Meditations in Hebrews 4: 25. God has spoken and sees
Heb 4:12,13 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. 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.
The two verses before us now give us even greater pause for thought. They are ones often quoted in respect of the Bible or God’s word, and because of that may appear familiar, but the question arises, why are they here, how is this part of the ongoing flow of the writer’s teaching and argument?
The starting word, ‘For’ is another of those link-words we so often come across that show us that in the writer’s thinking this is a logical ongoing flow of thought. The use of the word, ‘word’ has not been seen except very briefly in the opening prologue in chapter 1 but as we have noted as we have gone along, this writer’s teaching has been full of references from the Old Testament, mostly from prophetic psalms.
Now we tend to think of ‘the word of God’ as written words in the bigger text which evangelicals believe is actually all the word of God, but in the writing of Hebrews there has been this constant use of Old Testament quotations which, we emphasise, are prophetic in nature and the writer uses them in that sense; they were spoken by God specifically referring to His Son who would one day appear on the earth. But here is the thing, the writer considers ‘the word of God’ to be vibrant and alive, active and having effect and they come directly from God and cannot be seen separately from God, they are God expressing Himself.
In the beginning at Creation we see, “God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” (Gen 1:3) It is God speaking by fiat, He speaks it and immediately it is done. His authorization also creates. There is no distinction between Him, His authorization (His word), and His act of creating. And so it is, that the writer has been placing all these ‘words’ before us, spoken by God prophetically through His servants in the Old Testament.
The apostle Peter clearly caught something of this process when he wrote, “the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.” (1 Pet 1:10-12) but that tends to show more the yearning that the prophets found within themselves that brought forth the divine utterances of what would come. In his second letter he wrote, “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Pet 1:21) This was God urging His people to speak out His word, and when it is spoken as from Him, it comes with power and effect.
So, to emphasise it yet again, this book so far has been peppered with prophetic quotes from the Old Testament and the writer is pointing that out, somewhat indirectly, as he speaks of the general effect and power of God’s words, and the implication must surely be that if this is so – and it is – then we should surely pay all the more attention to it. This is not just a nice little theological treatise that he is writing, but a call to faithfulness because of what has been revealed by God.
Look what it does: “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.” (v.12) Let’s do it the easy way and see how the paraphrase version put these all too familiar words: “For the Word that God speaks is alive and active; it cuts more keenly than any two-edged sword: it strikes through to the place where soul and spirit meet, to the innermost intimacies of a man’s being: it exposes the very thoughts and motives of a man’s heart.” (JBP version) and “God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defence, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what.” (The Message version) Wow! God’s words penetrate to the innermost being, cutting through our defences like a surgeon’s scalpel or we might say today, like a hot knife through butter.
Yes, this is the point, we may put up all these defensive barriers, making excuses galore, reasons why the truth should not apply to us and God speaks and it goes like an arrow and pierces deep in our hearts and we are changed. Indeed, says the writer, “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.” (v.13) i.e. not only does God’s word penetrate to the depths, but it can do that because God can see to the depths, He knows exactly what we are like on the inside.
Perhaps the greatest illustration of this truth is seen on the story of Samuel being sent to Bethlehem to anoint a new king who God will reveal, from Jesse’s family. When Samuel started assessing by size and age the Lord told him, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7) God looks on the inside and He sees and knows what we are like and He sees and knows the excuses we make and so speaks a word that penetrates and pierces the excuse and we fall in submission.
That is the power of the word of God, but sometime God speaks it and still we fend it off and sometimes we shrug it off by lack of concern (and what is terrifying is that the Lord allows us to do this!) and so it is almost as if the writer is saying, “Look, I’ve been presenting you again and again with the word of God and those words should be impacting you and releasing faith in you, but if you are just reading them casually, God will not force you, it’s up to you!” Hence such words as we saw in verse 11 – “make every effort.” i.e. YOU do it. Or there was “let us be careful,” in 4:1 or “See to it,” in 3:12 and “fix your thoughts,” in 3:1 and “pay more careful attention,” in 2:1. All of these were calls to heed the word of God that had been coming and DO something about it. May we do it!