Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath.
In Hebrews 6:13-20, the writer of Hebrews reflects on the story of Abraham, a story more fully recorded in Genesis 12-25. In this reflection, the writer notes that God not only gave Abraham a set of promises including the promise of offspring, the promise of land, and the promise of blessing, God also swore an oath that He would fulfill these promises (Genesis 12:1-3, Genesis 22:16-18). This begged the question: why would God need to swear an oath when He had already given His word with a promise? After all, “it is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18). An oath seems totally unnecessary for God.
The writer concludes that God did this because he wanted “to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised” (Hebrews 6:17). In other words, God took an extra measure to give Abraham assurance about His promises. This showed how accommodating God can be for us humans. God chose to do this so He could meet Abraham where he was in his faith.
As we will discover later in Hebrews, God has sworn an oath about Jesus as well (Hebrews 7:21). Just like He met Abraham, God meets us where we are in our faith. In swearing this oath, God has assured us that we can be perfectly sure about His promises. This is significant because it can be so easy for us to go through life wondering whether we can be certain about our eternity. We don’t have to struggle with uncertainty. Just as Abraham waited patiently and received what was promised to him, we can be perfectly sure about our future if we continue to believe (Hebrews 6:15). He has not only given us His promise, He has also confirmed it with an oath.
THE CERTAINTY OF GOD’S PROMISE
13 When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” 15 And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.
16 People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. 17 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
7 MELCHIZEDEK THE PRIEST
1 This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, 2 and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, the name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” 3 Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.
4 Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! 5 Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people—that is, from their fellow Israelites—even though they also are descended from Abraham. 6 This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. 7 And without doubt the lesser is blessed by the greater. 8 In the one case, the tenth is collected by people who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. 9 One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, 10 because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.
In Hebrews 7, the author is trying to make a point that the priesthood of Jesus is grounded in the same order as that of Melchizedek, which makes His priesthood superior to that of other priests. As you read Hebrews 7, write down the attributes that make Melchizedek’s priesthood greater than the Levitical priesthood. After reviewing your list, what parallels do you see to Jesus?
Hebrews 6:18-19 refers to two things that are unchangeable—God’s promise and His oath. This passage should give Christ-followers confidence and assurance, but because of our human nature, we might find ourselves doubting God. In your own words, what does God’s promise mean to you? In what ways do you find yourself doubting God?
Hebrews 6:15 refers to Abraham’s patience after God’s oath to give him children. What it doesn’t say is that Abraham had to wait 25 years! Because our trials and temptations are often so intense, they seem to last for an eternity. However, the Bible encourages us to wait for God to act in His timing and not to take matters into our own hands. Reflect on a time where you decided to “go it alone” or even ignored a prompting from God? What did you learn? If you are going through a trial or temptation today, what do you need as you await God’s timing?