Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Hebrews 6:16-20 The door's open! Come on in!

People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument.  Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath.  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 set before us may be greatly encouraged.  We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,  where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:16-20 NIV)

When a politician takes an oath of office, he ends the oath with, “So help me God.” When someone says that it signals that the oath is solemn and binding, because it’s been made in God’s name. Our verses today tell us that when God made His promise to Abraham, there was no one greater, so He swore by His own name. And because of this, the promise is more than just solemn - it’s “unchanging. . .an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” The Message puts this in modern language in this way:

When God wanted to guarantee his promises, he gave his word, a rock-solid guarantee—God can’t break his word. And because his word cannot change, the promise is likewise unchangeable. 

I love that there is something God can’t do: He can’t lie! His Word is unchangeable, just as He is. This is why our hope in Christ is an anchor. It is held by God’s very own Word. When we say we hope in Christ, we don’t mean we wish. It’s not like, “I wish I could get a new car.” This hope we have is a solid promise - a guarantee. This is why, when the entire world around us is changing and seems to be crumbling, we can remain unshaken. We know that we know that we know that God’s Word is true. We know that we have an eternal home. We know that our sins are forgiven and we are His. We know that He is coming back, and that He has the ultimate victory.

Jesus is not just superior in His person, but also in His promises. The author is telling the readers that Jesus is the solid anchor of our faith. And He is our eternal high priest. He is the One who enters the inner sanctuary to God. In the temple, the Holy of Holies was where the ark of the covenant and God’s shekinah glory was. Only the High Priest could enter in there once a year, on the Day of Atonement, to make sacrifices for the sins of the people.

 The veil of the temple, which separated the people from God’s glory, measured 60 feet by 30 feet and was 10 inches thick. Jon Courson says it was “so heavy it took one hundred priests to move it.” (Courson, Application Commentary: New Testament, P. 1472) Yet, you may remember that, when Jesus completed His work on the cross, the veil of the temple tore in two from top to bottom (Matthew 27:50-51). The way to the Father was open.

 We have no further need of a mediator between God and man, because Jesus, our only Mediator, has opened the way to the inner sanctuary. We are welcomed in! This is great news! You and I don’t need to send anyone in there for us to reach Almighty God. We are guaranteed an audience with our Father, because the Son is at His right hand! This is why Hebrews 4:16 boldly proclaimed, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Can I hear an “Amen!” to that???

Jon Courson points out that the Hebrew audience may have doubted Jesus’ qualifications as High Priest, since only those of the tribe of Levi could be priests, and Jesus was from the tribe of Judah. So he jumps into a comparison of Jesus to Melchizedek, which will move us into chapter 7. Remember that, back in chapter 5, verse 10, the writer had asserted that these believers were not mature enough to understand a discussion of Melchizedek. But now, he is going to launch into an explanation of this mysterious figure who has only a few verses devoted to him in Genesis 14. The superiority of Jesus’ priesthood will be our focus. This is deep stuff, so we will need to pay attention, and I will be entering into it with all humility! Help me, Holy Spirit!  

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