In modern speech a “double-edged sword” is a powerful weapon that “cuts both ways”. It’s an argument or feature or technology that has a clear benefit and a clear liability. It’s something that both advances your cause and the cause of your opponent.
But the bible’s usage of the term is a little different. You see God’s “two-edged sword” cuts only one way.
“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.” (Hebrews 4:12)
Here’s a radical thought: God’s word is a two-edged sword. And when God wields it, it cuts in only one direction. God’s word is not judged by us. God’s word judges us. We do not assess it. It assesses us. We do not interpret it. It interprets us. We do not master it. It masters us.
Have you ever encountered the piercing quality of God’s word?
Last year I was preparing to help a friend in a court-hearing. We were building our case, establishing our cause, marshalling evidence and feeling more and more justified. And then I read just six words from Proverbs:
Do not bring hastily to court. (Proverbs 25:8)
It cut to the heart. And it brought to mind other verses about the dangers of pursuing adversarial legal action (e.g. Matthew 5:25-26; 1 Corinthians 6:1-8). God’s word came home. It discerned the thoughts and intents of the heart. I could tell you many other “piercing” moments and I’m sure you could too.
So often we come to God’s word seeking “discernment” about our future, about our choices. We seek to “discern” correct theology, or just to “discern” a little dose of spiritual inspiration. But all of those motives are about us discerning the word. Or us discerning truths through the word. Do you see the problem?
God’s word discerns us. We are in the firing line. We might consider the word to be our object of study. But no, we are the objects of the word’s study. We are the ones to be scrutinized.
Is that your attitude as you approach the word?
If it’s not, perhaps that’s because you’ve forgotten that God’s word is “quick” – in other words, it’s “alive.” When Hebrews speaks of the Word – it has in mind a personal Power working through the Scriptures. Just listen to how the verse continues:
Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. (Hebrews 13:13)
The “Word of God” in view is the Judge of the World. Hebrews is speaking of the eternal Word, the Lord Jesus. This living Word encounters His people through the Scriptures as they’re proclaimed today (Hebrews 13:7). But because the Word is a Him, Scripture reading can never be impersonal. To open up the Word is to be opened up by the Word, who is Judge of all.
In these verses we learn that it’s not simply judgement day that uncovers. Whenever we encounter the Living Word of God we are judged.
“Brilliant” you respond, “Just what I need! More judgement in my life!”
Ah but, the judging word is not the final word. For those who belong to Jesus, judgement could never be the final word. Christ Himself has taken the judgement on the cross. And as our great High Priest, He has brought us sinners through the sword of judgement and into the presence of God our Father.
That’s why the verse continues:
Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
What a roller-coaster! Cut to the heart, then lifted to the throne. This is a true experience of the Word of God. First exposed, then covered by His blood. First pierced, then healed. First judged, then saved. First brought to our knees, then raised through the heavens.
Do we ever impersonalise the Word of God? Do we ever domesticate God’s Word? Do we ever get stuck in the judgement and fail to appreciate the salvation?
Remember that God’s Word Jesus only exposes so He can cover. He only cuts so He can cure. He only brings low, so He can raise up. Let us expose ourselves to His piercing. Then let us come boldly through His priesthood.