Our True Hope
Working Title: Our True Hope Text: Hebrews 6:13-20
Our True Hope
Hope. If were to look across our culture and world we would find that people are hoping for different things. At Disney World, a 6 year old girl hopes that she will get to meet Cinderella. At Harvard, a first generation college student hopes that he will pass his first exam. In California, a young woman voting for the first time is hoping for change. In Iraq a Marine hopes that today the war will end in success and he can come back to his family. And, in Darfur, a 6 year old boy hopes that peace will come to his land so that he will not spend the rest of his life fighting the Janjaweed. These are legitimate hopes. And each of these is trusting in different people or groups to turn these hopes into reality. The little girl at Disney World is trusting in her parents to take her to the right spot to meet Cinderella. The first generation college student is maybe trusting in his previous education or his own intellect. The first time voter in California is trusting in a presidential candidate that is promising change. The Marine in Iraq is trusting in the men around him and his leaders. And the boy in Darfur trusts that the rest of the world will notice and take action.
As Christians are hope is redemption and our trust is in God to give that redemption. But is there any difference between the girl at Disney’s hope and our hope? I think there is, and today we will see that the basis of our hope is not mere wishful thinking about the future but rather the basis of our hope is the solemn promise of God.
Transition: It is that promise that the writer of Hebrews is talking about in our passage for today so let’s look at what he says about that promise. First we see that…
1. GOD’S PROMISE REQUIRES PATIENCE.
In verse 15 we it says that “Abraham having patiently waited obtained the promise.”
A. Abraham had to wait
Now, we find in Genesis that the promise made to Abraham is that his descendents will number as the stars and through the descendants all of the nations of the world will be blessed. We have to understand that Abraham was 75 when God first made that promise but was 100 years old before his son Isaac was born. That’s 25 years of waiting of hoping. Throughout that time Abraham was not always sure and, as we will see in just a moment, God had to show Abraham that indeed the promise was sure. But, Abraham waited 25 years to taste of the promise that God had made him. That required patience.
B. The Promise is now ours and it too requires patience.
The promise made to Abraham that through him all the nations of the earth would be blessed is extended to us. We have been blessed through Abraham’s descendants and indeed we are his descendants. So we too have promises from God. Through Christ we have the promise of a new record so that our sins are no longer counted against us, we have the promise of a new heart, so that sin no longer has dominance over us, and we are promised a new world, so that someday everything that is wrong in our world will be made right. Those are great promises, but they require patience.
But what is patience…
As a kid around Christmas time my friends would tell me of how they would sneak into their parent’s bedroom or closet to find out ahead of time what they were getting for Christmas. I was never that brave. My mom and dad told us that if we did that they would take it back and we would get nothing for Christmas…so I believed them. Now that I am older though, my mom will ask me what I want and if she finds it she will buy it…but now she will call me and tell me…Hey I got this for you. But this presents a new problem, because now I know what I am getting, I obviously want it, but I have to wait until Christmas morning to actually get it. (There is no opening presents before Christmas morning at our house). So for the next few weeks I will long for that gift, I will think about where I am going to put it when I get it, and so forth. That in some respect requires patience. But is that what Abraham went through? Abraham had left is own family to obey God and God promised him an heir and countless descendants who would bless the rest of the world. But here he is 75 years old, and his wife is not much younger. And for the next 25 years he spends his time longing for that heir, thinking about what he will do once the heir finally arrives. And all the while he and his wife are growing older and older and they realize that with each passing day the likelihood of them conceiving a child is quickly diminishing. What pain, what torment, what doubt Abraham must have went through.
So what about God’s promises to us? Does it ever feel like to you that they come painfully slow? We know that at the moment of salvation our status before God changes but what about the struggles of our hearts? Those things within is, those habits or addictions, or whatever, that maybe we can shake for a while but they keep coming back. We want those things gone…we know God has promised us being set free but sometimes…can’t it just come faster? It doesn’t necessarily help either when we hear the testimony of super-Christians who the moment they accepted Christ stopped a 40 year drug addiction, restored their marriage, got out of debt, and now are leading people to Christ by the hundreds. And we sit here thinking to ourselves “How long Oh Lord?” But the promises of God require patience. But is there anything that can help us through that stuggle?
The next thing we see is that…
2. GOD’S PROMISE IS SURE
Place and Prove: Verse 16, “For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement…” The writer of Hebrews tell us that God took it upon himself to show to Abraham that his promise to him was indeed sure.
Cutting a covenant: Now remember Abraham whom God promised early on that he would be make into a great nation and that he would be blessed and all the nations would be blessed through him. A few years past and God speaks to Abraham again and Abraham says, “Hey I know you promised me that I would be this great nation and I would have many descendants but as you can see I don’t have any children, so how about we just pick out one person from my household and will call him my heir?” And then this crazy scene happens. God, in order to show Abraham that his promise was sure, tells Abraham to get a heifer (which for those of you who did not grow up on a ranch is a cow who has not given birth), a goat, a ram, and some birds. And then God tells Abram to cut the heifer, the goat, and the ram in half and put one half on one side and the other half on the other side. Then a really weird thing happens. God, in the form of a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch, passes through the pieces of the animals. Now, “Great story” you say, “but what does it all mean?” In the Ancient Near East when two parties wanted to make an agreement and then make that agreement sure they would do this same thing. They would take some animals cut them in half and then walk between them. And what they were saying when they did this was, “May the same thing happen to me if I do not keep my side of this agreement.” So God is saying to Abraham in this event that may the same thing happen to me if I do not keep my promise. May I no longer be God.
Two unchangeable things: So back in Hebrews the writer there is trying to remind us of how sure God’s promises are by recounting this story of Abraham. So he says that God makes this sure by two unchangeable things. Usually in a contract or covenant made by men, they swear by something grater than themselves…usually God…but there is nothing greater than God. So, the first is the promise itself. And the second is he swears via the whole covenant cutting thing…he swears by himself. For Abraham, it has been made clear to him that God is serious about his purpose.
Transition: We do some similar things in our culture…
Illustration: When I was in elementary school and we wanted to really prove that what we were saying was true we would say, “I swear to die, stick ten thousand needles in my eye.” Looking back I am glad I never let anyone down after saying that…but what we are saying is, if I don’t fulfill whatever I previously let me die or you can stick ten thousand needles in my eye.
Fast forward to junior high and high school and a popular phrase is “I swear on my mother’s grave.” Again, what we are saying is that if I am lying, may my mother’s grave be desecrated.
Unfortunately now, we are adults so what kind of cool statements do we have now? Well, I grew up watching Matlock. I loved that show. So my whole view of a courtroom and of the justice system is filtered through this old country boy lawyer from Atlanta. And in those shows when someone is sworn in to the courtroom they place their hand on the Bible and they would say, “I swear to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” Again, they are saying that if what I say is not true, then let these Holy Scriptures that I hold in esteem be desecrated, and if I am lying may God punish me. Well before I came to RTS I worked in social work and so I was often in court and sworn in to court. I remember the very first time I went to the court room…it wasn’t quite like I had remembered from Matlock. Anyways, I may have to testify for this case so I too am sworn in. There was no Bible and there was no “so help me God.” But still in our society we swear or we sign a contract. (If you have a cell phone, you have entered into a covenant and you have said, that if I don’t fulfill my end then let this happen.) We do these things so that the other party will know that we are serious about what we have said.
Application: I think it would be easy for us to look at Abraham and say, “How could you ever doubt that God was going to follow through with what he promised.” Yet, everything in Abraham’s life seemed to him to show that there was no way he was going to produce an heir. We talked about earlier how God has made promises to us. We may, like Abraham say “Hey God, I know you said you were going to do this, but that hasn’t happened yet so how about I do…” whatever. God, I know you said that my sins are forgiven, that my life has been restored, that when you look at me you don’t see my lack of righteousness, but you see the complete and perfect righteousness of Christ, but I am not so sure about that. So I tell you what God, how about I take on the load of working hard of doing a bunch of good things so that you will be pleased with me. But just like Abraham, we have something that we can look back at and know that God’s promise is sure and that is the cross. We can look back at Christ on the cross and say, “I know my sins are forgiven and that all things are going to be made right because he made it sure!” If you are here and you are trying so hard to please God so that you can find favor in him. Will you stop and look at the cross? God is saying that it is not about you, but it’s about him. Look at the cross and you will see that his promise is sure.