God’s Penetrating Word
Today, Father, I pray for the humility to ask for guidance, the courage to believe, and the will to obey.
Read Hebrews 4:12-16
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“To spend time, prayerfully and thoughtfully, with Scripture and with Jesus … is to know that gentle and powerful touch, like a very sharp and fine blade, producing surprising and perhaps alarming results” (N.T. Wright).
Verses 12 and 13 are often quoted without reference to their context, but they are part of the section about “rest.” As usual, it is enlightening to read the wider passage, in this case Numbers, chs. 13 and 14. Caleb and Joshua had come back with an encouraging report about the land, but when the other spies reported only the difficulties, the people rebelled. When Moses told them of God’s judgment they changed their mind, attempted to fight against the Canaanites and Amalekites, and were killed by the sword. The two-edged sword is even more powerful in God’s hands. We are warned to listen to God’s Word today, and not to trifle with it. Later can be too late.
God’s Word is not static. God did not speak to the Israelites, to David and to the writer to the Hebrews only to withdraw into silence. The Bible is not just an ancient text belonging to a bygone era. God speaks today “in various ways,” but above all through the Scriptures, which are active and alive. His word requires a response from us.
Verses 14-16 balance the warning with assurance and encouragement. I assumed at one time that Jesus somehow sailed through life without sin because, after all, he was God. I now know from experience that the longer I struggle with a temptation the stronger that temptation can become, and this was no different for Jesus. Giving in–dare I say it?–is one way to make the temptation go away. Jesus knows this, but he resisted to the end. And here’s that word again–parrhesia, freedom, courage, confidence (16). The fact that he is now at the right hand of the Father does not mean that he has left us. We are invited to come to him and ask for mercy and help.
Does v. 13 unnerve you? Read it in conjunction with vs. 15 and 16, and approach God with parrhesia.
Merciful and compassionate Lord, I praise You that You are not a distant God whom I must appease, but a loving Father whom I can see and understand in Jesus.