Our hope

Our hope – The anchor of the soul

1 June 2008 – John Nicholls, Chelmsford, EnglandReadings: Joshua 18: Isaiah 24: Hebrews 6 and 7

My dear Brothers and Sisters, this exhortation comes with love from my wife and me, and also from our ecclesia at Chelmsford, which is about 30 miles east of London.

The exhortation today comes from Hebrews chapter 6. Before looking at this chapter, we can remind ourselves that this Sunday brings us one week closer to the coming of Jesus our Saviour. There are so many events taking place all over the world that point to the return of our Lord, who will come soon, in power and great glory. While we watch and wait for this day, we need encouragement and help. The Apostle (Paul?) writing to the Hebrews gives us that help in our reading today of chapter 6. He was writing to our 1st century brothers and sisters in the Jerusalem ecclesia. They were probably all Jews, who had stopped keeping the Law of Moses, and were now following Jesus. As a result of this, they may have lost their jobs, and the respect of their neighbours. They were not allowed to attend the Synagogue any more and must have lost many friends and relatives. Following Jesus had brought them suffering and hardship, and they may not have not have had enough money to feed their families (Hebrews 10: 32-36).

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...
Jesus the charismatic leader - Image via Wikipedia

All these sufferings were tempting them to forsake Jesus and to go back to keeping the Law of Moses. So the Apostle encourages them to go on to maturity and build on the teachings of Christ that they had accepted. (Hebrews 6: 1-6) He tells them that God would not forget their work and labour of love, which they had showed toward His name, in that they had ministered to the saints and continued to do so.” (Hebrews 6: 10) They were clearly helping each other in their difficult times. And he exhorted them to show a full assurance of hope “that you be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6: 12).

Hope is what helps us to keep going. We need a vision of better things ahead to stay on the narrow path. The promises that were made to the fathers of Israel are the foundation of the gospel of Christ (Acts 24:14,15; Acts 28:20; Galatians 3:27-29 ) The Apostle next shows in Hebrews 6 :13 -20, the certainty of our hope. The hope of the Gospel is absolutely certain for two reasons: the first is that God always keeps His promises. The second is that God swore with an oath to fulfil the promises – he swore by HIMSELF because there is none greater than Him.

In verse 19 of this chapter, the Apostle calls our hope “the anchor of our soul, both sure and steadfast”. An anchor is used to stop a ship or boat from drifting away and being lost. A boat that starts to drift away can be pulled back again if it is securely anchored. Our hope as an anchor contrasts the unchangeable character of God and His promises with the fickleness and unreliability of man. The prophet Isaiah says “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee. Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength (margin “the rock of ages”).” By faith and obedience, we have become securely anchored to the “Rock of Ages”. God is unchanging and constant. With Him is no “variableness or shadow of turning”. In contrast to that, man is a creature of dust, an unwilling victim of change and decay, as the scriptures say:

“In the morning (the morning of their life) they are like grass which groweth up. In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up: in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.”

Another scripture warns us “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish. Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God.” Man’s days are short, compared with the eternal God. Those who rule over us make many promises, but do not always keep them. God is always true to His Word, and so our hope in His promises is secure and firmly anchored.

When we consider God’s promises, we think of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle says (2 Corinthians 1: 20) “All the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” The letter to the Hebrews we are reading says much about Jesus, who is the heir of all things, spoken of in the Prophets, the express image of God, exalted now at God’s right hand, to be a faithful high priest, a Mediator. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Not from everlasting to everlasting, like God, as many who claim to be his followers say: that is one of the false doctrines which we are warned against in this letter). No, but yesterday, today and forever. “Yesterday” was the time of his weakness. His nature then was as ours is now, but he triumphed over its frailty and its tendency to sin. He offered himself a perfect sacrifice for sin. His nature was changed at his resurrection, to be like that of God Himself. “Today” he is our mediator in heaven. He sits at the right hand of the Father to make “intercession” for his Brothers and Sisters – you and me. Jesus experienced trials and temptations just as we do. He is “touched with feeling of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4: 15 – the word touched means he has sympathy with us). He knew what it was like to be in a large family. He had at least 4 brothers and 2 sisters. His foster father, Joseph, ran a carpenter’s business, and as the oldest son, Jesus would have known the problems that come with trying to make ends meet from a small business, and with many mouths to feed. We think also of the love which patiently endured the mocking, spitting and hitting when he could have annihilated his enemies with a mere word. He asks us to love one another as he loved us.

Jesus is the same “forever”. The example he gave is for us to follow today, as we wait for his return. He prayed that we should not be of the world even as he was not of the world. He understands our difficulties, and if we ask our Father to help us, through the mediation of Jesus at His right hand, we surely will receive the strength we seek day by day. Change is all around us, and as the years pass we seem sometimes to make so little progress in our spiritual life. But God and Jesus do not change. They are our anchor, by which we can be pulled back to the narrow way if we start to drift away. The promise of Christ’s coming is sure. “This same Jesus shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven”. I will be with you, is the promise of our God. “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” (Hebrews13:5,6).

The promise of eternal life is sure. The concluding words of Hebrews 6 speak of our hope “which entereth within the veil; whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec”. The veil, we are told, was a symbol of the flesh of Christ (Hebrews 9:3). When raised from the dead, Jesus was changed to the same nature as God. He was given a glorious body. He says “I am he that liveth and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and death”. He is the forerunner, the first fruits, the pattern of what his faithful brothers and sisters will experience on the resurrection morning. We too will be changed. Our bodies of sin and death will be fashioned like unto the glorious body of Jesus. “This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality”. We will become partakers of the divine nature, following the forerunner, our Lord and Saviour.

Copyright © 2009, Belgian Christadelphians.

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