For This Reason . . .

"For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it" (Hebrews 2:1).

The Spirit has led us to an inevitable conclusion. "Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it" (Heb 2:1, NRSV). Remember, we are speaking about God speaking to us through His Son--exclusively through His Son. So far as the Father is concerned, there are no other voices, no one else with a valid message. If we do not hear what Jesus has to say, we cannot know the mind of the Lord or be saved.

What is more, we must "pay greater attention to what we have heard." We are living in a competitive and distracting environment. Our ears can be "turned away from the truth to fables" (2 Tim 4:4), but it will be at the expense of our souls. If we do not listen intently to Jesus, we will not hear Him. If we do not focus upon Him, we will not behold Him! The soul that will be saved must come within hearing distance of the Son of God; within the circumference of Divine influence. Those that live with a lack of sensitivity to God are in a hopeless condition. He is speaking to us through His Son, but if we dwell in far off places, we cannot hear Him. How marvelously this is stated in the 65th Psalm. "Those living far away fear your wonders . . . " (v 8, NIV). The further you are from the Lord, the more you fear His workings, the less you speak of them, and the more infrequently you seek them.

There are intellectual and soulish lands that are "far away" from the voice of the Lord. When you inhabit these "lands" you are less apt to hear the Son of God. The land of academia is one such land, in which the individual can become immersed in the wisdom of men, thereby dulling his ability to hear the Son of God. The land of pleasure also desensitizes the soul to heavenly things. Pleasures of sin are only "for a season" (Heb 11:25). During that period, however, the voice of the Lord can scarcely be heard--if it can at all.

But our text is speaking of the stultifying effects of misguided religion--in particular a system that appeals to Law for justification. There is nothing more dulling to the spirit of man than this. This is why Jesus said to the bigoted Pharisees, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you" (Matt 21:31, NIV). The immoral, Jesus declared, were closer to the Voice than were the religious leaders! And why so? Because the publicans and harlots knew who they were. They still retained a sense of their aloofness from God, and the unacceptability of their conduct. The conscience of the Pharisees, however, had been dulled by their religion. They placed trust in their disciplined achievements and intellectual acumen. Their approach to the things of God had ushered them into a state where they had no ears to hear.

Plausible arguments can be introduced that emphasize the free will of man, and his ability to find the Lord at any time. All such arguments, however, fall to the ground as Jesus speaks this word. "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to" (Lk 13:24, NIV). "I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come" (John 7:33,34, NIV). "I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come" (John 8:21, NIV). Sobering words, indeed. Particularly for those who choose to sear their conscience by indulging in legalistic religion (1 Tim 4:1-3).

The word of the Spirit is strong. If God is speaking to us exclusively through the Son, and if the Son is Himself superior to angels, we must "pay greater attention to what we have heard" (NRSV). He means we are to pay closer attention than the Israelites at Mount Sinai, who feared and quaked at that awesome event. Their attentiveness, however, was not owing to the compelling nature of the words, but the frightening circumstances that accompanied them. Terror so gripped them that they cried out, "You [Moses] speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die" (Ex 20:19, NRSV). "Bounds," or limits, were set around the mountain of God, keeping the people from touching it. The solemnity of the occasion is seen in the Divine warning. "Be careful that you do not go up the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. He shall surely be stoned or shot with arrows; not a hand is to be laid on him. Whether man or animal, he shall not be permitted to live" (Ex 19:12-13). The people could only approach the sacred mount at the sounding of the "ram's horn" (Ex 19:14). That is not all! The Law sounded forth the awesome warnings. Violators of the Law were to be "put to death" (Ex 21:12,15,16,17,29; 22:19). The Law was truly "the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone" (2 Cor 3:7). It is in reference to this circumstance--the ministration of death--that the Spirit speaks in the last verse of our text. "For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?" (Heb 2:2-3a). A greater Spokesman has been given to us (as compared with angels), and thus our responsibility is greater to hear what He says. I often ponder the poignant manner in which our hearing of Christ is affirmed in Ephesians 4:20-21; "But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard Him, and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus" (KJV). The phrase "taught by Him" is translated "in Him" in most modern versions. The idea of "in" is "within . . . of place . . . denoting a position within boundaries . . . denoting specific location." Jesus Himself is the environment of spiritual learning. He is the Teacher, the Communicator, the Spokesman for God! This is by Divine appointment, and is for our eternal advantage. If those that heard lesser spokesmen were punished for not giving heed to what was said, what will be the lot of those that ignore the Son of God? For many, this is difficult to receive. Such cannot imagine the Son of God speaking today. They are willing to believe He spoke historically, but not contemporarily. The Word of God will not support such a view. Mind you, the Son of God uses means, but He is the One that uses them. It was the Son of God that spoke the message to the seven churches of Asia--nearly 60 years after He had ascended into heaven. He employed an angel to give it to John, and John topgive it to the churches but He is the One that gave the message. It is Him speaking. It is the same with us today. The Son of God is speaking to us through the Gospel. It is possible to hear His voice in your spirit, just like the Ephesians did, years after the Son of God had been seated on the heavenly throne (Eph 4:21). He has not ceased to teach His people. He still is the only One that knows the Father. He still is the only One that can teach us of the Father. We still come to Him, to be taught by Him. The invitation is still true. "All things have been committed to me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matt 11:27-30, NIV). Who is the soul that will affirm this promise is no longer applicable? Does it not reinforce the affirmation of our text?

Take this word and fasten it in your heart and mind. "See that you do not refuse the one Who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven!" (Heb 12:25, NRSV). The Son is superior to the angels--and their word could not be rejected without penalty. The Son is superior to angels, and therefore His Word is superior. It brings better promises, strength, vitality, and hope to all that will; embrace it. Thanks be to our God for such a glorious Spokesman!