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May 4 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 3, 2020


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 Hebrews 4:12-13

Intro: This week it occurred to me, it might be good to stop here

To not go any further in Hebrews
– until our experience catches up with what we’ve learned
• for instance, we learned about an constant inner peace
◦ a Sabbath rest that doesn’t depend on our circumstances
◦ we can enter God’s rest in bad times as well as good times
• and our Sabbath rest is not limited to one day a week
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. (Ro. 14:5)
On our Facebook page where the video of my talk last week was posted, Bill Livingston commented, “When seven days are holy you’ve entered his rest.”
◦ God’s will is that we always find rest in him
– so the question is, have we enjoyed that Sabbath rest this past week?
• have we been going there with our anxious thoughts?
◦ with our troubled hearts? with our anger and disappointments?

Well, I decided we have to continue going through Hebrews,
– because the next thing the writer tells us, how we are to move forward
• and that is with two definite actions
• both are introduced with the words, “Let us”
Let us hold fast and Let us draw near

At first it looks like writer has jumped to another topic

Namely, the word of God
– but he is reinforcing what he told us to do in verse 11
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest
• his entire message is a development of the word of God
◦ this is where he began in chapter 1, God spoke and he has spoken
• every point he’s made has been drawn from God’s word in scripture
◦ this chapter hinges on the good news, the message (v. 2)
◦ to enter the Sabbath rest requires faith in God’s word
the word of God has a rich history, playing a central role from the start
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light (Gen. 1:3)
• the word of the LORD was more than a message; it was an agent of revelation
◦ a conduit by which God revealed himself to a person
(an encounter with the word of God was an encounter with God)
This emerges powerfully in each instance where prophets receive their call from God (e.g., Jer. 1:4-10), and especially in the case of Samuel. He was born into a time when the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision (1 Sam 3:1). When still a child, God called to Samuel, but he thought it was the old priest calling to him. That is because Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him (1 Sam. 3:7). Notice how the revelation of God himself comes with the revelation of his word. After Samuel’s first encounter with the LORD (Yahweh), things changed for Israel. And the LORD appeared again at Shiloh, for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD (1 Sam. 3:21)

Walther Eichrodt referred to the word of the LORD as “a cosmic power of God.” He said, “God’s intervention in history [was] attributed to the Word as an independently active force.”
◦ and that is exactly what it sounds like when we read:
in the Psalms,
He sent out his word
and healed them (Ps. 107:20)
in Isaiah,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and it shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it (Isa. 55:11)
and in Jeremiah,
Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? (Jer. 23:29) In fact when Jeremiah decided he would no longer deliver the word of the LORD because it only brought him trouble, he found,
there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
shut up in my bones,
and I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot (Jer. 20:8-9)
• the Bible is not exactly the same as the word of God
◦ it contains the words of God, and word of God can move thru it
◦ but God’s powerful word is more immediate, more direct
• so, sadly, people can read the Bible yet not hear the word of God

Characteristics of the word of God that the writer lists include:
– it is living:
• the writer has shown that the word, even written long ago, still speaks today
• it derives its life from God who speaks it
◦ again we see a strong identification of God with his word
Luke T. Johnson, “In short, Hebrews applies the same quality of life that is normally associated with God’s being to God’s word.”
• it never expires, never dies
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away (Mt. 24:35)
– it is active: the word of God is a creative energy
• not only on earth, but in spiritual rebirth of believers
you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God (1 Pe. 1:23)
– it is sharper than a two-edged sword:
• not, “the word of God is a sharp, two-edged sword,”
• but sharper than – as the next characteristic indicates
– it is piercing: it can penetrate anything
to the division of – making a distinction between
soul and spirit – the scripture does not supply technical definitions for these terms
◦ in fact, sometimes they are used as synonyms

Sidebar: why would God’s word divide soul and spirit?
– between the psychological self and the spiritual self?
• we can mistake soul force for spiritual power
◦ mistake soul enthusiasm for spiritual inspiration
• and therefore assume we’ve encountered God,
◦ when we’ve only encountered our own emotions and feelings
– we cannot always discern this division on our own
• God’s word can reveal which one is at work now
of joints and of marrow
The Greek word translated “joints,” was used of the mortar between stones set in a wall. If you visit Israel today, your guide will take you to the Western Wall outside the precincts of the temple. You will be shown stones that date back to the time of Herod. Still today, the guides will boast that the stones were carved so well and are so compact that it is impossible to insert a thin knife blade between any two stones. The word of God enters those spaces that no other blade can penetrate.
marrow gives us a sense of the deepest, most hidden parts of a person
discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart:
• nothing about us is more hidden from others than what’s in the heart
intentions may be misleading, because it simply refers to another sort of thought
◦ for instance, notice how the Greek word is translated in 1 Peter
arm yourselves with the same way of thinking (1 Pe. 4:1)
◦ what a fine distinction this is between subtle differences
and no creature is hidden from his sight
• is the writer still talking about the word of God or about God himself?
◦ we refer to a word as “it,” not “his” or “him”
◦ the dynamic word of the LORD was incarnated, that is to say,
the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn. 1:14)
Walther Eichrodt again, “It holds good more than ever when, as a result of being equated with Jesus, the Word becomes an independent person, and thus enters on a mode of existence apparently at variance with traditional beliefs.”
• God’s word exposes everything
Luke T. Johnson, explains that the word translated exposed “has a range of meanings, all involving the neck . . . and all involving some sort of vulnerability.”
◦ the neck is one of most vulnerable parts of body (cf. Jos. 10:24)
◦ the point here is that we are transparent and vulnerable before God, as his word probes our lives

We need to know what we have going for us

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:14-15

“High priest” doesn’t mean much in our culture today
– for us to appreciate what Jesus is to us, we need the Scriptures
• in Leviticus we learned that a priest was a mediator
◦ his role was to make things right with God
◦ he helped remove sin and guilt,
and purify people and things from uncleanness
• this was especially the role of the high priest on the Day of Atonement
– our high priest is “great” – extraordinary
he passed through heavens
When Israel came to Mount Sinai, God established “zones” of distance; each zone with a different degree of holiness. The people could come to the foot of the mountain, but not touch it. Aaron and the elders were allowed part way up the mountain, but only Moses was allowed to enter the cloud and God’s glory at the pinnacle of Mount Sinai. Once God’s sacred tent was set up, God’s glory moved from the top of Sinai to the holiest place in the sacred tent, where the same three zones were established. The people could enter the courtyard, the priests could enter the holy place, but only the high priest could enter the holiest place. This may be what the writer has in mind when he says that our high priest has passed through the heavens (an idea the writer will make explicit in 6:19-20 & 9:11-12, 24)
◦ Jesus entered most intimate space of God’s presence
not in a vision (like Paul, 2 Cor. 12:1-4), but the real deal

Let us – the next thing we can do, is hold fast our confession
our confession (cf. 3:1) is what we already know and believe about Jesus
• and why do we want to hold fast to it?
For we do not have the kind of high priest that doesn’t care
(there were priests like that!)
– it is easy for us to think God doesn’t know what it’s like to suffer
• the same way the wealthy are cut off from the miseries of the poor
• but Jesus is not unable to sympathize; he knows the human experience
◦ sympathize does not mean “pity” – rather, he feels what we feel
◦ he is not unable, because he has no empathy, or is incompetent, or inexperienced
our weaknesses – yes, it’s plural!
• in 2:17, Jesus was made like us in every respect
◦ the same words are used here, only applied to a specific situation
temptation – yet without sin – Jesus did not “miss the mark”
• he has experience, and that is what enables him to identify with us
◦ not only empathize but he is also able to be helpful
He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness (Heb. 5:2)
I know a married couple who both lost their parents. They have also battled cancer together–twice. Whenever they are told that one of their friends has learned that a parent has been diagnosed with dementia or has a loved one who has been diagnosed with cancer, this couple immediately offers them resources that they found helpful in their ordeals. This is one of the great values of experience, and Jesus has all the experience we could ever need.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need Hebrews 4:16
Let us – there is one other thing we can do
draw near – typically, a throne was about power, majesty, authority
• this throne is all that, but it also about dispensing grace
◦ and, we don’t have to approach timidly – but with boldness
• in Acts 4:13 Peter and John displayed boldness before the Jerusalem counsel
◦ and later, when they rejoined their friends, they prayed for more boldness (Acts 4:29)
– at God’s throne we receive and we find
• we receive mercy – for the wrong we have done
• we find grace – for the good we have yet to do
in time of need – or, “well-timed”

Conclusion: Do you see what the writer is doing for us?

He is providing us reassurance and encouragement
– he is telling us,
“You have not gone as deep as you can go. You have help to go deeper!”
Luke T. Johnson, “This short exhortation breathes an air of encouragement and confidence.”
• Spirit-guided reading of scripture is a great help to personal growth
◦ it will tell you the truth about yourself–the deep stuff

What gives us the greatest hope and reassurance
is Jesus, the Son of God
That it is possible to draw near to him,
and through him, draw near to God
Not only over our lifetime,
but every day,
and any time of day
or night

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