Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Daily - 11/12/08

Hebrews 6:17-20

17 So when God wanted to give the heirs of his promise an even clearer demonstration of the immutability of his purpose, he intervened with an oath,

18 so that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to hold fast to the hope that lies before us.

19 This we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil,

20 where Jesus has entered on our behalf as forerunner, becoming high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

There is quite a lot in Hebrews 6 to chew on. I actually started this message with several more verses included, but I quickly realized that I needed to take more time than I had to put things together. So maybe you’ll see more of Hebrews 6 down the road.

These verses give encouragement to believers. The promises mentioned in verse 17 are the promises God gave to Abraham in Genesis – that he will be the father of all nations. Abraham had to endure trials before this happened, but he never lost hope because God had made a promise to him, and with that promise he swore an oath. And because God cannot lie, he knew that he would inherit that promise. We can have the same confidence in God that Abraham had – that God will stay absolutely true to his promises.

Sometimes it’s very hard to keep that in mind. We have a lot of storms in our life that can take our eyes off of God. To me, the image of the anchor in verses 18-20 is very powerful. One of the commentaries I refer to is from St. John Chrysostom, who was a contemporary of St. Augustine in the fourth century, and like Augustine is a Doctor of the Church. He describes this image better than I can:


And see how very suitable an image he has discovered: For he said not, Foundation; which was not suitable; but, “Anchor.” For that which is on the tossing sea, and seems not to be very firmly fixed, stands on the water as upon land, and is shaken and yet is not shaken. For in regard to those who are very firm, and philosophic, Christ with good reason made that statement, saying, “Whosoever hath built his house on a rock.” ( Matt. vii. 24 .) But in respect of those who are giving way, and who ought to be carried through by hope, Paul hath suitably set down this. For the surge and the great storm toss the boat; but hope suffers it not to be carried hither and thither, although winds innumerable agitate it: so that, unless we had this
[hope] we should long ago have been sunk. Nor is it only in things spiritual, but also in the affairs of this life, that one may find the power of hope great.

Whatever it may be, in merchandise, in husbandry, in a military expedition, unless one sets this before him, he would not even touch the work. But he said not simply “Anchor,” but “sure and steadfast” [i.e.] not shaken.

Note: see that Chrysostom refers to the writer as Paul. It’s generally accepted today that Paul didn’t write Hebrews. None of that changes his points.