Thursday Hebrews: Chapter 6, Verses 13-20

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)

To get started with this passage, let’s first look back to Hebrews 6:11-12:

And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

As we discussed previously, the writer of Hebrews is encouraging the reader to shake off “sluggishness” in their walk with Jesus Christ and to become “imitators.”  Now, imitating someone or something isn’t always a good thing.  We like to be considered the “real deal” and we like to be our “own person.”  But here it is good.  The writer wants the reader to look at the lives “of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

These “faithful imitators” will be discussed a little later in the book of Hebrews.  Now, though, the writer wants to discuss God’s promises.  And that is where our current section of Scripture takes us.  We can break these eight verses down in the following way.

* (v. 13-15) An example of a promise of God;
* (v. 16) An oath defined;
* (v. 17-18) The purpose of God’s oath;
* (v. 18) What God’s oath means to us; and
* (v. 19-20) Jesus.

An Example of a Promise of God

(v. 13-15) 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.

The promise that God makes is that He “will bless and multiply” Abraham and his descendants.  By simply making this statement to Abraham, God is swearing “by himself.”  He is in effect making an oath.  Abraham, meanwhile, obtains the benefits of this promise by “having patiently waited.”

An Oath Defined

(v. 16) For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation.

In v. 16, a quick definition of an oath is presented.  A good modern day example of this is when someone is elected to an office and they are “sworn” in by taking an “oath” of office.  It was the custom for many years in our country for people to place their hand on a Bible when taking their oath.  In this case, they are “swear[ing] by something greater than themselves” – i.e. the Bible.  Once in office, their oath is supposed to be their anchor and guide their service.  If there is a dispute, the oath is referred back to in order to determine the standard for service.

The Purpose of God’s Oath

(v. 17-18) 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, 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.

God wanted this “promise” to be shown “more convincingly to the heirs.”  How did He make this so?  This passage tells us He did so “by two unchangeable things.”  What are these?  One is God’s holiness, or character, “in which it is impossible for God to lie.”  The second is the oath that God gave.

Why did God do this?  As mentioned above, in verse 17, we are told He wanted to show the heirs of His promise “more convincingly”.  In verse 18, we are told God did this to give “strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.”  God made this oath to comfort and strengthen us in our journey with Him and to Him.  He did not give us an impossible life to live, although it is hard.  He did not give us an impossible riddle to decipher in order to get to Him.  No, He gave us a “hope set before us.”

Jesus

(v. 19-20) 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.

The “hope set before us” is Jesus.  These last two verses of the sections give us these descriptions of what Jesus does for us:

  • “A sure and steadfast anchor of the soul”
  • “A hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain”
  • “A forerunner on our behalf”
  • “A high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek”

When I read these descriptions of Jesus, the word that comes to mind is “wow.”  These aren’t just words and phrases thrown around by the writer of Hebrews.  These things are part of the mind-blowing work of Jesus Christ.  These are things that we need, things that must be done and things we can’t do for ourselves.

But why does the writer use these particular words and why does he use them at this point?  Well, for that answer, let’s refer back to our lesson from a week ago as we tried to bridge chapters five through seven.  We noted:

Chapter five begins with a discussion of Jesus in His role as our great High Priest.  The writer’s audience would surely know and question how Jesus would be qualified to serve as a priest, so he goes through the concept of how Jesus was “appointed.”  This leads to a discussion of Melchizedek, a Bible character from the Old Testament.

 But once the topic of Melchizedek came up, the writer could tell that he needed to make sure the audience was ready to hear this message.  From here, he took the reader through the first half of chapter six – questioning and then encouraging their faith, and then he returns to Jesus, our “high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”  Lord willing, we will discuss Melchizedek more next time as we begin chapter seven.

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