Written by 11:07 pm Bible Studies, Hebrews

Pay Closer Attention – Hebrews 2:1-4

Hebrews chapter one began a discussion about the Son’s superiority to angels, which continues into chapter two. (Here’s where I encourage you to read the first two articles before going any further.) If you haven’t read the first two articles (here and here), you really should because chapter two begins with the word, therefore. Therefore is an essential term in the Scripture. Every time you read that word, it does the same thing. Whenever you encounter this word, train your mind to do one thing: consider what was said right before the therefore.

So, for real, catch up if you need to. Let’s dive in.

1 Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 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 2:1-4 (ESV)

Therefore – in light of what was just said – we must pay much closer attention. This therefore is why I’m a little late in posting this installment of our study. I’ve turned my attention to some meditation on why chapter one should cause us to pay much closer attention. The Son’s enthronement above the angels should cause us to pay much closer attention. Why?  What did they hear that the author said must be given greater attention? Let’s break this down.

Firstborn, Secondborn

What did they hear? The Gospel. What is the Gospel? Lucky you (and me), I put together a whole page dedicated to answering that question. Read this if you want a Gospel refresher. Now, why is that relevant to chapter one’s content? Consider the angels – the sons of God. Remember, we were made lower than them. Then consider that they were created first. In a chronological sense, they would be considered firstborn, created before us, and we would be secondborn, created after them. YET! To whom did God promise redemption when they rebelled? With whom did the LORD make covenants and promises? For whom did the LORD send a Redeemer to atone for their rebellion? To whom does God give undeserved firstborn status?

Answer: us, the secondborn.

Don’t you see this? I mentioned it in The Enthroned Son. The LORD frequently gives firstborn status to younger siblings. Consider Cain and Abel. The LORD preferred Abel’s sacrifice over Cain’s. Consider Esau and Jacob. God gave His covenant promises to Jacob, the secondborn. Reuben was the firstborn son of Jacob, but the scepter went to the fourth-born, Judah. Consider King David. He was the youngest of His brothers, and God’s chosen one. The theme is pervasive. The Bible Project composed a series of podcasts about how the LORD didn’t always choose the firstborn for His blessings. If you have time, take a listen.

So, we, the lowly secondborn of God’s creations who rebelled, have received covenants, promises, and a Savior, none of which did the rebelling firstborn sons of God receive. In Christ, the LORD is giving their status to us. Note the pastoral nature of this admonition… lest we drift away from it. The author’s pastoral heart for his audience comes through here. This is his plea. Don’t forget this! Don’t drift away from this! When you consider our estate and the lengths the LORD went to for our redemption, pay closer attention!

Verse two presents a tricky statement. The author refers to a reliable message declared by angels. I had to consult some smarter men for help on this because I couldn’t connect this statement with anything concrete in my own search. As it turns out, many commentators connect this statement with the giving of the Law at Sinai and Galatians 3:19.

19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.
– Galatians 3:19 (ESV)

If you read the Sinai account in Exodus, there is no mention of angels. However, Deuteronomy 33:2 says differently.

The LORD came from Sinai
and dawned from Seir upon us;
he shone forth from Mount Paran;
he came from the ten thousands of holy ones,
with flaming fire at his right hand.
– Deuteronomy 33:2

The problem with the translation of holy ones – kodesh –  is that it can refer to either angels or the Israelites themselves. Then there’s a translation difference with the phrase, flaming fire at his right hand as well. Some English translations say,  from His right hand Came a fiery law for them (NKJV)What does that mean? The author of Hebrews looks at it like this. He takes the position that the kodesh are angels, and that they were at the right hand of God where they served as the intermediaries of Galatians 3:19. This is what is meant by the phrase, from his right hand came a fiery law for them. From the angels at the LORD’s right hand came a fiery law for the Israelites.

So, now that we’ve cleared up the difficulties of the first half of verse two, let’s get back to whole verse. The angels actually aren’t the focus of the verse. They delivered the law of Moses – a reliable message that contained just retribution for all disobedience and transgressions. Why is the author bringing this up? Because the Gospel has greater glory than the law of Moses!

7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.
– 2 Corinthians 3:7-9 (ESV)

It was declared at first by the LORD,

Now verse three. Because the Gospel is far more glorious than the Law, declared by angels, how can we escape just retribution if we neglect such a great salvation? Notice, the author drew attention to how angels gave the Law at Sinai, but proceeded to highlight how the Gospel was first shared by the LORD himself. Go back to the author’s assertion that the Son is superior to the angels. He also delivered a superior message! And if the message delivered by angels was to be taken seriously, then even more so, the message declared by the LORD himself is to be given our complete devotion!

Gospel Witnesses

… and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Here’s where it gets really cool. First, to say that the Law of Moses was delivered by angels doesn’t mean it wasn’t from the LORD. Angels are God’s messengers! They deliver messages all the time in Scripture. Angels not only were the messengers of the Law but they would be considered witnesses to its giving. What they received, they delivered and were thereby witnesses. Now, Jesus has proclaimed the superior message – the Gospel – and has entrusted it to us lowly humans. So, likewise, what we receive, we deliver and become witnesses! Look at the end of verse three: the Gospel was attested to us (the author and his hearers/readers) by those who were first-hand hearers of Jesus. Then verse four: the LORD continued bearing witness through his human messengers with signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit. The LORD never used His angelic family (firstborn) in the way He has chosen to use His human family (secondborn). He never filled His angelic family with the Holy Spirit. Nor did He endow them with various gifts of the Spirit. Because of Christ, we, the lesser secondborns, receive firstborn status with a greater message,  greater authority, greater power,  and a greater witness than our greater firstborn angelic brothers!

How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?

We must pay closer attention! We must give Jesus our undivided hearts! And the warning implied in this is neglecting a great salvation will have great consequences. Jesus declared that things will be less severe for Sodom and Gomorrah than for those cities that witnessed His ministry and rejected Him (Matthew 10:15).

For a long time, I read this admonition to pay closer attention in a way that was kind of nonchalant; yeah, well, it’s Jesus, so of course. You know, a real Sunday School kind of answer. But after taking this deeper look, I can never read it the same. Look at what you and I have been given!! Then look in the mirror to see the undeserving estate in which we find ourselves. Consider whom the LORD never offered redemption, then consider us. Why were they not deserving, yet somehow, we who are lower than they receive such abundant salvation?

It creates a gratitude in my soul that can only be expressed in complete and total devotion to and worship of Jesus, the Son who made it all possible.

What does it stir in you?

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Last modified: February 28, 2023