1For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every violation and act of disobedience received a just punishment, 3 how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4 God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders, and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. [NASB]Hebrews 2:1-4
We come now to the crux of this passage. The main point of the writer of Hebrews in this section is tied up in the five words or phrases I have highlighted in our passage. Several of you have asked about one or two of them, however it is the combination of all five which carry the focus and power of this statement. Particularly in the wider context we looked at in the previous Gem. These five key ‘words’ carry the weight of what the writer uses to challenge those who are considering going back to Judaism; turning away from Christ and going back to the old Judaic traditions. Whenever you face a passage, be it difficult or straight forward, find the key words or phrases which require further attention.
- [περισσοτέρως ἡμὰς προσέχειν] ‘pay much closer attention‘
- [παραρυῶμεν] from the verb pararrhueō ‘to drift away‘
- violation / act of disobedience
- [ἀμελέω] ‘neglect‘
These five expressions (you will note I have combined two of them together3) contain the essence of the point the writer was making. We will work our way through each expression one by one. I am going to begin with the first two expressions and then bring the others in with the following Gem to build the concept the writer is conveying with the combination of all five words or expressions. So we will start with the core of what the writer is telling us to begin with – “paying closer attention” and “not drifting“.
1. Pay Much Closer Attention
prosechō – the main verb has two meanings:
- hold to, to apply the mind to something, to give heed to, attend to, pay attention to, consider, follow, adhere to,
- bring near, be attached to, to bring to, bring near, to bring a ship to land, to touch the dock, put in to port.
There is a subtle nuance to the first and primary meaning which is to be convinced of the veracity or truthfulness of something as to want to adhere to the idea and make it yours, to come under its power and authority. That is the opposite of disbelieving. The second meaning was used specifically as a maritime term for putting in to port, tying up at the dock, touching the dock, returning to terra firma; as opposed to going on or by-passing the port.
What a perfect combination of meanings for the author to use. It seems this word was deliberately and perfectly chosen to convey both meanings in this combination of ideas. Add to that combination the use of [perissoterōs] – which is an adverb applied to this verb with a dual meaning. The sense of perissoterōs is ‘far more’, ‘much greater’, ‘to a much greater degree’. Of course it applies more appropriately to the primary meaning of the verb but it also adds depth to the second meaning as well.
Both of these concepts contained in the initial word prosechō are carried on into the rest of the passage where the ideas are expanded. [Bebaios] “trustworthy” in verse 2 links with [ebebaiothē] “confirmed” in verse 3 which both connect back to the primary meaning of prosechō in verse one. It is the fact of our being convinced or confirmed of the truthfulness of that which we heard and believed which makes us hold to or pay attention to the truthfulness of the concept. Does it go beyond the cerebral level into action and practise? To the point of seeing and realising its accuracy and dependability in the light of doing it. “Try it and see; test it out.”
The same thing happens with the secondary meaning of prosechō in the second verse.
2. Drift Away
The verb [pararrhueō] “to drift” picks up the secondary meaning of prosechō from the first verse with the following meanings:
- “forgotten”, ‘things slipping from memory’
- “drifting” viz a boat, the wind taking it past its harbour.
This is a stroke of brilliance on the part of the writer to choose two words with primary and secondary meaning the same. Both senses are contrasted and highlighted. The second word has the sense of the vessel going past its destination and now prevented from going back against the current. The word can also mean “to be swept from its moorings” by a strong tide or current or to be carried away or swept off course from our destination so as to miss the mark. This can also relate to the things we have been told related to our life goal or even more our ultimate destination.
There are two different forces acting on the boat or us in the context of these words the writer is using. In the case of the stronger force of the current or even the winds in the case of sailing, we know we have to resist the current or the wind in order to make progress toward our destination. The wind and current are strong external forces that we must resist in order to make progress. But in the second case drifting is an imperceptible occurrence. Consider the tide which firstly comes in and then goes out. The moment when the tide changes is imperceptible. One moment the tide is coming and then the next moment the water is now going in the opposite direction. The same is true of currents and undercurrents. The wash of the waves in to shore are always constant but it’s the hidden subtle work of the outgoing tide or the undercurrent which catches you unaware.
Believe me, I know. I was swept away in Bali. We had to go through Bali on our way back to NZ from our place of assignment. So one day we went down to Kuta beach to have fun. I played with Tania and the girls on the beach for a while and then I went into the surf for a swim. I spent some time just playing in the breakers, swimming out a little way and then catching the breakers coming in to body surf back to the beach. I did that for a while until I felt I was in need of a rest. So I floated on my back from a while and relaxed looking up at the sky. When I looked back at the beach, I realised I had drifted out from the shore. It surprised me as I had thought the swell and breakers would have brought me back toward shore.
I started to swim toward the shore again but I was not making much progress with all my effort. I suddenly realised I was in an undercurrent or rip although there were no signs of the tell-tale flat water. I tried again with no success. So I started swimming across the current in parallel with the beach but was still being taken out to sea. I realised now I was in trouble. I put up my hand and waved toward the shore. But after a few minutes I had been taken more metres away from the beach. Now I put my arm up and just left it there while treading water.
Fortunately for me, Natalia, my daughter, had noticed that dad was going further and further out. She suspected I was in trouble and went to a surfer on the beach and said, “My dad is out there and I think he is in trouble.” The surfer came out on his board and rescued me and brought me back to shore. Getting on his board and heading for shore I was exhausted from the ordeal. I realised that if I had not been brought back to shore again I would not have made it. The undercurrent would have taken me out to sea.
I have first-hand experience of drifting.
The secondary sense in both of these words match perfectly the primary sense of our intention to hold on to our core beliefs in something, coupled with the tendency in us to let things slip and forget to focus on the key things. All the best intentions in the world can come unstuck when we take the foot off the pedal and coast for a while. I know I have switched the metaphor, but you get the point. Taking a break, relaxing, lying back and taking it easy or coasting are all spiritually dangerous to our salvation. I talked of levelling up in Gem 1918, when over the holidays we have a tendency to ease back and forget our Quiet Time or not go to church for a while. In these Covid days it is even easier to float for a while and not even watch the church service online or join the Bubble Church group to share the Online Service together. Once or twice is ok but making a habit of it is detrimental to your spiritual health.
Some of you I am sure will be thinking of the verses which just popped into my mind. Verses penned by the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews. You know them well. Interesting isn’t it! That this writer should be talking about these things throughout his letter and not just in this one particular chapter. I learned these verses a long time ago and they just popped into my mind. See how helpful Scripture Memory is! I am so grateful for my early training with the Navigators – thank you Reg Ackland for encouraging me to do Scripture Memory. Thanks too for the early introduction to it when you used to get me to hear your verses and test you on the way to our squash games before I became a Christian, you cunning blighter. Getting me to hear your memory verses while I was a non-Christian was a stroke of genius.
This combined with the power of the Holy Spirit with His involvement in bringing Scripture to our mind at the precise time we need it achieves astounding results. I have talked of the hupomimnesko work of the Spirit before in the Gems and Nuggets in the Hearing God’s Voice 15 series. It’s a powerful tool God’s Spirit uses to remind and communicate with us in order to keep us on course. I am sure many of you know the verses I am referring to. Stop and reflect , see if the reference or the words come to you. Did it happen? If not here they are.
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.Heb 10:24-25
A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.Ian
Everyone has a photographic memory. Some just don’t have film.Ian
The notes you put in your notebook, ipad or tablet you tend not to look at again. The best place to store your notes is between your ears.Ian
My advice to you: Hide God’s Word in your heart and memory so He is free to speak to you whenever He chooses.Ian