“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (Heb. 4:12-13)
Apparently, the writer of Hebrews wanted his readers to know that God’s word is capable of exposing the thoughts and attitudes of every single heart. We do not know ourselves. David asks, in Psalm 19:12, “Who can discern his errors?” Only the word of God is capable of doing that. The writer also wants his readers to know that God’s surveillance is abundant (Heb. 4:13). God is the spectator of our lives.
How does all of this tie in with the writer’s theme of “the rest of God”? “For,” in verse 12, demonstrates that this text is directly responding to the exhortation in verse 11, “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through following the same example of disobedience.” The “disobedience” he warns of is a disobedience to the word of God that leads to destruction (see Heb. 3:12-19). So, how do we keep from falling through the same example of disobedience to God’s word that the Israelites left? The answer is clear: the word of God slices through our professions, pretensions, excuses, and motives, revealing the condition of our hearts. As the heart is laid open before “the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” we have no place to hide from his wrath but in the refuge he has provided in Jesus Christ.
How does the word of God help us in our continuance and stability in the faith? How did it help first century Christians who were struggling to continue in the face of threats, persecution, and even lingering doubts? Well, they were confronted with the word of God!
We all have a copy of the Bible. What kind of book is it? Why is this book so necessary? Why does it have such a powerful effect upon our lives? What kind of word is it?
#1 – It is a living word. It is living and active. It is “full of life and power” (Weymouth) or “alive and active (Phillips) or “living and energetic.” It is a living word! Many books teach us good things; expose us to the rich use of human language; probe human emotions; provide rich insights into human history—and you would miss all of that if you failed to read them. But if you fail to read the Bible, if you fail to listen to its words, then you miss the only truth that can carry you through life and into eternity with God. As a “living” word it continues through every age of man with total relevance. It works in our hearts and lives.
#2 – It is a penetrating word. The word of God penetrates the depth of our being. “For the word of God is…sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow.” I believe the writer simply desires to communicate that the word of God penetrates to the inner recesses of the human heart. Vincent comments, “The word of God has an incisive and penetrating quality. It lays bare self-delusions and moral sophisms” (Word Studies in the NT,IV,427). The comparative description, “sharper than any two-edged sword,” helps us to understand that no instrument in the hands of men can penetrate the heart more keenly than the word of God. The short straight sword of the Roman soldier was known to be an efficient weapon. Its two edges meant that it never failed to cut; there was no bluntness to it. To some this word has the sharp edge of life (John 6:63); to others the divine sword is the sharp edge of death (John 12:48).
How sharp? How penetrating? It is sharp enough to distinguish between things that we cannot distinguish. Has this living, active word pierced your soul, bringing conviction and conversion?
#3 – It is a discerning word. If we will expose ourselves to it we will discover that perhaps we have been nurturing a heart of unbelief. All the outward signs and trappings of the “Christian life” are present, but we are deceiving our own hearts. The word of God can discern whether we are genuine or not. Are we brave and honest enough to expose our hearts to the word of God?
God’s word, in short, shares his very own attributes. It is living, active, powerful, as penetrating as a surgeon’s scalpel, bringing all of our thoughts and ideas under divine scrutiny and criticism. Read and think upon and obediently respond to this word. James tells us, “receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).
Notice that the author speaks about the God of this living word. Just when we think we might be able to hide our sin and unbelief from everyone, the writer says, “And there is no creature hidden from his sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” The omniscience of God implies the ability of God to see and know everything. We like this attribute when it comes to our pains. But when it comes to our sin and unbelief we would just as soon have God look the other way! But that is impossible with God. On one hand, his care for his creation demands his oversight; on the other, his responsibility as Judge requires his piercing gaze.
Do you think that you are escaping God’s piercing gaze? Do you think that he is thrown off the trail by your religious acts and pious talk? See Psalm 139:1-4; 7-12. It is the case that “all things are open and laid bare.” The word “open” is literally, “naked,” while “laid bare” likely refers to the custom of stretching out the neck of a sacrifice for the fatal stroke of the blade to be administered. “In the grip of God,” is how Kent Hughes expresses it (Hebrews: An Anchor for the Soul, 123). In all of our attempts to cover sin on the one hand, and in all our anxieties in trying to live for Christ on the other, we are “open and laid bare” before God, totally in his grip for judgment or blessing. It is God “with whom we have to do.” (Heb. 4:13)
God has spoken through his word. Are we hearing and obeying? That is precisely where first century Christians found themselves. They had received the word. It was clear to them. Now they must believe and obey. And so must we.
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