************ Sermon on Hebrews 6:19 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on April 17, 2016

Hebrews 6:13-20
Hebrews 6:19
"The Anchor of our Soul"

One of the things I discuss in pre-marital counseling is circuit jammers that prevent or destroy communication. These are things you should never say to your spouse; in fact, you should never say them to anyone:
-You never do a good job at anything you do.
-I always do what I set my mind to do.
-You never care about what I think.
-You are never satisfied.
-It is always your fault.
-I always have to tell you this again and again.

What is wrong with these statements? What is wrong is that they make absolute claims. Words like "never" and "always" do not apply to us humans. They cannot apply to us humans. Why not? Because none of us are consistently the same day-after-day and week-after-week. I say that because people and circumstances change. We are not static in our convictions, opinions, character, likes, dislikes, tastes, and so on. For instance, our David hated peas as a young boy. Hate is not near strong enough of a word. Detest might be a better word. But he is able to eat peas today. Alexander, like his father, hated peas as a baby; I won't say he loves them now but he is willing to eat them. I didn't care for basketball in highschool but I enjoyed watching the basketball games when I attended Calvin; now I dislike basketball again. People change. That's why words like "never" and "always" don't fit us.

We were talking about election in Pastor's Class. I asked if there were any questions. There were lots of questions: "How can we be sure?" "How do I know if I am elect?" "How do I know I am saved?"

The Hebrew Christians were asking similar questions. Some of their number had forsaken the Gospel and were judged to be apostate. Others were backsliding. Needless to say, those who remained in the church were full of doubts about their own salvation. They wondered if they would also forsake the Gospel. They wondered if they would also become apostate. They wondered if they were backsliding. They wanted to know how they could be sure of better things to come.

Here is the answer: because God never changes. Because words like "never" and "always" apply to God. Because God is always the same. The theological word we use for this is immutable. God is immutable. This means God cannot and does not change. God is always eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, infinite, almighty, completely wise, just, good, and the overflowing source of all good. Whoever and whatever God is, He always is. Whoever and whatever God isn't, He always isn't. It is because of this that we can be sure. It is because of this that we can have hope.

The message of our Bible reading from Hebrews is that God never changes. God is always the same. Therefore, ours is an unshakable hope and confidence.

I God's Promises Never Change
A We first see that God's promises never change. As proof of this, Hebrews directs our attention to Abraham:
(Heb 6:13-15) When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, (14) saying, "I will surely bless you and give you many descendants." (15) And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.

Quoting from Genesis 22, Hebrews reminds us that God's promise to Abraham was many descendants. More specifically, God's promise to Abraham was to make his descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore (Gen 22:16-17).

There was one problem when God made the promise: Abraham had no children. His original name "Abram" means "exalted father." Yet, at the age of 75 he had no children. Twenty-four years later God changed his name to "Abraham" which means "father of many nations." And he still had no children!

Abraham was childless at the age of 99. Yet, Abraham had hope and faith in God and His promises of many descendants. According to Romans, "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed ..." (Rom 4:18).

God proved faithful. When Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 years old (Gen 17:17), God blessed them with the birth of Isaac. After the death of Sarah, Abraham took another wife, and she bore him six more sons (Gen 25:1-4). Abraham did not see this, but eventually his physical and spiritual descendants did become as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.

B Hebrews wants us to learn from Abraham, my brothers and sisters. It wants us to learn that no one who trusts in God's promises will ever be disappointed. It wants us to learn from Abraham to wait patiently for God's promises to be fulfilled.

What promises of God does Hebrews have in mind? Let me mention the promises we have already seen in Hebrews:
-God promises us salvation in and through Christ (Heb 2:3; 4:9).
-God promises us glory (Heb 2:10).
-God promises us a Sabbath-rest (Heb 4:1).
-God promises us a merciful and gracious high priest (Heb 4:16).
-God promises us better things and better times (Heb 6:9).

No one who trusts in God's promises will ever be disappointed. Yes, we may become impatient. Yes, we often expect immediate answers. Yes, we want things done on our schedule rather than God's. But if God promised something, He will do it. So, like Abraham, patiently trust in God and His promises.

Why? Because God does not change and His promises do not change.

Don't ever make the mistake, dear friends, of thinking God is like us. We break our promises. We are unreliable. We forget our promises. We forget to keep our promises. But God is not like us. He is immutable in His character. So He always keeps His promises.

God's promises never change.

II God's Oath Never Changes
A The second thing we see in our Bible reading is that God's oath never changes.

Hebrews tells us that when God made His promises to Abraham, He swore an oath. Since there was no one greater for Him to swear by, He swore by Himself (Heb 6:13).

God swore by Himself after He tested Abraham. Remember what happened? Abraham was told to sacrifice his son, his only son, the son he loved, the son of the promise. When Abraham proved obedient, the Lord took an oath:
(Gen 22:16-17) "I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, (17) I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies ...

B Men swear oaths to each other because we often lie or do not follow through with our promises. Oaths bind us and remind us of what we promise (Heb 6:16). But even after making an oath, we still break our promises: we break contracts, for instance, and we fail to honor our marriage vows, and we lie on the witness stand. Interruptions, emergencies, and even a lack of sleep can cause us to break our promises. But this is not true of God.
(Num 23:19) Does [God] speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?
God is faithful and always true to His word. God did not need to make an oath so He will keep His promises. Yet, He swore an oath anyway.

C So, then, why does God swear an oath? God stoops to our weakness. Quite simply, because our sinful nature makes us weak and prone to doubt, God stoops to our weakness and our slowness to believe. In His love, God impresses His promises on our hearts by adding an oath. In His love, God confirms His promises to us with a solemn oath. This is a pure act of grace. He did not have to do this.

God's Word of promise is more than enough. But now He adds to it His oath. God swears by Himself because He is absolutely reliable and ever true.

God's oath never changes and His oath is always kept.

III God's Truth Never Changes
A The third thing we see in our Bible reading is that God's truth never changes:
(Heb 6:18) 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 offered to us may be greatly encouraged.

What are the two unchangeable things mentioned by Hebrews? They are the two things we already looked at: His promises and the oath which confirms His promises.

God's promise and God's oath are both unchangeable. Therefore, says Hebrews, God cannot lie. If God lied, He would deny His very nature as the God of truth. It is the Devil who is the father of lies but God is the father of truth.

God does not lie. His word does not change. There is no shadow of deceit or change in Him:
(Num 23:19) God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.

(1 Sam 15:29) He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.

B God is truth and His truth never changes. Some think the Bible is outdated. Others think the Bible is nothing but a fairy tale. But we say with Isaiah,
(Isa 40:6-8) "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. (7) ... (8) The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever."

No matter how ancient the words of the Bible, they are as true for us as they were true for the Hebrew Christians. God's truth is the same yesterday as it is today and as it will be tomorrow.

God's truth never changes.

IV Our Hope Does Not Change
A The fourth thing we see in our Bible reading is that our hope does not change. Hebrews describes this hope as "an anchor for the soul, firm and secure" (Heb 6:19).

As you know, an anchor steadies the ship and prevents it from drifting in stormy seas. It keeps the ship from smashing into rocks.

In the Ancient World, when a storm threatened a ship in the harbor, a crew of sailors would jump into a row boat and haul the ship's anchor as far out to sea as possible. The anchor would be let down and the ship would be pulled forward into deeper and safer water.

Our hope is like an anchor. It keeps pulling us forward. It keeps us safe and secure in a troubled and changing world. It keeps us safe and secure in a world where nothing stays the same. It pulls us to the place where we will be safe with God forever.

B Hebrews describes the place where our hope pulls us as "the inner sanctuary behind the curtain" (Heb 6:19). The inner sanctuary is the Holy of Holies of the Temple. This was God's dwelling place on earth. Only the high priest could enter this room, and he could enter it on only one day of the year -- the Day of Atonement when he made atonement for the sins of the people.

And, the curtain Hebrews is talking about is the big, hand-made curtain that hung in the Temple separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies.

Our hope is to go behind the curtain. Our hope is to enter the sanctuary. Our hope is the go into the very presence of God. Our hope is to dwell with God. There, we will be His people and He will be our God. There, He will wipe every tear from our eyes. There, there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain (cf Rev 21:3-4).

C We can be taken to this place, dear friends, only because Jesus has gone before us. Hebrews puts it this way:
(Heb 6:19-20) We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, (20) where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

Jesus, we are told, entered the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. Jesus entered the Holy of Holies. He entered into the very presence of our holy and consuming God. The blood He sprinkled was His own upon the cross to make atonement for our sin.

D Jesus, we are told, has entered the sanctuary. He has entered as a priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Who is Melchizedek? Melchizedek, if you remember, was alive at the time of Abraham. Scripture tells us he was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He was without beginning of days or end of life (Heb 7:3). Jesus has become a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

Aaron was not a high priest forever. Aaron's son was not a high priest forever. Eli was not a high priest forever. Because each of these high priests died. They experienced change and decay. But not Jesus. Jesus was and is a high priest forever -- in the order of Melchizedek. No change. No decay. So His work still applies. His sacrifice still works. His prayers of intercession are still being heeded. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Heb 13:8).
(Heb 7:25) Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

Because of Jesus Who is a high priest forever, ours is firm and secure hope, a steadfast hope, a changeless hope. We can be confident about the hope of life behind the curtain with God.

In a changing world, ours is a promise that is always kept. In a troubled world, ours is an oath that is never broken. In a world where truth is whatever you want it to be, ours is a truth that never changes. In a world where men put their hope in aliens and science and computers and comets and crystals, ours is a hope that is always sure.

Ultimately, it all comes down to Jesus. God's promise is in Jesus. God's oath is in Jesus. God's truth is in Jesus. God's hope is in Jesus. It is Jesus Who is the anchor of our soul. And, it is to Jesus that we flee as we face a troubled, decaying, and changing world.
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