How is the Word of God Living and Active + Dangers of Daily Bible Reading #318
Hello friends and a happy and blessed Monday to you. This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. We have several new listeners, including new subscribers from all over India, from Norfolk Virginia, and an eager new friend from Columbia, South Carolina that now has 112 episodes of this podcast to fill his time for the next few years.
As a reset for our new subscribers: We are a daily Bible podcast that follows the Robert Murray M’Cheyne Bible reading plan come download a copy from our website! Everyday, we read our day’s passages together, focusing on one, and asking (and attempting to answer) one big Bible question per day – sometimes two. When M’Cheyne led his people during the initial Bible reading plan, he warned them of four dangers, which we’ll cover today, and also gave them a few reasons to engage in a daily Bible reading plan, which we’ll cover tomorrow – both as a refresher and an explanation of our mission together:
FOUR DANGERS OF A DAILY BIBLE READING PLAN:
- Formality. – We are such weak creatures that any regularly returning duty is apt to
degenerate into a lifeless form. The tendency of reading the Word by a fixed rule
may, in some minds, be to create this skeleton religion. This is to be the peculiar sin
of the last days – “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.”
Guard against this. Let the calendar perish rather than this rust eat up your souls.
- Self-righteousness. – Some, when they have devoted their set time to reading of
the Word, and accomplished their prescribed portion, may be tempted to look at
themselves with self-complacency. Many, I am persuaded, are living without any
Divine work on their soul – unpardoned and unsanctified, and ready to perish – who
spend their appointed times in secret and family devotion. This is going to hell with a
lie in their right hand.
- Careless reading. – Few tremble at the Word of God. Few, in reading it, hear the
voice of Jehovah, which is full of majesty. Some, by having so large a portion, may
be tempted to weary of it, as Israel did of the daily manna, saying – “Our soul
loatheth this light bread;” and to read it in a slight and careless manner. This would
be fearfully provoking to God. Take heed lest that word be true of you – “Ye said,
also, Behold what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the Lord of
- A yoke to heavy to bear. Some may engage in reading with alacrity for a time, and
afterwards feel it a burden, grievous to be borne. They may find conscience
dragging them through the appointed task without any relish of the heavenly food. If
this be the case with any, throw aside the fetter, and feed at liberty in the sweet
garden of God. My desire is not to cast a snare upon you, but to be a helper of your
As I have noted before, if you are riding along with us on this daily Bible reading journey, you do not need to worry about yesterday’s reading. Catch up if you’d like and you have the time, but you would do better to focus on today’s bread, so to speak. This is not a yoke or a trial, but meant to be a blessing.
Today’s Bible readings include 2nd Kings 22, Psalms 140, 141, Joel 1 and Hebrews 4. I’d love to focus on 2nd Kings 22 – Josiah’s humble and tender-hearted response to the Word of God, but I preached on that today, and it would be redundant for some of you. If you’d like to catch the message, you can find it here.
Today we want to focus on the living and active nature of the Word of God. Hebrews 4 describes God’s word as sharper than a sword, and living and active. Let’s read the passage – if you’ve been studying the Bible awhile, you will likely be familiar with Hebrews 4:12, but allow me to encourage you to listen out for the ending of that verse, and the next one, because something quite unexpected is there:
12 For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 No creature is hidden from him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give an account.
God’s Word is living and sharp. It judges us – judges the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. How can this be? How can words on a page be alive and actually do things? There is a fascinating truth here – the Word of God is not merely words on paper…there is life and power in them. Notice the shift in pronouns from vs 12 to 13 – seamlessly, the writer of Hebrews is talking about the Word of God and how it judges thoughts and intentions, and then he says that no creature is hidden from God – it is God doing the judging. How can this be? And the honest answer is that I’m not entirely sure, but I am entirely sure that God is somehow, someway alive in His Word. I base this on a couple of things – John 1, for instance:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it…14 The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:1-4, 14
We see this same dynamic again in Revelation 19:
11 Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse. Its rider is called Faithful and True, and with justice he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes were like a fiery flame, and many crowns were on his head. He had a name written that no one knows except himself. 13 He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called the Word of God
So, Jesus is, somehow, someway, the Word, and the Word became flesh. Jesus’s name is called the ‘Word of God.’ This is a fascinating truth that I can’t fully wrap my mind around. I am not at all saying that God is the Bible, nor anything like that…but I am saying that the life of God is in the Word of God. Go read Huckleberry Finn – it is an interesting book that is cleverly written, but the life of Twain is not in that book, and you won’t encounter his spirit while reading the book – just his words and ideas. The Bible is not like that. In reading the Bible, you are reading alive words, not dead words, and you will be encountering the author of those Words as you read those Words, because the Word of God is living and active. Tim Keller gives a great illustration to help us understand this somewhat mysterious dynamic:
The Word of God ultimately is not a book of just abstract principles that you’re trying to memorize, or you’re trying to learn, the way you study a physics textbook.
We’re told here the Word of God shows you who you are. It’s a personal power. When you’ve moved into this phase of relationship with the Word of God, you sense a personal intelligence. You feel like the Word of God is really talking to you. You’re supposed to be listening to it; it’s talking to you. Why? Because the Holy Spirit, because God himself … It’s his Word. He comes, and he speaks to you. He shows you who you are. He exposes you. He convicts you. He counsels you.
There’s a man named Emile Cailliet, who was a professor of philosophy at Princeton University many years ago. He tells a story in an article he wrote that I can’t find. I’d like to go find it, so I’m just giving it to you by memory. Before he became a Christian, he says, when he was a younger man, he decided he was going to create a special book for himself. Every time he read something anywhere that really moved him, really inspired him, really helped him, he copied it carefully into this notebook.
So he was amassing all of his most favorite passages, his most compelling and inspiring and convicting texts he’d ever seen. He couldn’t wait for the day in which he would sit down and just read right through it. He thought he was amassing a book that would understand him, a book that would counsel him, would lift him up, would inspire him, would help him through the hardest times.
So at one point, after he’d been doing this for months, or maybe years, he sat down with his book under a tree, if I remember, and he opened the book in eager anticipation, thinking about how this book was really going to lift him up and help him. As he started reading through it, he was just filled with disappointment, because he realized he had changed. There were passages he was looking at saying, “Why did I think that was so important?” He had changed. Even two years, three years … He was disappointed.
When he became a Christian and the Holy Spirit came into his life, and the Holy Spirit now is the author of this book, he came to realize the Bible was the book he’d been looking for. Because Hebrews 4:12 says, “The Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to the dividing of soul and spirit, judging the very thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
He had always been looking for a book that was alive, a book that would understand him, a book that moved when he moved, and no matter where he was, no matter what his situation, would come right at him and inspire him and expose him and convict him and show him where he was and show him who he was. It was the Word of God.
Have you moved beyond the rational? I don’t mean you stop the rational. You read. You study. You learn. Then suddenly, it gets personal. It’s like the Holy Spirit is speaking directly to you through it. Does that happen to you? Do you know what that’s talking about, to look into the Word of God like a mirror, and it shows you who you are, and it counsels you more profoundly than any counselor possibly could? Have you gotten to that stage?
Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).