Hebrews 4:12-13 – The Sword of the Lord
Intro: The 7.0 earthquake hit, lasted, and ceased, but the aftershocks have continued.
- Aftershocks are unsettling and life can be unsettling.
- You need a “flashlight” stowed and ready in the drawer when the quake comes, when the power suddenly drops.
This passage is about spiritual preparation. Preparation with the Word. You need answers. God’s Word is there to make sane with life’s catch-22’s.
- Two verses could not be better known in the entire Bible, to describe this Word!
- However, this Word is as terrifying as it is comforting.
Our text’s central command opens up what we are dealing within verses 12-13:
“Strive to enter that rest” – “Strive…to rest” (v. 11).
- This is not counterintuitive but Christian perseverance!
- Not pushing forward in the flesh, but moving forward in faith.
- Back at verse 4, “The promise of entering rest still stands.”
- The promise made to Moses and the wilderness generation.
- Carried forward by Joshua (picturing Christ and grace).
- Reiterated 400 years later by David in Psalm 95.
- A promise alive and well for the church, from its inception to now.
What is this “rest”? Rest now, being reconciled with God! Rest future, which is eternal heaven!
- The warning to the church to NOT be like the wilderness generation.
- They didn’t reach “rest!”
Verse 2 is explicit about what went wrong.
- They heard “good news” – the Word of God – with no “benefit.”
- “They were not united by faith!” (v. 2).
- Under the strong influence of God’s voice but they did not “listen!”
- Disconnected from “those who listened!” (v. 2).
“Good news” in verse 2 [euanggelliw] is repeated in verse 6.
- The promise to enter rest remains, [Question] “So, how do you do it?”
- You have to “receive the good news!”
- Unlike the wilderness generation, “receive” Truth! Hear by faith!
They “failed to enter because of disobedience” (v. 6).
- Same “disobedience” Christians (Hebrew’s author included – “we”) are warned NOT to replicate!
What specifically is “disobedience?”
- Not hearing the Word! Put another way, NOT “striving to enter that rest?”
- NOT hearing and believing Scripture!
- Instead, trusting, embracing, holding to it, living by it!
- Complaining or murmuring against God?
- Wishing for Egypt, for LIES the world offers?
- Or, Going with Bible!
Verses 12-13 completes this command to “strive for rest” with another power-warning.
“Come to the Word because Word is coming to you.”
God’s Word is Unstoppable
The “word of God” is “alive” or “living” and “active” or “powerful” (v. 12).
- William Barclay said the Word is “instinct with life!”
- The Word is personified as God himself is speaking.
- God is irrepressible and so God’s
- Word is irrepressible.
- The author is not referring to the incarnate Word (Jn. 1:1) but the revelation of God enshrined in Scripture.
- When the Word of God speaks, God himself speaks.
- “God so to speak is what God says!” [Schreiner].
- As God himself is living, the Word of God is living.
- There is inherent dynamism that cannot be thwarted.
- In this context denying this Word, or disbelieving this Word can prove fatal!
The evangelist, Stephen called it, “living oracles” and Peter likewise declares it “the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pt. 1:23).
- Christians readily confess that it is an inspired book, inspired by the Holy Spirit.
- Liberals have tried to diminish its inherent power by promoting Neo-orthodoxy.
- “The Bible ‘becomes the Word’ or ‘becomes Living’ when read by faith.
- The Bible is powerful and powerfully working whether it is being believed or rejected.
- This is the author’s point!
The Scripture is described as actively discerning believers from unbelievers.
- Opening and closing “rest” that people long for!
- The dynamic testimony of the Word’s work throughout history bears witness to this.
- The Word put in everyone’s hands in usable language, incites revolutions, overthrows kings and reforms governments.
- The Word has brought light to dark continents lost in witchcraft and order out of chaos (Hudson Taylor, William Carey, David Livingston – It was the Word).
Even in our postmodern and anti-authority and media-visual age, the Word Speaks.
The Battle Hymn says it well, “His Truth is Marching On!”
It operates with vitality and intention.
ESV Isaiah 55:11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
ESV Psalm 107:20 He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction.
Martin Luther, the great reformer, who’s imprint is still felt. His summary:
I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word: otherwise I did nothing. And when, while I slept, or drank…with Philip and my Amsdorf [his friends], the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a Prince or Emperor inflicted such damage upon it, I did nothing. The Word did it all.
Think of the response at Peter’s preaching at Pentecost.
ESV Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
The Word does what it promises to do.
Whitefield (18th Century Evangelist) was hounded by a group of detractors who called themselves the “Hell-fire Club,” derided his work, and mocked him.
On one occasion one of them, a man named Thorpe was mimicking Whitefield to his cronies, delivering his sermon with brilliant accuracy, perfectly imitating his tone and facial expressions, when he himself was so pierced that he sat down and was converted on the spot!
Thorpe became a prominent Christian leader in Bristol.
The Word is living and active but that is not all it is.
God’s Word is Irrefutable
The Word of God is the Lord’s superior weapon.
- It is comparatively “sharper above or beyond” [uper] all other “swords” or “double edged blades” (v. 12; cf. Ephesians 6:17 “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”).
- The main emphasis is penetration.
- A sword in battle is only as good as it is able to penetrate armor, bone, and flesh!
- A blunt blade in combat is of little use.
King Arthur’s legendary mythical sword, Excalibur depicts the emphasis a high and Sovereign weapon.
- God’s Word is the ultimate sword.
It is “two-edged” meaning full use to cut and lay open.
Principle that all must come to the word or the word will come to you.
- The accountability of Truth is irrefutable, you cannot fight it all.
In Revelation, Christ warns the church at Pergamum in this way:
ESV Revelation 2:16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.
Jesus on the other hand commends the church at Philadelphia saying:
ESV Revelation 3:10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.
The “two-edged sword” connects back to the “wilderness generation” as an allusion to judgment.
- Israel’s unbelief at Kedesh-Barnea was condemned by God in Numbers 14.
ESV Numbers 14:23 shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it.
- Israel responded (like so many of us do) wanted to force their way back into God’s original plan!
ESV Numbers 14:39-45 When Moses told these words to all the people of Israel, the people mourned greatly. 40 And they rose early in the morning and went up to the heights of the hill country, saying, “Here we are. We will go up to the place that the LORD has promised, for we have sinned.”
However, God warned them not to go there.
Numbers 14:41-45 ESV But Moses said, “Why now are you transgressing the command of the LORD, when that will not succeed? Do not go up, for the Lord is not among you, lest you be struck down before your enemies. For there the Amalekites and the Canaanites are facing you, and you shall fall by the sword. Because you have turned back from following the LORD, the LORD will not be with you.”
But they presumed to go up to the heights of the hill country, although neither the ark of the covenant of the LORD nor Moses departed out of the camp. Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and defeated them and pursued them, even to Hormah.
Israel “presumed” on God, going without “the ark,” in their own strength, without God’s blessing, and they got slaughtered!
- God’s Word is both a guide and a rule!
- It Wounds and Heals!
John Bunyan in Pilgrim’s Progress called it “A right Jerusalem blade” where “Its edges will never blunt; it will cut flesh, and bones, and soul, and spirit, and all.” “The Lord’s word hews down any and all who disobey Him” [Schreiner].
God’s Word is Indisputable
The discerning nature of the Word is God is not something that can be argued against.
- God is the highest court because God knows and sees everything about you.
- “Piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
- [Note] Should not be the opening to figure out the difference between a “soul” of a man and a “spirit” of a man.
- Not about being a Dichotomist or Trichotomist.
- Concern is not to differentiate a person’s “psyche” from his “soul” (or “heart”) any more than to differentiate “thoughts” from “intentions.”
- All of these complex nuances make up the inner man.
- The point is the inner depth that God can go and does go inside of a person!
- The wartime picture is hand to hand combat where a warrior drops his blade onto the “joint” of the assailant’s arm, opening it up to “bone.” “Laying bare the marrow inside the bone.”
- Where is the flannel graph for that Bible scene?
- This won’t market the a new warm-hearted Bible devotional series.
- “Open up God’s Word so it will open you!”
- The NIV – God’s Word “judges thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
- The Bible shines its searchlight inside of our hearts, like a torch being lit inside a dark cave, revealing what’s really going on!
- Our sinful rationalizing is stopped in its tracks!
- Root issues are pulled up in an instant by God’s work.
This is why people distance themselves from church.
- People draw away from accountability!
- Why churches stop preaching the straight up truth, not wanting people to leave!
It you don’t speak the Word, you are not really doing anything at all!
God’s Word is Inescapable
Verse 13 broadens the accountability to everyone! Churched and unchurched! Believers and unbelievers.
- God’s Word is like a net that keeps spreading and spreading until to covers every last person.
- “No creature is hidden from his sight.”
- Literally, “no creature is invisible before Him” (v. 13).
- Now the accountability of God’s Word is said to be God Himself.
- God’s eyes are everywhere and exhaustive.
ESV Job 26:6 Sheol is naked before God, and Abaddon has no covering.
ESV Job 28:24 For he looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens.
ESV Psalm 33:13 The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man;
In the end, all disguises will be ripped off!
ESV Proverbs 15:3 The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.
ESV Psalm 90:8 You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.
This reminds me of a child playing hide and seek, hiding in the closet. When the door is opened, the child standing there has his eyes covered with his hands. The child’s self-perception is that he is still now found but this simply isn’t true.
There were boys stealing apples in a private orchard. It just so happened that the great American astronomer Samuel Alfred Mitchell was observing the sun through his telescope as it descended, and just as it set there came into view the crest of an orchard-covered hill some seven miles distant where Dr. Mitchell watched the two boys-one picking apples while the other stood guard making sure they were not seen!”
In A.W. Tozer’s classic Knowledge of the Holy he says,
God knows instantly and effortlessly all matter and all matters, all mind and every mind, all spirit and all spirits, all being and every being, all creaturehood and all creatures, every plurality and all pluralities, all law and every law, all relations, all causes, all thoughts, all mysteries, all enigmas, all feeling, all desires, every unuttered secret, all thrones, and dominions, all personalities, all things visible and invisible in heaven and in earth, motion, space, time, life, death, good, evil, heaven, and hell.
This language is severe. In the end, “all are naked” literally “stripped to the kernel” or without an outer garment.
- The word “exposed” is a violent wrestler’s word.
- The idea of seizing an opponent by the throat to immobilize
- Putting someone in a “head and arm.”
- The idea of submission is here.
- The language is being brought toward God’s eyes – “to his eyes” – to face the account or “the word” [o’ logos].
- God is never duped!
It’s been said,
“At some time other, a man must stop running from himself and his God-possibly because there is just no other place to run to. There comes a time in every man when he has to meet God from whom eyes nothing can be concealed” Kemit Eby, The God in You
God’s word is inescapable.
“You come to the Word or the Word will come to you.”
The Inescapable nature can be viewed only as a negative but that would be incomplete and a mistake.
- God’s Word comes for you but not only to condemn.
- It also comes to save!
I served under a pastor for 11 years, who came from broken home, never really knowing his father.
- They were reunited only when he was in his mid-forties, while I was there still serving.
- They confirmed they were father and son by sharing a story they both remembered.
- They were together fishing at a river, father and son.
- The Dad in his 20’s and son probably 3 maybe 4 years old.
- The boy (this pastor) suddenly fell into the river and was immediately being swept away.
- The river being narrow, the dad knew he had one chance to save him.
- The Dad outran his son and wading in to stand at the end to the narrows, extending his arms to each side.
- A few seconds later, he caught his son with his hand!
- Saving him from death!
You might be running from God, but God may choose to outrun you! And, catch you!
God’s hand is inescapable but instead of judgment, this can be grace!
It is still “Today” (v. 7).
There is time to believe Truth, to obey Truth. To know “rest.”
Resting in Christ is knowing, believing, and obeying His voice, His Word.