Have you ever sat and watched airplanes take off?
To me, it’s always been a bizarre sight to behold. My brain tells me that the giant metallic object shouldn’t be able to fly. It’s too big. Despite its sleek design, it’s a far cry from the elegant and powerful movement of a bird.
But then it kicks on that engine, gains speed, and lifts into the air with awe-inspiring grace.
Once it’s in the air, you begin to imagine all the potential. You realize all the places that plane could fly and how the people on the flight are on all sorts of different journeys.
Additionally, when you purchase the ticket for a flight you are being made a promise. The airline is promising that they will do everything in their power to get you to a specific location (even if it has to be rerouted or is delayed) and keep you safe.
On the completely opposite spectrum is the anchor.
The anchor gives no picture of potential or movement. It drops like a parent setting their foot down to assert their authority. An anchor boldly emphasizes security. It is strong, weighty, and solid. It unflappably grips unmoving ground and rock to keep the boat and its crew from drifting.
The sailors feel more at ease knowing that the anchor is down. Their responsibilities change and are less dire when the ship is settled. They don’t have to worry about being tossed into the surf. It is a sign of assurance.
This boat isn’t going anywhere.
Curiously, Hebrews 6:13-19 invokes these two images, the airplane and the anchor. They are two objects that are never associated with one another, and yet they offer context to what was meant by God’s promise and oath:
“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.”
It seems repetitive to offer both a promise and an oath. However, the images of an airplane and an anchor help delineate the nuance involved.
God’s promise to Abraham was one of hope and potential. God promised Abraham that He would “bless [him]and multiply [him]” and that through one family “all the nations of the earth [would] be blessed” Genesis 22:17-18. This blessing has great potential and scope! This is a huge promise that God is making.
Thomas Schreiner’s commentary on Hebrews explains it the following way:
“The purpose here is to underline the certainty of the promise. God took an oath to certify the promise to Abraham. But by what did God swear? On what basis did he affirm his truthfulness? God can’t swear by anyone greater than himself, for there is no being in heaven or on earth greater than God. God possesses all perfections and is infinitely perfect in all of them. Hence, since no being is greater than God, God swore by himself.”
In a nutshell, God’s promise is true and full of potential because of His greatness. God’s promise cannot be broken. God cannot and would not separate Himself from delivering on His promises. It is not in His nature.
In spite of everything that Abraham and his descendants did that weren’t faithful or trusting or worshipful to God, He was always going to deliver on His Word.
Independent of the turbulence of life, we can be assured of arriving at the promised destination in God’s airplane — brimming with potential — because He has us anchored to our seats.
Nicholas Clark is Pastor of First Baptist Church.
This weekly column is provided to the News Journal on a monthly rotation basis by members of the Wilmington Area Ministerial Association.