September 8

Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible

Reading schedule

Luke 20:41-48; Hebrews 4:12-16; Proverbs 20:16-30; Isaiah 34-35

The ‘For’ with which Hebrews 4:12 begins shows that there is a strong connection between God’s rest and what follows. Verse 11 exhorts people to exert considerable effort to enter God’s rest and avoid repeating Israel’s mistakes. The word for effort also means to be zealous or eager, and thus refers as much to attitude as activity. This eagerness is now directly tied to knowing what God has said. The Word of God (logos in Greek) is both the written word of the prophets and the spoken word of Jesus (Hebrews 1:1-2). Scripture is essential to entering God’s rest, finding true contentment, and living ethically.

The author of Hebrews has just demonstrated the sort of effort needed with Scripture. By examining passages from different parts of the Bible he demonstrated his overall knowledge of the Word. He highlighted how the literal meanings of words are important. For example, ‘today’ in Psalm 95 means today, and shows that our time of opportunity is today. This same approach was taken by Jesus where the literal meaning of one word is significant (Luke 20:41-44). To enter God’s rest, we must know our Word and use it accurately.

Knowing the Word of God is not enough. The teachers of the law knew Scripture, but were cruel and unjust (Luke 20:45-47). God’s Word is living and active, not a dead letter. The earlier part of Hebrews 4 recalled God’s word bringing about Creation and his voice calling to the Israelites and David. The Word of God also penetrates our inner selves like a sword. The sword is also used as a metaphor for Scripture by Paul (Ephesians 6:17) and John (Revelation 1:16). The double-edged sword was used to pierce people deeply, not cut them superficially. Many attempts have been made to understand how the Word divides soul from spirit, or joints from marrow. The general point is that God’s word penetrates deep into our inner being and exposes everything.

The Greek word translated ‘judges’ (Hebrews 4:12) is unusual and means the ability to break through pretence and confusion in order to expose the reality of our inner lives. As we allow it to penetrate our inner thoughts, feelings and attitudes, it will expose where we disagree with God. It will show us where we have not responded to him in faith or obedience. We will see where our character differs from his, or where we have failed to act towards others as he would want us to.

The Word lays everything open (literally naked) and bare before God. The latter is a colourful term that captures the way a defeated fighter would have his head pulled back showing he was at the mercy of his victor. In war, the next thing would most likely be a sword cutting his throat. In Christ, we have a merciful God who helps us in our time of need. We may be fearful of the Word laying bare our deepest, darkest secrets. But having entered God’s rest, we have received forgiveness and can be confident as we approach him.

The Word if God is necessary to understand the grace and mercy of God. Having had our character and motives laid bare, we should see our need to change. Rather than bury us under a pile of guilt or reject us as unworthy sinners, the Bible shows us that Jesus sympathises with our weakness. We can draw near to him with confidence because we approach him based on what he has done for us, not anything that we should have done for him. This is the basis of Christian change: having seen our failings, we enter his rest where we depend on his guidance and his provisions. We then trust in his ways to bring about the change needed in us as we rest in him.

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