Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?
What would it be like to hear for the first time—to experience the original revolution of interpreting pressurized time (sound is pressure over time in the form of a wave) as audible meaning? The memory is lost to the mystery of life in the womb for most, but it is a remarkable transformation witnessed by a few. “Hearing” by Ryan O’Neal is a beautiful song inspired by the overwhelming wonder those with cochlear implants experience at hearing sound for the first time. This composition awakens the imagination to the transformative energy of hearing that most of us take for granted. Likewise, the writer of Hebrews amplifies the power deep-listening gives for attuning our lives to the magnificence of Jesus—“We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard” (Hebrews 2:1).
What have we heard? The author of Hebrews proclaims that there is a God who has spoken powerfully through His Son, Jesus (Hebrews 1:1-4). The call is to listen deeply to the greatness of the salvation secured by Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. Eugene Peterson echoes this with his words, “Preaching is proclamation, God’s word revealed in Jesus, but only when it gets embedded in conversation, in a listening ear and responding tongue, does it become gospel.” Therefore, paying attention is the acquired posture for living in an active relationship with Jesus in daily life amidst the subtle current toward apathy and rip tide of sin.
We must pay much closer attention to God than the inner chatter of ourselves or the outer shouts of the news, marketing, and entertainment. Our technological society with its smart phones and social media subversively teaches us to listen with our eyes and fingertips as much as with our ears. We do not need leave the world to listen to God (though a silent retreat can help), but we enter into the world through our work and relationships prayerfully attentive to God’s voice. Even the word vocation comes from the Latin word vocare meaning to call. Vocation then is not just a job to get a paycheck, but a life lived in response to what we have heard from the one who calls.
I had teacher onetime who said, “One of the greatest gifts we can give someone is their story back . . . you have to listen to do that.” Listening is a gracious skill acquired over time through God’s word (the Bible), with his people (the church), in delighted relationship (prayer), and loving service (obedience). The gift of life with God now and forever is by living confidence (faith) in the remarkable love of God revealed in Jesus. We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard in the Gospel to experience the transformative power hearing gives for life in relationship with Jesus.