"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 thus, 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, in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying 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" (Hebrews 4:14-5:96, NASB).
Divine commitments have the accent in Scripture! There are obligations imposed upon men, and there are promises offered to them. Some have chosen to emphasis the obligations, and, indeed, there are certain situations where this becomes necessary. However, the overall thrust of Scripture is what God has promised. It is a golden thread, inserted in Genesis 3:15, and woven throughout the sacred text until the last promise in Revelation 22:20. Of old time, Israel was admonished to recall what "the Lord hath promised" (Ex 12:25; Deut 1:11; 12:20; 26:18; Josh 23:10). The land given to Abraham is called "the land of promise" (Heb 11:9). In His exposition of the New Covenant--the great salvation that is in Christ Jesus--the Holy Spirit repeatedly refers to "the promise" (Lk 24:49; Acts 21:4; 2:33,39; 7:17; 13:32; 26:6; Rom 4:13,14,16,20; 9:8; Gal 3:14,17,19,22,29; 2 Tim 1:1; Heb 6:15; 9:15; 10:36; 11:39; 2 Pet 3:4; 1 John 2:25). Faith lays hold of Divine commitment--God's promise. Faith believes what God declares He has done or will do. Believing God involves infinitely more than believing you should obey Him--although that is an absolute indispensability. Jesus is "the Author of eternal salvation to them that obey Him" (Heb 5:9), and there will be no deviation from that principle. Obedience, however, comes from faith, which is convinced of the promise, and moves out upon it. The failure of men to obey the Gospel is expressly traced to the failure to believe God's report (Rom 10:16). It was when the people of Nineveh "believed God" that they repented (Jonah 3:5). We cannot make too much of the promises of God, particularly regarding eternal life, which is the ultimate promise--the summation of all Divine commitments. As it is written, "And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life" (1 John 2:25). The word "promise" places the accent on Divine initiative. The promise of God is not His response to an interrogation by the creature! Rather, it is an affirmation of our Father's "eternal purpose." Before we go further, permit me to share some of the great promises of God. If we are to be encouraged to believe the promises of God, we should familiarize ourselves with them. The conquering Offspring was promised in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:15). God promised Noah He would no more curse the ground with a flood (Gen 8:21- 22; 9:1-17). A promise of blessing was given to Abraham--a promise that translates into the New Covenant we enjoy (Gen 12:1-3. A promise of a reigning Monarch was given to David (2 Sam 7:12-13,28; 1 Kgs 2:24). A New Covenant was promised through Jeremiah (Jer 31:31-34). Were these promises to be removed from Scripture, it would become meaningless. God's dealings with men, His patience with the human race, and the execution of His will, all revolved around these promises. The interrelations of God with men all revolved around His commitments--His promises. If you read the Word of God without the promises dominant in your thinking, it will become to you a mere history book, or a manual of conduct. In either case, it will cease to work effectively in you.
The though of God making a promise to a mortal is staggering enough! When the magnitude of the promise is considered, it is challenging to both heart and mind. This is the commitment the Psalmist called "the holy promise," made to "Abraham His servant" (Psa 105:42). This promise is central to the understanding of Scripture and the "great salvation" heralded therein. It was nothing less than the promise of the New Covenant, to be ratified by the blood of Christ in order to the righteousness of Men (Rom 4:13- 16; Gal 3:16-18).
It is essential to note that our text does NOT say God made an agreement with Abraham. This was not something negotiated; it was a Divine commitment--a promise from Jehovah! God divulged His intentions to Abraham, detailing that a global blessing would proceed from him, proliferating throughout the world. "I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen 12:2-3). The Lord elaborated on this promise in Genesis 13:16. "And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered." Again, in Genesis 15:5. "And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee." Again, in Genesis 22:17-18. "That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice." In Genesis 26:4, the promise was reaffirmed to Isaac. "And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." In Genesis 35:11, it was reaffirmed to Jacob. "And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins." It is with a view to this promise that God is called "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (Ex 3:6,15,6; 4:5; Matt 22:32; Acts 3:13; 7:32). Though so little is made of this marvelous promise in our time, it remains an axis upon which spiritual understanding turns. Salvation by grace through faith is equated with "the promise" made to Abraham, who is "the father of us all" (Gal 4:16). The word from which "made a promise" is translated is evpaggeila,menoj. This is a strong word, indicated profound commitment, versus merely stating something. The very thought of God making a commitment to men is staggering! In Hebrews 10:23, men are represented as having made a commitment to God (a profession--from the same word evpaggeila,menoj). That appears to make more sense (i.e., man making a commitment to God rather than God making one to man ). But this is not to be viewed in the ordinary sense of making a commitment, or promise. It is not that man has sought something, and the Lord has committed to fulfill it. In this text, we have entered the citadel of Divine purpose. In the promise, God is making known a settled purpose, determined before the foundation of the world (2 Tim 1:9).
The promise was made without any provocation from men! Because of the faith of Abraham, which enabled him to receive the promise, God made it known to him. Mark this well, the promise was not something He negotiated with Abraham. It was not the result of a dialog with the patriarch. It is imperative that this aspect of the promise is seen if confidence is to be generated in the heart of the believer. All doubt proceeds from undue consideration of self, never from a consideration of God. If, therefore, believers are to become solid in the faith, they must hear about the promise from perspective of Divine intent rather than from the view of human need alone. The point is this text is brought home forcibly in the book of Galatians. "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one" (Gal 3:16-20). Notice the powerful argument that the Spirit places before us. Unlike the Law, The promise (or New Covenant) was not given through a mediator. Primarily, it was the announcement of what the Lord would do. It could be stated unequivocally, and without a mediator, because its fulfillment depended upon the coming Savior. God made the promise to Abraham, but it would be realized through Abraham's single Offspring, the Lord Jesus Christ. Abraham set the tone for all that would enjoy the benefits of the coming covenant by believing God. However, firmness of the covenant depended upon the Seed, not Abraham. Thus God grounds the promise in Deity, thereby providing faith something to grasp. The making of the New Covenant was unilateral one sided: i.e., "God is One." Participation in the covenant requires faith on the part of the recipient unwavering faith! The Holy Spirit is giving us a reason to believe God. He is showing us that no amount of human effort can equate to the promise of God. On the other hand, the unqualified belief of this promise will exert a moral force upon the heart and mind which the law could not produce. The Relation of the Promise to the New Covenant The Spirit elaborates on this promise in the book of Galatians, showing us that it was nothing less than an iteration of the New Covenant. "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: that upon the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Brethren, I speak after the manner of men: Though it be but a man's covenant, yet when it hath been confirmed, no one maketh it void, or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. Now this I say: A covenant confirmed beforehand by God, the law, which came four hundred and thirty years after, doth not disannul, so as to make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no more of promise: but God hath granted it to Abraham by promise" (Gal 3:13-18, ASV). In this text, "the promise" and "the covenant" are synonymous! Think of the grandeur of these references to what we have in Christ, or the "New Covenant." Those that insist upon thinking of the New Covenant as a set of rules do well to let these sayings sink down into their hearts. Here is how the Spirit speaks of the New Covenant. "The blessing of Abraham . . . the promise of the Spirit . . . a covenant confirmed beforehand . . . the promise . . . God granted it to Abraham by promise." As to its effects, the New Covenant is a blessing. As to its nature, it is a Divine commitment. Concerning its origin, it was first. From the standpoint of experience, it was "granted."
God is aggressive in His desire to make His determination known. More than requiring that Abraham believe Him, He earnestly desired for him to do so. Here is an aspect of God that is little known. Our text poignantly states, "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" (NIV). In his remarkably comprehensive prophecy, Zecharias, father of John the Baptist, also referred to the promise God swore. "Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, the oath that He swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days" (Luke 12:72-75, NRSV). The Genesis record also records Divine reference to taking the oath. "By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee . . . " (Gen 22:16-17). Moses also reminded Israel of this singular event. "Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, 'I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven . . . '" (Ex 32:13, NRSV). The Psalmist referred to the "oath" God swore to Isaac (Psa 105:9-10). Even Micah the prophet refers to this oath. "You will show faithfulness to Jacob and unswerving loyalty to Abraham, as you have sworn to our ancestors from the days of old" (Mic 7:10, NRSV). This is, then, a central consideration of Scripture, and is to be viewed with intent by every believer. Those that approach Scripture from a mere academic viewpoint cannot grasp the glory of this text. When hearing the word "oath," or "swore," their minds turn immediately our Lord's saying. "Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond" (Matt 5:33-37, NIV). Thus, some have concluded it is sinful to ever take an oath, or confirm something with an oath. A more thorough acquaintance with Scripture reveals that Abraham took oaths (Gen 14:22-23), and required one from his servant Eliezer (Gen 24:2-9). Isaac made an oath (Gen 26:26-31), and also Jacob (Gen 31:53). Joseph required an oath from the Israelites (Gen 50:25), and Rahab required an oath of the Israelite spies (Josh 2:12-24). Moses covenanted with Caleb by an attending oath (Josh 14:9). Others using oaths include Ruth (Ruth 1:17), Boaz (Ruth 3:13), Saul (1 Sam 19:6), Jonathan and David (1 Sam 20:3, 13-18), David to Bethsheba (1 Kgs 1:28-29), Solomon (1 Kgs 2:23), and Elisha (2 Kgs 2:2). Men that required oaths from others include Jehoida (2 Kgs 11:4), Ezra (Ezra 10:5,19), and Nehemiah (Neh 5:12-13). Our text even postulates the advantage of an oath: i.e., "Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument" (Heb 6:16, NIV). Repeatedly, the Lord God Himself is represented as taking an oath (Psa 89:35; 95:11; 132:11; Isa 14:24; 45:23; Jer 11:5; 22:5; 49:13; 51:14; Heb 3:11,18; 4:3; 7:21). The point of our Lord's words in Matthew 5, was that oaths were not to be entered frivolously. The Divine oath is for our benefit. Here we see the commitment of the Lord to His purpose. He will not be dissuaded from it. Of Christ, Who executed the requirements man could not meet, it is also said, "He shall not fail nor be discouraged . . . " (Isa 42:4). The knowledge of this unwavering commitment is intended to undergird the saints in their good fight of faith. Although some have been presumptuous, using the cursory knowledge of this commitment to excuse their own slothfulness, it is of incalculable aid to those that are pressing "toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil 3:14). Always, as our text states, men swore by someone that is greater; i.e., "As the Lord lives" (Judges 8:19; Ruth 3:13; 1 Sam 14:39,45; Jer 38:16). Because the Lord Himself is, without controversy, beyond all comparison, He swore by Himself. How frequently God says "As I live, saith the Lord," in Scripture! (Num 14:21; Isa 49:18; Jer 22:24; Ezek 5:11; 14:16,18,20; 16:48; 17:16; 18:3; 20:3,31,33; 33:11; 34:8; 35:6,11; Zeph 2:9; Rom 14:11). It is as though He said, "It would be easier for Me to die than to abandon my purpose." Keep in mind, God speaks in this manner in an appeal to our faith. He does now swear upon the basis of your ability, but upon the foundation of His Person! That is because your confidence must not rest upon your accomplishment, but upon the Person of your God! Ultimately, you will be saved because of Who God is, not what you have achieved! When it comes to the matter of your confidence--something indispensable to your salvation (Heb 3:6,14), God anchors you in Himself. He appeals to you upon the basis of His unswerving, unchangeable nature. If you can take hold of God (Isa 64:7), you shall have taken hold of life everlasting! That is God's purpose for taking an oath! He desires for us to know His commitment to our salvation. There is no question about what He will do if we will believe Him! Also, there is no question about what we will do if our faith is in the Lord! Just as surely as faith constrained the patriarchs to conduct their lives acceptably, so will it motivate you!
The blessing of this passage is a sweet elixir for life! If you will drink from this well, you will find satisfaction of soul, joy of heart, and strength of spirit. Hear the word of the Lord again: "I will surely bless you and multiply you" (Heb 6:14). Is there really a need for God to say, "Surely!" The carnal mind will reason that this is not necessary! God cannot lie, so should He affirm that He will "SURELY" do anything? It is not God that has the need, but those that are clinging to His Word! He speaks thus with us because He knows our frailties and proneness to doubt. He knows of the contrary "law" that is within us, pulling us toward evil when He draws us toward the blessing (Rom 7:21,23). His confirmed promise is not given because of moral weakness, but because of the "feeling of our infirmities" (Heb 4:15), as we fight to believe in an alienated and distracting world. When your heart is tempted to doubt, flee to the oath of God! "I will SURELY bless you!" He is intent upon bringing you to glory determined to bring you into your "desired haven" (Psa 107:30). You may look upon salvation as something obligatory, or you may view it as something God fervently desires for you. I can tell you that the latter has more motivating power than the former. God does not say, "As I live, saith the Lord, I will destroy you if you do not come to Me!" Now, rest assured, that is what will happen if you do not flee to Him for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before you. Were it not for Jesus, He would no doubt speak like that to us. But Jesus has satisfied Him, having "poured out His soul unto death," becoming "sin for us," and being "made a curse for us" (Isa 53:12; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 3:13). In was in the prospect of His Son's accomplishments that God spoke so confidently--not your achievement! Now God appeals to us differently than He did at Sinai. He has always wanted to bless humanity, but now a way has been made sure for Him to do so. A highway has been raised up in the desert because of the vicarious death of Christ, and men may get on that highway and go happily to the world to come (Isa 35:8). When faith cries out, "Lord I believe, help Thou mine unbelief" (Mark 9:24), God answers, "I will SURELY bless you!" How many times Abraham must have recalled these wonderful words! The recollection of them was required during the twenty-five years he waned for Isaac, the "child of promise" (Gal 4:28). Or, when Abraham took Isaac upon Mount Moriah, to offer him to God in fulfillment of the Divine commandment (Gen 22:1-10). Circumstances seemed to contradict the promise of God. Still, Abraham was "strong in faith, giving glory to God" (Rom 4:20). God had said He would "surely" bless him, and Abraham hung onto that promise! The firmness of the promise was conducive to strong faith. Child of God, it is no different for you!
Abraham did not earn the promise, he obtained, or received, it! It is written, "And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise" (v 15). To hear the promise of God is one thing. To obtain it is quite another matter. In the heavenly Kingdom, time stands between the promise and its realization--the test of time. Abraham stood that test. When conditions appeared to contradict the promise, Abraham chose to cleave to the promise with all of his heart. That required unspeakable effort. It was a fight of faith--a battle to cling to the promise while Satan tried to wrest it from the patriarch. And how God was glorified by the outcome! Hear the comforting testimony of the "father of us all." "(As it is written, 'A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU') in the sight of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. In hope against hope he believed, in order that he might become a father of many nations, according to that which had been spoken, 'SO SHALL YOUR DESCENDANTS BE.' And without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah's womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform. Therefore also IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Rom 4:15-22). The endurance here mentioned is persistence in believing God. Time, like a gigantic tidal wave smashed against the trust of the patriarch, attempting to push him away from Divine refuge. Abraham, however, took hold of the Word of God, and refused to let it go. How gloriously faith worked in the trusting one. "Without becoming weak in faith," he refused to ponder the fleshly inability of himself and Sarah. Without a written Word from God, and with few explanations or elaborations, Abraham was "fully assured that what" God "had promised, He was able also to perform." Candidly, Abraham puts the average churchman to shame. We live in a time when people glibly speak about being "angry with God," wondering whether He has forgotten them, and why difficult things happen to them. These are all expressions of unbelief. Such individuals are not "strong in faith," and consequently do not bring "glory to God." In my opinion, there is altogether too much sympathy with fleshly responses in professed believers. It is an intolerable situation. God is not honored by those that are weak in the faith--particularly when they have been given advantages in Christ that Abraham did not possess. These days, there is a lot of talk in some circles about praising God and bringing glory to Him. Such cultures, I fear, are not generally noted for the kind of faith Abraham possessed, which faith is the standard for the Kingdom, not the exception. An End of All Strife The point of our text is simply this: strong commitment on the part of the one making the promise should end all doubt and question. "For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute" (6:16). Even men are satisfied by a confirming oath. Legally, when an affidavit is presented, trust results. A firm commitment, or promise, to do what is promised is considered binding in civil gatherings. Where this does not exist, there has been a moral decline.
Now we come to the heart of the Lord in this matter. Not only does He desire that His children trust Him unreservedly, He is willing to give them abundant reason to do so. It is not that He is obligated to confirm His word to us. It is enough that He has spoken. However, because of our location in an alien world, the presence of our adversary the devil, and an inward law that promote unbelief, God is willing to show the "heirs" more! "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." The words "in the same way" refer to the ending of contention among men by giving an oath to secure the agreement. Here, man is mirroring God, and not vice versa. Notice, God "desires even more (than mere mortals confirming a covenant) to certify the firmness of eternal counsel. God is not fickle, nor does He speak tritely about blessing. He knows His purpose is sure-- He wants us to know it. He longs for us to see the unchangeableness of His purpose in Christ Jesus. Having created us in His own image, He knows that our persuasion of His faithfulness will produce unwavering faith. He has extended Himself toward us, knowing that we will reciprocate when faith takes hold of His Word. God Himself is the most powerful constraint for both faith and obedience. The Lord did not reason with Abraham on the need for a deliverer. Nor, indeed, did He appeal to the honor that would be associated with him being the father of a miracle offspring. It is imperative that the church learns from the experience of our father Abraham. They are to offer the Lord Himself, with His purpose and promises, to motivate the people to keep the faith. Too often this is preached from Sinai, with an emphasis upon human obligation rather than upon Divine commitment. In a salient presentation of Divine means, the Spirit states the case marvelously through Peter. "According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2 Pet 1:3-4). It is through the apprehension of the promises of God that men are conformed to the image of His Son. While the commandments of God provide us with a moral image of God, the promises of God confront us with His intent, or purpose. That purpose more precisely acquaints is with the Lord.
Something "immutable" is abiding, constant, and unalterable. The commitment of the Lord to our salvation is seen in its support by TWO things that cannot change--things in which it is "impossible for God to lie." These "immutable things" are God's "promise" and His "oath." It is not simply that God WILL NOT lie. He CANNOT lie! He cannot misrepresent the case, exaggerate, or understate--He CANNOT! His Divine nature will not allow Him to lie, and He has no inclination to do so. No one who believes God will be disappointed (Rom 9:33; 10:11; 1 Pet 2:6, NASB). In establishing justice, the Law of the Lord required two witnesses. "On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness . . . One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established" (Deut 17:6; 19:15). This law was regarding the conviction of a sinner! In the Abrahamic promise, God applies His own law to Himself. It is not to avoid injustice, or suppress an abuse of the law. Instead, it is to convince the believer of the sureness of the blessing. I am reminded of our father Jacob, who placed the priority upon the blessing of God. Later in his life, Jacob prepared to confront Esau, whose birthright he had obtained. He was apprehensive about the confrontation, deciding to send his family across the brook Jabbok in interest of their safety. The Word of God then says, "Then Jacob was left alone." In an unparalleled test of his faith, a heavenly visitor engaged the patriarch. It is written, "a man wrestled with him until daybreak." We know from the events that followed this was not just another man. Remarkably, the visitor did not prevail against Jacob, surely holding his powers in check. He then dislocated the socket of Jacob's thigh with a touch. Still, Jacob wrestled this heavenly messenger. Finally, as day began to break, the veiled message spoke to Jacob. "Let me go, for the dawn is breaking." It is then that the faith of the patriarch surfaced. He saw the superiority of the blessing. "I will not let you go unless you bless me," he said. That is enduring to the end! It is holding on when the thigh is out of joint, and night has waxed long! Jacob did receive the blessing, and that very night his name was changed to "Israel," because he "prevailed" (Gen 32:24-32). Someone has said, "The main thing is to get a blessing!" Little wonder God confirmed the promise to bless with two immutable things!
The Divine objective is stated. Here is why God confirmed the promise with an oath. It was not for Abraham's sake alone! He had us in mind when He buttressed His promise with an oath. It was in order that "we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us" (v 18b). The NASB translates it "strong encouragement," while the NIV says "be greatly encouraged." Why was such a high priority placed upon our consolation or encouragement? The life of faith requires encouragement and encouragement. The path to glory is too difficult and long to be traversed in a state of discouragement. Those that are running the race that is set before them (Heb 12:2) know the debilitating effects of discouragement. It is elementary, but so true: "Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad" (Prov 12:25). Little wonder we read, "Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace" (2 Thess 2:16). These gracious gifts are not luxuries, but necessities. An abundance of encouragement requires attentiveness to the promises of God! The Lord Jesus Himself is called "the CONSOLATION of Israel" (Luke 2:25). God is known as One "who gives perseverance and encouragement" (Rom 15:5, NASB). Because of the nature of our situation in the world, Christ ministers consolation or comfort in copious quantities (2 Cor 1:5). What a tragedy that so many believers attend gatherings where spiritual discouragement is experienced, rather than encouragement ministered. The setbacks stimulated by such deficient assemblies will be fully known only at the judgment seat of Christ! Building up the saints, and encouraging them in the faith, has top priority in the Kingdom of God. No work takes precedence over this one. The reason for the demand ought to be obvious. The spiritual warfare into which faith has ushered us requires a high level of encouragement. God confirmed His promise with an oath in recognition of this.
The objective of the "strong consolation" is that we might fully appropriate the "hope" that "we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us." "The hope" is the OBJECT of the hope that dominates our hearts. This is the "hope of His calling," concerning which Paul prayed in Ephesians 1:18-20. It is the inheritance to which we have been called, which is "reserved for us in heaven" (1 Pet 1:4). In Christ we are called TO something that transcends anything every conceived in the hearts of men! The grandest aspirations of humanity have not touched the magnitude of this hope. As it is written, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (1 Cor 2:9; Isa 64:4). We have not simply been called out of debilitating bondage to sin. We have been called into glorious liberty. And still, that is not all. We have also been called to "inherit a blessing"--one that is eternal (1 Pet 3:9). Fled for Refuge There is a note of urgency in these words that is not common in churchdom. In many services I have attended, I do not detect a sense of urgency in coming to Christ. It does not appear that the people are fleeing from something to Christ. Rather, there appears to be a blanket of carnal complacency seems to cover the congregation. There is too often a prevailing casualness that contradicts the nature of living by faith. A sense of the jeopardy that exists outside of Christ has apparently been obscured by commitment to having a good time, any enjoying the not an appropriate response to the Gospel of Christ! The Gospel alerts the sinner to the serousness of his condition. Apart from Christ, the individual is altogether "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph 2:1). The "prince of the power of the air," the devil himself, is working in them, and they are "condemned already" (Eph 2:2; John 3:18). Such are "children of wrath," appropriately described as "having no hope, and without God in the world" (Eph 2:3,12). Such are not merely people without access to Divine assistance, they are actually on the broad road leading to destruction, with not a shred of hope. Satan works in them at will rapidly advancing to the day of judgment, in which they will be "punished with everlasting destruction from the face of the Lord and the glory of His power" (2 Thess 1:9). Those that give ear to the Gospel of Christ will begin to sense this dreadful situation. The Gospel, of course, announces a way of escape from this downward moral and spiritual spiral. There is an allusion here to the cities of refuge established under the Law. Six of these cities were established, three on the other side of the Jordan, and three in Canaan (Num 35:11-14). These cities were established as a "refuge" for "a place society of peers. However, this is of refuge for Israelites, aliens and any other people living among them, so that anyone who has killed another accidentally can flee there" (Num 35:15, NIV). Under the Law, the blood of the innocent was avenged by another. This was done quickly, when the killer was confronted (Num 35:19). The justice was exacted so swiftly, in fact, that one who had accidentally killed someone was in jeopardy. In mercy, the Lord provided six cities, spaced appropriately, for a refuge to those who inadvertently caused the death of another. With an absence of lengthy dialog and "due process of law," as we know it, such people "fled," running swiftly, to the closest "city of refuge." They were safe there until the time came to "stand before the congregation in judgment" (Num 35:12). What is more, the seemingly innocent person was himself responsible for getting to the nearest "city of refuge." Protection was not available until he got inside one of the six cities established for refuge. A person in the condition described was foolish to procrastinate, lingering outside a city of refuge in hope that everything would turn out all right. How appropriate is the figure! Jesus described those remaining in unbelief as those upon whom the wrath of God is abiding. "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him" (John 3:36, NIV). Sinners are living in a condemned world that is "reserved" for "fire" (2 Pet 3:7). However lovely this world may appear, it is the domain of the wicked one, Satan, who is its "prince" (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Outside of Christ, individuals not only live in a body condemned to death, they are dominated by spiritual death, existing in a state of alienation from God. Their natures are actually hostile toward God, Who has revealed He will cast them from His presence unless they avail themselves of His "great salvation." Those that perceive the situation "flee" from their wretched condition and environment to take hold on the good hope the Gospel sets before them! They flee from the world like Israel did from Egypt! This is a day when men speak of SEEKER SERVICES. Understand, this is a purely human innovation, however noble it may appear. I certainly will not demean any godly efforts to reach those with a seeking heart. However, in view of the times, I would like to see more FLEEING services! The Gospel is more suited to a fleeing posture than one of casual seeking! The reason for fleeing is plain: it is to "lay hold upon the hope set before us." Hope, as you must know, is a prominent aspect of spiritual life. The Spirit affirms we are "save by hope" (Rom 8:25), i.e., saved in the sanctifying sense. We engage in the good fight of faith, working out our own salvation with fear and trembling, in the hope of glory. Glory that is beyond this world, outside of the domain of sense and time, has allured us! We have left this world to appropriate the one to come. The grace of God instructs us effectively in the requirements for obtaining that hope. "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ" (Tit 2:11-13). The words "looking for that blessed hope" parallel those of our text, "to lay hold upon the hope set before us." This is why we have left the world, repudiated our former lives, and declared war on sin! Believers have not fled to Christ only to gain a better life here. The resolution of earthly problems is not sufficient incentive to gain the prize of life eternal! If the individual is going to live a consistent life in Christ, blessings for the day will not provide the needed impetus. In this world, some of our days are characterized by trouble, distress, perplexity, persecution, and being cast down. As it is written, "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed" (2 Cor 4:8-9). If you imagine that the awareness of daily benefits is adequate to the challenges of life, you must think again! We are not saved by daily blessings, but by hope! Salvation, in its ultimate sense, is not accomplished by deliverances in this world, but by hope. The sanctified life cannot be achieved by majoring on our experiences in this world. It takes hope to save the soul! It is the Object of our hope that we seek to appropriate when we flee to Christ. Ultimately, our rejoicing is "in hope of the glory of God" (Rom 5:2). That "hope" is not confined to this world, for "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable" (1 Cor 15:19). Let no one suppose this is will allow us to despise the daily blessings of the Lord. God forbid! Walking in the Spirit and living by faith brings to the soul most precious things now, in this world. What I am saying is simply this: faith must reach forward into eternity for the consummate victory to be realized. Our "daily bread," for both body and soul, are confirmations that God is for us. Our answered prayers, joy, and peace attest to the effectiveness of Christ's vicarious sacrifice. But we have not "fled" to Christ simply to enjoy these things. It is the world to come that we seek. The inheritance reserved for us in heaven has captured our attention, and that is what we want! Coming to Christ for any other dominating reason will not be sufficient to sustain the soul in the good fight of faith! INSIDE THE VEIL If you imagine that the awareness of daily benefits is adequate to the challenges of life, you must think again! We are not saved by daily blessings, but by hope! Salvation, in its ultimate sense, is not accomplished by deliverances in this world, but by hope. The sanctified life cannot be achieved by majoring on our experiences in this world. It takes hope to save the soul!Believers are to be specialists in unseen things. That is where their focus is to found (2 Cor 4:17-18). The faithful servant Moses, "endured as seeing Him that is invisible" (Heb 11:27). Speaking of hope, our text says it "entereth into that within the veil; whither the forerunner is for us entered" (Heb 6:19-20). Hope is an anchor that is cast upward instead of downward, as with ships in the seas of earth. This is another way of saying spiritual life is maintained by heavenly associations. Living in an awareness of heaven is not simply a higher level of spiritual life it is the ONLY way to live in the Spirit. Those that attempt to live without a dominating awareness of heavenly realms are destined to fall. They cannot survive the assaults of the evil one, or accept the challenges of faith. If it were possible to please God without the dominating awareness of which our text speaks, our anchor would not be cast into the heavenly sanctuary. The purpose of an anchor is to prevent shipwreck, or drifting out to sea. If "hope" is an anchor, "both steadfast and sure," it is what keeps the soul from being dashed upon the rocks of futility. It also prevents the individual from drifting into forbidden areas, away from the haven into which the Gospel has called us. All of that is fine enough to say, but the implications of these words are most arresting. Remember, "hope" speaks of a strong confidence. It is faith in it's forward posture. It produces a rejoicing in the heart that is not possible through any other means (Rom 12:12; Heb 3:6). The "hope of salvation" is the "helmet" that protects our minds, enabling us to survive the "fiery darts" that are hurled at us by the devil (1 Thess 5:8; Eph 6:18). If these things are true, how can souls hope to survive if there is doubt concerning their place in glory? If a strong confidence is not resident in the heart, how will the attacks of Satan be repelled? How will discouragement and other normalities associated with life in the body be overcome? The Spirit reminded the Hebrew believers of the powerful effect of hope upon them in their initial life with Christ. "For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance" (Heb 10:34). Those that are not sure of a "better and an enduring substance" in heaven, are not apt to take "joyfully the spoiling," or plundering of their earthly possessions. In my perception, the greatest deficiency of the modern church is its lack of a dominating hope. There is very little "full assurance," "confidence," or "rejoicing of the hope." In some circles, it is virtually unknown. What is more, the average fare that is being served up to the people of God is not conducive to the development of a strong hope, or the full assurance of faith. If this assessment is true, we have a most serious situation before us. People are being made vulnerable by their exposure to religion. Heaven is not becoming clearer to them, and earth is being accentuated. Less and less time is being spent feeding the soul and nourishing the sheep. More and more time is devoted to entertainment-like presentations and expressions that are more emotional, or soulish, than spiritual. People in this situation are not fleeing to lay hold on the hope, because they are not all that convinced it is for them. May the Lord raise up laborers for His harvest. How sorely they are needed!
The "Forerunner" is the Lord Jesus Christ. The fact that He is a Runner at all is most remarkable! It is a sign of His humiliation--that He submitted to run the same course through which we must navigate. Right here, we strike at the heart of our faith. Jesus did leave us an example, but that was not His chief mission. In fact, the Scriptural representation of His example was that it was how to SUFFER. As it is written, "If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God's approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps" (1 Pet 2:20-21, NRSV). Our text reveals the ultimate reason for Christ's race. It was the CONCLUSION of the race that was the point, not the race itself. In His worst suffering, the accent was upon "the joy set before Him"--that is what kept Him going (Heb 12:2). The "Forerunner" is the One that has completed the appointed course and reached the determined goal. In the case of unbelieving Israel, the twelve spies sent into the promised land were forerunners. They were spying out the land in the interest of the great congregation. In our case, the Lord Jesus is the Forerunner. He has entered the haven in our behalf, and is summoning us to "come to" Him! Were it not for "the children" (Heb 2:13-14), the Son of God would never have been a Forerunner. It is "for us" that He entered the presence of the Lord as "the Man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim 2:5). His death for us was vicarious--substitutionary! His entrance within the veil is FOR us while we are in this world. It will be WITH us in the world to come. The point of our text is that an ultimate full union will be accomplished between the Forerunner and the runners, the Savior and the saved! Jesus is anticipating the gathering, and hope enables us to anticipate it also. When we are fervently and expectantly anticipating being with the Lord, it has a stabilizing effect upon the soul--like an anchor. It keeps us from drifting away from His Word (Heb 2:1). Our souls will not be carried away with the "fashion of this world," which is passing away (1 Cor 7:19). How glorious is the soul's anchor!
The power of the promises is seen in the faithfulness of the One Who has made them. "He is faithful that promised" (Heb 10:23). Sarah received strength to bear the child of promise "because she judged him faithful who had promised" (Heb 11:11). And what of you, child of God? Is it not true, there is no reason not to trust your Lord? Is not the One that made the promise faithful to fulfill it? Like your father Abraham, you can be "fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised" (Rom 4:21, NIV). In its essence, that is what "hope" is being convinced of the reality of the promise of God, and living in accord with that persuasion. God has extended Himself to convince you of His determination to save those in the Son. He has not only promised, but has undergirded His promise with an oath. He knows that pondering those two immutable things will propel us into the life of faith, and ready us to joyfully meet Him. If He is "willing to show" the heirs the unchangeable nature of His counsel, how will men stand before Him if they insist on living in doubt and unbelief? Does not His willingness confirm His dedication to our salvation? Your consolation can be "strong," able to hold you up during assaults Satan is allowed to level at you. You can be "filled with all joy and peace in believing," and "abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit" (Rom 15:13). Now, be strong and of good courage! He that is in you is greater than he that is in the world (1 John 5:4-5).