God's Word to Us, and Our Word to God
Hebrews 4:12-13
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword…

We are here at the end of a long argument. Close attention is required to follow the steps of it. But the general idea is simple. There is a rest of God which is the goal of the long race of the human creation. It has been so from the beginning. It was realised by the old patriarchs as their true city and country, while they lived the tent-life here. It was typified in the promise of Canaan — typified, but certainly not fulfilled — more certainly not exhausted. Long ages after the entrance of Israel into Canaan, a psalmist speaks (by clear implication) of God's rest as still open, still liable to be forfeited, therefore still capable of being attained. Nothing certainly has occurred since the psalmist's day which could be supposed to have cancelled promise by performance. The rest of God is still in reserve for His true people. Let us give diligence to enter into it. Let us not forfeit it, as one whole generation forfeited Canaan, by unbelief. Thus we reach the double text, which tells of the impossibility of eluding God's judgment by any differences of circumstance, or by any counterfeits of character. "The Word of God," His utterance in judging, His discernment of character, His estimate of conduct, is no dead or dormant thing; it is living and active; it is sharper than any two-edged sword; it divides and discriminates where man sees only the inseparable; " soul and spirit," the immaterial part of us in one aspect and the same immaterial part of us in another aspect, it can cleave in twain; thoughts and feelings, exercises of intellect and exercises of affection, it is apt and quick to distinguish between and to pronounce upon. No created being can wear mask or veil in that Presence; all things are bare and naked, all things are exposed and opened; the head that would bend and bow itself, in conscious guilt and shame, before the fierce light of the Presence, is lifted (such perhaps is the figure) and thrown back in full exposure before the eye of the Examiner and the Judge, "unto whom," so the sentence ends, "our word is"; " with whom" — according to the beautiful paraphrase which no later version will wish or dare to improve away — "with whom we have to do."

I. "THE WORD OF GOD." There are many such words. There is a Word of God in Nature. Order diversified, which is a true description of Nature, tells of a power which is no brute force; in other words, of a mind at work in its exercise. There is a Word of God in Providence. Consequence modified, which is a true description of Providence, tells of a power working which is no mechanical agency; in other words, of a mind purposing, and realising that purpose in ceaseless processes of adaptation. There is not sound only, but voice in both these — a voice implying a personality, and a voice presupposing an auditor. The Epistle from which the texts come carries us beyond this vaguer and more general Divine utterance to another of which the very "differentia" is the personality. God, it says, having of old time spoken in the prophets — utterers of His truth in sundry modes and manifold particulars — spoke to us at the end of "these days" — at the dividing line, as it were, of present and future, of time and eternity — in One, of whom the title — the unique, incommunicable title — is "Son." "The Word of God," if not a person, is yet a personal communication, as much in the voice that utters as in the ear that hears. This Word was a voice before it was a Book. The living Life wrote itself upon other lives; they in their turn wrote it upon others, ere yet a page of Gospel Scripture was written — on purpose that the distinction between ,' letter" and "spirit" might be kept ever fresh and vital, on purpose that the characteristic of the new revelation might never fade or be lost sight of, how that it is God speaking in His Son, God speaking, and God bidding man to make reply. But where would the Word have been by this time, left to itself — left, I mean, to echo and tradition? It pleased God by His holy inspiration to move and to guide the pen of living men; and it pleased Him by His Providence wonderfully to watch over the thing written; and it pleased Him in days when there was neither scholarship to revise nor machinery to multiply the writing, to put such love into hearts for those perishable fugitive scrolls of rude, almost hieroglyphic, manuscript, that they were treasured up in cells and churches as the most precious of heirlooms; and it pleased Him at last to stimulate into a marvellous inventiveness His own gift — grace we might well call it — of human reason, so that the completed volume of the once scattered "Biblia" was multiplied by the new miracle of the printing press into the myriad "Bibles," which are now sown broadcast over the surface of the inhabited globe. "There are," St. Paul says, "so many kinds of voices in the world" — say a hundred, say a thousand — "and no one of them is without signification." Even the Divine voices are many. There is a word of God in nature, and there is a word of God in providence; there is a word of God in science, and there is a word of God in history; there is a word of God in the Church, and there is a word of God in the Bible. And yet all these are external, as such, to the very "spirit of the man that is in him." The Word of God, which is the real speech and utterance of all these voices, comes at last to the man himself in conscience. I speak not now of that more limited sense of conscience in which it is the guiding and warning voice within, saying, "This is the way of duty, walk thou in it." The word of God in conscience is more, much more, than this. It is that of which our Lord said, in reference to the volume of His own evidences, "Yea, and why even of yourselves," without waiting for sign or portent, "judge ye not what is right?" You can discern the face of the earth and of the sky; you can infer from certain indications the approach of shower or heat. Bow is it that ye cannot infer Deity from the Divine — the Emmanuel presence from the Emmanuel character? The appeal was to conscience, not so much in its sensitiveness to right and wrong, as in its appreciativeness of the false and the true, of God speaking this and God not speaking that. Thus it is that the Word of God, as it at last reaches the spirit and soul of the man, is the net result of a thousand separate sayings, no one of which by itself is the absolute arbiter of the being. It cannot become this till it has made itself audible to the conscience. Till then it is suggestive, it is contributory, it is evidential, it is not the verdict, nor the judgment, nor the sentence, nor the "Word.'" There is no encouragement to the dallying, to the procrastinating, to the fastidiousness and the waywardness, which is characteristic of the generation. On the contrary, it is a trumpet call to decision. It says, there is a word of God somewhere. The Word of God is a personal word — it speaks to the personal being, as God made and as God sees him. We seem yet to lack one thing. The Word speaks in con-science — speaks to the consciousness — but who speaks it? The "Word" itself, to be audible as such, must have become the Spirit's voice; then it takes of the things of God and speaks them into the conscience, which is the consciousness of the man.

II. THESE IS ALSO A WORD OF OURS TO GOD. "Unto Him our word is." The particular point in the view of the holy writer was that of accountability. God speaks in judgment, and we speak to give account. The first readers were on the eve of a terrible crisis. They had to choose between Christianity and Judaism, between religion and patriotism, almost therefore between duty and duty. It was reasonable to speak to them of the Word which is a two-edged sword in discriminating, and of the word which pleads guilty or not guilty at the bar of judgment. We also are passing through a great crisis. You will think that I speak of some political or national crisis. But I do not. I speak of a crisis greater even than these — greater (shall I dare the paradox?) because less great — greater because individual. The crisis of which I speak is that life-long trial, in which each one of us is standing before God's judgment-seat, and upon the decision of which depends for each one a future not to be measured by years, and not to be told in terms of human speech. The text says of this crisis, of this trial, that it is the interchange, so to speak, of two "words" — the dialogue, I had almost said, of two speakers — the word of God judging, and the word of the man making answer and giving account. "With whom we have to do." Our word of account is to God. Oh, if we could take the thought home, what an effect would it have upon the life! What an independence, what a dignity would it give to it! How would it put an end to that running to and fro to give in our account, which makes so many lives so servile and so contemptible? What pains do we take to please, to give satisfaction, to win applause, to be admired if it may be so, at all events to avoid censure one of another. What haste do we make to explain, to excuse, to apologise for, to daub with obtrusive whitewash, our little dubious acts, our little unfortunate speeches. What a forgetfulness do we see everywhere, and first of all in ourselves, of the great principle of the " Godward Word," of the "with whom we have to do" of this text. What a weight, what an influence, what a sanctity, what an inspiration, would be given to our common words, to our every-day remarks and comments upon men and things, if we carried about us that indefinable something, which says, in tones more persuasive in proportion as they are less obtrusive, "This man knows" and feels that he has to do with God! " And all this sets in strong light the duty of doing it. It shows us what is meant by self-examination, what is meant by confession. "With Him," directly and personally, "we have to do." Just to carry to God Himself, in the nightly confessional where we meet the one Judge, just the very thing itself which we did wrong, which we said wrong, just in so many words, that very day which is now being gathered to its parent days — ""hat is the Christian evensong. So judging ourselves, we shall not be judged. The "Word" of account was the first thought of the text. But it is not the only one. It is not perhaps the most beautiful or the most attractive. The spirit of the man has other words besides this to utter in the ear with which it has to do. The speech of God is to me, and my speech is to Him. Might we but enter into this conception, what an elevation, what a grandeur would it give to the life! The speech of God is to thee — His discourse, His self-disclosure, His mind uttering itself, His Spirit breathing itself in converse. And my speech is to Him — my discourse, my self-disclosure, my uttered mind, my soul expressing itself in audible thought. What is this but to give to the life itself a new Christian name, at the font of a spiritual baptism, and to send it forth afresh into all the relationships and all the occupations of the being, having this for its title — Conversation with God? "As a man talketh with his friend," was God's own account of His communication with the hero-saint of Israel — then it was the privilege of the one or two, now it is the very birthright and citizenship of the promiscuous world of the redeemed. There is yet one condition more — we will end with it. The speech of the man to his God must presuppose and proceed upon the speech of God to the man. The two "words" of which the texts tell are not independent words. The conversation is not between two equals, either of whom must contribute his share to the instruction and enjoyment of the meeting. The incommensureableness, in nature and dignity, of the two speakers, while it forbids not freedom in the inferior, forbids presumption; nay, precludes it as a tone and a feeling which would jar upon, and jangle out of tune, the very melody and harmony of the converse. God speaks, and man makes reply. It is not that on equal terms and with equal rights God and the man meet together to think out and to talk out the thing that was, and that is, and that shall be. "The world by its wisdom knew not God." "Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." The Word of God came, and the word of man made reply on the strength of it. This consecrates for him the new and living way, by which, not in hesitation, not as a peradventure, but in calm faith and trust — not forgetting the realities of sin and the Fall, but seeing them at once recognised and overborne by a mightier revelation of love — the " word " of the man meets the "Word" of his God, on the strength of that "Word made flesh," which is the reconciler and the harmoniser of the two.

(Dean Vaughan.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

WEB: For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

God with Us
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