GOD CONFIRMS THE PROMISE BY OATH TO ABRAHAM (cont.)— Hebrews 6:13-15
To understand the import of the strong consolation which God afforded Abraham when he confirmed the promise by oath it is necessary to clearly understand just what this “promise” is of which the writer here speaks. We read that “thus being longsuffering he (Abraham) obtained the promise.”
What is the idea of “promise” in the Scriptures? It is necessary to attempt an answer to this question, and at the same time to notice that the writer speaks of the promise, the well-known and revealed promise of God in all of the Old Testament Scriptures.
First of all then: what is the idea of promise? The English term promise is derived from the Latin:promissum from promittere to send forth. It is a declaration that one will do or refrain from doing something specified. It is a declaration that gives the person to whom it is made a right to expect or to claim the performance or the forbearance of a specified act. (Webster) When we turn to the Old Testament Scriptures we find that in the Hebrew language the term for promise is a word which means: to speak. The term is dabar. However, the term to promise in the Hebrew is dabar in the intensive or in the Pie1 form. This form indicates that the speaking is intensive in nature on the part of the speaker. It therefore means: to speak often, to speak much, to speak for a long time. It is even used in the causative sense: what God will surely cause to come to pass. Writes A.B. Davidson in his Introductory Hebrew Grammar “Since eagerness may show itself in urging others to similar action, the Pie1 frequently has a causative force.” When this is applied to the idea of promise it means that God will cause what he has promised to come to pass. Such is the repeated declaration of God himself in Holy Scriptures. One has but to refer to any reputable Concordance to see that such is indeed the case with God’s often, repeated and emphatic speaking concerning what he will surely bring to pass for the heirs of the promise. When once God has spoken this promise to Abraham, all His future speaking and dealing are based upon what He has promised. Exodus 12:25; Deuteronomy 1:11; Deut. 6:3; Deut. 9:28; Deut. 10:9; Joshua 22:4;Jeremiah 33:14. Many more passages and references could be given, but this is sufficient for our purpose to show that God’s promise is ever the one central promise which He will cause to come to pass. All God’s promises are yea in Christ, and in him Amen, to the glory of God, the Father.
As to the idea of the promise the term in the Greek language of the New Testament Scriptures is very instructive. The substantive is epaggelia. Perhaps the thought of this term is: a message directed toward the recipient, the heir of the promise. The promise is basically a message from God. It is the sure message of the gospel, what God spells out. That is the good message, the euaggelia. The Gospel message is the fulfillment to the children of what which was promisedto the fathers. Acts 13:32, 33.
As for the verb in the Greek translated “promised” it ought to be noticed that the verb is in the middle voice. It is a peculiarity of the Greek language that it does not only have an active and a passive voice, but it also has a middle voice. Concerning this voice A.T. Robertson writes in part as follows:
“. . . . In the middle voice the subject is acting with reference to himself. . . . How the subject acts with reference to himself, the middle voice does not tell. That has to be determined by the meaning of the verb and the context. He may be represented as doing a certain thing of himself, by himself, on himself, for himself, etc. . . .”
We may further notice concerning the middle voice in Greek that it is either reflexive, intensive or reciprocal. We have noticed the intensive use of the Hebrew Piel. This use is in Greek in the Middle Voice in the Greek verb. The term epaggelomai means: I myself promise. God makes the promise and there is none besides him. God speaks what he will emphatically do. He will bring it to pass. He will save His people from their sins. This is indicated in the phrase “I am Jehovah.” Thus we read in Isaiah 43:11-13 “I, even I, am the LORD; and besides me there is no Saviour. I have declared and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God. Yea, before the day was I am He; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who will let it?”
This term to promise in the Greek is ever emphatically what God promises in relationship to himself, as to what he will perform to the heirs of the promise, Acts 7:5;Romans 4:21; Galatians 3:19; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:13; Heb. 10:23; Heb. 11:11; Heb. 12:26; James 1:12; James 2:5; I John 2:25.
This promise of God is not dependent for its being given, nor for its fulfillment in man; it is solely the work of the Lord. It is not contingent for its fulfillment upon the will or act of man in any sense. God writes his law in our hearts and we are saved. Such is the better promise. Hebrews 8:6-12. (Jer. 31:31-34)
This promise belongs according to Hebrews 6:18 to the things which are rooted in the immutability of God’s eternal counsel. God’s counsel shall stand and He will do all his good-pleasure. (Isaiah 46:10) The Lord works all things according to the counsel of his will. (Ephesians 1:11.) That counsel of God is the standard of all his works. What God has decreed he shall perform, and what he has decreed concerning the heirs of election he administers to the heirs by way of the promised Word. Hence this counsel and the promises to the heirs are immutable. They are without repentance. In the book of Hebrews certain matters are mutable; they are subject to change. Such is the case with the work of God concerning the priesthood of Aaron. “For the priesthood being changed there is made of necessity also a change also of the law.” (Hebrews 7:12) That institution was changeable. Not so the promise of God. There is nothing that can make the promise of God null and void. The promise of God stands. Heaven and earth may pass away, but the promise of God is unchangeable. Every jot and tittle shall be fulfilled.Matthew 5:17, 18.
However, we must have strong consolation that this is true. It must be a mighty hope in our hearts. It must be a strong courage that all is well. And to energize that strong comfort in our hearts, particularly in the heart of Abraham and in the heart of all the spiritual seed, God came between Abraham and his sure promise with anoath. There had been one immutable thing, but now there are two immutable things. (dia duo pragmatoon ametathetoon) It is the testimony of two things. Now from the viewpoint of God the promise cannot be less sure than his oath. God cannot lie. He cannot lie in the oath, neither can he lie in his promise. In both of these it was impossible for God to lie. That is the force of the “en ois.” “In which” refers to the “two immutable things,” that is the promise and the oath. The question is therefore: if the promise is so sure, why must the oath be added! Both rest in the unchangeable counsel of God? The answer must be: for the benefit of the heirs of the promise; that we should have strong consolation. The oath of God is to make the promise sure in our consciousness by faith. It was to bolster our faith and hope in God’s promise. This is, indeed, a means of grace for the strengthening of Abraham’s faith. And thus in faith Abraham saw it in the mount of the Lord. He saw it in strong consolation. He saw Christ’s day from afar and rejoiced. (John 8:56)
THE CHRISTOLOGICAL CONTENT OF THE PROMISE TO ABRAHAM FULFILLED— Hebrews 6:18-20
The New Testament saints have fled for refuge for take hold, to seize the hope which is set before us. Really the text speaks of us “who are taking refuge.” We are constantly taking refuge to seize the hope set before us in the midst of our sin, misery, corruption and death. Apart from this fleeing for refuge we are filled with the fear of death all our life long. Often our faith is weak and we are like Peter, who, looking at the waves and billows, cried out: Lord I perish. It is then that our tempest-tossed soul needs the assurance of the hope set before us. This “hope” is the objective salvation in Christ which he has merited and the atonement which is ours in the holiest of all within the veil of the sanctuary. This hope is set before us and beckons us on. This hope is the “anchor of the soul.” And this anchor is not down in the depths of the sea, but it reaches upward to heaven before God’s throne. All our hope is riveted upon the forerunner of our faith and hope. He has gone before us. He is the way and the truth and the life. His name is JESUS. He came to save his people from their sins. God’s promise is fulfilled in him. The oath of God is all in Him to the glory of God the Father.
To understand this we must see the greatness of his priesthood. It is a priesthood after the order of Melchisedec. He is made a priest not by the intervention of Moses, but he is appointed directly by God Himself. The Lord hath sworn and will not repent: thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec. Now we do not have a priest who merely entered into that which is behind the veil once a year on the great day of atonement. Nay, we now have a hope whichconstantly enters into that which is behind the veil. That is the force of the present participleeiserchomenee. Heaven is opened to us, and the angels of God ascend and descend! Such is the new and living way which is ours into the holiest of God—into the holiest of heaven itself. Such is our strong consolation in him in whom both promise and oath are fulfilled according to the firm decree of God.
Well may we then walk in the full assurance of faith and be imitators of those who through faith and longsuffering inherited the promises. God’s promise to Abraham on Moriah’s hill-top and Calvary are connected not merely by geography, but they are connected by God’s counsel which is immutable, as promise-oath and fulfillment!
Jehovah-jireh! On the mount of the Lord it was shown!