In today’s first reading there is something I find a bit strange. God not only promises to do something by His words, He also swears to do it by His own person. Clearly God can do whatever He wants, and if He were to change His mind He would be free to do it. But we know that when God says something, He does it. Why would He swear to it? What does God Himself swearing to accomplish something add to the words of His promise? To make things even more complicated, Jesus commands us not to swear: “Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Anything else is from the evil one.” Would God lie? Would the one who has no one to answer to except Himself bother with untruths? The devil is the father of lies because He must answer to God and He refuses to.
If God cannot lie, why would He swear an oath? The author of the letter to the Hebrews tells us that it is to reinforce the power of His words for those of us who are tempted to doubt. I think this is an interesting way to strengthen our hope – the anchor of our souls. When God’s words seem hard to believe, we can meditate on who God is. If we are able to raise our minds to truth about who God is, we can hold on more tightly to His Word. God doesn’t swear out of some kind of weakness that He has, but because of the weakness of our faith. “Remember,” says the Lord, “these promises have not been spoken to you by flesh and blood, but by the eternal and merciful God.” What God promises is the Resurrection of our own bodies – eternal life and happiness for those who follow Jesus. This is our true rest, our true peace, the unending Sabbath. God created us for that, He did not create us to follow rules eternally.
EPHREM THE SYRIAN:
“Through two unchangeable things” … the former is that he swore by himself. The latter is that David said, “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, that you are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” It is by this means that we who have been made coheirs of his promise “might have strong encouragement.” We “have fled for refuge” in order to protect ourselves, not for God’s justice, in order that God may draw and drive us away from the evils of this world, and may open for us the way “into the inner shrine behind the curtain.” We do not go in first. We do not go into the shrine of the tabernacle, where Moses went, but into the inner shrine in heaven, “where Jesus has gone as a forerunner, having become a high priest forever,” not in order to offer the victims of sacrifices, like Aaron, but to offer the word for all nations, like Melchizedek.1
THEODORET OF CYR:
He is a high priest forever, not in offering sacrifices (having offered his own body once), but in being a mediator leading the believers to the Father; through him (he says, remember) we both have had access to the Father. The Lord himself says in the sacred Gospels, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” We must be aware, of course, that the divine apostle made mention of the oaths sworn to Abraham so that the unchanging character of the divine will should be brought out; it endures in advance the stability of high priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek, the oath being linked to the word at this place.2
THEODORE OF MOPSUESTIA:
Paul added that “Christ” has become “an eternal high priest” for us, in that Christ leads all those believing through him in each generation to God based on the hope of the resurrection.3
It is foolish to believe the Evangelist’s account that he ate and not to believe that he was really hungry. Yet it does not follow that everyone who eats is hungry. For we read that even an angel ate, but we do not read that he was hungry. Nor does it follow that everyone who is hungry eats. He may either restrain himself due to some obligation or lack food or the means to eat.… Now, just as the fact that Jesus ate food is unintelligible without a body, so the fact that he felt hunger is impossible without a soul.4
UNKNOWN GREEK AUTHOR:
Now every week has seven days. Six of these God has given to us for work, and one for prayer, rest, and making reparation for our sins, so that on the Lord’s Day we may atone to God for any sins we have committed on the other six days. Therefore, arrive early at the church of God; draw near to the Lord and confess your sins to him, repenting in prayer and with a contrite heart. Attend the holy and divine liturgy; finish your prayer and do not leave before the dismissal. Contemplate your master as he is broken and distributed, yet not consumed. If you have a clear conscience, go forward and partake of the body and blood of the Lord.5
- COMMENTARY ON THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. Heen, E. M., & Krey, P. D. W. (Eds.). (2005). Hebrews (p. 93). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- INTERPRETATION OF HEBREWS 6. Heen, E. M., & Krey, P. D. W. (Eds.). (2005). Hebrews (p. 94). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- FRAGMENTS ON THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS 6.20. Heen, E. M., & Krey, P. D. W. (Eds.). (2005). Hebrews (p. 94). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- AGAINST THE APOLLINARIANS, QUESTION 80. Oden, T. C., & Hall, C. A. (Eds.). (1998). Mark (Revised) (p. 34). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- SERMON 6, 1–2. Oden, T. C., & Hall, C. A. (Eds.). (1998). Mark (Revised) (p. 34). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.