We left off yesterday with the writer’s encouraging these believers to go on believing, to go on producing fruit, to lay hold of “the full assurance of hope until the end,” and to keep moving toward the promises of God. He warns in verse 12 that they “do not become sluggish,” but rather to, “imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises,” promises of God that culminate in our entering into the final state of heaven and our heavenly inheritance purchased by Jesus Christ, the one who is better than anyone or anything.
He says again in last part of verse 12, “imitate those who through (their) faith and patience, inherit the promises” and the writer produces arguably the greatest example of one whose faith and patience is worthy of emulation, namely Abraham. And that is verse 13 and following. From verse 13 to the end of the chapter the writer blesses Christians with teaching about the “full assurance of hope until the end,” the fact that Christians can hold on throughout their journey of faith, come what may, they will go on believing, holding on, moving toward the complete fulfillment of all of God’s promises to them.
In these verses that we are going to look at today the writer gives the basis for our ability to hold on, to lay hold of the hope set before us.
Our holding on is possible
Because of God’s character,
Who He is, and what He
Has done for believers.
God’s Word is such that we can trust Him, take Him at His Word, believe what He has said, that what He has said, will He do. If we trust in Him, we can rest in Him. Listen for that as I read the passage.
There is a phrase verse 19 that captures everything this passage is about. It is the first part of verse 19 where the writer says, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul.” Before we talk about the anchor let’s review something about the hope. We are taught in the previous verse, in the last part of verse 18, to “lay hold of the hope set before us.” What is this hope? We have look at this word “hope” before. We have noted that the way the writer is using “hope” in passages such as this, is to write about something that is absolutely certain and therefor absolutely certain to come to pass.
In contemporary English, in the language of our day, the word “hope” generally conveys something different. We often use the word “hope” to express something uncertain: “I hope it doesn’t snow today.” We are wishing it does not snow, but we are uncertain about it. We are closing our eyes or crossing our fingers that something will take place, but we are not really sure whether it will. Despite the circumstances we are optimistic and hopeful.
That is not the way the Bible uses is using the word “hope” here. In New Testament passages such as this, the writer is talking about more than mere optimism. By the way, optimism in and of itself is not bad. It is a good thing to be optimistic. Nobody likes to be around pessimists, people who are always gloomy and can never look on the bright side. Adrian Rogers used to say some people can brighten up a room by leaving it.
The word “hope” here is not mere optimism or wishful thinking, a mere subjective feeling that something may or may not happen. This word “hope” rather, indicates something substantive, something palpable, and something real.
The word “hope” here stands for something.
And the something is the reality of all
The things that will absolutely come to pass.
The word “hope” here is the absolute
Certainty that God will fulfill
His purposes and promises.
It is certain. We look forward – in hope – in confident expectation that what God has said, that will He do. Hope stands for something real. It is not mere feelings, but the actualization of real facts.
That is why the writer says in verse 19 “this hope we have as an anchor of the soul.” Hope is something substantive, objective, factual, something that is so weighty in truth that it is, in a sense, an anchor of the soul.
Anchors are among of the earliest Christian symbols used among believers especially in the first four centuries of the church. I was doing some research this week on the catacombs in Rome. Catacombs are underground burial sites and there are 40 of them in Rome, Italy. Just north of Rome is the Catacomb of Priscilla, a rock quarry that was used for Christian burials, including the burial of a number of Christian martyrs, people who died for their faith in Christ. This catacomb is five miles wide and contains 40,000 tombs. Christians were buried there from the early 2nd through the 4th century, so AD 100s to the 300s. This is where the earliest Christians were buried.
Much of the walls and ceiling portray early Christian art, paintings, including frescoes of scenes from the Old and New Testaments and the oldest paintings of Mary. If you are in Rome, you can tour catacombs like the Catacomb of Priscilla. You can see some of the Christian art there. While it is probably just legend that Christians hid in the catacombs, some Christians did in fact go to the catacombs for inspiration and even celebration on the anniversaries of the deaths of certain Christian martyrs. Catacombs contained a number of Christian symbols, paintings and etchings like a fish, or a shepherd’s crook, and symbols of an anchor, a symbol of “the hope set before us.” In this particular catacomb there are no fewer than 60 anchors inscribed on the walls. That is a lot of anchors! Why? Because . . .
The early Christians understood that the anchor
Represented the hope we have in Christ.
The anchor stood for the fact, the truth,
That all of God’s promises are fulfilled
In Christ and that this truth, anchors our very souls.
If you are a Christian, God anchors your soul in the truth of His Word. Come what may, you will always be anchored by the truth of His Word, and your hope will hold.
We will be looking further into this truth during our study today. How we can be sure that our hope will hold – that we will hold on, that our hope is an anchor of the soul – leading us to have stability no matter how wind-tossed the ship of our faith may be. No matter the storms of our lives, our hope will hold if two things are real in our lives . . .
I. If We Trust in God’s Word – Verses 13-18.
We can trust what God says when He speaks. The writer here uses Abraham as an example of someone who trusted God’s Word; believed what God said to him; believed that what God said He would do. Verses 13-15 state, “For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, ‘Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.’ And so, after he had patiently endured, he(Abraham) obtained the promise.” The writer reminds us of God’s Word to Abraham back in Genesis and Abraham’s believing God’s Word, trusting in God’s Word, that God would do what He said, fulfilling His purposes and promises.
If we had time we would go back and review chapters 12, 15, and 22 of Genesis. It is Chapter 22 that the writer has in mind when he writes these verses here. Several times God told Abraham: “I’m going to bless you and your descendants. From your own offspring will come a people too numerous to count. If you could count all the stars in the sky and all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the world, you would be able to count how many descendants you will have, descendants who will be blessed as you are blessed, blessed to inherit the promises and purposes for each and every one – namely an intimate relationship that never ends, eternal life.”
Remember that not everyone who descends from Abraham is automatically an heir of the promise. Romans 4:16 speaks of the people of God as those who “share the faith of Abraham,” people who have faith like Abraham, people who believe, like many of us, who believe in Christ. The Bible says in Galatians 3:29, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed (Abraham’s offspring; children) and heirs according to the promise.” The author’s point here in these verses is that Abraham believed God’s Word. He took God at His Word. He believed Him. He trusted God’s Word. That trust is seen time and again by Abraham. He was not perfect by any stretch, but He accepted what God said and knew that He would fulfill His purposes and promises to bless him and all who came from him.
Abraham stepped out in faith when God called him to go out to a land He would show him. Abraham did not know where he was going, but he trusted God. He had to look to God to guide Him and fulfill the promise. God said, “Abraham, you and your wife Sarah are going to have a child. Never mind the circumstances of you and your wife’s age – It will happen, not because of you or anything you can do but based on my faithfulness and power.” Then God gives them the promised son, Isaac. Abraham believed that God would give innumerable offspring through Isaac. He trusted God’s Word. He knew that he could rely on God so much that he obeyed God even when it did not make sense. Then God said, “take your son, your only son, Isaac, and offer him up to me as a burnt offering.” Remember that? Genesis 22. And Abraham set out to do just that. God was testing Abraham to see if he really trusted Him. In time, Abraham even lifts up the knife to offer his son Isaac as an offering and God speaks to him from heaven and stops him. And God says, “Now I know that you fear God since you have not withheld your son, your only son to me.” Abraham’s actions indicated that He loved God more than anyone or anything and that He trusted God to fulfill His purposes and promises.
The writer tells us later in Hebrews chapter 11 that Abraham so trusted God that he believed that if for some reason God allowed him to follow through in sacrificing his son Isaac that He would then raise him from the dead. Such was Abraham’s trust in God’s Word.
Do you have that kind of trust in God’s Word? The writer says that we are to “imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises,” those like Abraham.
However difficult it may be for you right now,
Know that God will honor your faith in HIs Word,
Believing He will take care of you, fulfilling
His purposes and promises for you.
Even when it does not make sense –
Especially when things do not
Make sense! Keep on trusting Him.
And the main reason you can trust God is because of His character. He always does what is right. There is no higher authority, no person above Him who is worthy of greater trust. That is the author’s main point in verses 13 and following. He says in verse 13, “For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself.” You look up Genesis 22:16 later and you will read God saying, “By myself I have sworn…” There is no one higher than God. He swears by His own name because there is no other name greater than His own name.
Contrast this with the words of men recorded in verse 16, “For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute.” The writer is saying that unlike God men lie and so they will back up their word by appealing to a higher authority as if to say, “I’m telling you the truth! I swear upon the Bible, or upon my mother’s grave, or God as my witness.” Men are inveterate liars and so they seek to back up their word by appealing to a higher authority.
By the way, remember how Jesus was critical of those who backed up their word with oaths? He said, “Just let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no,’ (Matthew 5:37).” Christians should not have to add to their word. Just do what you say you will do.
Verse 17 says, “Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise(people like Christians)the immutability(the unchanging nature)of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath” God makes a promise and backs up His promise with an oath. So that, verse 18 declares, “That by two immutable things(an unchanging promise and an unchanging oath), in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.”
God is not like men in that He lies, so why is He swearing by Himself? Why the oath? Well, He swears by Himself, swearing by His name, not because His Word is inferior, but because our faith is inferior. It is not that His Word is weak, it’s that our faith is weak. That is what He says in the second half of verse 18. God does this so that “we might have strong consolation,” that we may be encouraged. That is why. He accommodates Himself to man’s way of reasoning.
To encourage Christians, those “who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.” The writer is saying that for God to “swear by Himself” is equal to saying, “My own word is good enough.”
Trust God’s Word. Your hope will hold if you trust in His Word – not your feelings, not your circumstances, but His Word. Secondly, your hope will hold . . .
If We Rest In God’s Work – Verses 19-20.
The writer takes us now to the work that God has done for us in Christ Jesus our Lord. Look at verse 19 which says, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil.” What a verse! He is talking about the stability of our hope – and remember this hope is a certainty, an absolute certainty, a confident expectation that God will fulfill all His promises and purposes in and through Jesus Christ. God’s work is what He has done for us in Christ Jesus. This hope, then, that God will do as He has said is “an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.” This hope we have in Christ is sure, secure, steadfast, unshakable, unassailable, and inviolable.
The writer describes Jesus as “the forerunner.” We see that in verse 20, “Where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” We will be learning more about Melchizedek in the weeks to come, but note now how the writer describes Jesus. He is the One who – verse 19 – has entered “behind the veil.” That is where Jesus is. He is not talking here about the earthly tabernacle or temple and the model of the holy of holies. He is talking about the real thing, the heavenly reality. Jesus is behind the veil in heaven, at the right hand of the Majesty on High, the very Presence of God Himself. That is where Jesus is as our Great High Priest, forever working on our behalf – the work of His atonement for our sin continually being applied to us.
That is where Jesus is. The word “forerunner” is a word used of the person who went ahead and did reconnaissance work, the person in the army who went first, went ahead, to make the way for others to come. That is what Jesus did for us. He went on a mission, living for us, dying for us, rising from the dead for us, and going behind the veil for us, the very presence of God, for us. And where He has gone on His recon work, we will follow Him there.
Jesus Christ has entered into the very Presence behind the veil. And every Christian, being anchored to Him, will follow Him there, inexorably drawn to Him because of our glorious union with Christ.
See how the anchor is such an encouraging symbol of hope? Every Christian is secure, stable, and steady. Like sailors battling harsh winds and strong currents, the anchor holds them firmly to the ocean floor so they do not come apart. And Christians battling the harsh winds of life and waves of trouble and tribulation – family struggles, marriage, job, school, sickness – no matter the winds, we are anchored firmly to Jesus Christ and therefore will not come apart.
There is an old gospel chorus by Henry L Gilmour. I wonder if you remember it? The Haven of Rest?
Sometimes Jesus takes us right into a storm, like He did with the disciples crossing lake. But never fear! He is the anchor of our soul! When you go through life’s storms and you drop this anchor, it’s an anchor that does not go down so much as it goes up! Upward to the Holy of Holies in heaven, upward to the Presence behind the veil! The anchor is attached to Jesus Christ. And where Jesus is, where Jesus has gone before you, so you will follow Him there. It is as though the anchor pulls you upward to the One who provides your stability and security. You can be sure your anchor will hold.
I’ve anchored my soul in the “Haven of Rest,”
I’ll sail the wide seas no more;
The tempest may sweep o’er the wild, stormy deep,
In Jesus I’m safe evermore.
I read about a little boy who was flying a kite. And the kite got so far up into the sky that you could no longer see the kite. Someone came by and said, “What are you doing?” He said, “I’m flying a kite.” “Well,” the man said, “Do you see a kite?” The boy said, “No.” The man said, “Well, I don’t either, so how do you know it’s there?” The boy said, “Sir, I cannot see the kite up there but I know it is there, because I can feel it pull!”
The greatest encouragement to you as a follower of Jesus Christ is to know that because He has gone on behind the veil, the very presence of God almighty, you are anchored to Him. He pulls you upward each and every day. And one day, you will be right there where He is. Your hope always holds, Christian, because the anchor always holds. Trust God’s Word. Rest in God’s Work.
Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. Verses 2 and 3 of this wonderful song and a real encouragement to us because of our union with Christ. Look at this wonderful truth:
Do you have this hope in Christ? Are you saved? Turn from your sin in repentance and turn to Jesus Christ as Savior. Trust Him to be all your hope and stay.
Are you living at a guilty distance from Jesus? Repent. Turn back to Him!
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”