What does it mean for the Bible to be “The Living Word”?
"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
Okay, but what does that mean? What does that look like?
Considering the Bible has been around for thousands of years, it’s “living” in the sense that it’s still “alive” on bookstore bookshelves. It’s never gone out of print, even when “print” entailed meticulously copying it by hand. Most of the time, however, that’s not what the phrase is referring to, but rather the reason why it’s so popular.
To understand why, you have to know who. Jesus is also considered the Word:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." John 1:1-5 (ESV)
Note that the Word was there in the beginning, all things were made through Him, and in Him was life, and the life was the light of men. In other words, He, aka the Word, aka Jesus, knows what He’s talking about when it comes to how humans operate and what they need for life. He’s also the One most able to intimately speak to our souls. And often He does that through the written Word He’s already provided. Hence why thousands-year-old words still have an immense impact. This is a big topic, and rather than getting into a deeper theological discussion, I want to share some examples of how the Bible can be a conversation between you and Jesus.
While considering and praying about whether I should attend the Women’s Conference, which was to be held at the Lied Lodge, God gave me the impression to read Jeremiah 9. It begins with:
"If only I had a travelers’ lodging place in the wilderness, then I might leave my people and get away from them!" Jeremiah 9:1, Tree of Life Version (TLV)
God has a sense of humor in case you weren’t aware of that. He did, after all, create humor.
I received a prophetic word from a man I had never met before at a church in North Carolina known for its prophetic ministry. One of the things he said to me was Jeremiah 17:8:
"For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit." (NKJV)
Not long after that, when I was back in Virginia where I lived at the time, some women at my church prayed for me. One woman, who I had only recently met, sensed God telling me Psalm 1:3:
"He shall be like a tree, Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper." (NKJV)
So two people who do not know me, and who have no connection to each other that I am aware of, in different states, gave me nearly identical scriptures. God repeats himself as confirmation. Needless to say, these verses became significant to me. This happened over a decade ago, and I am still dissecting the full significance and meaning of them (hence another reason why it’s called the Living Word: it’s always giving more; there’s always more to understand).
God will use his Word to convict you about sin in your life. Yes, there are the Ten Commandments, but there are actually more commandments in the New Testament than the Old. They are easier to swallow if you think of them as Instructions for Life or Instructions That When Followed Bring Life. For example:
"For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil." Matthew 12: 34b-35 (ESV)
What are you saying out of your mouth? That will give you an idea of the state of your heart. Blessing versus Cursing. Gratitude versus Complaining. Hope versus Dismay. I often struggle with this and need to be reminded to watch my words.
There are also revelations that come from days, weeks, months, and years of study and meditation, of focused effort to glean what God is trying to tell you. Many times these revelations are more heart-understood than comprehended by the brain. Often they come in pieces: a tiny piece one day, another piece the following week, until eventually you have enough pieces of the puzzle that you can see how they fit together and form a larger picture. Here is an example:
For the last few months, God has placed John 18:1-9 on my heart. It’s a passage I kept going back to to study and to reflect on its various meanings. These months happen to be, culturally, a season of reflection and new beginnings. It can be an exciting time. It is also, literally, the darkest time of the year. But God revealed to me a deeper understanding that He meets us where we’re at. He also calls us to trust and hope in Him even when our lives are turned upside down. And sometimes He’s the One who does the flipping.
Here’s a brief description of one process of how to learn from the Living Word. Start by reading the entire passage:
18 When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. 4 Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” 5 “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6 When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7 Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they said. 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” 9 This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”
Of course there is the on-the-surface, black-and-white meaning. But now read it again as if you are one of the disciples. Words in bold are the words that God made stand out to me. And then I have provided some of my thought process.
18 When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it.
-After prayer, the disciples went with Jesus. They crossed a valley. They entered a garden. Together. All is going well here. The disciples are staying with Jesus. Like we’re supposed to. They are in a garden: a fertile place with sustenance, a place of growth.
"Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples.
-The garden is a familiar place where the disciples and Jesus often hung out together. Unfortunately, the betrayer also knows this safe place.
3 So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns, and weapons.
-So now someone familiar to them brings in both secular and religious opposition. They carry light—and weapons. Friend or Foe? Good situation or bad? It can be hard to tell sometimes.
4 Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” 5 “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6 When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
-Jesus intercepted the opposing people. He got between them and the disciples. And He used a weapon on them. He replies, “I am,” which is a meaning for “Yahweh.” The Name is so powerful it knocked the soldiers to the ground.
7 Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they said. 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” 9 This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”
-Who did the scary people want? Jesus. And they were frightened in the process. But they kept at it. And Jesus relinquished Himself to guard and protect His disciples, who weren’t the intended target. Yet they lost their leader in a safe and familiar place to unexpected circumstances. A place of growth became a place where Jesus left them.
Hindsight is 20/20. In the moment, events like these can be devastating. But it’s not the end. (In case you haven’t read the book—spoiler alert—Jesus is raised from the dead and reunites with his disciples.)
It can be tough to distinguish between hardships we’re facing because of our own sin and poor choices versus ones brought on because we followed Jesus there. But take heart: He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). He intercedes for us. He takes the worse punishment so we may live. And He doesn’t do things without a plan. He’s a fabulous strategist.
As we reflect on the past year, look for gardens. Pray and stick with Jesus in new beginnings. And even when we don’t understand what Jesus is doing, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have us in a place of growth.
The biggest take away for me from this revelation was that just because something turned into a disaster doesn’t mean that I didn’t correctly follow Jesus there. I tend to think that if something turns into a disaster, then I screwed up and I wasn’t following Jesus even though I thought I was. Yet here is a clear example of Jesus leading his disciples to a safe place—a garden even—and then disaster strikes. It’s a new perspective to take with me into the new year to help me live life abundantly (John 10:10).
And that is why it is called The Living Word.
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