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Mar 23 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 22, 2020


Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. Hebrews 2:1

Intro: We have seen that there is an overall structure to whole book

It is a wave-like pattern that alternates between revelation and warning
– the first revelation came in chapter 1,
• and now in chapter 2 we have the first warning
◦ the warning sections can be severe
◦ but the writer also softens them softened with encouragements
Harold Attridge, “The God who speaks through . . . the Psalms defines for a covenant people the goal toward which they strive and motivates through words of encouragement and warning, their [faithfulness] to that covenant. . . . They have heard him promise, as well as threaten. They have heard words of encouragement and consolation as well as words of warning. They have heard in the person of God’s Son a model for their own dialogue with God, a paradigm for words of faith lived out in action.”
• the writer reveals new dimensions of Jesus’ awesome nature and gifts
◦ so he tell his readers, “You do not want to miss out or lose this!”
– why the warnings?
• Christians were not the first people to be called by God as his own
◦ God first chose Israel to be his people
◦ their history is clouded by many failures (e.g., see Psalm 106)
• as Hebrews explores the spiritual wealth we have in Jesus,
◦ the writer recognizes humans have not held up their part very well
◦ failure is possible, but it is also preventable

Verse 1, The first warning

As always, the word “therefore” is a link to what came before
– in this case, that includes everything all the way back to first verse
Long ago . . . God spoke
◦ the same word for “spoke” is here translated “declared”
◦ only now the emphasis is not on the speech, but our response
• the “therefore” points to an additional factor
◦ an insight to be gained, a conclusion to be drawn, or a lesson to be learned
– “we” is inclusive: the writer, his audience, and every reader ever since
• he pulls us onto the stage of this cosmic drama
◦ there are ramifications to the message that affect us
◦ we are the people who benefit from service of angels
Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? (Heb. 1:14 )
Timothy Johnson, “. . . receiving so great a salvation demands a response.”

What are we warned to do? To pay attention
– this word is used in a variety of ways in the New Testament
• it can mean, watch your step, be aware of your surroundings, beware of others, and so on
◦ here it is applied to what we have heard
◦ that is the message regarding Jesus and through the person of Jesus
• and not just pay attention, but much closer – more intensely focused
◦ notice that the writer is not saying merely to “hang in there”
◦ but to dig deeper, look more closely, be more attentive and alert
– the danger is that we can drift away from what we know of God
• let’s put a bookmark here and return to it further down

A two-part argument

For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? Hebrews 2:2-3a

The particular form of this sort of argument was very common
– rabbis referred to it as kal wahomar – “light” and “heavy”
• it is not like drawing a contrast between right and wrong
◦ it is more of a comparison of what is good to what is even better
◦ Jesus used it often, usually with the phrase, “how much more”
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Lk. 11:13)
Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! (Lk. 12:24)
– the message declared by angels proved reliable
• there was a tradition about angels being with Moses on Mt. Sinai (Acts7:53)
◦ how did that earlier message prove “reliable?”
every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution
◦ Israel never got away with disobedience to God’s commandments
• so the question is,
how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?
◦ the point is, the message through the Son is more reliable than that of angels
◦ and if Israel suffered the consequences of breaking God’s covenant,
how much more will wee

There is a subtle idea here, but one that is important
– it is in the word “neglect”
• we do not have to reject Jesus, or act defiant, or rebellious
◦ the danger for us is not that we will turn and walk away,
◦ but that without turning, we will drift away
we will let too much space grow between us and the Lord

Years ago, the youth ministry of Capo Beach Church hosted a summer camp on Catalina Island. That week, the youth minister sustained a serious injury and was in significant pain. So he allowed six students to return the ski boat to the mainland. But as they were navigating their way home, the boat engine failed and they were adrift at sea. All night long a search and rescue helicopter flew between Catalina and the Dana Point Marina looking for them. At last, just after dawn a fishing vessel spotted them at sea out from Oceanside. They had drifted more than thirty miles south of their destination.

• the natural motion of boats is to drift,
◦ carried by the forces of currents and winds
◦ to resit drifting, they must be anchored or moored to a dock
• we cannot think our spiritual journey will take care of itself
◦ by paying closer attention to what we have received from God,
◦ we anchor ourselves in him

The message we received was not delivered by angels

It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will Hebrews 2:3b-4

It was declared first by the Lord
– no more messengers, the Lord came and delivered his word himself
• notice, the author still hasn’t referred to him by name
• after the Lord, the message was “attested” by those who heard
◦ attested means “confirmed”
◦ it is the same word translated “reliable” in verse 2
◦ the Lord’s message was reliably transmitted by his apostles
– God also became a witness to truth of the message
• in John 5, Jesus claimed to have the support of certain witnesses
◦ John the Baptist, Jesus’ works, the Father, and the Scriptures
• God’s witness to the apostle’s message was through
signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will
(we see this many times in the Book of Acts and in the letters of Paul)
◦ the last line is remarkably similar to what Paul says about spiritual gifts in the church
All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills (1 Cor. 12:11)
◦ the Spirit continues the work of Jesus in the Christian community

The flow of the message turns in a new direction

For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking Hebrews 2:5

This is not a totally different theme – angels are still kept in view
– but there is a shift in perspective and a new theme
the new perspective shifts to the world to come (future tense)
◦ but notice “subjected” is in the past tense
◦ something regarding the coming world has already been arranged
It is a “done deal”
the new theme is “subject”
(five times in this chapter: subject, subjected, and subjection)
◦ this means to “submit,” to be placed under someone’s authority
◦ the point is, angels are not in charge of the world to come
of which we are speaking
• even though the writer has not really been discussing this
◦ he could be referring to general Christian discourse
◦ after all, Jesus taught us to pray
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven (Mt. 6:9-10)
• our entire Christian life is built on this
◦ it is what Paul refers to as “the blessed hope”

If the world to come is not in the hands of angels, then who?
– the author answers the question in a round about way

We return to the Psalms–this time Psalm 8

It has been said somewhere,
“What is man, that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man, that you care for him?
You have made him for a little while lower than the angels:
you have crowned him with glory and honor,
putting everything in subjection under his feet.”
Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone
Hebrews 2:6-9

This psalm is a favorite of many
– it also gives us a clue as to how we pay much closer attention
• and that is, by immersing ourselves in scripture
◦ the writer found something in this psalm that shed light on Jesus
◦ we can have a similar experience through the close attention we give to scripture in reading, studying, meditating, and sharing with others
• the psalm asks a question–in light of the universe, What is man?
◦ God placed humankind on highest rung of the animal kingdom
◦ slightly lower than the angels, but above everything else
God created man in his own image . . . male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Ge. 1:27-28)
– the author adds three points to the quote:
• “everything” means everything (even death; 1 Cor. 15:22-25)
• we do not see everything in subjection to humans–at least “not yet”
◦ by nature, not every insect, reptile, mammal, or primate is our pet
◦ however,
we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels

The writer of Hebrews has waited until now to reveal the name
– he is the Son, and he is the Lord, but here we learn he is Jesus
– when we look at Jesus, what is it that we see?
• for a short time he was lower than angels
◦ Jesus did not always have this status, he submitted himself to it
. . . who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men (Php. 2:6-7)
◦ this will be explored more fully in the following passages
now crowned with glory and honor
◦ he fulfills God’s destiny for humankind
◦ in doing so, he became the firstborn of a new people (Ro. 8:29)
because of the suffering of death
◦ the reason why he made the descent into human flesh

The final themes are too big to tackle right now
– but the writer will share many more details regarding:
• Jesus’ suffering — its purpose and goal
• his death — what he accomplished by it
• how through Jesus we have access to the grace of God

Conclusion: There are many thoughts I could leave you with for now

Like ways that we could pay closer attention to what we have heard
– but for me, the most striking and reassuring thought is this:

We do not see our God-appointed destiny fulfilled
we do not see the heavenly world to come,
but we see Jesus
We see him in multiple dimensions;
in his earthly life,
in his transition through the human condition,
in his suffering and death,
and in his resurrection to glory and honor
We see Jesus in the Scriptures,
many times in each other,
and also in the widow, the orphan, and the stranger
And with eyes of faith,
we see Jesus in there here and now of prayer
It is when we cannot see Jesus that we start to drift
It is in paying closer attention that we see him,
and in seeing him that we are safely anchored in him

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