The word of the day is “angels.” So many voices are shouting at us these days that we are bound to distrust, discount, distrust, and disregard them all. But do the words of the Lord also get lost amidst all the messages that assail us? Today in our reading of Hebrews 1:10-2:3, the apostle compares the word of angels with the Word of the Lord. He writes, “If the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord” (NKJV 2:2-4). Today’s reading gives us reason to pay careful attention to “every word which proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
Angels frequently appear in the Old Testament. They encourage, herald, portend, and instruct the People of God. Angelic beings visit Abraham and Sarah, Hagar, Lot, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, the parents of Samson, Balaam, Elijah, Isaiah, Zechariah, The Three Youths, Daniel, Esdra, Raphael, and Tobit. They are “ministering spirits” and often messengers of the Most High.
The Word Spoken Through Angels
Of these heralds, the apostle writes, “…the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward” (NKJV Hebrews 2:2). Yes, angels spoke of God’s deliverance. For instance, an angel appeared to Gideon during the conquest of the land of Canaan. The angel promised Gideon success in battle saying, “The Lord will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man (KJV Judges 6:16).
But angelic messengers also brought word of the Almighty’s judgment. For instance, two angels visited Lot in Sodom and proclaimed, “For we are going to destroy this place; for their cry has been raised up before the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it” (NKJV Genesis 19:15).
In every case, the word of angels was “steadfast.” The Greek word means “steady” or firm (Strong’s #949,53). Once delivered, the message never wavered, changed, or proved empty. God was always true to the word of His “ministering spirits (NKJV vs. 1:14). The apostle recounted, “Every transgression and disobedience received a just reward.” That is, God repaid every sin with the righteous recompense that it deserved (NKJV Hebrews 2:2).
The Word of God Is More Faithful
The point of our reading is that if God was so faithful to the words of His angels, how much more faithful will He be to His own Word. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, So shall My Word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent (NKJV 55:10).
The inevitable fulfillment of God’s Word represents both a warning and a promise. The Word of God is both judgment and grace. It cannot be separated from His holiness and righteousness. Nor can it be disconnected from His mercy and grace. The Word is, in fact, God revealing, acting, judging, and saving.
God’s Word is Almighty as the apostle says, “For the word of God is living and powerful” (NKJV Hebrews 4:12). It is also eternal. Thus, Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away” (OSB Luke 21:33).
Neglect of the Word, Neglect of Salvation
The superiority of God’s Word over the words of angels would be enough for us to both fear and esteem it. Yet, the apostle gives us an even more important reason to pay reverence to it. He writes, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him” (NKJV Hebrews 2:3).
The word “escape” means to flee from a place such as a prison. But where would we run to get away from the all-pervasive divine Word? If we tried, we would be like Jonah, who fled from the calling of the Word of the Lord (OSB Jonah 1:1). No, we cannot avoid the Word of God’s judgment.
How To Lose the Promise of Salvation
And that judgment will find us if we “neglect so great a salvation?” The Greek word for neglect means “to be careless about” or “to make light of” (Strong’s #272, 16). The apostle says that the Lord first spoke about salvation. Then those who heard Him confirmed His message (NKJV Hebrews 2:3). Note that the apostle here puts together “salvation” with the ideas of “neglect” and the “words” that Christ and the apostles spoke. The logic is clear: If we neglect the Word of God, we ignore its promise of salvation.
If we treat the Word of God with indifference, we will disregard it with the result that we no longer put our trust in it. Consequently, we will lose the salvation, that is, the redemption, that God’s message proclaims. On the other hand, if we pay our utmost attention to all that God speaks to us, we will attain deliverance. By His grace, God will save us from His disfavor and provide the blessedness of eternal life to us.
Surely as long as we attend worship, pray, study the Scriptures, and participate in the sacraments, no one could say that we neglect the Word of our salvation, But note that the Word of God is meant be heard and obeyed. The Lord said,” If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (NKJV John 14:23). The Greek word for “keep” means “to guard” or “to watch over” (Strong’s #5083). We “guard” the Word when we hold it fast to ourselves so that we do not lose it. We put our faith in it and follow it. Therefore, if we “watch over” all that God says to us by hearing and doing it, we can say that we do not “neglect our salvation.”