Welcome back to the Coffee Table. We are deep into October now, which in Miami basically means nothing…if not for the local farmers market pumpkin patches and pumpkin spice everything raiding the cafes and grocery stores, we might not have even noticed a new season approaching. Although in my opinion, there’s a slight, slight change in the air. I don’t know if it’s the way the sun shines differently in the morning or simply the anticipation of the holiday excitement ahead of us, but these days I’m waking up sensing that maybe—just maybe—it wants to be fall. And so I cling to that tiny ounce of hope because frankly, it’s still hot and muggy most days and I’m just about over that. 😛
This week we are looking at Hebrews 6:13-20. This passage comes in between an encouragement from the author to believers towards a mature faith, which we talked about last time, and another descriptive identifier of Jesus as the high priest “after the order of Melchizedek,” which we’ll dive deep into next time.
This week I want to zero in on one thing: God’s promises. What does He promise us? What does He not promise us? How can we trust that His promises are sure? I hope to get into a little of all that with you today, which is why I’ve kept this particular chunk of Hebrews so short and sweet compared to weeks previous.
Guaranteed with an Oath
The author has just been encouraging the readers of this letter to be “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Immediately on the heels of this he turns to Abraham as an example. God promised to bless Abraham with a multitude of offspring, and Abraham had to wait a long, long time to see God fulfill that promise (see Genesis chapters 12-21). What made Abraham so sure that God would follow through, when as far as he and his wife Sarah could see, they would not be likely to ever have children?
Verse 16 tells us that for all disputes “an oath is final for confirmation,” and goes on to argue, what could be more convincing than an oath from God? We can trust God’s promise because it is sealed with an oath, and if we believe in God’s “unchangeable character” and that He can never lie, a promise from God sealed with an oath from God is a guarantee. Abraham had that faith, and so can we.
All His promises come with a guarantee. The author of Hebrews calls this “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…” That guarantee, that oath, is defined for us on the cross. Jesus has given us access “behind the curtain” in the Most Holy Place (this is the area in the temples only the high priests had access to…we’ll dive deeper into what this means in later chapters). Through the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, we can know that our humanity no longer blocks the way between us and all that God promises us.
What Has God Promised?
I think where we get tripped up sometimes is misunderstanding what it is God has actually promised us. I’ve seen a lot of pain and disappointment come from believing in a skewed gospel that says if you just follow after God, all the good things with happen to you…you’ll be successful, happy, and content. This is a severe misunderstanding of the promises of God. Believe it or not, though God deeply loves us and desires good things for our lives, His primary goal is not our happiness. His primary purpose is His glory (John Piper has a great article on this, read it here). And sometimes that means not getting what we want when we want it (look at Abraham and Sarah), or not getting it at all (look at Paul with the “thorn in his flesh,” 2 Corinthians 12).
So what does God promise us his children? For this, we turn to Scripture. If we believe that in Jesus all His promises are fulfilled, we can trust His word to tell us what those promises are. There are even places in Scripture where God promises to keep His promises! Here are just a few examples of the promises of God we find in the Bible:
- Salvation in Jesus: John 3:16, 3:36, 4:14, 10:28, Romans 1:16-17, 10:9-10
- New, abundant life in Christ: John 10:10, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 2
- Strength: Isaiah 40:31, 41:10-13
- Freedom: Isaiah 58:6, John 8:36
- To be with us: Deuteronomy 31:8, Isaiah 43:2, Joshua 1:9, Psalm 23:4
- To always love us: Isaiah 54:10, 1 Chronicles 16:34
- To keep His promises: Numbers 23:19, Isaiah 54:10, Psalm 89:33-35, Hebrews 6:17-18
- The forgiveness of sins: 1 John 1:9, 2 Chronicles 7:14
- Hope for the future: Jeremiah 29:11 (by the way, I think this is the verse that gets misconstrued the most. This doesn’t mean we will “prosper” in the way the world sees it. We don’t suddenly become rich or get that amazing job or become exempt from suffering when we follow after God. God’s plans to prosper us may look very different from that, but this verse is saying that whatever He plans for us is better for us and for His glory than anything we could dream up for ourselves. We need only to trust Him.)
- Heard/answered prayer: Psalm 34:17, Matthew 7:9-11, Mark 11:24 (again, not that all of our prayers will be “yes,” but that He hears us and answers us according to His will. Sometimes that means a “no” or a “not yet.”)
- To meet all of our needs in Jesus: Philippians 4:6-7, 19, Matthew 6:26, 31-33
- The return of Jesus/a new heaven and a new earth: John 14:2-3, Revelation 21
These are just a few of the promises of God we find in Scripture…there are many, many more, and we can be assured that they are all a guarantee, sealed with an oath, which is found in Jesus. Paul in 2 Corinthians 1 tells us this:
“For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through Him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” 2 Corinthians 1:19-22.
Whatever God has promised, in Jesus it is always Yes. We can trust God and that all He says is true if we believe in Christ’s atoning work on the cross. That’s why it’s important to get to know what it is that God promises, and how Jesus is indeed the guarantor of that promise.
I pray you’ll spend some time reflecting over God’s promises today, and resting in what Jesus has accomplished for us. I pray this reflecting will lead you to trust Him more and to lean on His word as a hope for the future, a comfort for the present, and a freedom from the past. Where can you already see His promises played out in your life?
Next time we’ll start to take a deeper look at Jesus as our High Priest, and try to answer the question I’m sure a lot of you are asking “Who/what on earth is Melchizedek??” I know I was asking that the first time I read this, so if you’ll join me next time, we can explore that more together.
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For God’s glory,
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