This past summer, in Turkey, a couple spent a day at the beach, bringing their 10-month-old daughter with them. They placed her in the water, on a brightly-colored, kiddie-style inflatable raft.
Then, for whatever reason, they turned their backs.
A strong wind quickly pulled the raft out to sea. The parents were oblivious, and had to be told by others. Several rescue attempts were made before the Coast Guard was called. The girl was finally retrieved and reunited with her parents — but not before she had drifted a full kilometer from the shore.
That’s what happens when you’re not paying attention.
There are many things of which we can’t be certain with the book of Hebrews, including who wrote it, to whom, and when. The book reads more like a sermon than a letter, a word of encouragement to people who seem to have been pressured because of their faith and are in danger of giving up hope. The author wants his audience to be amazed and grateful for what they already have in Jesus, and what they will eventually have in the world to come — so much so that they will be empowered to hang on, no matter what happens.
As we’ve seen in a previous post, the book begins by trumpeting the supremacy of Jesus over the angels. Then, at the beginning of chapter 2, we get a word of exhortation, the first of many:
This is why it’s necessary for us to pay more attention to what we have heard, or else we may drift away from it. If the message that was spoken by angels was reliable, and every offense and act of disobedience received an appropriate consequence, how will we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? It was first announced through the Lord, and then it was confirmed by those who heard him. God also vouched for their message with signs, amazing things, various miracles, and gifts from the Holy Spirit, which were handed out the way he wanted. (Heb 2:1-4, CEB)
Don’t drift away; pay attention! the author insists. You already respect the Law of Moses (believed to have been mediated by angels on Mount Sinai), right? And you know how serious it was to disobey it. Well, the salvation you’ve received is even greater, just as Jesus is greater than the angels. How can we turn away from it? And think about how the message itself has spread. Jesus preached the good news; others believed and confirmed it. And God himself validated the message through miracles — including the greatest miracle of all, at Pentecost!
Hebrews goes on proclaiming the superior place and ministry of Jesus. The author’s tone throughout the letter is, This is amazing, don’t you see? Keep your eyes on him. Don’t forget. Don’t let go.
The current may be strong, but drop anchor. Don’t drift.
The author of Hebrews wants to make sure we never take the gospel for granted. We need to anchor our faith in gratitude for what God has done and will do.
Because if not, we will drift on the currents of culture, until we wake up to find ourselves far from shore.