Anchored by Jesus

Jeff Garrison
Bluemont and Mayberry Churches
Hebrews 6:13-20
February 14, 2021
c2021

Sermon recorded on Friday, February 12th at Mayberry Presbyterian Church

At the Beginning of Worship:
Today, as we continue working our way through the book of Hebrews, we’re reminded of the certainty of God’s promise. Christians are people of hope because God has given us his word. Our hope is not in our own doing, it is in Jesus Christ. As I’ve said all along, this book is about Jesus’ superiority in all things, including our hope. In the early days of the World Council of Churches, they expressed our Christian hope with this statement: 

The hope of which we speak is something different from what [people] usually means when they speak of hope. In common speech “hope” means a strong desire for something which may be possible but is not certain. What is spoken of here is something that we wait for expectantly yet patiently, because we know it can never disappoint us.[1]  

As faithful followers of Jesus, we place our hope in him and not in our own works or actions. We know of the promises God has made. We are securely anchored in such hope by our faith in Jesus Christ. That’s our message for today, and every day.

After the Reading of Scripture: 

When I was younger and working for the Boy Scouts of America, I was involved with a national team to increase high adventure activities in council camps. Our goal was to encourage older scouts to return to camp by providing them an interesting program. Named Project COPE. (for Challenging Outdoor Physical Experience), we developed high ropes courses and taught the scouts the basics of rock climbing and teamwork. Of course, with scouts, safety was foremost. Having a scout climb up a vertical wall or cross over a two wire bridge some thirty or forty feet in the air involves risk. 

On Belay

Such risk can be mitigated by using a top belay. A belay is a rope attached to harness of a climber. This rope will catch the scout if he falls. For beginning climbers, you always use a top belay, in which the safety rope runs directly above the climber so that the belayer can keep the rope taut. Often, if climbing on a short cliff, the belay rope would run around a stout tree and back to the ground below climber. There, the belayer watched and was ready if the climber slips. By keeping the rope tight and running it through a braking device, if the scout slips, he wouldn’t fall far.  

For you see, if the scout weighed 125 pounds fell 10 feet, he’d create 1250 pounds of pressure. That’s a lot of stress on the rope, on their insides (where the harness is attached), and onto the belayer. It’s enough force to cause serious injury. But if the belay line is taut, the climber should not fall more than a few inches. They won’t experience extreme pressure and should be able to continue with their activities. 

Belayed to God

There is a comfort to being belayed when there is a danger of a fall, whether climbing on rock or a roof. Metaphorically, this can also be applied to living faithfully as a disciple. The Preacher of Hebrews speaks of our souls being anchored to God. If God holds us, we should fear nothing. As the Psalmist proclaims:

For God alone my soul waits in silence,
    for my hope is from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be shaken.[2]

Jesus Christ is our hope. Jesus is our belayer. There is no one else in whom we can place our trust. Yes, ever a good friend can disappoint us. If the one we trust to belay us in this life gets distracted, we can be in peril. But there is certainty about God’s promise as shown in Jesus Christ. 

Confirmed with an Oath

Before getting to the part about the anchor to our soul being secured to God, the Preacher in Hebrews begins with a promise God made to Abraham. This was God’s third promise to Abraham, made after Abraham showed his willingness to sacrifice Isaac.[3] Speaking to Abraham, God secures his oath by his own name, because there is nothing higher.

When we think of someone making an oath, we raise the bar of what we expect from them. We often take an oath on a Bible, as with someone being called to testify in court or someone being installed into a position of authority. The one making the oath promises truthfulness or faithfulness. An oath taken with God’s name means that if we do not live up to our commitment, God can and should deal with us. For this reason, scripture warns us not to take such an oath lightly. It’s serious business.[4]


God, in order to comfort Abraham, takes an oath on his own name. As mere mortals, we make our oaths on God, that which is larger than us. But there is nothing above God. Hence, he makes the oath in his own name. 

God wants Abraham to know that his word is good.  By this point in his life, Abraham is up in his years. He has a twelve-year-old son, Isaac. God promises that through Isaac, a nation will be born. This is Abraham’s hope. He can go to his grave knowing that God will see through on his promise. 

Oaths in our world

In our world, especially in Western Culture, we often have a much shorter timeframes than Abraham. It would be over 400 years before Abraham’s nation would be realized. We always want things to happen immediately, and easily forget that God plays the long game. The promise will be kept, the Preacher of Hebrews proclaims. But God has his own timeline. 

God holding our anchor

The important thing is to remember that we’re secure in Jesus Christ. The anchor rode which safeguards our soul runs behind the holy of holies. Jesus, himself, has secured our anchor behind the veil. God holds our anchor. 

You know, on a boat, when you drop anchor, you have to check and make sure it’s secured on the bottom. Most times, the water is not clear enough for you to see where your anchor is secured on the bottom. You only see the rope descending into the depths of the water. You tug the rope to makes sure the anchor is secure and you look at the angle of the line to makes sure it’s at the appropriate angle to best hold. And you have faith. 

With our spiritual anchor rode running behind the veil, or into heaven, faith is also required. However, we can trust that we’re secure because we know Jesus, our high priest, who went behind the veil, has set our anchor. 

Anchors are more important in inclement weather 

Of course, just because we’re secured doesn’t mean that we’ll not have problems. The purpose of an anchor is to hold a boat in all kinds of weather. Likewise, with our spiritual anchor, God promises to hold onto us despite whatever happens to us in this life. Our hope isn’t that we’ll have no problems. Our hope is in Jesus Christ, who know the trouble we endure. Set your sights on Jesus, let him secure your soul so that regardless of what trial or temptation you encounter, your soul is secure.  

Jesus our pathfinder 

In the last verse of this passage, we’re told that Jesus is our forerunner. He’s paving the way for us. So, Jesus not only holds us securely, but he also cuts the path for us to follow. 

Last week, in the previous passage where I spoke about motivation, I talked about a special campfire when I was a Boy Scout. What I didn’t say then, but you probably knew, is that these campfires included a bunch of silly songs. One had to do with the various ways you can’t get to heaven:

Oh, you can’t get to Heaven in an old Ford car,
‘Cause an old Ford car won’t go that far. 

Oh, you can’t get to Heaven on roller skates,
You’d roll right by them Pearly Gates…

And you can’t get to heaven in a limousine,
‘Cause the Good Lord ain’t got no gasoline…

There are an unlimited number of rhyming lines and throughout the summer, others would be added. But toward the end of the song, there were these lines:

If you get to Heaven before I do,
Just cut a hole and pull me through.[5]

Conclusion

Of course, such a song is silly. This idea of someone pulling us into heaven is wishful thinking at best. But there is one who can “cut that hole and pull us through.” It’s our Lord, who has us on belay as we travel this world, holding us tight. We can have confidence in God’s promises made in Jesus Christ. For that, we should be grateful, and live our lives in hopeful expectation. Amen. 


[1]”Christ: The Hope of the World,” report of the Advisory Commission on the main theme of the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches (1954), in The Christian Hope and the Task of the Church. Quoted by John H. Leith, Basic Christian Doctrine (Louisville, KY: WJKP, 1993), 286.

[2] Psalm 62:5-6. 

[3] God made promises to Abraham three times.  In Genesis 12:1-3, he promised him a great nation, In Genesis 15:5-6, God promised Abraham as many descendants as the stars. In Genesis 22:15-18, God (through an angel) promises Abraham that his descendants will be more than the stars and the sands on the seashore. Here, God swears the oath by his own name, as there is nothing higher. 

[4]See: https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/jesus-teaching-on-oaths/

[5] For the variety of lyrics along with a link to the tune, see: https://boyscouttrail.com/content/song/cant_get_to_heaven-1339.asp

12 thoughts on “Anchored by Jesus”

  1. I repelled down a cliff once. When I backed out over the top of the cliff, something slipped with my gear, and I ended up upside-down and smacked into the cliff. That might be the most terrifying thing that ever happened to me. But the rope held. My guide pulled me right side up and back to the top. Then he sent me back over the edge of the cliff again. I made it down which was a descent of at least 200 feet. So your analogy was very powerful, Jeff! And comforting! Thanks.

    Reply
  2. Didn’t do a lot of rock climbing in the army, but repelling down a cliff was a favorite of mine. So I understand having someone on belay and had to get caught several times after slipping. It was scary.

    Reply
    • Wow, I used to do a lot of repelling without an extra belay rope. I loved free repelling, without a cliff or tower. I think I might have enjoyed repelling out of a helicopter.

      Reply

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