Guidebook – Searching the Scriptures

 Guidebook: Searching the Scriptures
Rev. Mark M. Norman Vickers
October 11, 2015
Hebrews 4:12-16 

Indeed the word of God is living and active, sharper that any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account. Since then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 

We spend a huge amount of time focused on the scriptures. We, hopefully, read them everyday at some point during the day. We read them in worship, at ceremonies such as baptisms and weddings. We see verses plastered on bBillboards, the sides of cars, and the like. We are truly inundated with the Word of God! 

Sure, coming from the preacher, that sounds great. He or she is supposed to say that! But my fear, as it was the writer of Hebrew’s fear, is that even in the overwhelming amount of scripture we are confronted with, it becomes mute at times. Or maybe, we become mute to the affect that God’s Word has on us! You see, for the audience of the writer of Hebrews, they are knowledgable people who have been engulfed in the scriptures all of their life. But now, they have a new word that is progressing in their lives. 

We as a people of God, often are found to be looking for and acknowledging our “comfort zones” in our life of faith. Such it is with God’s word. We tend to be comfortable when it works for us. I’m reminded of my favorite scripture and how it came to be my favorite scripture. It is Psalm 121. It became my favorite because my ninth grade girlfriend gave me a Bible that had it underlined by her! I admit, it was my favorite scripture because I concentrated on that scripture because she gave it to me, but also because I think God intended me to have that scripture near my heart through out my life. I dare say, I would not have made it through the past several years of my life without that scripture. 

We hear this morning a scripture that sets us “on edge,” literally, “two edges” of the sword. The Mah-ha-ra, the two edged sword that is referred to in this text, is the same type of sword that Peter used to cut off the servant’s ear in the Garden of Gethsamenae.

The writer tells us that the Word of God is “sharper” than any two-edged sword and then continues to describe what that two-edged sword was capable of doing. Literally dividing the soul from the Spirit, joints from the marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Unless I’m mistaken, those are pretty painful acts of movement. 

In the commentaries I read regarding this text, the writers made great and valid attempts to make this scripture come alive. But the fact remains, we really don’t want scripture to be a painful strong force in our lives, and, I don’t think we really want it to be a soft “push over” instrument either. We want to find that balance. The wonderful part of this scripture is that we are told of that balance but we are told that all of us are integral part of the equation. In verse 13, “And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one whom we must render an account.” You see, the balance of God’s Word requires that we hear it and take heed of its instruction, even when it’s not pleasant. 

That’s the beauty of having such a wonderful array of scriptures. I have and I have heard from a number of you, how engaged you have become with our recent Old Testament readings from Proverbs, Esther, and now Job. The engagement of God’s story in our life is wonderful! It’s just not one theme story, it’s a multiple themed story. 

There are many facets to this scripture but the one that has made the most impact on me is found in verse 12a, “The Word of God is a living word.” (In the Greek it is a translation of Zon, a present participle of the verb Zah-O, which means to live! To be alive! It is to make movement within you!) A story is told of a man who said he had received no inspiration from the Bible though he had read it through and through many times. His pastor replied to him after hearing this “Let it go through you once—then you will tell a different story!” 

Next, the Word of God is an active, powerful Word! Again, the original text helps to paint the picture. The word energes, meaning to be at work, is the word which we get energy from. Therefore the Word of God is “at work” and is truly God’s energy at work. Charles Swindoll reminds us of this, “News articles may inform us. Novels may inspire us, Poetry may enrapture us. But only the living, active Word of God can transform us.”

We as an active and energetic people are a people of transformation. A people who, by our creation seek to be transformed into a new and Godly people. That transformation takes place by being engaged in the living and active Word of God. Knowing that begs the question, how does that happen? I think it happens in a couple of ways: 

First, by spending “time” in the Word of God. God wants us to speak to you in your time! Don’t negate the opportunity, find time to spend in the Word. 

Second, by communal or corporate Bible Study. Simply by sharing the Word of God with others. 

Third, by preaching. Even when the preaching is not great! Helping us to hear the Word of God in the context of the gathered community. 

Fourth, by sharing God’s Word with another individual. One-on-one conversation helps us grow, even if we disagree. Sharing God’s Word in healthy conversation. 

The Word of God, my friends, is meant to be shared, passed around, and contemplated, but as our scripture reminds us today, it is to be admonished and revered. Because it will cut us; it will bring us to the bottom core of our life and change us forever. Yet that change comes in the presence of our High Priest who has mercy on us and allows us to live in grace. 

Keep the Word of God close to your heart, on the lips of your mouth and in the presence of the people! That my friends is the active, living, work of the People of God!