Hebrews 6:13-20

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, October 4, 2021 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, ‘I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.’ And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” -Hebrews 6:13-20

Right before this passage, Hebrews 6:12 said, “We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” This section then builds on that promise, first using the example of Abraham.

Abraham is the prime example of faith for the people of Israel. God made many promises to Abraham, but the most notable one is what’s quoted here in verse 14, which can be found in Genesis 22:17. Interestingly, this occurrence is not the first time God made that promise to Abraham; Genesis 22 tells the narrative of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. After God spares Isaac, He reiterates this promise to Abraham.

By this point, Abraham had already waited many years just for this one son, even getting impatient with God and having a son with a servant first. Notice that the author of Hebrews points out this long time of waiting in verse 15, but that Abraham did receive the fulfillment of this promise. His son Isaac became the father to Jacob; Jacob’s name was changed to Israel and he was the father of that great nation. Abraham was blessed and given many descendants.

But that’s not the author’s point in sharing about Abraham here. He’s focusing on the fact that God swore by Himself when giving this promise to Abraham in Genesis 22:17. If we want to make an oath and swear by something, we need to swear by something greater than ourselves in order to give the oath its proper weight. But there is no one greater than God, so the greatest thing God could swear by was Himself. This sets up the author’s point in sharing about oaths and God’s character.

Verse 16 tells us that when a person swears an oath, he is making certain that what he says is true. If it is determined to be false, that person’s entire reputation is at stake. The wording used here in Greek refers to an old Egyptian legal formula that still expressed a legal guarantee. An oath was understood in that society to be the end of discussing a matter; the answer has been found and sworn as an oath, so no further argument is needed.

The author then turns from people making oaths to God making an oath in verse 17. Since God cannot lie, He really had no reason to make an oath; His word has always been and will always be completely true and binding. But God needed to use this human construct of an oath to explain that to humans. God’s nature is unchanging and His promises will always be fulfilled. The use of the phrase “to the heirs” is significant here in the context of Abraham’s descendants; Abraham was not immediately the fulfillment of this promise, but it took a few generations for his descendants to become as numerous as God had promised.

So why did God swear this oath? Verse 18 tells us that humankind now has two unchangeable things: the promise and the oath. We can and should be greatly encouraged by this fact! We could not trust in a God who would change; knowing that God does not change means that He is fully worthy of our trust. Similarly, knowing that God always fulfills His promises further means that we can fully trust in Him for everything that He has promised us. That doesn’t always mean we’ll get it exactly how or when we want it; after all, Abraham had to wait many years to even have just one son with his wife! But God will fulfill His promises in the way He knows is best.

This is important for us as verse 19 says: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” There is nothing more firm and secure than God’s promises and God’s character! This is what stabilizes our lives when this world threatens to toss us about. No matter what other chaos is going on in our immediate world or the greater world around us, God does not change. His Word is always firm and true. We can always trust in Him.

Along with being an anchor for our souls, this hope also “enters in the inner sanctuary behind the curtain.” This imagery would have been familiar to the Israelites - it depicts the Most Holy Place where God dwelled in their temple. That room was symbolic of God’s presence, and people were not allowed to enter it except for the high priest on one day a year (see this post for more on that). But now, this hope that we have allows us to enter God’s presence.

Why can we now enter God’s presence? Verse 20 tells us – because Jesus entered on our behalf! This returns to the discussion of Jesus as the great high priest that the author began back in Hebrews 4:14. This passage ends with a mention of the order of Melchizedek, which the author will discuss more in the next section.

So, what does all of this mean for us today? God’s character does not change, so the God of Abraham is the same God as when Hebrews was written and the same God today. If God could be trusted to fulfill His promises to Abraham, then God can be trusted to fulfill His promises to us today. God confirmed this with an oath, though there is nothing greater to swear by than Himself. Because of this truth, we can always fully trust God with our lives. This hope is the anchor for our souls in this chaotic world that we live in. Put your trust fully in Him today!

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