Listen Up!

Have you ever noticed the power of the spoken word in your life? Words like, You know I love you; What you did was well done; You should feel good about it, or I know you are going through a rough patch. But I believe in you and I’m on your side, can really lift your spirits.

In our text for today, the writer of Hebrews points out that God has spoken to us in a very special and unique way, and we need to pay attention to what he has said.

The book of Hebrews was written to some early Christians who were drifting a bit from their faith and becoming casual with some of the basics. Sometimes familiarity can cloud a person’s vision of what’s important. They had experienced some persecution for believing that Jesus was the only way of salvation. In the light of that persecution, they could have begun doubting their faith and softened the message in order to fit in better with society. Perhaps they felt that as Christians they should have been spared these problems.

The letter to the Hebrews is a response to their doubts and questions. It draws a word picture of Jesus for them (and us) to consider. The writer begins his letter by saying, “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, . . .” Some prophets spoke judgement, some spoke grace. But even with all the speaking, the picture of God in the people’s minds was a bit sketchy.

“. . .but in these last days God has spoken to us by a Son, . . .”

“In these last days,” Ð in other words, we are in the last chapter. History is his story, and it’s headed somewhere. God is in control.

“God has spoken to us by a Son . . .” Ð Who is Jesus? He is the Son of God, the heir of God, and “the reflection of God’s glory.”

Remember Jesus’ words to his disciples: “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” And John’s words in his Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth, and we have beheld his glory.”

Not only is Jesus the reflection of God’s glory, he’s the exact imprint of God’s being. In those days an emperor would hire someone to make a dye or a stamp with his image on it that would be stamped into a piece of soft metal or on a wax seal to show the character of the emperor upon it. Jesus has the imprint of God upon his soft flesh. As we look at Jesus, we see the imprint of the Father upon him.

“. . . having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” Jesus is superior to the angels or to anything else begging for your allegiance and belief.

So who is Jesus? He’s the Son of God. He reflects the glory of God, the imprint of God is upon him. Whoever has seen Jesus, has seen the Father.

The writer goes on to say what Jesus did for us: “(When) he had made purification for sins,” God has spoken a word of forgiveness to us through Jesus. He made a sacrifice for us at the cross so that we might have forgiveness and be cleansed.

Each and every one of us has a stain (referred to as sin) deep within us. It rears its ugly head in a way that we sometimes act very self-centered and egotistical. However, at the cross Jesus soaked up our stain like a sponge and took the punishment for our sin, which was keeping us from God. What amazing love God has given us in Jesus Christ!

Tim Keller, a pastor that I enjoy reading, once said, “Here’s the gospel: You’re more sinful than you dared believe. You’re more loved than you dared hope.”

Jesus made purification for our sins, God raised him on the third day, and “he sustains all things by his powerful word.” He is present with us today, and he is the same Jesus who died on the cross, rose again and promised his disciples to always be with them to the end of time. “I will not leave you as orphans but I will come to you.” The word “sustains” carries the image of being carried along by something. Jesus carries us along with his powerful word as the Holy Spirit is active in our lives.

Not long ago, I visited a widow, Janine, whose husband of 62 years recently passed away. She had a devotion book with God’s Word sitting on the table. “This is my daily devotion,” she said. “I just got done with it. It’s what carries me through these days.”

I was just talking with a man who has been battling Crohn’s disease for 30 years. He had a lot of pain. In the midst of our conversation, he pointed out to me, “I live by Romans 5. That suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope doesn’t disappoint us. I am hanging onto that one, Steve.” It is what carries him.

In Jesus, God has also spoken a word of confidence in hope. “. . . he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” All power and authority have been given to him. Jesus has the last word over this world. We know the ending. All history is headed toward him. One day every knee is going to bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Someday we will take our last breath, but Jesus has prepared a place for us. He will come and take us to himself that where he is, we may be also. He is the way and the truth and the life, our way of entering God’s heaven.

That is our hope. That is our confidence for the future.

The writer then sums it all up: “Therefore (since I’ve told you who Jesus is and what he came for) we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1). In other words, listen up! God has spoken. Pay attention to him.

Back in 1998, a man named Bob Kupperschmidt was riding in a plane with his friend. When Kupperschmidt turned to say something to the pilot, he was surprised to see his friend slumped over the controls, dead. He quickly grabbed his microphone from the radio, pushed his friend away, grabbed the steering mechanism, and cried for help. Fortunately two pilots were nearby and came to assist him in flying that plane. Bob had never flown a plane before. When it was time to land the plane, an ambulance and fire truck were waiting along the strip for the disaster. But to their surprise, Kupperschmidt emerged from the plane unhurt.

I imagine that, as Bob Kupperschmidt sat at those controls, he listened to every word those pilots said to him, as if his life depended on it, because it did. And they got him safely home.

My dear brothers and sisters, your God who loves you and created you wants a relationship with you. He wants to get you home safely. He has spoken a word Ð Jesus Christ Ð pay attention. Listen up! Put it to work as if your life depended on it, because it does.

Listen up! God has spoken. It’s the word of life: Jesus Christ.