We Have This Hope

9We are confident concerning you, loved ones, that you have the greater salvation. That’s why we speak in this way. 10For God is not so unjust that he would forget your works and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints and continuing to do so. 11But we want each one of you to show the same zeal toward the fulfillment of your hope to the end 12so that you might not become lazy, but rather imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

13Now when God swore to Abraham, since he had nobody greater to swear by, “he swore by himself” [Genesis 22:16], 14saying, “Indeed I will bless you greatly and will multiply you greatly.” [Genesis 22:17] 15And so, being patient, he received the promise. 16For people swear by something greater, and all contradiction meets its end when something is confirmed by an oath. 17So much more, when God wanted to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable nature of his will, he guaranteed it by means of an oath. 18So that by means of two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have sought refuge might have powerful encouragement to seize the hope set before us. 19We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, steadfast and firm and entering the inner side of the veil. 20Jesus entered there as a forerunner for us, becoming a high priest eternally according to the order of Melchizedek. — Hebrews 6:9-20

Note: This devotional is adapted from a post on my Participatory Bible Study Blog.

When I joined the Air Force, my mother made me a quilt that had this text embroidered in it in Greek. That quilt stayed with me more than 20 years. Why “anchor” for someone in the Air Force? Well, two things. I had intended to joint he Navy, but then got a job closer to what I wanted with the Air Force, and then she thought my soul still needed an anchor–as indeed it did!

St. John Chrysostom, known as the golden mouthed preacher (Chrysostom means “golden mouth”) comments on this verse that we are already living in God’s promises, and that “through hope we are already in heaven.” When I read that it really struck me. Just how powerful is hope? Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 that faith, hope, and love remain, but the greatest is love, but that still leaves hope in the top three!

But some of us have a hard time holding onto hope. When things get discouraging hope gets weak! St. John points out that the apostle (he assumes Paul as the author) chooses his figure wisely. There are those who are founded on the rock as Jesus said (Matthew 7:24-27). Then there are the rest of us, who are not quite so steady. We need an anchor that holds us in place even though we are shaken. This is a message for the folks who don’t feel quite so anchored on a rock. St. John also comments on the difference between the metaphor used by Jesus in the sermon on the mount and the one used here in Hebrews. The “house on the rock” is good for those who are truly established, but what about those who aren’t so steady?

This passage fits especially well into the message of Hebrews, which is for people who have begun to follow Jesus but have been looking back because of hardships. The author repeatedly assures us that the goal is worth working for, but he also tells us that we must keep going. They weren’t people whose houses were fully founded on the rock. They were shaken, but they needed–and they had–an anchor so no matter how they were shaken, they would still end up in place.

I think most of us are more like that. The house on the rock is a good ideal toward which we can strive, but I think we feel much more like an anchored ship weathering a storm. If that’s the case, Jesus still has the anchor to keep you safe. You’ll probably get wet, you’ll probably be shaken, but you’ll come out alright in the end.

The key to our hope, however, is the source. Our hope comes not from what we do, not from who we are, but from who God is and what God does. Notice the words of Hebrews. “God is not so unjust.” “God makes this firm by means of an oath.” “Things in which God cannot lie.”

If our hope depended on ourselves and what we could do, we would be in trouble. I have a hard time keeping to a schedule for an entire morning, but God has an unchangeable purpose. And that’s the great thing—our hope.

6For I am YHWH. I do not change. So you children of Jacob [and us Christians too!] have not been destroyed. — Malachi 3:6

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