“When God gave His promise to Abraham, because there was no one greater for Him to make an oath by, He swore by Himself, saying “I will surely richly bless you and extensively increase your numbers.” And thus, by patiently waiting, he received what God had promised. Among human beings it is customary to swear an oath by someone greater for final confirmation. In the same way, to make His unalterable purpose perfectly clear to those He promised, God bound Himself by two unchangeable things: His promise and His oath. Because it is impossible for God to break His Word, we who claim His protection are strongly encouraged to grasp by faith what He has offered us. In this hope we anchor our souls steadfastly and securely to God who dwells behind the sacred curtains of heaven. Jesus has entered there ahead of us, having become a High Priest forever with the rank and honor of Melchizedek.” (paraphrased)
In the final part of this warning, the author shows what God has promised to Abraham is available to all Believers. This exhortation evolves into an encouragement for persevering Christians to appropriate His promises. This passage is intended to fortify his readers with resolve and courage. The original recipients of this epistle understood the use of Abraham as an illustration, for they were his descendants. As Abraham appropriated what God had promised, so would they. Using the life of this great patriarch, the writer highlights the “faith and patience” mentioned in verse twelve.
Abraham is a wonderful example of perseverance despite adverse circumstances. He came from the heathen city of Ur in Mesopotamia and was commanded by God to go to Haran and later to Canaan. Abraham unhesitatingly obeyed (Heb. 11:8). God’s original promise to Abraham was given when he was seventy-five years old. Though Sarah was barren, God affirmed that through him the entire world would be blessed (Gen. 12:1-4). The covenant is later reiterated, assuring Abraham his descendants would be as numerous as the stars and sand (Gen. 13:16 & 15:5). His promised son is born twenty-five years after he left the city of Ur (Gen. 21:3). Because of his willingness to offer up his only son, an elaboration of the promise was given (Gen. 22:15-18). Abraham believed God’s pledge, although its fulfillment appeared impossible. Because there was no one greater whom He could call as a witness, God swore by Himself (Gen. 22:16). The fulfillment of God’s vow is as certain as His own existence. “I am the Lord: I change not” (Mal. 3:6).
Abraham is not only the forefather of the Jews, but the “the father of all who believe” (Rom. 4:11). He obeyed and became a channel of blessing. When Abraham died at age 175, he still had faith in the future fulfillment of God’s promises (Gen. 25:7). However, the surety of God’s promises is not based upon our faithfulness to Him, but upon His faithfulness to us.
In every culture, swearing an oath is designed to solidify an agreement between two parties. A deity is often invoked to punish either party who violates the pact. An oath is a legal guarantee, given to mark the parameters of a promise and strengthen the contract. Whereas a promise states what one intends to do, an oath serves as a warranty. Assuming a pledge is made with honesty and integrity, further discussion is unnecessary.
Oaths are utilized globally, for mere words often have limited value. It is not unusual for a man to make an oath to God, but here God makes an oath to a man. Jesus taught that the word of a Believer must be totally reliable, thus making oaths unnecessary. He warns us not to swear by heaven, earth, Jerusalem, altars, gold, or temples (Mt. 5:34-36 & 23:16-22).
Aware of our human frailties, the Lord condescended to give further affirmation concerning His intentions. He accommodated Himself to man’s custom of swearing to confirm truth. “Immutability” is ametatheton and pictures one who will not change his position. “The immutability of His counsel” refers to the unchangeableness of His eternal purpose. God’s pledge does not make His promise more believable, but provides man with additional assurance of the stability of His word. Through His oath, God pledges His honor as the security behind His promise.
The “two irreversable things” are God’s promise and His oath. The word “things” means “accomplished facts.” “Immutable” (ametathetos) is a word often used in a last will and testament, referring to that which is impossible to change. Although lies and fraud are common in contemporary society, “God is not a man that He should lie” (Num. 23:19). He cannot perjure Himself or deviate from His word (Jas. 1:17). God’s omniscience gives us “strong consolation,” despite harsh opposition and persecution. “Strong” refers to indwelling strength embodied in an obstacle of resistance, such as an army or fortress. The Holy Spirit provides the assurance and encouragement to trust His promises.
“Flee” expresses the idea of flight to a specific person or place for safety. By use of the word “refuge”, the imagery of a city of refuge comes into view (Num. 35:11). Such towns were set on high hills so those looking for sanctuary could easily find them. They were designated as places of protection for individuals seeking justice (Josh. 20:2-6). In a similar manner, we flee from sin to find refuge in Jesus. “To lay hold upon” means we can confidently seize the hope of eternal life.
Anchors prevent shipwreck and are emblematic of that which is firm, strong, stable, and unfailing. “Sure” (asphalee) means the anchor will not vacillate or shift. “Steadfast” (bebeian) refers to the strength of the anchor despite the strongest currents. The phrase “both sure and steadfast” bespeaks an object subjected to various tests which successfully resists all attempts to break it loose. Our “living hope” in Christ does not rest upon the quicksand of worldly philosophy or situation ethics (I Pet. 1:3 & Col. 2:8). Abraham “against hope believed in hope” (Rom. 4:18) and trusted what the Lord had guaranteed.
A soul can be compared to a ship on the sea of life. The voyage in this world is often tempest-tossed. But while an anchor cannot stop the storms, it safely holds the vessel. The anchor of hope is firmly fastened by the double chain of God’s promise and oath inside the safe anchorage of heaven.
In the previous verse, Jesus is specifically named as the Anchor of our souls. He is pictured here as our “forerunner” (prodromos), the pioneer who goes before others to assure their safe passage and access. No supplicant would dare to follow the Levitical high priest into the Holy of Holies, but Jesus invites us to enter the presence of God in heaven.
After his first mention of Melchizedek in chapter five, the writer interrupts himself to warn against apostasy (5:11-6:20). The final verses of chapter six serve as the springboard into the main topic of the epistle – the high priestly ministry of Jesus Christ. The author now redirects our thinking to consider He who dwells “inside the veil.”
QUESTIONS: THIRD WARNING: DON’T DENOUNCE (Part 5) – GOD’S OATH
1. In Genesis 32:12, what promise does God make to Abraham’s descendants?
2. According to Acts 2:29-30, which descendant of Abraham is promised he will be the ancestor of the Messiah?
3. According to Deuteronomy 29:12-13, to what three men did God make an oath?
4. According to Galatians 3:6, who believed God?
5. Name the four persons in Hebrews 11:8-13 who “all died in faith, not having yet received the promises.”
6. Which of the following words is often used in a last will and testament?
7. What does God sear in Hebrews 7:21?
8. What type of city is mentioned in Numbers 35:11?
9. List ways in which you can make your home a better “refuge” from the world.
10. Name a few things upon which people often erroneously anchor their hopes.