Attention Competition

Hebrews 2:1-4
1Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3how 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, 4while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

“If the devil can’t make you sin, he’ll make you busy.” I’m not certain who originally said this. The furthest back I could go was Corrie Ten Boom. But it is a true saying, for sure. We are a distracted people. The writer to the Hebrews knew full well that we are easily and often distracted. I have no idea what life might have been like in the first century AD, but I know full well that in 2018 we live in a world that is filled with distractions. Remaining focused on Christ is increasingly challenging. The main purpose of the next few verses is to ensure that the congregation does not forfeit its great gift of salvation by inattention to God’s Word.

The author uses a vivid picture to portray the consequence of inattention. He and his congregation are like a ship moored in a harbor with God’s Word as its anchor. If they do not pay close attention to his Word and hold firmly to it, they will be carried away from their port, like a ship that is “swept adrift” on invisible currents in a trackless ocean. Such a ship is at risk of shipwreck and loss. Yet no reason is given here for their inattention, whether it be from unbelief, boredom, or exhaustion.
Kleinig, J. W. ©2017). Hebrews. (C. P. Giese, Ed.) (pp. 102–103). Saint Louis, MO: CPH.

This writer wants to make certain his listeners don’t give their very salvation over to a lack of attention or divided loyalties. And I’ll just say it – it’s difficult. There are so many attractive and exciting things to drag us away from God. The Children of Israel had the same problem. And they could look up at any time and see the Pillar of Cloud by day and the Pillar of Fire by night – God in their presence. Yet they still looked to false gods and whined about God’s provision for them. We don’t have those pillars to look at, but we have smartphones, TV, demanding work, children, friends, social media, . . . the list is long. Each moment of the day is filled with something demanding our attention; and we give it.

These first few verses of chapter 2 come as a stern warning: don’t allow yourself to be dragged away by the unimportant clamoring of the world. All of that will fall into place if you keep your attention focused on the Lord. Instead of allowing yourself to be cast adrift in a noisy world, stay anchored to the Lord Jesus. It’s not easy. In fact, many days it seems almost impossible. But each day, we remember the suffering and death of Jesus Christ and everything else takes second place, just as it’s supposed to. Life is still lived and we give energy to what stands before us, be it a toddler or a boss, but we do all of it with Christ in the foreground. May God give us strength to do just that.