"By" God, "I" God, will never leave you or forsake you2
To what lengths do you think God might go to provide you with rock solid proof that he loves you and will fulfill his promises to you? Continue reading . . .
To what lengths do you think God might go to provide you with rock solid proof that he loves you and will fulfill his promises to you? How extravagant might his efforts be? Is there a limit to what he might do or say in order for you to be encouraged and reassured that his promise to save you cannot be broken?
If there is no limit or boundary or length to which God will not go to make certain that you know he can be trusted, what action might he take or what words might he speak? When he says “You are mine forever,” and you and I respond by saying, “That sounds good, but how can we know for sure,” what might God then do to reinforce the truthfulness of his promise and pledge?
Would you prefer that he write it in the clouds above? That would be a significant miracle and expression of divine power, but what happens when the wind blows and the clouds dissipate and the message is no longer visible for you to see? Would you prefer that he make a down payment; perhaps some sort of monetary deposit to guarantee that he can be counted on to come through on what he says?
Think about how you and I go about trying to reinforce our words to assure someone that we really mean what we say and that we will really follow through on our promises. We typically take an oath, saying something like:
“Cross my heart and hope to die!”
“I swear on my grandmother’s grave!”
“May lightning strike me dead on the spot if what I’m saying isn’t true.”
“By all that is holy I swear to you that I won’t let you down.”
The point of the oath is to underline or to insure, as much as we possibly can, the truth of what we have said or the certitude of what we have promised. An oath is something of an exclamation point after our promise.
This is similar to what we read here in Hebrews 6:16 – “For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation.” In other words, you wouldn’t put much stock in my promise to you if I said, “If I’m lying to you I swear I’ll give you my dirty, unwashed gym socks.” Or, “I promise on the life of my pet turtle that I’ll pay back every penny that I owe to you.”
Those sorts of pledges or oaths don’t carry much weight, and the reason is obvious. No one cares anything at all about their dirty, unwashed gym socks or their pet turtle. Well, they may care a bit for the turtle, but not enough for it to hold them to their word.
Typically, then, in order to make it clear that we mean what we say and that we will most definitely follow through on our promises we swear an oath by appealing to something greater and more valuable and more precious than ourselves. Once that is done, the dispute is settled and the oath we’ve taken is final confirmation that the person can trust us.
We read of this in Hebrews 6:13-20. Look at it closely.
For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. 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 to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 6:13-20).
But God has a problem. By what can he swear? If God says to you and me, “I love you with an eternal love and I’ll never, ever stop loving you,” to what might he appeal to drive home the certainty of that promise? If he says, “I swear to you on the existence of the earth and all it contains,” that hardly does any good. After all, if the earth ceased to exist he could simply call into existence a new one. Or, “May Satan put an end to my life if I’m lying to you.” That won’t work either, because God is by definition eternal and immortal and can’t die. Neither is it of any help should God swear by the angels Michael and Gabriel. There are tens of thousands of angels and the loss of two is of little significance. The point is simply that the Creation is of infinitely less value than the Creator and therefore cannot carry sufficient weight in an oath.
So what must God do to make sure you and I will be encouraged and reassured in the knowledge of his love for us and his future plans for us? There is only one thing to which God can appeal in taking an oath, and that is himself! If one takes an oath that will carry force one must always appeal to something more valuable or greater than oneself. But God is the greatest and most valuable and most worthy and most honorable and most beautiful being in the universe. Therefore, he can only swear by himself. He is the final court of appeal.
When he says, “By God, I God will never leave you or forsake you,” he is telling us that it is as unlikely that he will break his promise to bless and save us as it is that he will despise and dishonor his own name. Is there any likelihood that God will ever despise and dishonor his own name? No. Then there is no likelihood that he will ever break his word of promise to you and me.
But if God’s word is infinitely reliable and trustworthy, why must he swear at all? It can’t be because the credibility of God is questionable or doubtful. Surely God does this by way of accommodation to us. The oath itself adds nothing to the reliability of God’s initial promise. It does not make God’s statement truer than it would have been otherwise. God’s word, for no other reason than that it is God’s word, is indefectible and immutable and always rock solid true. But for our sakes, in order that you and I may be increasingly encouraged and overwhelmingly convinced and all doubt forever removed, God added the oath.
That is the message God has for you and me from Hebrews 6:13-20.