The LORD Your God in Your Midst: Alive & Active

The Lord your God in your midst,The Mighty One, will save;He will rejoice over you with gladness,He will quiet you with His love,He will rejoice over you with singing.” (1)

Gentle Reader,

Next week we will begin digesting Zephaniah’s book bite by bite. I’m so excited I can hardly stand it! This journey with you has already been so rewarding. I can’t wait to learn more!

Today we pause between ending the background work and beginning the detail work. In this space, this breath, we settle on the awesome, holy nature of the Bible.

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

– Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV)

These words, nestled between a commentary on the need to submit to God in order to enter into rest and a beautiful exposition on how the work of Christ in His identification with and salvation of humanity enables that rest, grab our attention. God’s word is alive? God’s word is a sword? What does this mean?

…a sharp word of discernment, which penetrates the darkest corners of human existence.

The author describes God’s word first of all as “living and active.” The former adjective stands at the head of the verse, perhaps for emphasis, and asserts that that word, rather than being outdated, a “dead” speech-act of a bygone era, still exists as a dynamic force with which one must reckon. “Active” proclaims the word as effective in carrying out God’s intentions. The same word that at creation set the elements of the cosmos to their appointed tasks and still governs the universe toward God’s desired intentions (1:2–3), has the ability to effect change in people. It is not static and passive but dynamic, interactive, and transforming as it interfaces with the people of God.

The sword imagery emphasizes that while God’s word is a word of promise to those who would enter God’s rest, it is also a discerning word of judgment. Verse 12 asserts that like a sword that cuts and thrusts, the word penetrates and divides, being able to reach into the depths of a person’s inner life. In listing the parts of a person on which the word acts—“soul and spirit, joints and marrow”—the preacher simply proclaims the word’s ability to break past a surface religion to an inner, spiritual reality. Rather than dealing with externals such as religious observance, the penetrating word “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Lest one think carelessly about the extent of God’s discernment, the author assures us through verse 13 that “nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” The word translated “uncovered” (gymnos), which normally communicates nakedness or having a lack of adequate clothing, was also used figuratively of being helpless or unprotected. In the context of God’s penetrating word, the concept calls to mind a complete inability to hide anything from God’s gaze. Those who have not responded to God’s word in obedience are spiritually naked, vulnerable before his awesome gaze. A similar imagery is evoked by the participle translated “laid bare,” which means “exposed.” This theme of complete exposure and vulnerability of all creation before God was common in Jewish theology of the era. (1)

God has not ceased speaking. The book you hold in your hands or the words you read on the screen have not lost their importance or meaning or immediacy. What was true for Adam and Eve remains true today.

The world rejects metanarrative, or one overarching “big story.” The Bible stands against this rejection. It declares that God exists. Truth is not relative. Sin is a real condition and a real problem. There is only one way to remedy that condition and problem. Every “little story” fits within that simple yet deeply confrontational declaration of dependence.

Zephaniah’s voice rises with the other Divinely-inspired prophets and authors in praise of the True Lord. He points up, to the One who sits on the throne. He joins in exposing the willful blindness and the depth of darkness found within each and every human being. He pushes the reader toward the light, toward a breaking point. Choose God and live. Anything else is disaster.

This is the message of the Bible.

Reflection

  1. Consider the fact that God sees all and knows all. With that in mind, carve out some time to pray. Is there anything you need to confess to Him right now? Anything you need to deal with? (Prayer doesn’t need to be eloquent or long-winded. Just talk to Him as a child would a loving father).
  2. Think about your approach to the Bible. Do you understand the power in the words you read? Do you understand that you need to cultivate an attitude of worship and reverence?
  3. The point of Bible study is not to gain more head knowledge, but to develop an ever-deepening relationship with the Lord. Where are you at right now? Close to Him? Far away? Confident? Unsure? Where do you want to be? Why?
  4. Many Christians have trouble reading anything in the Old Testament beyond the creation account in Genesis. We assume that it doesn’t really matter for us today. Read 2 Timothy 3:16-17. How much of Scripture is useful? How much is relevant?
  5. Think about everything you’ve learned so far. What do you want to know now? What do you hope to gain from studying Zephaniah?

Until next time.

My journey to faith. (15)

Sources

(1) NIV Application Commentary (under the “Study This” tab)

For all entries in The LORD Your God in Your Midst series, go here.

Five Minute Friday: Real

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Gentle Reader,

I missed the fabulous and frantic tweet-party last night. The hubby and I enjoyed a quiet evening together, crafting the dinner menu for the next month and plotting out the grocery list. (Yep, we’re those people). So I don’t have a clue what the jokes were.

Happily I can jump back in next week and not miss a beat.

Linking up with the Kate and the gang. We are: Real.

Go.

I’m nearly finished with Beth Moore’s study on the life and ministry of the Apostle John. Honestly, I haven’t been “into” this one like I’ve been others. That’s solely on me and not a fault of the author in any way. Post-surgery funk is real and it lasts longer than you think it will. But I’m glad that I’ve stuck with it. The daily discipline of Scripture reading, especially when you don’t feel like it, matters.

The portion I focused on recently involved Revelation 4. Moore instructs her reader to take in all the details of the chapter and draw the scene – stick figures count!

You guys.

I mean, you guys.

Check this out:

After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”

Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns[b] of gold on their heads. And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.

Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying:

“Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!”

Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:

“You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist[h] and were created.” (NKJV)

This is real. This is happening right now. Bizarre, fantastic creatures. Ceaseless, ringing praise. Fire. Rainbow. Great voices. A sea as smooth and clear as glass. Thunder and lightning. The Lamb in the center of it all, so bright and beautiful that John didn’t even have words.

I don’t have words.

I stared at my pathetic excuse for a drawing and shook my head in wonder. God is so very real, so very other. Majestically glorious and totally apart, and yet breathtakingly intimate. He who never vacates the throne invites us in. Beckons us, by the blood of Christ, to come close. To the thunder, the lightning, the fantastic creatures, the great and blinding light of holiness.

Close to Him.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)