Thursday, June 3, 2021

The Living Word of God (Hebrews 4:6-13)

"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).

We come today to one of the most famous verses in the Bible: Hebrews 4:12. Let’s look at it in some detail. First of all we notice that it is introduced by the word for. The author has been telling us to pay close heed to God’s word of promise and threat: the reward of rest if we are faithful, the curse of restlessness if we are not. Now he gives us a reason to pay heed: because God’s Word is alive and active. God’s Word is never idle and cannot be ignored. It always causes things to change. It provokes us, either to obedience or to rebellion.

The second person of the Godhead is called the Word of God, and here the Word is said to be alive. Clearly, in this context, the Word of God refers to the written Scriptures, but we can see from the fact that Jesus is also called the Word, and from the fact that the written Word is “alive,” how closely they are linked. When we confront the written Word, we confront Jesus. We cannot be neutral. Indeed, Jesus is pictured as speaking forth the two-edged sword of His Word in Revelation 1:16, 2:12, and 19:15.

The Scriptures are a sword, not a mace used to beat people or an axe used to hack people. Rather, they are a sword with which to cut people apart. In a word, the sword of the Scriptures sacrifices us. That is why it is said to cut apart “joints and marrow,” language that seems to imply the act of cutting up the animal sacrifice. God’s Word makes us living sacrifices.

The sword is double-edged. What is clear about this image is that the sword cuts no matter how it is used. It always cuts, for it has no blunt side. Beyond this, some have speculated that the two edges are God’s eternal Word and His temporal words, or perhaps the Old and New Testaments—but there is no biblical foundation for those opinions.

More likely is the suggestion that the two edges imply that the Word brings life to some and death to others, just as Jesus’ parables illuminated some and confused others (Matthew 13:10–16). In fact, the sword of the Word brings judgment to all men, but to some of us it is a sacrificial death that leads to new life, while to others it is a word of total judgment (John 12:48).

God’s Word brings judgment. Believers find salvation through God’s righteous judgments. Our daily dying to sin brings about daily rising to righteousness. Thus, we do not avoid God’s judgments, we embrace them. With this in mind, read Psalms 9 and 25 and celebrate God’s justice.