Seven Minutes with The Director
It must have been with quivering hands and tear-filled eyes that Horatio Spafford read the telegram. It was from his wife. It contained only two words: “Saved alone.” Mrs. Spafford and their four children had set sail from New York to France on the S.S. Ville Du Haure, one of the most luxurious ships afloat, Mr. Spafford was to conclude some important business and follow his family to Europe. On November 22, 1873, only a few days out of New York, the liner was rammed by an English iron sailing vessel. In two hours the luxury liner, one of the largest ships afloat, sank. Two hundred and twenty-six people drowned, including the four Spafford children. At once he booked passage to join his wife who had been rescued. Passing over the spot where the liner had gone down with his four children aboard, Spafford found himself restless and unable to sleep. And then, amidst the storm in his soul, a loving Heavenly Father quieted His child’s troubled heart and Spafford penned these words:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll —
Whatever my lot. Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Tho Satan should buffet, tho trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my souf.
My sin — O the bliss of this glorious tho’t —
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more:
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend,
“Even so — it is well with my soul.
When reunited with his wife several weeks after the tragedy, Spafford remarked, “I have not lost my children. We are only separated for a little time.”
Horatio Spafford had an Anchor of the soul, and in a day of tempestuous storm it proved as it always does to be “sure and steadfast”.
Music was later added by his friend, Philip P. Bliss, and “It is Well With My Soul” has blessed and encouraged millions of God’s children during the storms of life in the more than one hundred years since its writing.
The Father’s Word
Every child of God has been given the word of “hope” from his Heavenly Father that Spafford knew and clung to. That “hope” is still future in time but certain in fulfillment. That word of “hope” is that one day we shall be with God to worship and enjoy Him forever. And, so concerned was our Father that we live our lives with the assurance of the “hope” which He set before us that not only did He give us the promise of His presence and Heaven, but He confirmed that promise by His oath. The writer to the Hebrews put it this way:
Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise [the believer] the immutability of his counsel [that He is not a turncoat] , confirmed it by an oath. That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie [His promise and His oath], we [the believer] might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge [Calvary] to lay hold upon the hope [of Heaven] set before us (Heb. 6:17-18).
God’s promise is always enough — His Word is truth. He is not a man, that He should lie (Num. 23:19). Why, then, did God add to His promise His oath? Wasn’t His promise enough? Did God have to add an oath? Certainly His oath was not at all to make His promise more sure, but to make you and me more assured. It is God’s great condescension. “For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust” (Ps. 103:14). God substantiated His promise of Heaven with His oath for our comfort and confidence.
We are told that when God took an oath (concerning the believer’s salvation). He swore by Himself (Heb. 6:13). If He had sworn by Heaven and earth, it could be argued that one day they would pass away — and so, too, could His oath pass away. Therefore, God swore by His own name; and as His name will live and last forever, so does His oath and the believer’s assurance of Heaven and his Father’s eternal presence.
The Son’s Work
The certain hope (of Heaven) which we have is based upon the promise and oath of God the Father.
But, that promise and oath in turn rest upon the finished work of God the Son. Speaking of that work which secures our hope, consider the words of the writer to the Hebrews once again:
Which hope [Heaven] we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil, Where the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 6:19-20).
Now notice and rejoice in the four truths which God through the inspired penman is communicating to the believer.
First, the hope of Heaven is an “anchor of the soul”. It is intended to keep us secure and on keel in the storms of this life.
Second, the hope of Heaven is “sure and steadfast”. It is unspeculative and certain. Nothing can break the chain or loosen the anchor.
Third, the hope of Heaven is in the divine presence. The phrase “within the veil” immediately reminds the reader of the holy of holies within the tabernacle where God abode. To enter within the veil was to enter the divine presence.
Fourth and finally, the hope of Heaven is: “an anchor of the soul”, “sure and steadfast” and “within the veil” because Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God,our great High Priest, is our “forerunner”. In biblical days, a “forerunner” was a little dinghy or rowboat. When a sailing vessel came to a shallow water port or where a sandbar or rocks and shoal made entrance into the port difficult or impossible, a forerunner was lowered from the ship and, with anchor in tow,.rowed into the harbor. The anchor was then dropped inside the harbor, or the anchor line was tied to a large rock and then, with the use of a winch, the boat was pulled across the sandbar into the harbor. The imagery suggested in both cases is quite beautiful. In the first instance, the ship was in the sea but the anchor was in the harbor. The storm would come, the waves would roar, the winds would blow — the ship would be buffeted but it was secure because, though out in the storm, its anchor was in the stillness of the harbor. The believer is confronted with the storms of life, but his anchor is in the presence of God where Christ, his Forerunner, has entered.
In the second instance, the forerunner was used to fasten the ship to a rock within the harbor and, with a winch, the ship was pulled to safety. The believer’s entrance into Heaven will not be made under his own power but by divine grace and through the intercessory power of our Forerunner — “Jesus, made an high priest -forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
Of all people on the planet Earth, only the child of God, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and with a Forerunner who has gone before, can sing, “My anchor holds and grips the solid rock.”
That Rock is Jesus. Do you know him?
Whither bound, O careless boatman,
Out upon life’s treach’rous main?
Know you not your destination?
Seek you not a port to gain?
What! Have you no chart or compass?
Have you none your course to guide?
Dare you thus your life imperil,
Drifting aimless with the tide?
Calm and bright, the/, now, the waters,
Nothing you can see to dread.
By and by you’ll meet with breakers, .
There is danger, friend, ahead!
Oh! How many souls have perished
On this trackless ocean vast,
Caught “neath some o’erwhelming billow,
Going down before the blast!
Would you make the voyage safely?
Gain at last the haven fair?
Ask the Lord to be your Pilot,
He has guided millions there.
Thomas O. Chisholm