Heb. 6: 18-19
“So that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, 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.”
By Reverend Ray
“But it is impious to conceive that anything can be better than the Cause of all things, since there is nothing equal to him, nothing that is even a little inferior to him; but everything which exists in the world is found to be in its whole genus inferior to God.1”
The idea of refuge has inherent to it the sense of a way or place of escape. In the Old Testament, Moses instructed the children of Israel to designate 6 cites of refuge where the one who had unintentionally spilt innocent blood could flee to escape the avenger of blood until the death of the High Priest. (see Num. 35:25-32; Joshua 21:13-38) The word has significance in the contemporary setting as a place to escape from severe weather, or from external threats, to places of safe haven for abused mothers and children. In every case, the idea of refuge denotes either an objective or subjective place of safety believed to be reliable to the one fleeing to it.
In our passage cited above, the writer of Hebrews uses this word in one of only two places found in the New Testament. The Greek word; (katapheugo) means “to get away from and area with the distinction of having a destination in mind,” or “to gain shelter from danger.”2 The refuge was that place stored in the back of the mind that meant safe haven, or sanctuary from the threats of life. The fact that they were known to exist offered its own support for hope, security. If I know I have a place to flee to in time of trouble, that in itself, gives one a certain amount of peace and stability. Imagine, living in the Ancient Oriental world where if an accident on your part caused the death of another person, it meant someone was going to avenge their blood by taking your life. The fear would be compounded if there was no sanctuary that prohibited the avenger from executing his mission.
The writer of Hebrews intended to fortify the shaky faith of his audience by reminding them of the quality and surety of the place where they had taken refuge, i.e., in Christ. He states that their refuge in Christ and His gospel is authenticated and secured by the character and word of God, Himself. They were not taking shelter in a flimsy wooden lean-to structure that would crumb under the first threats of winds. The waters of life will not unearth the structure of the refuge in Christ because it is backed by the character of God; that God had sworn by Himself. (v. 17) Second, He not only made an oath that was backed by the full authority and unqualified trustworthiness of His character; but He went on to seal it in the word of promise to us through Abraham. Such a magnificent edifice of refuge is the grounds for unshakable hope in God. The strength of this refuge in rooted in the Highest Guarantee in the universe and by that we have, through the gospel of Christ, a refuge that is a strong fortress, as David recounted; “For who is God, besides the Lord? And who is a rock, besides our God? God is my strong fortress; And He sets the blameless in His way.” (II Sam. 22:32-33)
Three times in the passage cited from Hebrews above, the writer employs the word; “hope.” It is more than a mere word, it is one of those subjective realities, like love, that cannot be measured empirically or tested in a lab for its quality; but it is true that we hope in something or depression plunges us into the unspeakable. The question most often then is not so much as to whether one has hope in something; but to what are they hoping. The refuge of Jesus Christ is anchored in the character and word of the Father, Jehovah God. The writer of Hebrews said because of such Divine authorization; “we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.” It behooves us to take survey of the quality of the structure of our refuge. What is our hope? Is it a refuge that you safely are assured is there? What is the foundation of such a shelter?
1 Yonge, C. D. with Philo of Alexandria. (1995). The works of Philo: complete and unabridged (p. 106). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.
2Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.