unchangeable things, God’s promise and his oath, should give us encouragement. We can trust that God is not going to change his mind and do something else. His purpose is fixed and unchanging. So we can depend on him to fulfill his promise of blessing.
An Anchor for the Soul
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.Hebrews 6:19-20a NIV
When we use the word hope today it is often synonymous with wish. But the word translated as hope here describes an expectation. There is confidence involved in this hope. It is something that lies in the future, but something that you fully expect will come to pass.
What Is Our Hope?
What is this hope that our author refers to here? He never explicitly defines it in this letter, assuming that it is something that they all know. Paul elsewhere talks about the hope of the glory of God (Rom. 5:2), the hope of salvation (1 Thess. 5:8), and the hope of eternal life (Tit. 1:2). All of these are referring to the hope we have as believers, a hope that lies beyond this life. The hope of experiencing the glory of God for eternity.
And I believe that is what the author of Hebrews is referring to as well. In Hebrews 2:10 he refers to sons and daughters being brought to glory. And, in the midst of the rollcall of the faithful, Hebrews 11:13-16 tells us that they were looking for something better than what they had. And that God was preparing a city for them. A heavenly home.
An Anchor for the Soul
As believers, our hope is not found in this life. It is in the life to come. And, in the midst of all that we face in this life, that confident expectation of what awaits us will help us to face each new day and challenge with faith. We can be sure that God is with us and preparing us for the eternity to come.
An anchor holds a boat or ship in place, especially during a storm. And that is the role of our hope. So long as our hope is firm, no storm of life will be able to drag that anchor. We are safe in the harbor and need not fear washing up onto the shore.
The Inner Sanctuary
The Temple, and the Tabernacle before it, had two rooms. The Holy Place, and the Most Holy Place. The inner sanctuary, or Most Holy Place, was where the Ark of the Covenant resided along with its cover, the Mercy Seat. This was a room that was off-limits to all but the high priest. And he would go in once a year, on the day of atonement, to sprinkle blood on the Mercy Seat. And by that, making atonement for the sins of the people.
According to Hebrews 5:8, this sanctuary was a shadow of what was in heaven. And it is in that heavenly sanctuary where the anchor of our hope is holding firm. The inner sanctuary where Jesus, as our great high priest, entered with the blood of the atoning sacrifice, his own blood, to make atonement for our sins.
Our hope is not based on anything that we have done or might do. But it is based entirely on what Jesus did for us. It is his sacrifice that gives us hope. But, because that hope is based on what he did, we can rest assured in it.
The Order of Melchizedek
He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.Hebrews 6:20b NIV
Jesus is our great high priest, making intercession for us to the Father. The author of Hebrews is coming back into his discussion of Jesus’ priesthood. A priesthood that is not derived from the line of Aaron. But from the mysterious Melchizedek. I will put off a discussion about him until the next post in the series. But it is enough, for now, to recognize that Jesus’ priesthood is an eternal one. He is always available to give us the help we need.
- Hebrews: An Introduction
- Hebrews: The Supremacy of Christ (1:1-4)
- Hebrews: Superior to the Angels (1:5-14)
- Hebrews: A Warning to Pay Attention (2:1-4)
- Hebrews: We See Jesus, Crowned with Glory (2:5-9)
- Hebrews: Made Perfect Through Suffering (2:10-13)
- Hebrews: Jesus Is Fully Human in Every Way (2:14-18)
- Hebrews: Jesus Is Greater Than Moses (3:1-6)
- Hebrews: Failure to Enter God’s Rest (3:7-19)
- Hebrews: Enter God’s Rest (4:1-11)
- Hebrews: the Active Word of God (4:12-13)
- Hebrews: Our Great High Priest (4:14-16)
- Hebrews: Obedience Learned Through Suffering (5:1-10)
- Hebrews: Move Beyond Elementary Teachings (5:11-6:3)
- Hebrews: A Most Explicit Warning (6:4-12)
- Hebrews: An Anchor of Hope for the Soul (6:13-20)
- Hebrews: The Priesthood of Melchizedek (7:1-10)
- Hebrews: A New Priesthood (7:11-28)
- Hebrews: We Do Have Such a High Priest (8:1-6)
- Hebrews: A New Covenant (8:7-13)
- Hebrews: Worship in the Tabernacle (9:1-10)
- Hebrews: The Blood of the New Covenant (9:11-15)
- Hebrews: Entering the Heavenly Sanctuary (9:16-28)
- Hebrews: One Sacrifice for All Time (10:1-18)
- Hebrews: Enter the Most Holy Place (10:19-39)
- Hebrews: The Role Call of Faith (11:1-31)