Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Hebrews 6:20
A forerunner is an extremely picturesque and evidently ancient calling. He may now be seen to the best advantage in the large towns of Egypt. When rich people drive or ride abroad, a servant attends them, called, a sais, or groom, whose duty it is to run on foot at some distance in front of his master’s horse or carriage.
They carry in their hands a long rod. It is their business to clear a passage for their master through the narrow crowded streets, to open gates, announce his coming, and wait upon him when his horse or chariot halts. As they run, uttering loud warning cries, they use the rod freely over the shoulders of all who obstruct the way. Their strength and powers of endurance are most remarkable. Men drive very rapidly in the East, yet the sais will run without stopping before his master’s carriage, however swiftly borne along, for a distance of a dozen miles!
The office of the sais is unquestionably that of the “runner,” or “fore-runner” of Scripture. Samuel’s warning as to “the manner of the king,” — “he will take your sons . . . and they shall run before his chariots (1 Sam 8.11),” is explained by this custom. So also is the conduct of Absalom and Adonijah when, each in turn conspiring against the throne, by way of assuming royal honours, had “fifty men to run before him (2 Sam 15.1; 1 Kings 1.5).” It throws a flood of new light on Elijah’s perfectly natural and chivalrous, though none the less miraculous proceeding, when the king’s runners being either absent at the moment, or purposely replaced by the prophet, he girded up his loins, and, as a sais, ran before the chariot of Ahab from Mount Carmel to the entrance of Jezreel, a distance of some twenty miles (1 Kings 18.44-46)!
A deeply interesting and significant meaning is thus given to the words, “Whither Jesus entered for us as a fore-runner,” occurring in that passage where the Apostle is speaking of the “strong consolation” of those who have “fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us (Heb 6.18-20).” He, who stooped to be amongst His disciples “as one who serves,” seems to Paul like the sais, or runner, who just precedes by a little the chariot of the prince, the believer — who in the coming age is to “reign in life” as a king (Rev 1.6; 5.10; 20.6) — to prepare his way, to enter into the gates of the palace, to take possession of it in his name, and to be ready with His own wonderful and Divine condescension to receive, wait upon, and serve him there (See Luke 12.37)! Viewed in this light we have indeed “strong consolation.”
Neil, Revd James., Peeps Into Palestine, Stanley Martin & Co. Ltd, UK, ~1913