“… but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith, in those who heard it” (Hebrews 4:2). Why the word, which was preached, not profitable? What can we learn from them to avoid the same mistake? The gospel was preached to them (vs.2). The gospel is preached to us. What will we do with word?
The word did not fail because there was something wrong with it. The word is living and is powerful. That word from God is the same word that had power in Genesis. God said, “Let there be light” and there was. God’s word is never going to fail because of deficiency. The word did not fail because the word was wrong. The word failed because it was of no use to them.
Furthermore, the word did not fail because the delivery was inappropriate. That is not true here. The first time Israel heard the word it came from God Himself. The people were terrified and said to Moses, “You go talk to God and tell us what He said and we will do it. Don’t let Him speak to us again lest we die.” After that Moses was the spokesman for God. He stood at the head of the list of prophets. The problem was not in the spokesman. God spoke to them and Moses taught them. The word was preached but it did not profit them.
Also, mere possession of the word does not guarantee that it will be profitable. They did not profit because they carried the tables of stone around with them. Even so, we can have the Bible laying around the house, but there is no profit simply being around the book or touching the book. The devil will not run away just because we hold up a copy of the Bible. Our confidence is not found in the pages and binding, or being in the presence of some magical book. We can still lose our soul with the Bible in our pocket. People who go to heaven carry the Bible in their heart.
Further, merely hearing or understanding the word does not make it profitable. Jews understood the rudiments of the law. In Jesus’ time any Jew that was serious went to the synagogue every day. Every Sabbath day the Law of Moses was read. From their childhood they came to know, thoroughly, what the law said. They knew, heard, and understood it, but it did not profit them. Even so, we can go to church all the time and hear the word read. We can recite scriptures, but quoting scripture is not the emphasis. All of that will not profit us.
Therefore, how can we make the word profitable for us today? The word is profitable. “Receive with meekness the engrafted word…” (James 1:21). Engrafted gives the imagery of something not distant, nor something we come by now and then. Engrafted means it has become a part of us. It becomes like a member of our body, it is grafted into our heart. If the word is to be engrafted it must be received with meekness. That means we bow the knee. Meek people accept the dominion and direction of God. Israel had the word of God but they never were meek people. They were a rebellious people. The word was never engrafted. It never made any difference in who they were, how they lived, what they thought, where they lived and what they did. It was not mixed with faith, therefore, they did not receive the word.
Consider, when Peter preached, the people who crucified the Lord cried out, “What shall we do?” They listened to a sermon. They understood the sermon. They were cut to the heart but at this point they had not received the word. They are troubled by the word. Out of the crowd some will receive and understand. Some will profit from it and some will not. When asked, “What shall we do,” Peter told them “repent and be baptized.” Those were the people he identifies as the ones who received the word. Receiving the word is using it. It is something that becomes a part of our thinking.
Further, receiving the word affects how we live. When Paul preached to the Thessalonians he said, “…. abound more and more, just as you have received from us how you ought to walk and to please God” (4:1). They have accepted not only the first principles of becoming a Christian; they have received how they ought to live. Preaching the word must change who we are, what we think, what we do and how we live. That is receiving the word.
In ancient times Jews received the word. “Don’t make any graven images,” but they were not a few days out until they made a golden calf and bowed down. They understood the word but it didn’t change what they did or who they were. It didn’t change them from being rebellious and hard hearted. It didn’t change the bad character they had or keep them from grumbling.
So as we look back to the Hebrews, will we listen to the word? Will we bow in submission to the word? Will we use the word to transform our lives before God? Will we put the word to work in our lives? Will we be governed by God’s word? Will it change our marriages? Will it change our attitudes toward our children, our parents and our brethren? Will it change the way we pray? After we have listened to the word of God what difference will it make for us?
Warning! Lot of folks with their baptismal certificate and perfect attendance card will find themselves on the wrong side of the judgment because the word never changed how they lived, nor who they are. It did not profit them. How sad!
For us, who have the word preached to us, we have something much greater at stake. Eternity hangs in the balance. Our eternal destiny is at stake. The gospel is preached to us. What will we do with word?
By Rickie Jenkins