One of many benefits of serving as an elder for our church is discussions lead by our pastor at the beginning of our meetings. Last week’s discussion regarded Hebrews 4:12.
In this case, the “the word of God” is Scripture, God’s written word.
We customarily think about Scripture as the basis for God’s commands, standards, positions, and expectations, often quoting verses to support a lesson, point or premise. I draw upon Scripture in every Road Report post.
I wonder how often recipients and readers skate past or around verses, not really taking them in. Alongside a premise being supported, perhaps Scripture poses certain challenges. Spoken or written, chiseled in stone or displayed on a poster or screen, Scripture activates that “sharper than any double-edged sword” effect noted by the writer of Hebrews - penetrating, dividing, judging….
Scripture is irrefutably from and about God. Even if used incorrectly or out of context, Scripture is God speaking.
Through the prophet Isaiah, God emphatically said this about his word.
“...so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)
My word does NOT return to me empty, insists God. It ALWAYS accomplishes the purpose for which I sent it. Here, Scripture stands alone with an ironclad guarantee from the author himself.
We take a risk when we use Scripture to undergird teaching or prayer or to support a point or anchor a vow. Why? Because, regardless of how we see it or how pure our intentions, we can’t really know God’s desire or purpose for any word he offers. Here again, God explains through Isaiah.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55: 8-9, NIV)
“These are the very Scriptures that testify about me,” said Jesus. (see John 5:39, NIV). Scripture is about God, not us.
“It is God’s self-revelation, literally a book authored by God that unveils his heart, mind, and Spirit," noted author Samuel Williamson. "Someone once said, ‘We come to Scripture not to learn a subject but to steep ourselves in a person.’”
Consider approaching Scripture not as a what but a who. Meditate on God’s memoir to become familiar with his manner, tone, inflection, longings, inclinations, tendencies, passions and principles.
Given the risks, we venture into Scripture primarily because God intended this word for us, relentlessly inviting us to engage with him.
Come now, and let us reason together, Says the Lord, (Isaiah 1:18, NASB)
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; says the Lord to his prophet Jeremiah and to us (Jeremiah 1:5, NIV)
If we sincerely seek him, he assures we are safe with him because he alone knows our heart, our true intent even if we miserably fail to say what we intend or use Scripture “incorrectly.” *
We may not be safe with people but we are always safe with God. Even though he is not predictable or controllable or tame, he is good. By regularly encountering him in his word, his voice can become intimately recognizable and familiar without any reverence due him being lost.
(For a brief listing of some verses featuring many attributes, see my companion post, “In His Own Words.” )
“God speaks mostly in whispers,” said Williamson. “The secret to a lifetime of hearing him lies in learning to distinguish his voice from the clamor of other voices in our lives.” He then concludes:
“The best way to become familiar with God’s voice is to meditate on His Word, just as the best way to spot a counterfeit is to spend lots of time with the real thing.”
Williamson’s counterfeit analogy struck me. Scripture meditation tweaks my spirit to be at ease when Scripture’s use resonates with how God revealed himself in his word. Conversely, my spirit cringes when Scripture is used to a manner that seems unlike God’s revelation of himself in his word.
Far from reliable on this, I am grateful to trusted advisers for catching and correcting my own foibles and abuses. This is a perfect role for the Church - the fellowship of believers with whom we work out our faith together.
In the end, our saving grace is God himself, who knows our hearts, and his word that stands alone in speaking for itself and him. Only by him are we righteous. Despite our best or worst intentions, we are unable to thwart or even improve God’s intentions and purposes.
Rather, God invites us to participate in his redemptive purposes. The privilege is all ours.
Meditate on God’s Word to become familiar with him and to hear his voice in your life and regarding the matters you encounter along the way. Through Scripture, our love for God grows along with our realization of how much we matter to him.
3. Scriptures about God's various attributes: See related Road Report Journal post: “In His Own Words.”
4. God knows our hearts: See 1 Kings 8:9; 1 Chronicles 28:9; 1 Samuel 16:7; Psalm 44:21; Psalm 139: 2-23; Ezekiel 11:5; Matthew 9:4 and many others
5. Samuel Williamson's books is "Hearing God in Conversation."