11 September 2012
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Long ago the writer of the book of Hebrews said that the word of God, meaning the Bible, is sharp and powerful. He likened it to the two-edged sword, part of the Roman armor, which had been used to tame the world. The Roman soldier used it to hack and thrust, and it was deadly in the hands of a soldier who knew how to wield it.
The writer of Hebrews said that this book, so cherished by many and spurned by others, “penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow.”
When I went into Russia for the first time in 1976, long before Communism fell, I was asked if I had a Bible, basically the same question that was put to me in China in 1979. Why? Obviously, Communists were afraid of the power of this book.
This book, as no other book in all the world, changes the lives of people. Take, for example, the pocket New Testament that inadvertently was dropped from the deck of an English ship of war in a Japanese harbor in the year 1854. A Japanese sailor, seeing the little book in the water, plucked it from the sea and it ended up in the hands of a Japanese general by the name of Murata whose assignment was to monitor the English ship. General Murata, however, couldn’t read the little English New Testament, but eventually he found someone who could—a Dutch interpreter who told him that this book told him about God and His son, Jesus Christ.
The general was all the more curious. He also knew that in Japan the Christian religion was outlawed, and anyone who followed the Christian faith risked his very life. Tell someone, “You can’t do something,” and human nature being what it is, that’s the very thing that the person is apt to do. Murata was no exception. In China, Murata found a New Testament which he could read, and he secretly he began reading this book. It made sense to him. He saw not an angry God or a God who was remotely disconnected from the planet on which he lived, but a loving God who sent His only Son to show us the way back to heaven.
Eventually General Murata began to believe in this God and, though he risked his very life in doing this, asked to be baptized as a Christian. Today, some five or six generations away from that day that a soggy New Testament was plucked out of the salty waters of the ocean, there are many Japanese Christians who can trace their faith to someone who heard about the faith because of General Murata.
Is it any wonder that this book is both revered and feared at the same time? Why does this book change the lives of people? The principle reason is that it shows a way out of our human dilemma, a way of overcoming the downward pull of our old natures that—no matter how we try—always ends in despair and failure. It provides hope in an otherwise hopeless world. It says that your biggest problem—yourself and your despair—finds a solution in Jesus Christ, who was God’s remedy for our predicament.
A word of warning. Don’t get too familiar with this book unless you are willing for this book to change your life. What the writer of Hebrews wrote long ago is like a warning that comes on the label of a powerful prescription. Here it is: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Just as the book changed General Murata’s life, it can change yours as well.
Resource reading: 2 Timothy 3:10-16.