Among the many familiar symbols of Christ in the Scriptures, one that might be missed is that of an anchor. A familiar word even to those who may never have stepped foot in a boat, this essential nautical device is only mentioned a handful of times in the New Testament (ἄγκυρα in the original Greek). Luke uses the word three times in Acts 27 in its literal form. Caught in a terrible storm, the prisoner ship carrying the apostle Paul to Rome is blown across the Mediterranean and nearly crashes into the shores of the island Malta, saved for a night only by dropping four anchors from the stern of the ship.

The other singular occurrence of the anchor is found in the book of Hebrews, a letter most distinguished for its use of Old Testament symbols regarding the priesthood. Defending the perfect priesthood of Jesus Christ and the assurance of God's promises, the anonymous author writes:

So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:17-20)

As if one promise of God were not enough (seeing as it is 'impossible for God to lie'), God purposed to give the heirs of this promise an OATH as well. The promise, of course, is that one given to Abraham (Genesis 12). The oath is less obvious, but certainly context points us aright. The oath is delivered prophetically through King David, speaking of his future heir and the King of Kings, or Priest of Priests:

The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:4)

Do you see the encouragement here of which the Hebrews author speaks, and which he hopes to convince his readers of? God has secured a high priest forever to intercede on behalf of His people, and that priest is none other than the pure and spotless Christ Himself! One only need to follow this course of argument throughout the rest of Hebrews to see that God has purposed to provide a convincing assurance of the salvation through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

As the writer goes on to describe the function of the priest, the symbol of the anchor becomes potent. Beyond the veil through which we cannot pass nor see, Christ has gone on our behalf to reconcile us to God. The hope that is ours because of Christ's righteousness (the message of the gospel) is like the hope, or the faith, of the sailor depending on the anchor cast into the water. It journeys beyond sight to secure a firm hold against the threat of unpredictable currents, driving winds and surging waves.

Such a rich symbol has been put to song by Matt Boswell and Matt Papa in a recent hymn, Christ the Sure and Steady Anchor. Along with the promises of God for our good, we've also been promised that our pilgrim journey through this life will be hard (Jn. 16:33, Acts 14:22, Rom. 8). Sin is the guarantor of trials, of doubt, of unbelief, of pain and sickness and death. Without some assurance beyond ourselves, the storms that arrive will surely wreak havoc and potentially sink us, or at best blow us off course. Yet as we 'fix our eyes on Jesus' in such inevitable times, we find this hope immovable and secure (Heb. 12). It shall never be removed!

Christ, the sure and steady anchor,
In the fury of the storm;
When the winds of doubt blow through me,
And my sails have all been torn.
In the suff'ring, in the sorrow,
When my sinking hopes are few;
I will hold fast to the anchor,
It shall never be removed.

Christ, the sure and steady anchor,
While the tempest rages on;
When temptation claims the battle,
And it seems the night has won.
Deeper still, then, goes the anchor,
Though I justly stand accused;
I will hold fast to the anchor,
It shall never be removed.

Christ, the sure and steady anchor,
Through the floods of unbelief;
Hopeless somehow, O my soul, now,
Lift your eyes to Calvary.
This my ballast of assurance,
See His love forever proved.
I will hold fast to the anchor,
It shall never be removed.

Christ, the sure and steady anchor,
As we face the wave of death;
When these trials give way to glory,
As we draw our final breath.
We will cross that great horizon,
Clouds behind and life secure;
And the calm will be the better,
For the storms that we endure.

Christ, the sure of our salvation,
Ever faithful, ever true!
We will hold fast to the anchor,
It shall never be removed.

© 2015 Matt Boswell & Matt Papa