Hebrewsby Robert M. Solomon
God speaks through His Word. How do we ensure that we do not respond to His Word with unbelief and disobedience? The answer is to have a proper view of the nature and power of God's Word. It is not a dead piece of literature, but ″alive and active″ (Hebrews 4:12). When we read Scripture, we must recognise that Scripture also reads us. It is ″sharper than any double-edged sword″, able to penetrate to the deepest part of us, ″dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow″ (v. 12). Picture what happens when your doctor sends you for an MRI or PET scan. The complex machinery uses invisible rays to penetrate your body and return deep and clear images of what lies inside you. The doctor is then able to ″see″ inside your body and come to a proper diagnosis. In the same way, Scripture probes us deeply to examine our ″thoughts and attitudes of the heart″ (v. 12).
Nothing can be hidden from the eyes of God, our heavenly Physician. ″Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account″ (Hebrews 4:13). The phrase ″laid bare″ is a translation of the Greek tetrachēlismenos, a technical word that comes from gladiatorial contests in the ancient Roman world. When a gladiator falls to the ground and is unable to rise, his victorious opponent will grab hold of his hair and pull his head backwards, thus exposing his neck and his trachea (note the word hidden in the Greek term) or windpipe.15 He will then raise his sword over the neck of his fallen opponent and look to the emperor in the grandstand for instructions. According to popular depictions, if it was thumbs up, the loser was spared. If it was thumbs down, the sword came down on the poor man's neck.
The author uses a similar idea to convey the idea that when reading Scripture we stand exposed to the judgment of God. The difference is that what is raised above us is not a gladiator's sword that kills but a surgeon's scalpel that heals. If we respond to God's Word with fear and trembling (Psalm 119:161), we are saved and healed. If not, we will have to face God in a future day for our failure to believe and obey (John 12:48).
15Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 167.
In what way has the Bible been ″living and active″ in your life? Why do Christians ignore or read the Bible superficially (see James 1:22-25)?
How do we avoid hiding from God and letting the Word expose our true condition? When this happens, what should we do?