Exposed for What We Really Are

Hebrews 4:12-13
12For 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. 13And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

After a lengthy discussion of the importance of a Sabbath rest, the writer of the Hebrews uses a brilliant object lesson to help us understand what are supposed to do with that “rest” while still here on the earth. We don’t just get to use that rest to watch TV and hang out (although that’s not entirely bad either. Some of that is a good thing.) That Sabbath rest was created by God for our good – and entering that “good” is done through attention to His Word.

The image of a duel sided, microscopically sharp blade makes the perfect foil for defining the power of God’s Word on the human heart. For the early believer, the example of a doubled-edged sword made the point. For us, an even better example would be a skillful surgeon who operates on human hearts. If we are willing to surrender ourselves to the workings of the Holy Spirit through the Word, our hearts are forever changed. God defines the power of His Word through the prophetic words of Isaiah.

Isaiah 55:10-11
10“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11so 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.

This Isaiah passage is oft quoted and that is because it bears out the truth of our lives in the faith. It is the Word that brings us to faith through the workings of the Holy Spirit. We would be completely foolish not to allow that Word to continue its work in our hearts and lives. Martin Luther has a brilliant commentary on this passage as well and I want to share that with you as it enlivens this passage so very well.

How does this sanctifying take place? Not when we sit behind the stove and refrain from external work, or deck ourselves with garlands and dress up in our best clothes, but, as has been said, when we occupy ourselves with God’s Word and exercise ourselves in it.… The Word of God is the true holy thing above all holy things. Indeed, it is the only one we Christians acknowledge and have.… God’s Word is the treasure that sanctifies all things. By it all the saints themselves have been sanctified. At whatever time God’s Word is taught, preached, heard, read, or pondered, there the person, the day, and the work are sanctified by it, not on account of the external work but on account of the Word which makes us all saints. Accordingly, I constantly repeat that all our life and work must be guided by God’s Word if they are to be God-pleasing or holy. Where that happens the commandment is in force and is fulfilled.… When we seriously ponder the Word, hear it, and put it to use, such is its power that it never departs without fruit. It always awakens new understanding, new pleasure, and a new spirit of devotion, and it constantly cleanses the heart and its meditations. For these words are not idle or dead, but effective and living.
Large Catechism of Martin Luther 88, 91–92, 101.