Questions for Littles: To whom had God made a promise (13a)? By whom did He swear this promise (v14)? After what did Abraham obtain the promise (v15)? To whom did God show more abundantly the unchangeableness of His promise (v17)? How did He show this more abundantly (end of v17)? What is it impossible for God to do (v18)? What do God’s unchangeable counsel and unchangeable oath give to us? What are we who have fled for refuge enabled, by this strong consolation, to lay hold of?In the Scripture for the sermon this week, we learned not only how to seek assurance of our belonging to God in Christ, but also the fact that God desires for us to have this assurance.
How do we know that God wants us to have this assurance? Because He swears an oath about it!
Now, that sounds a little strange to us.
We understand why husbands and wives swear vows to each other. And we understand why judges and government officials take oaths before God. And we understand why church members take vows and oaths.
But… God? Isn’t it pretty much impossible for Him to lie? Aren’t His plans and promises unchangeable?
Yes, and the passage says both of these things. But let us consider v17 more closely. It is not that God was making the word or promise more sure. Rather, he was showing more abundantly how sure they already are. It is the display of the certainty, not the certainty itself, that is magnified here.
And why? v18 tells us: to give us strong consolation. If we have fled for refuge to the Lord, it does not honor Him for us to continue always in a condition of nervous uncertainty about our spiritual state. Rather, it honors Him that those who are seeking refuge in Him, would find in that refuge a strong consolation.
So the Lord accommodates our weakness. He makes allowance for how doubting and shaky our faith can often be. And He piles onto His promises with covenant oaths. He did this several times with Abraham, but the one quoted here is from that extraordinary incident on the mountain where Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac.
He has continued to do so with us, giving us a New Covenant in which the sacrifices are not bulls and goats, appointed by God for the certainty of believers, but the very blood of Jesus Christ Himself. The washing of His blood and pouring out of His Spirit signified in baptism. The covenant meal, complete with the Cup that is the New Covenant in His blood. These are forms of covenantal assurance, pointing to and united with the oaths of the living God Himself.
By means of Word and Sacrament, God answers our weakness with a strong consolation, so that we will lay hold of the hope set before us. Hallelujah!
How often do you reflect upon your baptism as a covenant sign? How does God’s appointment of the Supper as a covenant sign strengthen your certainty about His promises?Suggested Songs: ARP191 “I Love the Lord” or HB368 “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”