The word picture of an anchor is used often in ancient literature, but it’s used only once in the New Testament in picturing hope as an anchor for our soul. Lots of hymns and gospel songs make use of this anchor metaphor. Every one of them comes back to Hebrews 6:19: “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul . . . “
There’s something beautiful in this word picture that I would have missed without the insight of one very capable scholar:
The picture is that of an ancient sailing vessel finding its way through the narrow entrance to a harbor. This was one of the trickiest maneuvers the captain of a ship had to make. As his ship moved through the opening, he had to guard against a gust of wind running it onto a reef or a sandbar. The skeleton of many a ship could be seen on the rocks, giving testimony to the fact that its captain had failed his navigation test.
To minimize the risk, the olden-day skipper would lower the ship’s anchor into a smaller boat, which would then be rowed through the narrow entrance of the harbor. The anchor would then be dropped and this ship, with sails down, would be pulled past the obstacles, through the narrow opening and into the safety of the harbor.1
The point of all of this, of course, is not anchors and skippers, ships and harbors. The point is this: That is exactly what Jesus Christ does when the bottom of life drops out. Look closely at the verse:
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil.(v. 19)
The imagery of that verse may not be clear at first glance. Let me put it in today’s terms. In the days of the Tabernacle, the Hebrews gathered around it and within it as a place of worship. Within the Tabernacle were veils; behind the innermost veil was the holiest place on earth, the place we might call the “God-room.” In this God-room, the light (it was actually called the shekinah) of God resided. It’s my understanding that the light of God was a brilliant, blazing radiance that shone down into the God-room. Within that room was an ark, or a small chest, much lower and smaller than most pulpits. On top of that chest was a grail, with golden cherubim on either end (angel-like creatures with their wings folded in front of them). That entire piece of unique furniture was too holy for words.
Once a year, the high priest of the Israelites would enter that God-room with a small pan of blood which, precisely as God required it in the Law, he poured out on the grail (which was called the “mercy seat”) there between the golden cherubim. God, witnessing the spilling of the blood and pleased with the sacrifice that had been made correctly by the priest, graciously forgave the Hebrew people for their sin. It was an annual event, the most sacred of all events. The Hebrews must have held their breath as the high priest went in with the pan, poured the blood, and came out of this room where God dwelled. The first-century Jews who read this word veil in Hebrews 6 understood all that. Look closely:
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.(vv. 19–20)
In other words, our Savior has gone through life, has taken all of life’s beatings and buffetings, and has gone before us. And now? Now He pulls us toward Himself! He invites His followers within the veil. He says, “Come in. Find healing for your stress fractures. Find here the rest that you need, the relief from the burdens and buffetings of doubt.”
Doubt, you see, will always try to convince you, You are all alone. No one else knows. Or cares. No one else really can enter in and help you with this. In Hebrews, however, the writer says that Christ is a constant priest—not once a year, but forever. He lives in the God-room. He is there, sitting alongside the Father, representing your needs to Him. And, child of God, there is nothing so great for you to endure that He does not feel touched by it and stay by you through it.