Summary: Christians can drift from Christ -- even as the Hebrew believers were in danger of doing -- when we take our eyes off of Jesus, who is better and more glorious than the angels.
Don’t Drift From Him Who Is Better Than the Angels
When you are in a boat and attempting to come into a harbor or to make landfall from offshore, out in the ocean, you have to be diligent. You need to know where you are going, to recognize from offshore the place you want to go. You need to be aware of the current, its direction and flow, and how it may be taking you away from your intended goal. There might be hazards in the way, such as rocks or sandbars, that could strand you or sink you. And if you’re in a sailboat, dependent on the wind, then you also must be calculating how you will use the wind, particularly if it is heading you and you are having to beat up into it to make it to shore. But whether your vessel is small or relatively large, whether using sail or motor to propel you, you must be on the alert, you must be diligent. It is no time to just drift along and expect that you’ll just make it safely into port. And if there’s any inclement weather or rough seas, then how will you escape disaster if you aren’t paying attention? You may well end up on the rocks, your life forfeited, because you were simply drifting along.
Maybe you have never sailed in a boat or ship, so my picture may not ring any bells with you. But you know how you can easily pass an exit on a freeway if you aren’t paying attention. Or perhaps you have known what it is to briefly, ever so briefly, start to fall asleep at the wheel and suddenly wake up as you start to drift into another lane or onto the shoulder. Driving requires alertness. It’s easy to end up missing your intended goal or, worse, be involved in an accident and perhaps a life-threatening accident at that, if you don’t pay attention.
It’s easy to drift in life in various ways, and that drifting may cost you dearly. The author of the letter to the Hebrews was a wise and mature man. He knew that those to whom he was writing were in danger of taking their eye off the goal and perhaps missing their goal. So he wrote,
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. … How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? (Heb 2:1, 3)
The Jewish believers to whom the pastor was writing had made a good voyage of faith thus far. There had already been some terrible rough water for them but they had stayed afloat and avoided shipwreck. They were personally acquainted with persecution and had
… endured a hard struggle with sufferings … sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated … and (they) joyfully accepted the plundering of (their) property. (Heb 10:33, 34)
But they were worn out and were in danger of drifting. They were facing more difficulties and thus were being tempted to take their eye off the goal and possibly floundering in their journey. Confronted with persecution, they were considering returning from where they had come, of going back to the shadows of Judaism.
Part of the temptation to let go and return to Judaism was the fact that it looked like a safe harbor from their weary trials. But they were also being tempted to drift away from Christ and their salvation because Judaism had some claims to glory. The Apostle Paul wrote as recorded at Romans 9, verses 4 and 5,
They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
That’s quite a list of benefits, quite of list of gifts from God that marked them out as his special people and possession in the world. Christianity is not a new faith, but is the fulfillment of the promises of the older period or dispensation of God’s gracious dealing with men. Abraham is the father of all the faithful; those who have fled to Christ are members of the true Israel of which physical, Old Testament Israel was but a type, a foreshadowing, of what was to come. Abraham is your father in the faith if you are a Christian. But Judaism that rejects Christ is not the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, nor the faith of Moses and Samuel and David; nor is it the faith of Elijah and Elisha and all the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours (1 Pet 1:10) as well as the faith and salvation of these Hebrew believers. But let me get back on track and not drift from the text.