Today’s passages: Hosea, chapters 10-12; Psalm 73; Hebrews, chapter 4
Scripture: Hebrews 4:12-16 (NRSV) – Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account. Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need.
Observations: The writer of Hebrews begins chapter 4 with the discussion of “entering God’s rest,” discussing how the Israelites who rebelled in the desert did not enter that rest, and then saying that a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God, and encouraging us to “make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall through such disobedience as theirs” (v 11). So when verse 12 begins with the statement about God’s Word being living and active, we must read that in connection with the call to “make every effort to enter that rest” and to avoid disobedience. This is another reminder – if we needed it – that knowing and following God’s Word is vitally important for those who seek to live in relationship with God.
Within that same context, the writer of Hebrews goes on to remind us that Jesus, our great high priest, is able to understand and sympathize with our weaknesses, because he in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Too many times we view this verse from the wrong perspective. We allow Satan to tell us that Jesus was able to live without sin, but we cannot, because we’re not him. The thrust of the verse is rather that because he was tested (or tempted, as the NRSV footnote states) in every respect as we are, he understands the challenges, and is able to help us to overcome temptation. The word that is translated “weaknesses” means, in the spiritual sense, a lack of strength or capacity to do what is required. The fact that he understands our weaknesses does not mean that he simply excuses our weakness; it means that he knows exactly what to do to help us overcome it.
This is consistent with the call to “hold fast” to our confession. It is also consistent with verse 16: Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need. It is that “grace to help” that overcomes our weakness, and enables us to “not fall through such disobedience as theirs.” God’s desire for us is to be victorious over sin, not just to “manage” sin. The power of Jesus’ blood that is able to forgive our sins is also able to “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Applications: God keeps directing my attention to things which reinforce the importance of spending time reading and reflecting on Scripture. I can only surmise that the reason for this is that he wants me to keep talking about it! It’s always interesting for me to see the ways that God works, and how he leads me. I’m so prone to getting an idea and just running off on my own with it, but God usually finds the way to gentle lead me back to where he wants me to go. I experienced one of those moments yesterday, as God brought a phrase from Scripture to my mind to confirm a direction where he is leading. God’s word is living and active indeed!
Prayer: Father, thank you for the ways that you use your Word in my life to guide, to instruct, to shape, and to warn me so I can walk in your way. Help me today to see your path for me, and to walk in it, so I can bring glory and honor to you. Amen.