13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15 And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. 16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. 17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. – Hebrews 6:13-20 ESV
Living as a believer in this fallen world requires hope. Hope in something far better and greater to come. Hope in the reality of heaven and hope in God’s promise to His children that He will one day make our eternity a reality. To emphasize the faithfulness of God and the reliability of His promise, the author uses Abraham as a case in point. He reminds his readers that Abraham had been given a promise by God to bless and multiply him. But Abraham had to wait a long time for that promise to be fulfilled.
The great patriarch of the Hebrew people would have to wait 25 years before God fulfilled His promise and Isaac was born. All during that time, Abraham had to deal with the very real fact that he and his wife were not getting any younger and she was no less barren than when the promise was made. Yet, when Isaac was finally born, Abraham rejoiced in the faithfulness of God because He had come through for them. He had done the impossible and given Abraham and Sarah a son and heir, despite their old age and her barrenness.
But not too many years later, God commanded Abraham to take his son, the very one he had waited so long waited, and offer him up as a sacrifice – and Abraham obeyed. But how was Abraham able to even consider doing such a thing? It was because he had faith in God. When Isaac asked his father, “where is the sheep for the burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7 NLT), Abraham was able to confidently answer, “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son” (Genesis 22:8 NLT).
His answer did not necessarily mean he believed God was going to provide a replacement or stand-in for his son, but that he trusted God fully and completely in what He was asking him to do. In chapter 11 of this same letter, the author explains more fully what was going on in Abraham’s mind at that moment.
It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead. – Hebrews 11:17-19 NLT
Abraham trusted in the character of God. He knew he could trust God and that even if he had to go through with the sacrifice of his only son, God was powerful enough to raise his son from the dead. Abraham believed that God was going to fulfill His promise and he knew that Isaac was key to that happening. So, when Abraham had shown God that he was willing to obey His command fully, God intervened. He sent an angel to stop Abraham from killing Isaac and provided a ram as a substitute sacrifice. Then God spoke to Abraham and reiterated the details of His original promise.
“Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies. And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me.” – Genesis 22:16-18 NLT
Since there is nothing greater than God, He swore an oath in His own name. In doing so, He emphasized that His promises were based on His very nature or character. He is trustworthy, faithful, unchanging, powerful, and loving. He can be trusted.
God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through? – Numbers 23:19 NLT
If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is. – 2 Timothy 2:13 NLT
God had made a promise and an oath. These two unchangeable things were the basis of Abraham’s hope. He kept waiting and relying upon the promise of God that had been sealed with the oath of God. He knew His God could be trusted to keep His word, no matter how impossible it sounded or how long it took. And that is the author’s message to his audience. Because it is impossible for God to lie, “we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. ” (Hebrews 6:18-19 NLT).
The Jewish Christians to whom this letter was written needed to be reminded that the message of hope found in the gospel was reliable and worth waiting for. In placing their faith in Jesus, they received the promise of eternal life. But their circumstances had not changed. They were still living in the same place and having to endure the rejection of their Jewish peers for having abandoned their commitment to Judaism. They were facing opposition and the constant temptation to lose hope. But this letter was intended to remind them to stay the course and to keep their hope alive.
It was essential that they maintain their confidence in God, even in times of testing and uncertainty. God’s promises are based on His character. He is faithful, reliable, trustworthy, loving, compassionate, gracious, kind, merciful, holy, righteous, and just – all the time. And because God is all-powerful, He can be trusted to accomplish all that He has promised. Nothing can stand in His way. There is no obstacle or roadblock that can keep God from doing what He has promised to do. Abraham’s barren wife was no problem for God. Their old age did not prove to be a setback for God’s plan. And, Abraham believed that the death of his own son would not prevent God from fulfilling every aspect of the promise He had made.
When God announced to Abraham and Sarah that she would bear a son the following year, her immediate response was one of derision and doubt.
Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” – Genesis 18:12 ESV
Her laughter was not a sign of joy, but a display of her lack of faith. Her barrenness was bigger than her God. But God wanted Sarah and her husband to understand that there was absolutely nothing that could prevent Him from accomplishing His will. And His response to Abraham was meant to put their lingering doubts and apprehensions to rest.
“Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” – Genesis 18:14 ESV
Like the Jewish Christians reading this letter in the 1st Century, we must keep hoping in the promise God has made to us. We have been offered eternal life through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son. Periods of spiritual barrenness should not defeat us. Delays in His return should not demoralize us. God has made a promise and He can be trusted to keep it because He does not lie. We have a firm anchor for our souls even in the storms of life. Jesus our high priest has gone on ahead of us and He intercedes for us with God the Father on a daily basis. He is the rock to which our souls must hold firm, no matter what is happening around us or to us. He not only saved us, He is sanctifying us, and one day He will return to redeem and glorify us.
This passage always brings to mind the words of an old hymn. It sums up well the message of the firm and unwavering hope we have in Jesus Christ.
In times like these you need a Savior
In times like these you need an anchor;
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!
This Rock is Jesus, Yes, He’s the One;
This Rock is Jesus, the only One!
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!
The imagery contained in this passage is meant to produce faith and hope. The author describes Jesus standing in the Holy of Holies of the heavenly temple, where He serves as the anchor for our souls. He has entered into the presence of God the Father and we are tied directly to Him through the faith we placed in Him. If He survived death and the grave and entered into the presence of God, are we not assured the same marvelous fate? The knowledge that our Savior stands in the Holy of Holies in heaven should give us hope as we face the challenges of this life.
We need to continue to trust in the promises of God and rely on the very words that Jesus spoke to His disciples prior to His death.
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” – John 14:1-3 NLT
He is the sure and steady anchor for our souls. The winds and waves of this world will rage. The storms of life will come and go. But through it all, we remain firmly tied to the One who has guaranteed our future inheritance with His own life and given His word that He will one day return. So, don’t lose hope.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.