Hebrews 6:18 says we can "have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us." You might immediately think of a hope or a dream. As the author tells of Abraham and how he clung to God's promise, you might find the strength to hold onto promises you think God has personally made to you.
The author, though, isn't trying to connect you to your dreams, but God's. He wants you to know the promise God made Abraham is one Christians are recipients of today. We are meant to believe the promise Abraham believed. If we understand the promise God made to him, we will have an anchor for our lives today.
So what was the promise God made Abraham?
1. God Made a Promise (6:13-14)
For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, "Surely I will bless you and multiply you." (Hebrews 6:13-14)
God chose Abraham, who lived in the aftermath of the Noahic flood. God looked for someone to give and fulfill his purposes through. He had planned to redeem humanity, so he searched for the family line through whom his Son would come. One day, God set his sights on Abraham.
Initially, God promised Abraham that all the families of the earth would be blessed in him (Genesis 12:2-3). Later, God reaffirmed his promise, telling Abraham his descendants would be as numerous as the stars (Genesis 15:5). After years without any children, Isaac was born, hardly a multitude. When an adult, God spoke to Abraham again, "I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice" (Genesis 22:17-18). It was this third promise Hebrews drew from when quoting God: "Surely I will bless you and multiply you."
So what was God's promise to Abraham? In short, that he would have many descendants, and that his offspring would bless all nations. Years later, Jesus Christ descended from Abraham as a fulfillment of God's plan to bless the nations through his offspring. Paul's commentary on God's promises to Abraham was simple. He said, "It does not say, 'And to offsprings,' referring to many, but referring to one, 'And to your offspring,' who is Christ" (Galatians 3:16). And when Jesus, the offspring of Abraham, came, he brought with him a kingdom without end.
Daniel had heard that God would "set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever" (Daniel 2:44). That forever kingdom belongs to Christ. He shall reign forever and ever (Revelation 11:15).
So God's promise to Abraham is the promise of a King with a forever kingdom, a savior whose blood would bless people of any nationality. In a sense, the promise had to do with a new heaven and earth, the making new of all things. This promise to Abraham is the promise Christians cling to today.
2. God's Promise Is Worth Waiting For (15)
"And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise." (Hebrews 6:15)
So believers are part of the promise God made to Abraham. He looked forward to Christ. Since his crucifixion occurred 2,000 years ago, we look back on Christ. But, because we anticipate his return, we also look forward. We wait like Abraham waited, believing and trusting God. One day Christ and his glorious kingdom will become visible and known. One day the joys and gladnesses of his kingdom will be ours.
Believers would do well to consider how Abraham waited for the promise of God to unfold in his life. We are called to patiently endure just like Abraham. Rather than turn to the world to fulfill all our appetites today, we hope in God who aids us as we wait for the fulfillment of his promise. As we wait, Abraham becomes a teacher for us on how to do it well.
First, Abraham waited by faith. Genesis recorded, "And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness" (Genesis 15:6). Abraham heard the promise of God, a grande promise indeed, and believed God would do it. He thought the God of Scripture would keep his word. The Christian life is like this, a life of faith. It begins with faith, which leads to justification, but it continues in faith. The just shall live by faith (Romans 1:17). Every heartbeat must be conjoined with faith, "for we live by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7). The Christian life is one of trust in the God whom, though he has given us ample evidence of himself, his word, and his gospel, we cannot see.
Second, Abraham waited with lapses of faith. There were moments he buckled in fear before foreign powers and kings. At other moments, he took matters into his own hands. His most significant lapse of faith came when he impregnated his servant, Hagar, in an attempt to get God's promise going. God had promised him descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky, after all, and he and Sarah had not had any children. As they aged, his trust in God's promise waned, and he began to think he was needed to jumpstart God's promise. It was a lapse of faith for the icon of faith. The Christian life, though lived by faith, will inevitably include moments where our faith is not as strong as it ought to be.
For A Long Time
Third, Abraham waited for a long time. When he and Sarah finally had a son, Abraham was 100-years old, 25-years after the initial promise. They named the boy Isaac, and Isaac did not have children until he was 62-years old, which means Abraham had to wait for 87-years from the time of the promise to the birth of his first grandchild. Another 15-years ticked by before he died. Abraham waited and endured for the promise God had made to him.
The Christian life, a life of waiting, sometimes includes long waits for the fulfillment of God's promises. The early church, correctly I think, thought Christ could return at any moment. Still, here we are, two thousand years later, still awaiting the full manifestation of Jesus' kingdom. And in our own lives, we wait as God performs his perfect work. My apologies if you were taught there was no waiting in Christianity. It isn't true.
While Others Prospered
Fourth, Abraham waited while others prospered. When Isaac was full grown, God tested Abraham's faith on Mount Moriah (Genesis 22). After passing God's test, God reaffirmed his promise to Abraham, telling him his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and sand on the seashore. Still, at that moment, all Abraham had was Isaac. Then, immediately after hearing God's promise afresh, a messenger came to Abraham. They brought news about Abraham's long-lost brother, Nahor. The report was simple: Nahor has had twelves sons!
The timing could not have been more perfect. Right at the moment of the promise, Abraham had to witness someone else who didn't have to wait. The world will say to every Christian: You can have it now! You don't have to wait! The promise is here! But believers must know better, for the Christian life requires waiting while others prosper.
3. God's Promise Is Guaranteed (16-17)
"For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. 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..." (Hebrews 6:16-17)
Various societies produce ways in which the people within them can make meaningful agreements. Oaths, contracts, witnesses, signatures, court systems -- all are designed to create a way to make promises and commitments. You cannot buy a car or a house on credit without signing contracts. An oath accompanies your promise to pay. Here, Hebrews tell us, God also made an oath to confirm his promise. He wanted to "show more convincingly" that his promise would never change, that his plan would unfold, so he made an oath.
But what is God's oath of guarantee? God made the promise to us, but how did he confirm it? What oath did he make?
By His Word
First, God confirmed his promise with the oath of his word. Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished" (Matthew 5:18, NIV). Though Scripture was written by a variety of authors over 2,000 years, it tells one story in a beautifully harmonious way. Its integrity is also attested to by specific and detailed fulfilled prophecies, along with the oft-overlooked internal witness many report when interacting with the word.
By the Gospel
Second, God confirmed his promise with the gospel message. The blood of his only begotten Son was a high price to pay for humanity. If Jesus came once and paid such a dear price to secure a people, we can rest assured he will keep his promise and come again as the Lord of the nations. The resurrection account is one of the most easily verifiable facts of human history, making the gospel message itself a strong way God has confirmed his oath towards us.
By His Spirit
Third, God confirmed his promise with the indwelling presence of his Spirit in every believer. When one becomes a Christian, they are born again, born of the Spirit (John 3). Paul described this deposit of the Holy Spirit as God putting "his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come" (2 Corinthians 1:22, 5:5). The Spirit, he wrote, "is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession -- to the praise of his glory" (Ephesians 1:14). The presence of God's Spirit, it seems, is the principal way God guaranteed he would keep his promise. He made a down payment. The Spirit is a foretaste of the future kingdom, but also a guarantee he will bring us into the kingdom.
So God's promise is guaranteed. It will come to pass. It is not a pointless hope or faith, a ridiculous waiting. God's kingdom will come.
4. We Should Hold Fast to God's Promise (18)
"So that by two unchangeable things, in which it is 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 6:18)
God's promise is guaranteed. Two unchangeable things confirm it. His oath (the word, the cross, and the Spirit), but also his nature. He cannot lie. Some things he cannot do, and one of them is to violate his nature; therefore he cannot lie. What God promises must occur. Jesus said, "I am going to my Father's house to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:2-3). His promise will come to pass.
In light of God's oath and nature, those who have fled for refuge in Christ should become strongly encouraged to do something specific. We should have a total boldness to "hold fast to the hope set before us." In the face of life's discouragements, we should, in connection to the promise of God, have bold and confident feelings about God's future for us. There ought to exist, in the face of trials, sicknesses, arguments against God, temptations, and personal weaknesses, hope in his promise. His kingdom will come, and as we wait for it, we must do so with boldness.
Look, life is not easy for anyone. Hardships abound. But the believer has a reason for confidence and hope. We know this life is not all there is. We know God is making all things new. We know he is uniting all things to himself (Ephesians 1:10). We know he will bring his kingdom, his new heavens and earth, to his people.
5. God's Promise Should Anchor Our Lives Today (19-20)
"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)
The author of Hebrews wanted to get back to his intended subject: the high priestly work of Jesus today. But, before he could detail it, he felt compelled to rebuke and realign his audience. They needed to keep going in and with Christ. So do we, and for this continuation with Jesus, we have an anchor for our souls. Our anchor is sure and steadfast. The anchor, in the author's mind, is God's promise, first to Abraham, and now to us.
Though only used as an emblem for hope once in Scripture, anchors were common figures of hope in the ancient world. And anchors are necessary for stormy seas in life. Divorce, trauma, ministry disappointments, disease, and fatigue are all endured more effectively when we are connected to the great anchor we have in God's promise. This life and kingdom are not all there is! Death does not win! In considering the way an anchor works, my friend David Guzik has a few keen insights.
Anchors are helpful only when unseen. On the deck of the boat, the anchor does not serve to steady the vessel. But when cast into the sea, beyond what the passengers can see, the anchor steadies the ship. Our promise and our Lord, though unseen, are in the perfect place to steady our lives today. In fact, it is only because Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father we have such a steadying influence. Only when he went up did his Spirit come down.
Anchors keep one from drifting. It is not toughness or willpower that makes a Christian endure and last. Instead, it is a deep and vital connection to the promise of God. Hope in his future kingdom and promises enable a believer to steadfastly follow Christ.
Anchors normally go down, but our anchor goes up. For this reason, it says "enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf." This means that our Lord has gone into the real throne room of God in heaven, rather than a temple replica here on earth. He went as our forerunner, the first to go so that we could go.
Abraham was an anchored man who endured because he believed God's promise for his life. He was able to put his hope on all God said would occur, and believers today strive for the same faith and fortitude. Fears and worries and stresses and pains are sure to come. Life is filled with these maladies, but perhaps they should point us up, behind the veil, into God's throne room, connecting us to God's promise and kingdom.
Like scarecrows are intended by the farmer to cause birds fear, these pains of life often produce fright in us. But, consider, a wise crow would know the presence of a scarecrow must mean something good is in that field. Perhaps our frights and fears and trials are all pointing us to something rich, right, true, and better. Perhaps it is God's promise we must put our hope and attention upon.