Heb 10:23 – 23 “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”
You might be thinking to yourself, “one verse for today? Why just the one verse?” Well, there’s more here than we see in our first reading.
Hold unswervingly or other translations say “hold fast”
Hold fast is another nautical term the author uses in the book of Hebrews.
The translators of the NIV chose to translate it as to “hold unswervingly” which I think misses the mark. I know I’m not a Bible translator, but the translators seem to have missed many of the nautical references in their translation. Were they to have those terms in mind during the translation, I think it would have broadened the translation a little bit. But then again, what do I know.
The reason I think it misses the mark is because this word’s nautical definition means “To check a ship’s headway, i.e. to hold or head the ship.” Hopefully, what comes to mind when I say, “head the ship” is the term heading. What is a heading? The heading of a ship is the compass direction or navigation direction the ship is “heading” toward. The head of the ship, the very front part of the boat, is pointed to the heading.
In this time they would have been using the stars and maybe some form of a device that is like what we know to be the sextant. You had to know how to use certain stars to find other stars during certain seasons at the right time of night to be able to set the heading. Last night was a crisp and clear night out on the farm. And as I was looking out the kitchen window I could see the big dipper sitting right on top of the roof of the barn. I noticed that its position was quite a bit lower in the sky than where it is during many of the summer nights when I go out and look at the stars. If I were to set my heading based on the location of the big dipper, my course would be changing with its change of location in the sky. But if I use the big dipper to find the north star which never moves, then I can get some sense of direction.
So, when the author says to “hold fast” to the hope we profess, he’s not talking about clinging tightly to something like we would typically think. He’s talking about holding fast to the direction we are heading, which is the hope we profess or the confession of our hope. What is that hope? Remember 6:19-20? “19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” Remember the idea of the forerunner? It’s the ship that comes out of the harbor and takes the anchor of ships into the harbor who aren’t, for whatever reason, able to enter.
Jesus is that forerunner who has taken our anchor into the harbor of God’s eternal rest. Our hope is anchored in the harbor because Jesus took our anchor into the harbor for us when he sacrificed himself on our behalf. Our heading, then is the harbor. Our heading is where our ship is already anchored. Our heading is in that hope that has been firmly secured for us by Christ.
So, today’s verse then, starts to have much deeper significance than originally thought. “Let us keep our heading locked in tightly to the hope we have already confessed and testified about, because the one who made the promise that gives us hope is faithful – he can never, ever change.”
This is one of the big problems I see in Christianity today. The navigation of our lives is not set on that heading. The life of so many believers is set on so many different stars. You can see it in the way so many Christians are making so many other things their biggest pursuit. You can see it in their lack of hope for this day. You can see it in the anxiety, worry, fear and frustration. You can see it in the acceptance of layer up layer of sin in our lives and the refusal to lovingly confront others on the sin in their lives.
So many Christians have lost their heading. Their ship is pointed at a moving star. Some of our ships are pointed at satellites that have been placed in orbit by man; we’re not even following overarching, grandiose ideas, but manmade ideas of recent history.
We’ve allowed the twinkling of all these other stars to catch our attention. We gaze and gaze upon them until we find our ship is headed, or drifting, in that direction. And it doesn’t take much. A difference of one degree in heading flying out of Portland International Airport is the difference between arriving at London, England and Abidjan, Ivory Cost. London is nearly 3,200 miles away from Abidjan. One degree can make a pretty big difference.
This is why the author is adamant about “Holding fast” to our hope. There can be nothing else that steals our attention away from the hope we have confessed. Because, as long as that is our heading, our hope is in the one who can never break his promises. As long as we are going that direction, we will arrive at the proper destination. But even the slightest distraction from that hope can land us way off course.
So, set the heading on true north. Not magnetic north, that is changing all the time. The North magnetic pole has moved steadily northward at an average rate of 10 kilometers per year since it was first located in 1831. That’s 1,880 KM in 188 years. Or 1,168 miles for people who measure distance the right way. But true north never changes. And, no I’m not talking about the true north of the earth that, though it moves far less, still moves. I’m talking about the true north of Christ who has anchored our hope in the safe haven of God’s harbor. Hold fast to that. Set your heading on that and only that. Everything else has the potential to get you way off course.