Have you ever made a promise that you failed to keep? I have. Truth be told, probably all of us have broken promises at some point or another. Some big. Some small. It is a grim reflection of our sinful human condition. The Bible urges us not to make a promise at all if we don’t intend on keeping it. It also stresses the importance of keeping the promises that we make. When we break a promise, it undermines our trustworthiness and hurts our reputation.
This morning we will explore a passage of scripture that deals with God’s promises. While this letter was written to a specific group of Hebrew believers many years ago, the promises of God mentioned here extend to us as Christians today because we share in the same faith. The sermon is titled “A Better Promise”.
I. BETTER THINGS FOR YOU (v9-12)
The writer’s closing comments in chapter 5 and the opening words of chapter 6 are extremely critical. The writer charged the Hebrew Christians of being spiritual infants - dull of hearing and unaccustomed to the word of righteousness. He then sternly warned them not to fall away from the faith saying that it is impossible to renew those who depart again to repentance. This admonition suggests a strong suspicion that some of these professing Hebrews may not have been truly saved.
Despite his harsh tone, the writer now expresses confidence that God “has better things” in store for the Hebrew believers. His assurance is based on a strong belief that God will not “forget” their “work and the love” that they’d shown toward both Him and His saints (perhaps referring to those in Jerusalem). God will remember, honor, and bless anyone who sincerely and wholeheartedly serves Him.
With this is mind, the writer of Hebrews urges his audience to also “show the same diligence” and “realize the full assurance of hope”. If they shared the same degree of confidence in God that he had for them, they would not be so “sluggish” in their service to the Lord. Instead they would press forward with a bold and resolute spirit, characterized by “faith” and “patience”.
The same thing is true for the church today. Despite our many imperfections, I am convinced that God has better things ahead for us too. God is always good and in the ages to come He plans to show us the surpassing riches of His grace and kindness (Ephesians 2:7). He has not and will not forget about us. For those who have trusted in Him as their Savior and Lord, the best is yet to come.
II. GOD’S UNBREAKABLE OATH (v13-18a)
In the Old Testament God appeared to Abraham and made him a promise. The LORD promised to bountifully bless Abraham and his offspring. Overtime, this promised was realized. The descendants of Abraham, through Isaac and Jacob, were set apart as the people of God and eventually became the nation of Israel. In addition to making this promise, God also swore an oath that He would keep the promise.
Though similar in meaning, an oath is slightly different than a promise. People who take an oath are swearing to tell the truth or to faithfully execute some duty or charge. For example, a trial witness must swear to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” before giving their testimony. People who make a promise are pledging themselves to do something. For example, a parent might promise to buy their child an ice cream cone if they make an A on their report card.
When men make certain commitments, they sometimes take an oath as “confirmation”. In most cases “they swear by” something or someone “greater than themselves”. By doing this, they are further bound to their pledge. If they break their word, they also violate or desecrate the greater authority by which they swore. This would presumably lead to dire consequences, thus compelling them to take their promises more seriously to begin with.
God not only promised to bless His people, but then swore that He’d keep that promise. Because there is no higher authority by which He could swear, God “swore by Himself”. Both of these things - the original promise and the affirming oath - are “unchangeable” because it is “impossible for God to lie”. The Bible repeatedly teaches that it is against God’s nature to lie. God’s promises are absolutely trustworthy all by themselves, yet He went above and beyond by confirming them with an unbreakable oath!
III. SURE AND STEADFAST HOPE (v18b-20)
Those who have “taken refuge” in Jesus can rest in the certainty that God’s promises are true. This should be a source of “strong encouragement” which enables Christians to “take hold of the hope” that is “set before” them. Born again believers should be the most hopeful people in the world. They should live each day with the confident expectation that God expectation that God will honor His word.
Such hope is both “sure” and “steadfast”. It is an “anchor for the soul”. In the midst of a raging storm, it is the anchor that keeps a boat from drifting off course or being capsized. In the same way, Christians are better equipped to face the howling winds of this life because they are secured by hope. It keeps them grounded and on course, even during the most extreme trials and tribulations.
Redeemed believers have been granted permission to enter “within the veil” into the very presence of God. Jesus made this possible as a “forerunner” for humanity, by removing the barrier of sin that separated mankind from God. When He died on the cross, the temple veil that shielded the entrance to the Holy of Holies was rent from top to bottom. Acting as a “high priest” “according to the order of Melchizedek”, Jesus offered a sacrifice that fully and eternally satisfied God the Father.
The writer originally introduced this line of teaching back in chapters 4 and 5 when he compared Jesus with Aaron. But after identifying Jesus as the Perfect High Priest, he briefly turned his attention to the Hebrew believers themselves. Now, having finished his critique with a warning, he again returns to the main point of his letter - the superiority of Christ.
I read this week where someone has estimated that there are approximately 8,810 promises in the Bible. He states that there are over 7,000 in the Old Testament and over 1,000 in the New Testament. Another person has written and published a book which lists 3,000 of these wonderful promises in an easily readable format. We can trust that all of these promises - without exception - will be kept, because our God is always faithful.
Perhaps the LORD’s greatest promise is that of salvation for all of those who genuinely place their faith in Jesus. He promises to give eternal life to anyone who will accept Him as their Savior and Lord. For those of us who have already received Christ, the absolute certainty that we will someday be in Heaven with Jesus gives us incredible strength, comfort, and hope to carry on in the face of all obstacles.
In Christ we have a better promise. Are you an heir of this amazing promise? If not, would you repent of your sins and accept Jesus today?