The writer of Hebrews concluded the last section with the exhortation to find someone whose faith should be imitated, calling them “those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” In this next section, he offers Abraham as an encouraging example of one who continued strong in faith and patience and obtained the promise. The promise to which the writer was referring was the one God gave to Abraham after he had obeyed God by offering up Isaac in Genesis 22. It was a promise God gave, by swearing by Himself, since, as the writer puts it, “He could swear to no one greater.” God swearing by Himself signifies that He binds His word to His perfect and holy character.
Quoting Genesis 22:16-17, the writer speaks of God’s promise to multiply Abraham’s descendants. God promised Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3, when he and his wife, Sarah, were childless, that He would make from him a great nation. Abraham, though he was seventy-five years old, believed God to do what was impossible. He trusted God to fulfill His promise regarding his descendants by even raising Isaac from the dead should Abraham have had truly to put Isaac to death. Ultimately God’s promise to Abraham to make from him a great nation was fulfilled by the birth of Isaac some twenty-five years after the initial promise. Thirty years later Abraham was tested to see if he indeed had the faith to trust God by offering Isaac on Mount Moriah.
By this example, the writer of Hebrews was calling his readers to do what God had called Abraham to do when He instructed him to go to Mt. Moriah. They too needed to continue to believe God at His Word, as they had done in the past, even though it looked as though current circumstances seemed to be leading them to persecution and tragedy. Abraham, “having patiently waited” and remaining unwavering in his faith in God in the face of circumstances that seemingly were headed to tragedy, obtained the promise.
Beginning in Hebrews 6:16, Abraham is no longer the example, and the oath that God made to him specifically is now considered to be for the benefit of all believers generally. The promise of Genesis 22:18 clearly had Messianic aspects seen in these words: “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” Then the writer of Hebrews declared that the messianic hope was a sure promise, not only to Abraham but also to the Gentile heirs of what was promised.
When a person wants to end a dispute, one way for them to do so is to appeal to a higher authority with an oath. As an example, some people do this by saying, “I am telling the truth so help me God.” In a similar way, God used an oath to guarantee both to Abraham and by implication to all believers, “the heirs of the promise.” As noted previously, God swearing by Himself signifies that He binds His word to His perfect and holy character.
God, therefore, gave Abraham double assurance that He would indeed deliver what He had promised. First, he gave him the assurance of the promise of God for whom it is impossible to lie. Secondly, God gave Abraham assurance that especially guaranteed that particular promise with an oath. That is an encouragement to us as believers as we wait for our blessed hope, the sure return of our Messiah—the Bridegroom returning for His Bride.
Hebrews 6:19-20 provides us with another visual that illustrates our security in Him. When Jesus our Messiah ascended into heaven He took our hope of a blessed future with Him into the Holy of Holies in the heavenly tabernacle—an anchor for our souls. What an incredible picture. Like an anchor for a ship, it should keep us from drifting away as the difficult circumstances of life toss us about like a storm.