Anchor of the Soul
One of the great and comforting images presented in the book of Hebrews is Jesus Christ as our great high priest ever standing in the presence of Almighty God (Heb. 4-7). That image alone is more than I can completely understand, but the fact He is interceding for you, and I is absolutely awesome. Under the Law of Moses, the Levitical high priest had the privilege and great responsibility of interceding for the nation of Israel. He would enter the Holy of Holies within the temple only once a year with sacrificial blood to make atonement for his own sins and the sins of the people (Lev. 16). Entering the place where God said His presence would reside above the mercy seat (on the ark of the covenant) was a special time for the people. On the day of Atonement, the high priest had the hope of Israel resting on his shoulders.
Unlike those mere men with faults of their own who had limited access to God’s presence, our perfect high priest has entered the most holy place with His own blood as sacrificial payment. Our High Priest is there with a perfect understanding of our temptations because He too was tempted. Our perfect High Priest is there despite having a perfect understanding of our faults and our sins. In fact, he is there because of my faults and my sins. Our High Priest is there petitioning God on our behalf because I cannot do that on my own. What a humbling and inspiring mental image the Hebrew writer has painted for his readers to meditate upon.
The story does not end with Jesus in the presence of God, however. The Hebrew writer in chapter 5 gives a serious warning to all who hear his words. “And having been made perfect, he became to all those who obey Him eternal salvation, being designated by God as high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. Concerning Him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.” (5:9-11)
What a terrible and sad thought for anyone to be lazy in both the study and practice of the word of God! Unfortunately, Christians in the first century and Christians in the twenty first century need to be warned of this great temptation. Because when we are dismissive of God’s word or we are lackadaisical towards its personal application, we are at a very high risk of falling away and not returning to our great High Priest. “For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.” (6:4-6) If we allow ourselves to “fall away”, we have no benefit of Jesus being in the presence of God. If we have allowed ourselves to become dull of hearing God’s word (the gospel, the good news), we have rejected the only source of salvation.
Thankfully the Hebrew writer does not end the story here. He was “convinced of better things concerning you. (v.9)” He was confident his readers would not continue down a path that would lead to apostasy rather they would recall their past actions and dedication to Jesus. This passage is a good reminder for each of us to examine ourselves with respect to how we “hear” God’s word. Am I dull of hearing? Do I need to be taught the elementary principles over and over? Do I have an infantile understanding of the word? Such an honest, frequent review is critical for our long-term spiritual wellbeing!
Listen again to the Hebrew writer: “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end. So that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promise.” (Heb 6:11-12)
Will I heed the warning? Will I persevere? Will I work diligently? Will I be confident of the hope? Will I inherit the promise? I know I am convinced of this concerning you my brothers and sisters in Christ. I pray each of us will confidently answer yes with not only our words but with our actions. How do we do it? How do we remain faithful? How do we remain strong on our uneven journey through this life? The Hebrew writer said we do it by looking at the same place we started: Jesus Christ standing before God. “…we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb 6:18b-20)
Is your soul’s anchor set with Jesus within the veil?