As we begin this Twelfth Lesson on Hebrews, it's important to note that our passage today will be impossible to understand unless we learn the Old Testament context that the Author is referencing.
God and Abraham are participating in a traditional Ancient Near-Eastern Covenant ceremony.
A covenant is an official promise. This is 1 of 7 times that God makes a promise to Abraham. God wants Abraham to have confidence in his promise. The last time that God promises to Abraham, he takes it even a step farther.
God not only promises, He makes an oath!
This oath was meant to give Abraham the utmost confidence in God’s promise. This was supposed to be God’s guarantee.
So, what is the difference of an oath and a promise?
Here are some definitions:
When you say, “I promise” you are trying to give assurance based off your power and character. Basically, you are saying, “Trust me. I don’t want my name to be shamed, so I will do what I promised.”
When you swear an oath you are giving assurance based off of a higher power and character. Whoever, or whatever you swear by has more power or trustworthiness than you.
Basically, you are saying, “Trust me. I don’t want to dishonor or anger this person who has power over me, so, I will do what I promised.”
I am originally from Kentucky. I think it is a beautiful and fine place to live.
Imagine that I was trying to borrow your car from the afternoon. I promise to take good care of it and return it in good condition. If my promise didn’t convince you, maybe an oath might?
What if I swore by my honor as a Kentuckian? That probably still wouldn’t convince you. What if I swore by the honor of the eternal, all-powerful, all knowing, God of the universe whom I love and have devoted my life to?
Maybe that would convince you. That is an oath that would carry some weight.
God, in order to give Abraham confidence, made several promises and then an oath.
So, how can God make an oath? What is greater or higher than God?
There is nothing Greater than God, so when God swears by Himself, He is giving the most assured promise possible.
God promises rest to His chosen people. He makes the greatest promise possible by swearing by Himself. How can Abraham and the Israelites know that they will inherit His rest?
Because, based off of God’s power and honor, He would make it happen.
We see from the record of scripture that God keeps His promises. Today there are over 14 million Jewish people. However, In Genesis 22 we read that God planned to bless all the nations through Abraham’s obedience. Consider how many more Billions are and have been his spiritual descendants.
So who are the heirs of God’s promise? Who will inherit God’s promised rest?
Galatians 3:28-29 tells us,
All Christians are, in a way, children of Father Abraham.
We are His more newly adopted children, those who have placed their faith in Jesus, and surrendered to Christ’s Lordship. God’s oath to Abraham continues to bless believers today.
God’s promises are so powerful and assured that they are unconditional. It's impossible for God to lie or change. James 1:17 tells us that “there is no variation or shadow due to change,” in God’s character.
We can have strong encouragement to anticipate God’s eternal rest in heaven because we are the heirs of His unshakable promise.
God’s steadfast character is so good and solid that we can have an anchor for our souls. Knowing that God’s promises will never fail, we can have a hope that steadies our souls even through the most terrible storms of this life.
That hope allows us to draw close to the presence of God, into the most Holy of Holies with Jesus Christ as our great high priest, our eternal intercessor.
So, knowing this,
Horatio Spafford was an America lawyer and business man who lived in the late 19th century. However, Spafford is more famously known for writing the Hymn “It is Well with My Soul”.
The Great Chicago fire of 1871 decimated Spafford’s financial security by destroying most of his investment. Shortly after, Spafford planned a move to Europe. He sent his family ahead of him on a ship, while he stayed behind to finish up some last minute business.
A tragedy occurred. The ship carrying Spaffords wife and 4 daughters was struck by another vessel and rapidly suck. Of his family, only his wife survived.
It was as Spafford's ship passed the location of his daughter’s deaths that he wrote these words:
Only with a steadfast anchor of the soul could a man experience such immense tragedy and still have peace, love, and hope. So, let us rely on our steadfast anchor of the soul. No matter the storms we know the promises of God, we know the hope that we have in this life.
How can we vocalize the hope that Christ has given us? Here are just a few of God’s promises to His children.
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:14
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1,2
What then shall
we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own
Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give
us all things? Who shall
bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ
Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right
hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall
tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger,
or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39
These incredible, unshakable promises are our hope in this life until we come face to face with God. But, we must remember, these are only promises for those who are saved by Christ.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 5:10
When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. Luke 13:25-28
Jesus Christ’s righteousness covering us is the only way that we can face the judgment of God and be found innocent.
If you would place your faith in Jesus, and dedicate your life to Him, and then obediently submit to His Lordship, you can be saved from the Judgment we will all face one day.