There’s a story I’ve always loved with an old man who owned a home located in a deep valley. One day while standing outside the sky began to fill with dark stormy clouds. At first the clouds produced nothing more than a light sprinkle, but as time passed on it began to pour down large round drops of rain. This rain continued day after day until the old man’s home began to flood. The water slowly rose until it was swirling around his knees. Being a devout Christian, the old man chose pray to God asking to saved from the flood. Immediately, one of the old man’s neighbors paddled right up to his front door in a canoe and implored him to get in. Instead of climbing into safety the old man assured his neighbor that God had promised to save his life. The next day the water continued to rise until it was up to the old man’s waist. Again, one of the old man’s neighbor’s arrived at his front door, but this time in a motor boat. This neighbor began to beg the old man to get inside the boat with him, but instead the man told this neighbor the same thing he had told the last. As the rain continued, eventually the water rose all the way up to the old man’s neck. In a last attempt to reason with this stubborn old man, a rescue helicopter swooped in and hovered above his house. The pilot pleaded with the old man to climb aboard, but once again the old man chose to refuse. Instead of climbing to safety this stubborn old man simply shouted back to the pilot that God was going to save him. A few hours later the old man had drowned. When he woke up he found himself in heaven standing before the throne of God. As you probably have already guessed, the first question he chose to ask God was, “Why didn’t you save me?” God’s response was simple. “I tried to save you three different times, but you stubbornly refused.”
Although this story has perhaps been overused, it perfectly illustrates the message being conveyed by the author of Hebrews in this particular passage of Scripture. Since the fall of man God has done nothing but hold out his hand of salvation. Over the course of thousands of years God has reached out to us through the prophets, pleaded with us through his law, and even begged us through with his angels. You would think all this would be enough, but like the old man from the story we all remained stubborn in our own ways. However, in God’s infinite mercy he chose to send us his own Son. Sadly, even this incredible gesture of love has been refuse by many. As my years of being a pastor have slowly passed by I’ve grown to realize that it’s not enough for most people to simply receive salvation, they want to be saved their way. But there is only one way to salvation. It’s the way of humility. It’s the way of grace.
“In every period of Christian history there have been those who have offered a substitute message… a gospel of salvation by religious observance, or by moral effort, or by humanitarian benevolence, or by political involvement, or social action.” -Raymond Brown