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May 31 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 31, 2020


For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by who to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. Hebrews 6:13-15

Intro: This week I was reading in the Book of Romans

In chapter 12, Paul listed ways to live in community with each other
– I was doing fine until I reached verse 12:
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer
• I am not by nature a joyful person – I lived many years under a cloud
◦ I hate to admit this, but for me hope doesn’t come easily either
◦ there have been a couple of hopes in this life that I’ve had to give up
• waking up to these issues and admitting them,
◦ reminds me that I can change
◦ and that is what God wants for me

The writer of Hebrews shifts his tone and begins a new thought
– but he builds on what has just said in verse 12
• follow the example of those who inherit the promises
• he’s already mentioned one promise – of rest (Heb. 4:1)
– what he explains is that WE LIVE ON A PROMISE
• his goal is to lead us to hope
• so, if like me, you tend to resist hope or your hope could use a boost,
◦ pay attention to what he has to tell us

How God is regarding His promises (13-15)

God made a promise to Abraham in their first encounter
– a promise to bless him – later he added more promises and specific details
• but time had elapsed between the first, second, and third promises
◦ and all that time, Abraham had not seen the promise fulfilled
• a fourth promise came, and then finally Isaac was born
(the first sign of fulfillment of the promise)
◦ but at that very moment, the promise was jeopardized
(when God told Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice)
◦ it was after this drama that God told Abraham,
By myself I have sworn, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you (Ge. 22:16-17)
– during all this, Abraham patiently waited
• the Greek word for patient means to endure through difficulty,
• that is how Abraham owned the promise – by hanging on to it

What is the significance of swearing an oath?
For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all disputes an oath is final for conformation Hebrews 6:16

To answer that question, we’ll return to an earlier episode in Abraham’s life
– in Gen. 15, Abraham was feeling the pressure of waiting patiently
O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess [the land]? (Ge. 15:8)
• God gave him some instructions for a special ritual, and
On that day the LORD made a covenant with [Abraham] (Ge. 15:18)
• a covenant was a guarantee – a partial installment
◦ but it was more; it was a binding relationship
◦ the covenant gave Abraham something to hang onto
• the covenant answered Abraham’s question, how he could know for sure
– when we were in chapter 4, I said the writer was keen on God’s oaths
• in that instance, his oath had a negative impact (Heb. 4:3)
• here the effect is positive

The writer says two things about oaths:
1. people swear by something greater than themselves – Something:
• more reliable and stable
• that will hold them accountable, “May God do so to me and more also . . .”
• that in the Scriptures is frequently supernatural
◦ parties in a covenant evoke a divine witness by whom they swear
◦ Ge. 31:49-53, Laban and Jacob (because they didn’t trust each other!)
• but since God had nothing greater to swear by, he swore by himself
2. an oath is final confirmation
• this gets to the heart of the oath – it resolves “disputes”

God’s oath to Abraham was for our sake
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 was impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us Hebrews 6:17-18

The writer switches from talking about Abraham to talking about us and from talking about others who inherited the promises (v. 12) to us being heirs of the promise
– he tells us what God desired to accomplish with the oath
• any mention of God’s desires, feelings, or passions,
◦ embarrassed some early Christian theologians
◦ influenced by Greek philosophy, they believed God was beyond all that
• but I love this personal way the Bible talks about God
◦ first, all they had to use was real human language
◦ second, they saw God as relatable, so their use of anthropomorphism and anthropopathism created a meaningful connection with God
– what God desires is to show you and I is,
the unchangeable character of his purpose
• God has never deviated from his plan, or given up on it
◦ he has always been determined to bring us to himself
◦ to live among us – and for us to live around him
• so to show us his determination, he guaranteed it with an oath

Now we have two unchangeable things:
– his promise and his oath
• God’s intention for us has not moved
• it’s not going anywhere – we need to know this!
Luke T. Johnson, “God does not need the oath, but humans do, especially in the face of circumstances that present evidence contrary to the promise.”
– notice how the author describes us and our situation
who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us
• he paints a picture of imminent danger
• it is natural for us to look for security
◦ both the body and the mind need a sense of safety
Stephen Porges, Professor and Director of the Trauma Research Center at U. of Indiana, “If our nervous system detects safety, then it’s no longer defensive. When it’s no longer defensive, then the circuits of the autonomic nervous system support health, growth, and restoration. . . . the most important thing to our nervous system is that we are safe.”
◦ what the writer says about refuge is a familiar expression in the Psalms
◦ for instance:
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble
(Ps. 46:1)

The hope has been set before us – the writer’s has been laying it out
– it’s up to us to make it our own – to hold fast to it
• listen, even the slightest glimmer of hope can save a life
• a slender ray of hope can change a life
◦ and we have a sold hope
◦ something you can get a hold of and hang on to

At this point, we can take a step back to look at this hope
We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek Hebrews 6:19-20

You’ve got to love this nautical analogy, anchor of the soul
– it’s the soul that experiences all the inner turmoil
• so God secures our souls with an anchor that is sure and steadfast
• it is hope that anchors us
– hope is a belief and an attitude we have regarding the future
• if the hope is already a reality, just waiting to happen,
◦ then it can open us to this present moment
◦ then it is possible to rejoice in hope and be patient in tribulation
• research shows that people with hope live healthier, longer lives
◦ hope is a critical source of energy – it keeps us going

Our hope enters into the inner place (the holiest place in the sanctuary)
– a closed-off room with restricted access
• but the writer isn’t talking about a physical place
◦ we’ll see that what he has in mind is where God actually is
◦ this is where our hope goes
◦ meeting God on his turf – maybe not even a “place,” but the actual experience of him (who is omnipresent)
• Jesus is already there

A few years ago I went scuba diving with some friends. The first night we anchored off of Catalina, dove there in the morning and then moved over to San Clemente island and dove there. When we arrived at our location, one of the experienced divers dove down to make sure the anchor was secured to a large enough rock to hold us in place. I imagine Jesus doing this, entering God’s space and securing the line that stretches back to us.

When I dive from a ship, I like being able to follow the anchor chain down to the sea floor or to the depth I want to explore. But it is even more helpful to me if I’m able to ascend the anchor line. First, it tells me that I’m at the right location and, secondly, it is an aid to help me make certain I am not ascending too fast. Again, I think of following the line that Jesus has anchored in God, so that by following it, we come to the place where our forerunner has already entered.

At this point, the writer is ready to return to Melchizedek
– and that provides his transition into the next chapter

Conclusion: Alright, take a slow, deep breath

I want you to hear this passage again
– but hear it as a more personal message from the lips of Jesus:

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way (Jn. 14:1-4)

This is our rock-solid hope,
without it, there would be no Christian hope—
no Christianity
This is where Jesus has anchored our souls;
in an eternity with him

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