Discovering Powerful Counsel for the Soul (Hebrews 4:12)

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Hebrews 4:12 (NASB)
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

God’s Word discerns the heart. God’s Word promises rest to those who believe. And note: His Word of promise is not a lifeless letter; it is not paper and ink. God’s Word and His promise are living—they are a living reality. Four things are said about the Word of God and His promises.

  1. The Word of God is alive and living. The idea is that the Word of God is always alive and active; it is always working and quickening its message to the human heart. Therefore, God’s word of rest is not a dead and meaningless promise; it is living and full of life to the heart of the believer.
  2. The Word of God is powerful: active, working, energizing. God’s word of promise, His rest of salvation, is powerful. It is not dormant and inactive.
  3. The Word of God is “sharper than any two-edged sword.” The Greek word for “sharper” means to cut. It is penetrating and convicting. It does not leave a soul alone. The Word of God will not let a soul who hears it ignore God’s promise of rest.
  4. The Word of God is “piercing”: to go through. It goes right through to the soul and spirit of man. It is the Word of God that takes man’s earthly, sinful nature and separates it from the spiritual call and promise of God. It pierces and separates a man’s soul and spirit just as a sword pierces a man’s joints and marrow.

It separates a proud soul from a humble spirit.

It separates a sinful soul from a righteous spirit.

It separates a rebellious soul from an obedient spirit.

It separates an unbelieving soul from a believing spirit.

The Word of God “discerns the thoughts and intents [purpose] of the heart.” The Greek word for “discern” means to judge, to sift and analyze. “The Word of God is able to penetrate into the furthermost recesses of a person’s spiritual being, sifting out and analyzing the thoughts and intents of the heart”

God’s Word sees whether a person believes or does not believe His promise of rest. God’s Word actually sees through the thoughts and purposes of a person.

God sees all things. He knows if we believe in Him and His promise of eternal rest or not. He knows if we are making a false profession or if we are truly following Christ.

This verse is a little longer and more complicated than some we’re learning, but it can be easily memorized by understanding its progression and by taking it one phrase at a time.

Read through Hebrews 3:7-4:12, underlining every one of the twelve occurrences of the word “rest.” God wanted to give the Israelites rest (abiding security and peace) in the promised land, but they didn’t trust Him. Their hearts were hardened in unbelief. Likewise, God wants to give us abiding security and peace, both now (spiritually) and in heaven (eternally). But we must take Him seriously at His word, not spurning or doubting it. The writer says, “Let us then make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall into the same pattern of disobedience. For the word of God is living and effective” (Heb. 4:11-12).

Don’t get discouraged memorizing this verse. Work on it a step at a time as it unfolds in logic and memory. This is one of the great verses in God’s Word about God’s Word.