Had we duly felt the burden of our sins, that they are a load which our own strength is wholly unable to support, and that the weight of them must finally sink us into perdition, our hearts would have danced at the sound of the gracious invitation, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). But in those who have scarcely felt their sins as any encumbrance, it would be mere affectation to pretend to very exalted conceptions of the value and acceptableness of the proffered deliverance. This pretense accordingly, is seldom now kept up; and the most superficial observer, comparing the sentiments and views of the bulk of the Christian world, with the articles still retained in their creed, and with the strong language of Scripture, must be struck with the amazing disproportion. (William Wilberforce)
I have been wrestling with a verse in the Epistle to the Hebrews for some time now. It is one of those questions that itches at the back of your mind and refuses to be soothed until it is answered. In this case the question was provoked by reading a familiar phrase in a different translation.
So we must G4337 listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may G3901 drift away from it. (Hebrews 2:1 NLT)
My question was, "How does one listen very carefully to what one has already heard?" The translators necessarily struggle to find the words to transmit this from the original. The modern literalist attempts this conveyance with, “pay closer attention.” The more time-honored versions render it, “give more earnest heed.” Literally (when you add the word “perissoteros”), it is, “to give heed more abundantly.” If we look more closely at the word, “prosecho,” we see the idea of holding the mind or ear toward (“listen very carefully”). In the nautical sense it is, “to take up a heading towards" the truth we have heard.
This is an inference from the author’s discourse in the previous chapter where this truth is defined as that which was spoken by the Son, Who is infinitely superior to all of creation. His Gospel then should be given our undivided attention. It is the hearer’s duty to listen carefully so that the heading will steer clear of the rocks and shoals of pernicious nature and instead, chart a course toward the shores of good and profitable. If our attention be split, then our observation of the Guide Star is made unsuitable for navigation, and "our striving thus becomes losing."
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing (A Mighty Fortress is Our God, Martin Luther)
G4337 προσέχω prosécho ; pros: toward + echo: to have and hold, implying continued possession. To have in addition, to hold the mind or the ear toward someone, to pay attention. As a nautical term, it means to hold a ship in a direction, to sail towards.
This has to be contrasted with the word, “pararreo” that means to drift away, perhaps even imperceptibly. Why is this important? Since the beginning, when our Parents were deceived in the garden of Eden, the enemy of our soul has been using the same means to lead us toward destruction. You would think that after these thousands of years we would wake up to the fact that we are repeatedly led astray by this spiritual sleight of hand. But church history gives us the real outcome. We continue to be hoodwinked by the slow drifting away from the pure truth of the Gospel, until half-truths and counterfeit truths become our steady diet. With our course no longer Christward, we set sail for perdition’s flame.
G3901 παραρρέω pararréo ; contracted paararruo , fut. parareúsomai, from pará (G3844), by, past, beyond, and rhéo (G4483), to flow. To float by or drift past as a ship, or to flow past as a river. Figuratively to slip away, suggesting a gradual and almost unnoticed movement past a certain point. Of a person, to move stealthily as a thief. It is used figuratively of persons meaning to glide away, to swerve or deviate from something, such as the truth, law, precepts; equivalent to parapípto (G3895), to fall aside. It occurs only in Hebrews 2:1 where it is used in an absolute sense "lest we drift away from that which we have heard" (a.t.), transgress.
The slow, imperceptible slouching toward Gomorrah has been occurring in our nation since the quenching of the Great Awakening ─ with America's greatness now inversely proportional to the size of the National Debt!
Romans 1:21 "For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened." (NET)
The reason we must “listen very carefully to what we have heard” is that we must refresh our hearing of it each and every day as we enter into Christ’s Sabbath Rest! He has created a new day and called it, “Today” whereby we may enter into this blessed repose and blessed abode (katapausis). But if we fail to do so we will find no rest; our course will not be straight, and we will drift slowly away from His perfect will in our lives.
God's promise of entering His place of rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to get there. For this Good News—that God has prepared a place of rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t believe what God told them.” (Hebrew 4:1-2 NLT96)
I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of America in her harbors and her ample rivers … ; in her fertile fields and boundless forests … ; in her rich mines and vast world commerce … ; in her public school system and institutions of learning. I sought for it in her democratic Congress and in her matchless Constitution. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great. (Alexis de Tocqueville) Found in the unabridged 1834 edition of Democracy in America.