Tuesday, February 21, 2012

talk the talk, part 2

The Word for today:
Hebrews 4:14-5:10

mark this: Hebrews 4:12
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.

Yesterday, we discussed the poetic power of scripture in general. Today, we will look at one image--the Sword of the LORD--which shines, cuts, saves, defends, delivers, lances, and conquers all the way from cover to cover in your Bible.

We live in the most graphic of ages. The words "logo" and "icon" are readily understood by school children. My email program no longer uses words like "save" or "delete" or "forward." Instead it uses a disc, a trash can, and an arrow. We get the picture.

We get the picture. But do we give the picture?

The Bible is the most graphic and iconic and theatric of books. It opens in a darkened theater, as it were. Suddenly, somewhere, as if a switch were flipped, a brigade of light invades the darkness, then gives way to a riot of color, sound, and scent as Eden unfolds.

But it's not too long before the idyllic garden is shaken to its roots.

A single tree in the midst is seen, and a single command is heard: "Don't."

But a woman, her judgment twisted by the tactics of the prince of darkness, leader of a moral counterinsurgency, Does.  Doubt and death had entered the garden.

She and her husband are banished from the garden. But as they leave, an astounding sight is seen--a flaming sword which guards the way into the garden:
So He drove the man out; and at the east of the Garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:24)

That is the first mention of what will become one of the great pictures in all of scripture. It is a picture of the Bible itself--the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.

When we see what the sword means, we understand what the Bible's purpose really is.

Let's look closely at the picture. It's a sword, which keeps sin out. But it's also a light that shows the Way for faith to enter.

The Bible's purpose is to show both edges of this two-edged sword:
That the wages of sin is death, and that the free gift of God is life through Jesus Christ (1);

That the soul that sins shall die (2), and that by grace we are saved through faith in Jesus Christ (3).

Also notice that the image of the sword (just like the Bible it represents) is saturated with Christ:
As the light of the world, Jesus shows the way.
And  as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Jesus is the way.

The Sword, then, reveals Jesus as the way and the means, the cause and the effect, the all in all.


Eve had fatally succumbed to the Word of the World, the "sword" wielded by Satan, in the garden. The word of the world misrepresents, twists, and distorts God's Word. The word of the world is summed up in Satan's opening line: "Did God really say?" (4)

When Jesus was tempted by Satan (5), Satan used the same tactics. But the word of the world is no match for the Word of God when wielded in faith. The Word of God tore the word of the world to shreds.

Psalm 44:3, my life verse if I have one, contrasts the powerlessness of our own word--
For not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them…

--with the power of the sword-wielding right hand of God:
but your right hand and your arm, and the light of your face, for you delighted in them.

Later on, Paul will remind us that, like Eve, we are no match for the legions of darkness without the Sword of the Lord, sharpened and always at the ready:
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:14-17)

Finally, in a fearsome sight, the Son of God will return to enforce his word on the whole world. What Satan had seen in single combat, the world will witness at large:
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. (Revelation 19:11-15)


When we think of the Bible as a book, we are not wrong; we are merely prosaic and ineffective, falling short (as we have since Eden) of the glory of God.

But when we think God-thoughts, seeing the Bible as God sees it, then the book in our hands fills the world with light, making sure that the door to the garden is always open.

(1) Romans 6:23; (2) Ezekiel 18:20; (3) Ephesians 2:8; (4) Genesis 3:1; (5) Matthew 4:1-11

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