For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you.” And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise. For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute. In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
(New American Standard Version, 1995)
The Hebrew writer is here referencing a specific guarantee that God made to Abraham way back in the book of Genesis. You may remember the story of the testing of Abraham’s faith, wherein he was asked by God to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. Abraham was willing to do what God required of him, trusting that God would raise Isaac back up from the dead. However, midway through the sacrificial process, after Isaac had been bound and placed on the altar, God stopped the proceedings and provided a ram for the sacrifice instead. After witnessing Abraham’s demonstration of faith, God said to him, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies” (Genesis 22: 16-17, NASB).
We can see from the nature of the promise that God made to Abraham that it was not the kind of thing that would be delivered immediately; but rather, it was something that would take time and unfold over many generations. The promise would require a firm belief in God’s promises and a patient faith from Abraham and his offspring after him. But when God made this promise to Abraham, He swore an oath on His own name, since there is no one higher that God could swear by, that He would surely fulfill it. By this, Abraham was reassured that whatever God vowed to do, He really would do and, herein, we find the very definition of “hope!”
What is “hope,” in the Biblical sense of the word? Well, it is far more than merely wishing for something to happen. It is not simply “wishful thinking”—as though something may or may not actually occur. But rather, Biblical hope can be defined as that deep assurance that what God has promised, God will deliver. Biblical hope is rooted in faith and love for God.
While Abraham did not live to see all of those promises completely fulfilled, the generations of children who came after Abraham did see every one of God’s promises come true. In fact, the promises that God made to Abraham are still being fulfilled and coming true right down to this day.
Today, we as Christians have a lot of history available to us that helps support the promises and truths contained in God’s written word, the Bible. We can see how that God has, over the ages, brought all of His promises to fruition. The writer of the book of Hebrews is using this fact to help shore up his readers’ faith and to strengthen and support the hope—assurance, confidence, trust—that we hold in our hearts.
I love how the Hebrew writer describes our hope as “an anchor of the soul” (verse 19). The confident expectation that we as God’s children hold in our hearts concerning His promises is what keeps us from drifting away into sin and worldliness. The world around us can be both very pervasive and very persuasive. The storms of life that assail us be very challenging and cause us to despair. Our adversary, the evil one, would like nothing more than to see us give up our faith in Christ and go back to our old sinful lives. But hope—that firm belief and trust in God, that confident expectation that He will deliver on His promises—will keep us anchored, sure and steadfast, within the safe harbor of His love.
The passage closes with an incredible word picture of sorts wherein we see ourselves entering into the very Temple of God, into which only the priests were allowed to enter, and which symbolically represented the dwelling place of God. But even more than that, going beyond the Temple doors we “enter within the veil”—that is, the veil of sin that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place—thereby gaining access to the very presence of God.
You see Jesus, our “high priest forever,” has done what every other high priest was allowed to do one time each year, with great fear and trembling, on the Day of Atonement. He has entered “within the veil” to make atonement for our sins. However, Jesus has gone much farther in doing what no other high priest in all of Israel had ever done before. After having entered into that Most Holy Place, the Holy of Holies, where the personal presence of God Himself dwells, He has invited us to join Him there. Now, we who are Christians—in the Biblical sense of the word—continually dwell in that very place where even the high priests of Israel feared to tread. We perpetually dwell in the very presence of God and enjoy and personal relationship with Him.
I pray that fact encourages and strengthens you as it does me, that it shores up your faith as it does mine, and that it provides hope, an anchor of the soul, for both of us as we encounter this turbulent, sin sick world raging all around us.
Heavenly Father, I approach You now through the mediation of my High Priest, Jesus Christ my Lord, Your only begotten Son, Who has entered within the veil as my forerunner and has invited me to enter as well and live together with Him there in Your very presence. Such blessing is almost beyond my ability to comprehend. But I thank You, Heavenly Father, for loving me so much that You would want to have such an intimate, personal relationship with me. Thank You, Lord Jesus, my Lord, my Savior, for Your love and obedience to the will of the Heavenly Father in doing what had to be done and sacrificing Yourself to atone for my sins and make a way for me to enter into that Holy Place where the very presence of God dwells. Thank You for the hope You have cultivated within my heart and may that hope keep me anchored to You forever.
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