“Pay More Than the Usual Attention”
“It is necessary for us to pay more than the usual attention to the things heard by us, that we may never drift away.”—HEBREWS 2:1.
1. Illustrate how distraction can lead to disaster.
AUTO accidents claim the lives of some 37,000 people each year in the United States alone. Experts say that many of these deaths could be avoided if drivers paid more attention to the road. Some motorists are distracted by signs and billboards or by the use of their cell phone. There are also those who indulge in what has been called dashboard dining—eating while they drive. In all these situations, distraction can lead to disaster.
2, 3. What admonition did Paul give to the Hebrew Christians, and why was his counsel appropriate?
2 Nearly 2,000 years before the automobile was invented, the apostle Paul identified a type of distraction that was proving disastrous to some Hebrew Christians. Paul emphasized that the resurrected Jesus Christ was given a position superior to all the angels, for he was seated at God’s right hand. The apostle then stated: “That is why it is necessary for us to pay more than the usual attention to the things heard by us, that we may never drift away.” —Hebrews 2:1.
3 Why did the Hebrew Christians need to “pay more than the usual attention to the things heard” concerning Jesus? Because almost 30 years had passed since Jesus had left the earthly scene. In the absence of their Master, some Hebrew Christians were starting to drift away from the true faith. They were being distracted by Judaism, their former way of worship.
They Needed to Pay Closer Attention
4. Why may some Hebrew Christians have been tempted to return to Judaism?
4 Why might a Christian have been tempted to return to Judaism? Well, the system of worship under the Law involved tangible things. People could see the priests and smell the burning sacrifices. In certain respects, however, Christianity was quite different. Christians had a High Priest, Jesus Christ, but he had not been seen on earth for three decades. (Hebrews 4:14) They had a temple, but its holy place was heaven itself. (Hebrews 9:24) Unlike physical circumcision under the Law, Christian circumcision was “that of the heart by spirit.” (Romans 2:29) To the Hebrew Christians, therefore, Christianity may have begun to seem rather abstract in nature.
5. How did Paul show that the system of worship instituted by Jesus was superior to that under the Law?
5 The Hebrew Christians needed to realize something very significant about the system of worship instituted by Christ. It was based more on faith than on sight, yet it was superior to the Law handed down through the prophet Moses. “If the blood of goats and of bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who have been defiled sanctifies to the extent of cleanness of the flesh,” Paul wrote, “how much more will the blood of the Christ, who through an everlasting spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works that we may render sacred service to the living God?” (Hebrews 9:13, 14) Yes, the forgiveness available through faith in the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ is greatly superior in many ways to that provided by the sacrifices offered under the Law.—Hebrews 7:26-28.
6, 7. (a) What situation made it urgent that the Hebrew Christians “pay more than the usual attention to the things heard”? (b) When Paul wrote his letter to the Hebrews, how much time was left for Jerusalem? (See footnote.)
6 There was another reason why the Hebrew Christians needed to pay strict attention to the things heard about Jesus. He had foretold that Jerusalem would be destroyed. Said Jesus: “The days will come upon you when your enemies will build around you a fortification with pointed stakes and will encircle you and distress you from every side, and they will dash you and your children within you to the ground, and they will not leave a stone upon a stone in you, because you did not discern the time of your being inspected.”—Luke 19:43, 44.
7 When would this happen? Jesus did not reveal the day and hour. Rather, he gave this instruction: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies, then know that the desolating of her has drawn near. Then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains, and let those in the midst of her withdraw, and let those in the country places not enter into her.” (Luke 21:20, 21) During the 30 years after Jesus spoke those words, some Christians in Jerusalem lost their sense of urgency and became distracted. They took their eyes off the road, as it were. If they did not adjust their thinking, disaster was certain. Whether they thought so or not, Jerusalem’s destruction was imminent!* Hopefully, Paul’s admonition provided a wake-up call to spiritually slumbering Christians in Jerusalem.
Paying “More Than the Usual Attention” Today
8. Why do we need to “pay more than the usual attention” to the truths of God’s Word?
8 Like first-century Christians, we need to “pay more than the usual attention” to the truths of God’s Word. Why? Because we too face an impending destruction, not of just one nation, but of an entire system of things. (Revelation 11:18; 16:14, 16) Of course, we do not know the precise day and hour when Jehovah will take this action. (Matthew 24:36) Nevertheless, we are eyewitnesses to the fulfillment of Bible prophecies that clearly indicate that we are living in “the last days.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Hence, we should be on guard against anything that could distract us. We need to pay attention to God’s Word and maintain a keen sense of urgency. Only by doing so will we “succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur.”—Luke 21:36.
The letter to the Hebrews was likely written in 61 C.E. If so, it was only some five years later that Jerusalem was surrounded by the encamped armies of Cestius Gallus. Soon those armies withdrew, allowing alert Christians to flee. Four years thereafter, the city was destroyed by the Roman armies under General Titus.