Lesson 9: An Anchor For The Soul

Recall from our last lesson the author’s very real concern that his audience could repeat Israel’s mistake and fall away from the Lord. The first warning of this occurred in Hebrews 2.1 where the author exhorted his brethren to “pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away”. However, these brethren were not doomed to repeat the mistakes of their ancestors, not if they would mature in their faith and appreciate the hope they have in Christ.. In fact, such would be “an anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6.19). 

Hebrews 6.9-12, Convinced of Better Things

The author challenged his audience in the previous section, pointing out their dullness of hearing and immaturity (Hebrews 5.8-6.3). But the author was also confident that his brethren would take the warning to heart, thus he was “convinced of better things… things that accompany salvation” (vs. 9). He had a few reasons for such confidence:

  1. God’s character (vs. 10). The real basis for confidence wasn’t in men at all, but in God. God is just AND He does not forget His people. God’s remembrance is emphasized in the Old Testament as God would “remember His covenant” with the people (see 1Chron 16.15; Psalm 105.8; 111.5). 
  2. Their work and love (vs. 10). At this point the author does not comment on their work and love for the Lord, rather than saying they had ministered and continued to minister to the saints. He gives more context in Hebrews 10.32-34, stating how they endured sufferings and yet still served their brethren. Such love and service provides confidence since they could know God remembered their service and such dedication wouldn’t be quickly forsaken.
  3. Good examples to follow (vss. 11-12). The author harkens back to how the brethren had been “dull of hearing” (5.11), but was confident they would not remain “sluggish” (6.12, same word in both passages). They wouldn’t remain sluggish if they were “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” While many such examples existed (see Hebrews 11), the author proceeds to point them to the example of Abraham and how by faith he received God’s promises (vss. 13-20). And such an example provides hope to all of God’s people.

Hebrews 6.13-20, Surety of God’s Promise

This section emphasizes God’s promise, but it’s important to keep in mind that two promises are in view. The example of Abraham centers around the promise the Lord made to him in Genesis 22.16-17. However, the passage ends by picking back up with the Lord’s promise that the Messiah would be “high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek (vs. 20; Psalm 110.4). The saints were the beneficiaries of the Lord’s promise to Abraham, but His promise to the Messiah is what gave them real hope. 

Central to the passage is the Lord’s promise. The writer makes numerous points showing how important it is for our hope that the Lord makes promises:

  • He swore by Himself, since He could swear by no one greater (vs. 13). “The notion that God swears by himself (cf. Exod 32:13Isa 45:23Jer 22:549:13) signifies that he is bound to his word by his character. The divine oath provides the guarantee that excludes doubt and affirms the abiding validity of the promise.” (William Lane, Word Biblical Commentary)
  • His oath is given as confirmation (vs. 16). “When a man swears an oath, he makes a solemn affirmation of the truth of his words before a greater who presumably will punish any misuse of his name if a false statement is made.” (Leon Morris, Expositors Bible Commentary) Since the Lord swore by His own name, no other confirmation is needed.
  • His promise is unchangeable (vs. 17). His promise is unchangeable because the Lord guaranteed (i.e. interposed) it with an oath.
  • It is impossible for God to life (vs. 18). God’s oath is bolstered by the fact of God’s character: He cannot lie (see Numbers 23.19; 1Samuel 15.29). 

The Lord’s promise may be great and guaranteed by an oath, but man must still put faith in Him to receive the promised blessing. Thus, Abraham serves as an example of believing the Lord’s promise:

  • The Lord’s promise, quoted in vs. 14, was made after Abraham’s greatest demonstration of faith: his willingness to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis 22.
  • Abraham is described as “having patiently waited” (vs. 15). “Abraham was content to await God’s time for the fulfillment of the promise. This meant real patience, because Isaac was not born till twenty-five years after the promise was first given (Gen 12:421:5) and long after Sarah could have been expected to bear children. Abraham’s grandchildren were not born for another sixty years (Gen 25:26), only fifteen years before his death (Gen 25:7). The complete fulfillment of the promise, of course, could not take place within his lifetime (a nation cannot be born so quickly). But enough happened for the writer to say, ‘Abraham received what was promised.;” (Leon Morris, Expositors Bible Commentary).
  • Thus Abraham “obtained the promise” (vs. 15). Note John 8.56, Abraham understood the full obtaining of the promise would occur with the Christ.

So what does all of this mean for the author’s original audience, and for us? We, the “heirs of the promise” have also received a promise composed of “two unchangeable things” (vs. 18). Jesus is 1) high priest forever and 2) after the order of Melchizedek. This promise, sworn with an oath, allows us to “take hold of the hope set before us” (vs. 18) and that hope extends all the way to the very presence of God, because our High Priest, Jesus, has gone there before us!

Knowing that Jesus is our High Priest, that God’s oath has been kept, truly provides an anchor for the soul. Those with such a hope will not “drift away” (2.1); those with such a hope will imitate the example of Abraham’s faithfulness (6.12). The Hebrew author will continue to focus on this hope in the coming chapters.

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