“For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. No creature is hidden from him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give an account.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Have you ever gotten in over your head? You started some project or set off down some path and quickly (or not so quickly) discovered that it was going to be a whole lot more than you bargained for. What did you do then? Did you give up or push through? The path of wisdom in such situations isn’t always clear and is going to vary from one situation to the next. Well, something that can become more than we bargained for in the beginning is engaging with the Scriptures. We are always wise to do it, but as the writer of Hebrews cautions us in this well-known passage, we are playing with fire when we do it. Let’s unpack this and talk about why.
I hate the airport scanners. They’re a pain in the neck for starters. You’re just trying to get through the check-in process so you can go relax at your gate before heading off to some far-flung destination. I remember the days when there really wasn’t much in the way of security to get on a plane. In the Kansas City airport in those days, once you got checked in for the flight, you could just saunter down to the gate. There was a metal detector, I think, but that was about it. The three terminals were shaped like giant letter-C’s. All the shops and restaurants and bathrooms were on the inside arc of the C and all the gates were on the outside arc. From overhead it looked like a C with a bunch of lines sticking out from it that were the sky ramps. Once you scanned your bag once, you could come and go as you pleased. If you wanted food, you ran over to get it. If you needed to use the bathroom, you could do that too. It was easy.
Now there are walls and doors and long security checkpoints everywhere. And those scanners. You go in this box that looks like something out of a science fiction movie and stand there with your hands over your head and your legs spread out like you’ve committed a crime. Then this scanner wipes around the outside of the box and takes your picture. Except it’s not just a picture. The image that goes to the security agent is of you in your birthday suit. You are completely exposed. There’s no way to hide anything on your body from their watchful eyes. Yuck. Now, maybe it’s because I wouldn’t dream of intentionally trying to bring something onto a plane I wasn’t supposed to, but this whole process seems very invasive to me. It’s uncomfortable to be that exposed to anyone else unless you have voluntarily signed up for it.
What the author of Hebrews suggests here is that engaging with the Scriptures can be a little like this. Makes you get all excited to engage with them, doesn’t it? Actually, it’s not quite like that, but in another sense, it’s not so far off as we might imagine. He describes the word of God as living and effective. When you go to the Scriptures, you are not simply engaging with dead words on a page. You are engaging with the very Spirit of the God who created the world and everything in it. Nothing is hidden from His piercing gaze.
When you open yourself to what He is revealing in His word, you are allowing Him access to your heart. As you read and meditate on what you find there, He is able to take the words and work them into your heart and mind. Once they are grounded there, they can begin to unpack their implications for your life in ways that can get awfully hard to ignore after a while. Those words can and will start to dig into the hidden places in your heart. You’ll be sorely tempted to look away to relieve some of the spiritual discomfort. You can lie when you’re engaging with the Scriptures. Well, you can, of course, but you’ll have to do it knowing full well that the words are nonetheless what they are and that you will eventually have to face them with all of your walls and illusions stripped away. It can start to feel like we’re in way over our head.
Yet what do you expect? You are engaging with the God of the universe. What might that kind of experience be like except terribly exposing and revealing of all those things you didn’t want revealed to anyone including yourself? Besides the awesome knowledge that this is the God who created you into whose presence you are venturing, approaching the Scriptures should not be something we expect to be like approaching any other kind of writing. We should go to them with the full expectation that God will reveal Himself to us in some way that will leave us forever changed from the person we were before into the kind of person He created us and is calling us to be. This change, though, will not be all at once. It will be incremental. This means we can have this powerful experience every single time we open up the Scriptures to engage with them. The sum total of all of this is that we should expect to be in over our heads when we engage with the Scriptures.
Yet if this seems frightening or something that would push us away from them, it should not. We can discover by this process who we really are. We can find purpose and meaning for our lives that we won’t find anywhere else. There is adventure here for those who are willing to take it up. It will not be a safe or tame experience, but it will be good. It will make us more reflective of our Creator, and there are not many higher goods than that in all of the world.
So, the next time you read your Bible, don’t just read your Bible. Engage with the God who loves you and died to prove it, who made you and is absolutely committed to seeing you come to fall more in line with His grand design for you. Open yourself to be known perfectly. Expose yourself to His great and awesome gaze. You will see where you are broken, but you will also experience the healing that comes from no other source than this. Come and be made whole. You will most certainly be glad that you did.