“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
The bible is not a mere book. It is Spirit-inspired, and therefore dynamic and powerful. It is “living and active” as the Hebrews passage says, and it cuts through our attempts to hide or rationalize.
The word “discern” in verse 12 is the Greek kritikos. It does not mean “condemn.” It means “assess, discern, evaluate.” When we show someone a potential investment and ask, “What’s your judgment?” we don’t mean, “What’s your condemnation?” We mean, “What’s your assessment of the risks and rewards? Do you think it’s a good or bad investment?”
So it is that the Word of God penetrates to the deepest place in our lives and evaluates and assesses (kritikos) what is there.
The Lord uses the word to cut to the heart of what is most important. The Lord uses the word to speak truth into our life. However, he does not force his word on us. We must invest the time to read, study, reflect, and pray. We must choose to submit and obey. The Spirit prompts, moves, and convicts, but he does not force. He has given us the gift of choice, and he wants us to choose him.
Amazingly, the Lord allows us to say no to him. Even though it grieves the Spirit, the Lord allows us to use the gift of choice to resist the truth of his word. Earlier in this chapter of Hebrews, the writer reminds us that the Israelites failed to trust God’s word when the Lord was leading them through the wilderness of Sinai.
“For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.” (Hebrews 4.2)
What the Israelites failed to trust was the good news, the Word of God, that was preached to them in the wilderness—the promises of God that he would care for them and give them victory and forgive them and be merciful to them. They didn’t believe God. They complained about the challenges and hardships they faced, and they wanted to turn back to Egypt rather than follow God.
The Israelites failed to trust God, and they failed to trust his word. Their resulting disobedience meant they were not allowed to enter God’s rest, that is, the promised land of Canaan. “… those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience” (Hebrews 4.6).
The writer of this great book warns us not to make the same mistake the Israelites made. “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4.11)
It is precisely with this introduction that the book of Hebrews declares the penetrating power of the Word of God. The whole point of chapter 4 is that if you resist or reject the word’s assessment of your life, then you put yourself in a position similar to the Israelites in the wilderness.
The Lord uses the word of God to penetrate deep into our lives, reaching places within us that we fear to go. The word exposes “the thoughts and intentions of the heart” and calls us to be completely open, honest, and vulnerable before God.
The message in Hebrews 4 is that the sword of the Spirit is not only for fighting external battles with the devil; it is also for fighting internal battles with yourself. With your old nature. With the part of you that enjoys sin. With your deepest thoughts and intentions. God invites you into a relationship with himself, and when you respond to that invitation he will leave no part of your life untouched. God invites you to follow him all the time in everything.
May we hear the voice of the Lord and obey. May we allow the sword of the Spirit to pierce us and transform us.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts. And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139.23-24)