Continuing our series on Hebrews then after setting the scene last week with the first four verses of chapter one showing us what God has done in Christ and who this Christ is. And now in reading the rest of the chapter up to 2:4, the author goes straight into a conversation about angels and how they’re not quite as good as Jesus, and how Jesus is so much better, infinitely better!
I know what you’re thinking, you little rascals! You’re thinking, “But Gralefrit, we don’t worship angels, we’ve never even considered it ’til now, so what’s all the fuss about and how does it concern me?”
It concerns you my brothers and sisters, in the most profound way imaginable. Hebrews is a whole book designed around a big doses of exhortations that culminate in five short sharp shock warnings. Hebrews 1:1-4 is the lens by which we see Jesus throughout this whole book, and 2:1-4 leads us to the first of these five warning passages.
Why? Because these Jewish Christians in the first century were being dragged back by the Hebrew tendency to elevate the ministry of angels.
Now I’m sure angels are cool, and some people have seen them including my sister-in-law. I myself have seen a fallen angel which is a demon. But they serve God, they minister to us from God (not the fallen ones), they mediate between us and God, and like us they too worship God! But the author to the Hebrews launches into the nonsense of a follower of the cosmic Christ turning away from Jesus, the object of worship, to a mere angel, a created being who in fact as 1:14 says, are meant to serve those who are to inherit salvation – that’s us folks! Angels serve us but these Hebrew Christians were starting to be persuaded to worship angels, as per some parts of Jewish tradition (see Colossians 2:18).
So what has that got to do with you? Well, anything that isn’t worship of God is worship of something else, and that something else, whatever it is, is idolatry. So unless you worship the Triune God in the perfection of complete holiness and fullness of faith and the purity of wholeness, this has everything to do with you!
Some of you here are old enough to remember a time when America voted for a former Hollywood star to run their country! He had a wife called Nancy. Do you remember the media story of when she was reported to influence her husbands political decisions on the advice of her astrologer? That’s called turning from Christ!
Many people experiment with Occultism, Ouija boards, Tarot cards, Palm readings and the like! Christians do it without realising the danger they are in. Many Christians have done, and some at the very least begin the day with a ‘harmless’ reading of their Star Sign. You are playing with fire in turning to something other than Jesus. It’s like dismissing Christ like an unwanted toy and deliberately inviting doom upon your own heads, and your family. That’s turning from Christ! Do not do anything else today without confessing you sins and receiving the forgiveness of Christ.
How many people have been fooled by Hollywood’s version of what angels are? In the film released 1998 called City of Angels with Nicholas Cage as the angel, he is sent to ‘look after’ a human woman played by Meg Ryan. Now I’m sure some men find Ms Ryan attractive, but an angel? An angel that has seen the face of God? An angel that lives in the glory of God, beholding His glory and majesty? Falling in love with Meg Ryan? I don’t think so! And neither does Hebrews chapter one.
Admittedly, if Hebrews were written today, I’m sure the first four verses would still be there, but maybe instead of chapter one being about angels, it would be about something we obsess about! What draws away your worship from Christ? What things of your life draw you away and though they may not be bad in themselves, but they cause you to neglect such a great salvation as 2:3 says? Because whatever is drawing your attention away, it is your heart telling you that that is greater than Christ! And whatever the Spirit reveals to you right now as you think about that, you are no better than those who worship angels in the place of Christ, and so this first chapter has everything to do you, to do with us!
And thus we are led, like beloved objects of God’s care and mercy, into the first great warning passage of 2:1-4. So after debunking the Jewish angel myth, the author insists that unlike angels, Jesus is a Son (v5). In fact, angels themselves worship Christ (v6), and this Son as the object of worship is therefore rightly called God (v8).
So let us walk together into the first astonishing warning passage. Expect to hear the Spirit speak to you as we go through it. Allow God to convict you as he leads you to the glorious freedom of repentance from whatever areas of your life have caused you to neglect the stunning salvation offered by the Son of God. Here we go…[read 2:1-4].
The three key warnings are:
1. We must pay more careful attention to what we’ve heard.
2. That we don’t drift away.
3. That we don’t ignore such a great salvation.
Do you need to pay more careful attention to the Gospel of your salvation?
Have you noticed the times when you’ve drifted?
Are you in the sorry state of having ignored your great salvation?
Friends, listen: This is no mere message from a religious crank. This concerns the ultimate, eternal, meaningful and powerful things of God. Hear the word of the Lord to you right now, not to crush you in condemnation, but to invite you to repent and lift up your heads and your hearts. Because warnings like this cut to the chase. They scream out: “WAKE UP and see Jesus!”
A warning like this isn’t judgement. Judgement happens if the warnings are ignored, so act on the warning, it is a gift of God. Warnings like this, are in the service of salvation. God the Father wants to draw you near, like a shepherd wants to embrace a wayward sheep, like we want to embrace our wayward children.
I want to highlight one other amazing thing about this warning passage: Notice how it is profoundly rooted in the whole Trinity for us:
1. This salvation was first announced by the Lord – Jesus Himself. No longer are we sent messengers (lit. angels), but the message itself (2:3b)
2. Confirmed by those who heard it (the apostles).
3. Testified by God in signs and wonders.
4. And gifts given by the Holy Spirit, of the Holy Spirit.
So here we see the whole warning is wrapped up in the profundity of the Trinity: for our salvation, for our joy, for our benefit, for our worship of this Triune God! Who wants to go back to mere angels or idols now?
Isn’t it a strange thing that nowhere in Scripture do we hear God saying, “Guys, stop worshipping me too much!” But everywhere we see God crying out, “Why are you going after foreign gods and carved idols, and baby killers and dumb statues? Why are you worshipping them so much?”
This is why humanity needs such a great salvation. Our hearts are so bent out of shape to worship anything but the Triune God, that we need the Word of Scripture and the filling of the Holy Spirit to help us truly see. To pay more careful attention as 2:1 says, is a deliberate pursuing of the things of God. And the primary vehicle for this is the Scriptures.
I remember when I first saw my wife. My heart missed so many beats I thought I’d died and gone to heaven and seen an angel! I couldn’t wait to meet her, then afterwards, to be with her. And now, many years later, nurturing her and reading her, learning her, loving her.
Our salvation in Christ is no salvation if all we’ve done is met Jesus and said ‘the prayer’ any more than my marriage would be healthy if I’d met my bride and said the marriage vows without a care for paying more careful attention so that we do not drift away! How could I ignore such a great marriage?
It’s unthinkable, yet this is what too many church people do! This warning is for you! Take the warning, repent and be restored.
If you’re wondering why I used a marriage analogy, 1:8-9 is taken from Psalm 45, a wedding song, where Jesus is referred to as God, hence Christians are called the Bride of Christ. The whole point is that we’re in a wedding, being prepared for a wedding and so we’d better pay attention! We’d want to pay attention, wouldn’t we?
Just as a wedding turns into a marriage that is on-going, so our salvation is on-going. If it wasn’t on-going, we wouldn’t have to pay closer attention. But it is so we must!
In closing, the first warning is grave: It is drifting away from the truth. A carelessness of mind to the degree we’re not even aware it’s happening. Several times when I’ve been on my Kayak catching thousands of fish, I’ve needed to secure myself to a buoy to rest and prevent drift and pay attention to what’s going on around me! When I unhook myself, it is astonishing how far I drift without even realising. Now, I know I’m drifting, but I’m always shocked that the buoy that was here just a moment ago is barely visible on the distant waves.
If we unhook from Christ, we will drift more severely than we can even comprehend. Not taking the Scriptures seriously can cause this, as well as inattention to the Spirit with apathy rooted in the heart, a heart which says “I’ll be alright!” Will you? Really?
What’s the remedy? It is profoundly pastoral: Pay closer attention to what you have heard so you don’t drift away. How? Get into the Scriptures, the Gospels, the letters, all of it, immediately, urgently – pay closer attention, as two lovers do, as a dog begging for a treat, as a beggar begging for food from the table of the King. Pay attention!!
Not to be in the Word of God is to be a spiritual drifter. Who knows where you’ll end up, and to use the Bible’s language of idolatry, who knows who’s bed you’ll find yourself in!
Hear the warning beloved people. Respond to what God is saying to you, and do whatever you need to do right now to get right with God.
He’s warned, He’s waiting and He loves you so very much.