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. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
I preach regularly. It’s a huge privilege and joy. The scripture comes alive as I study and (when I’m open) it speaks into my own life before it ever has a chance to speak to the congregation.
But the reason I preach is that I’m hoping the scripture will speak to the congregation, too. People will sometimes say something like, “You must have chosen that passage specifically for me.” What they mean is that the scripture “hit home.” That’s the point.
The author of Hebrews has spent the last chapter and a half “preaching” from an Old Testament text, seeking to apply it to the lives of his readers – us included. The text was Psalm 95:7-11 (recorded in Hebrews 3:7-11), describing the failing experience of the Israelites in the wilderness during a time of testing – instead of passing the test, they hardened their hearts, refused to believe, and rebelled against the Lord.
The author, acting as a preacher, trusts the text has “hit home.” But it’s not just wishful optimism – rather, it’s a sure hope based in the reality that God’s word is powerful and effective.
Indeed, God’s Word is “living and active.” It’s not merely a two-dimensional inscription on a flat page, but instead is filled with the very breath of God himself surging through it, such that it engages with its listeners – purposefully, effectively, intentionally – to bring about the fullness of God’s work in the lives of those who hear. As the Old Testament scripture itself says, speaking with the very voice of God, “My word that goes out from my mouth … will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). Living and active, indeed.
God’s Word is capable of piercing right into the very core of our being, touching our spirit and soul, and discerning our inner thoughts and motivations, even when we haven’t clearly discerned them ourselves. The Apostle James says it’s like a mirror that shows us who we are and where we’re at (James 1:22-25). Indeed, the Sovereign Lord, who sees everything with complete clarity, sees us fully and completely with no masks, no fog, no hiddenness.
This would be a terrifying prospect if we responded like the Israelites did in the wilderness. Ultimately, we will stand before the Lord with everything stripped away. All things will be revealed clearly in that day of judgement. But the prospect turns to goodness if we receive God’s Word now, allowing it to speak into our lives so that those hidden things are brought into the light, that we might see and be corrected and follow him more closely.
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts”(Hebrews 3:7-8, 15, 4:7). Don’t be like the Israelites – don’t rebel against the Lord’s Word. Instead, submit to its living, active presence that the Lord’s purposes might be worked in the whole of your being.
Sovereign Lord, speak. I choose to listen and submit. I open your Word afresh, ready to have your deep, inner work done in my life.
Search me and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. To your glory. Amen.
Reflect: What word of correction or insight or encouragement or direction has the Lord spoken to you recently from his Word? What further work is he wanting to do in your inner being through that Word? Submit. Trust. Follow.