In my last post, I said that I would next address “when all around my soul gives way.” But I was ahead of myself. I’m attacking “within the veil” instead since that is in verse two.
2 When darkness veils his lovely face,Edward Mote, The Solid Rock
I rest on his unchanging grace;
in every high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil.
I grew up singing “When darkness seems to veil his face.” Either way, the last line reads “My anchor holds within the veil.”
Honestly, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to write a post about this verse, because I did not find it striking. However, since I wasn’t sure what it meant, I kept it on the agenda.
I was shocked to discover a depth of meaning and passion in the writing of others as they describe this line and verse.
“My anchor holds within the veil”
First of all, I don’t think it had ever occurred to me that these words are taken directly out of the end of Hebrews 6. If you read the song lyrics without knowing the verses, you are tempted to say, “What? An anchor in a veil? What does that mean? Nice mixed metaphor, Mote.”
But these words are straight from the Scriptures.
19 Which [hope] we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;
20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, [even] Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.[Heb 6:19-20 KJV]
I love how Mote’s familiarity with Scripture allowed him to incorporate the terminology of those verses seamlessly into the phrases of his song.
As Chad Bird says in this article, “It’s one of the strangest and most beautiful images in Scripture: Christ, our priest, as an anchor within the Holy of Holies.”
The writer to the Hebrews almost seems giddy with joy in this ending to chapter 6. Words like “hope” and “forever” and “anchor of the soul” flash from the page with life-giving power.
What is the Veil?
First of all, I noticed that the David Wesley choir I’ve been including with these posts does not use the word “veil” twice in verse two. Instead, they sing:
“When darkness hides his lovely face
I rest on his unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.
I like this, because I was confused by the two veils. I think they are unrelated. The first veil is a verb, describing how difficult things in life make us feel. The second veil is clearly the veil from Hebrews 6.
This Hebrews 6 veil, in the eras before Jesus, had separated people from God. The Israelites were warned that they must not enter the most Holy Place, or they would die. Only the High Priest could go in once a year. But even he had to wear a leash around his ankle just in case he happened to die while inside, so he could be removed without endangering the life of the mortician.
When Jesus sacrificed himself, the veil became obsolete. Did the writer to the Hebrews remember the time before Jesus? Certainly, his parents had lived in that era, when only the high priest was allowed to approach God. But now, he says, since Jesus became that High Priest, we can enter through him. And this hope holds us even when darkness hides (or seems to hide) his face.
I was so inspired by some of the commentary I read on the anchor, that I don’t think I can do better than pass some of it along to you.
Death wears many a mask, and he comes calling in manifold ways. The death of a marriage. Death in addiction. The demise of hopes and dreams and friendships and careers. And in all these deaths, darkness veils Christ’s lovely face. When we need him most, he seems most absent. We are tossed about in the darkness, like a ship caught in a midnight storm, searching for him, for hope, for something stable.
In the midst of these storms, what we need is not a list of spiritual principles by which we can row the boat of our lives safely back to the harbor. What we need is not a coach, standing in the prow, telling us, “Row harder! Pray more fervently!”
When all about us are waves and wind that threaten to shipwreck our lives, what we need is an anchor. An anchor that’s chained to an immovable hope. And an anchor that’s fastened around us. An anchor that holds us fast when storms rage all about us. We need what the author of Hebrews tells us we have: “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters in the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf,” (6:19-20). There is no “Jesus and….” There is only Jesus, and he is more than enough.Chad Bird, https://www.1517.org/articles/whats-an-anchor-doing-in-the-holy-of-holies
I hope you’ve been blessed as I have by this verse I thought was boring!
An anchor within a veil is certainly unusual. But even more astonishing is the reality that God really opened up access to Himself through Jesus, and that he really means to provide stability in our worst nightmares.
Next week, I think I really am ready for what started me on this series and will likely be the finale: “when all around my soul gives way.”
I’ll continue to include the virtual choir version of The Solid Rock for those who missed it or who, like me, just want to hear it again.