I don’t know about you, but I’m growing weary during this time of uncertainty. At first, I was watching every press conference and reading every article I could about Covid-19, but I find myself paying less and less attention to the news and spending more and more time just trying to regain a sense of “normal,” or of a new “normal.”
We’re all waiting: waiting for the pandemic to peak and then begin its decline. Waiting to hear that a medicine has proven effective in fighting the symptoms, or that a vaccine has been created to curtail its spread. Waiting to be told we can go back to work, school, or just our daily routines. Waiting for all of this to be over.
But, what do we do during the meantime? We’re not the first to have to deal with such a tragedy. Indeed, my father’s generation, and ones preceding it, dealt with polio – its crippling effects were left on a generation of children. Before that, nearly half the population of Memphis was wiped out by Yellow Fever, and tens of thousands of native Americans were killed by smallpox. I don’t want to imagine it, but as devastating as our present crisis is, can you imagine how much worse it would be if we had nearly a 50% mortality rate of those infected by Covid-19? If that were the case, we would have a little more of a sense of what previous generations have dealt with during various epidemics.
But, until this has run its course, we wait. We don’t like to wait. We’re used to things happening at the speed of the tap of a keyboard. With the click of a key on our computer we can complete our shopping order and have it delivered to our door the next day. Now, we hesitate to have anything delivered to our door, for fear that a virus might lurk on the package and contaminate our homes.
Those who know me best, know that I like old things, antiques if you will. Most of the ones I have are old family heirlooms, handed down to me from generations that have passed. On my desks at home and school, I have manual typewriters. At school I have one that belonged to my grandparents, and at home I have one that belonged to my mother. I have an old coffee grinder that was in my grandmother’s kitchen. From what I can tell, it probably belonged to her mother first, because it’s well over 120 years old. Believe it or not, all of these things still work, and occasionally I still use them. They are reminders that immediate isn’t always better, nor is it necessary.
The passage we’re going to look at in Hebrews today is a reminder that sometimes we just have to wait. Sometimes things are not what we wish they would be, nor are they like they always will be.
Hebrews 2 begins, “Therefore we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2 For if the message spoken through angels proved to be so firm that every violation or disobedience received its just penalty,”
In Hebrews chapter one, you’ll recall that we saw how Christ is superior to the angels, by the simple fact that He is divine. He is God, and in the past God spoke through intermediaries when he gave the law on Mt. Sinai.
“The Lord came from Sinai
and revealed himself to Israel from Seir.
He appeared in splendor from Mount Paran,
and came forth with ten thousand holy ones.
With his right hand he gave a fiery law to them.”
In Acts 7:38 the soon-to-be-martyr, Stephen says,“ This is the man (Moses) who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors, and he received living oracles to give to you.”
Again in v.53 he states, “You received the law by decrees given by angels, but you did not obey it.”
Then, in Gal.3:19 Paul says of the Law of Moses, “It was administered through angels by an intermediary.”
Now, if the Law was given through angels as intermediaries, and people were held accountable to it, then we should certainly give greater attention to the message we’ve received from the Lord Jesus Christ, the fully divine Son of God!
In verse 3 he goes on to say, “how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was first communicated through the Lord and was confirmed to us by those who heard him,”
As the writer of Hebrews describes this “drifting away,” he uses the word “neglect,” not “reject.” You see, the danger we face isn’t simply rejecting the message of scripture, but having received it to simply stop paying attention to it.
Neglect is a very serious matter. If someone neglects their yard, weeds will grow up and soon it will be overgrown, not only affecting their yard, but the yards of their neighbors around them. Worse yet, if an animal is neglected they will begin to have all kinds of illnesses, and their condition will be evident.
I used to drive by two pastures each day. In one were some beautiful paint horses: well-fed, combed regularly, immaculate condition, so much so that one day I stopped just to tell the owner how beautiful his horses were. But, not even a mile down the road was another pasture, of sorts, where several horses lived in horrible conditions. The pasture wasn’t cared for and was trampled into mud. The bails of hay they ate from were rotting, and the mud caked on their coats indicated that it had been months since they’d seen a curry comb, if ever. Malnutrition was evident as their backs swayed and their ribs were visible.
Likewise, if we give attention to our faith, feeding on God’s word, seeking spiritual pastures in which to grow, we will find our faith is sufficient to sustain us in times like we are presently living. However, if we’ve neglected our faith, this should be a wake up call for us to give far “greater attention” to it.
There’s an old hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, written by Robert Robinson in 1758. One of the verses reads:
“Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be
Let that goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above”
“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love,” is a portion of the verse altered in most modern hymnals, but it describes exactly what Robinson did. He wandered into the Unitarian Movement, and eventually away from the faith altogether.
He began to travel extensively – wanderlust perhaps, or a sense of desperation to find meaning in life. On one such trip he encountered a rather spiritually minded young lady who asked him, “What do you think of the hymn I’m reading?” Handing him the book she was holding in her hands, he read the very words he’d penned. Convicted by his own words, he returned to the faith he’d once professed.
Hebrews couldn’t be clearer: Since the message of the Gospel was spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ himself, and not through intermediaries, we sense the urgency and the veracity of it.
Moving on, in verse 4 we read, “while God confirmed their witness with signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”
This is a synopsis of the account given in Acts where we read of the Holy Spirit’s descent on the Day of Pentecost and the subsequent miracles performed by the apostles. Having received the complete revelation of Christ through their teaching and preaching, we no longer have need of such miracles. But, for a time they were necessary to confirm the message.
He then goes on to say:
“For he did not put the world to come, about which we are speaking, under the control of angels. 6 Instead someone testified somewhere:
‘What is man that you think of him or the son of man that you care for him?
7 You made him lower than the angels for a little while.
You crowned him with glory and honor.
8 You put all things under his control.’”
Some believe this passage in Hebrews is written with regard to humanity, and in the original context, Psalm 8:4, it is. However, it seems to me that he is extending its implications to what Jesus accomplished in becoming fully human, because in the verses that follow he clearly applies the phrase “lower than the angels for a little while” to Jesus.
The writer is describing the authority given to Jesus because he was willing to submit himself to the authority of the Father, which he goes on to explain:
“For when he ‘put all things under his control,’ he left nothing outside of his control. At present we do not yet see ‘all things under his control,’ 9 but we see Jesus, who was made ‘lower than the angels for a little while,’ now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by God’s grace he would experience death on behalf of everyone.”
Presently, the world we see isn’t fully redeemed. Aspects of God’s creation are what we refer to as “fallen.” This is by God’s allowance, though. He allowed humanity to decide whether to obey him or not. Having chosen not to obey him, sin entered the world and “death through sin.” For that reason, we’re dealing with our present situation; a fallen world where diseases like Covid-19 can run rampant. But, none of this is outside the scope of God’s control. You see, he is allowing time and circumstances to take shape in such a manner as to bring as many people to Him as possible.
2 Pet.3:9 reads, “The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
And in Acts 17:26,27 we read, “From one man he made every nation of the human race to inhabit the entire earth, determining their set times and the fixed limits of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope around for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.”
Right now, we’re living in a time when we’re experiencing the suffering of an unredeemed world: a creation that isn’t yet fully subject to the Lordship of Jesus. However, “yet” is the key word. You see at some point, when the Father is ready, the Lord will return and “every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Phil.2:10-11). At that point there will be no more sickness, or death, or pain, or sorrow for those who have been waiting for his return.
I want to be ready for him, don’t you? Let’s encourage each other through this time, and let’s be ready when he returns. That’s the message we’re going to find in the book of Hebrews.
Psalm 37:7-8 reads in part, “ Wait patiently for the Lord! Wait confidently for him! . . . Do not be angry and frustrated. Do not fret. That only leads to trouble.”
Together, let’s wait patiently for the Lord and give greater attention to our faith.