1 Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.
Eternal matters are at stake when we engage with the Bible. To develop an indifferent attitude or not pay close attention to what it says has serious implications.
The original readers of Hebrews were in grave danger of letting their faith erode to something less than it should be. As former Jews they decided that Jesus was the Messiah, the sovereign Son of God, but they were about to revert to their former practices as Jews. They were tempted to go back to the religious observances of their race. They came to believe that the stark, unadulterated grace of the New Testament was too much to take.
The “we” indicates that the author included himself in the necessity of the challenge he was about to give. To claim that this passage speaks to non-Christians is to read into the passage something that is not there (interpolation).
The word “must” is an appeal to God’s revelation. Because God said it, we must take it seriously. God made a clear and unmistakable revelation in His Son (He 1:2), so there is no option but to listen to it.
There is no alternative for believers but to pay attention what this passage in Hebrews says. The word “must” indicates the logical necessity of taking heed of the seven Old Testament quotes of the previous chapter. If the readers did not do so, they would not inherit the benefits of the kingdom.
give the more earnest heed
The author of Hebrews challenged himself along with others in what he was about to warn. It is necessary to give full attention to the truths of chapter 1.
“More earnest” is an emphatic comparison meaning more fervently. Christians are more accountable than the Israelites when we disobey the Word because we have much greater revelation—the revelation of and by the Son (He 1:2).
“Earnest” is a word of intensity. Readers of the New Testament are to pay closer attention to what God said through His Son than the readers of the Old Covenant given through angels.
“Heed” means attention. In ancient Greek, this word was used for a captain holding his ship on course toward the harbor. This word is set in contrast to the word for “drift away” later in this verse. Giving “heed” is to apply the mind in a certain direction. We need to concentrate on something, give attention to it. If we do not apply our minds to a subject, then the object of what we think about will fade and become less real.
Exposition of the Bible is not an end in itself.
The imperative in this verse is more than good advice. When we fix our minds on truth and apply it to our lives, something wonderful happens. If we take seriously what God says and believe His Word, it will be efficacious. We cannot believe something without understanding it, without objective consideration. We cannot do this without giving attention to it. We must always keep it before our minds (Ps 119:9, 11).