Have you ever handled a sword before? Many of us probably have not. Have you ever handled a knife, or some other cutting tool? Most of us have. This image of a cutting tool is one of the images in scripture for the word of God. It is "sharper than any two-edged sword" (Heb 4:12). What does this mean? I can remember discussions of this passage when I was a young Christian. We often heard the preacher say that it cuts coming and going. But what does that mean? It wasn't until I spent some time meditating on this passage that I began to see what it means.
The passage does not say that the word of God is a two-edged sword, it says it is sharper than a two-edged sword. I began to think of things that are sharper than a sword. I remember cutting myself with a razor once; it is sharper than a sword. Then I thought of a doctor's scalpel. It is very, very sharp. A doctor's scalpel can open up your body with precision. A doctor can then discover if there is a tumor of some sort, if you have problems in your joints, and a number of other things. But you will never hear a doctor after opening up a patient say something like, "Wow, I can see that this is an honest man of integrity!" He will never exclaim, "This persons is a lying, low-down, scoundrel!" Why? Because his scalpel cannot get that deep. No matter how deep he cuts, his scalpel will never lay open the thoughts and intentions of the heart. However, the word of God can do that for us. The passage says it "judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart." It reveals to ourselves our motivations and affections and whether they are pointing in the right direction or not.
This verse is not given in isolation. The chapter uses Israel as an example of those who were delivered from bondage and on their way to their new home where they would find rest, but never made it. Why? Because "the word they heard did not profit them because it was not united by faith in those who heard" (Heb 4:2). They listened, but they didn't respond with faithful obedience (Heb 4:6).
The lesson for us is obvious. Rest after we dies does not come automatically to everyone. Rest comes only to those who have heeded God's word with faithfulness. This is why the passage tells us to be diligent by not following Israel's example of disobedience (Heb 4:11). People often put R.I.P. on tombstones, indicating that those who have died are to rest in peace. However, according to this passage, only those who have listened to God's word and responded with diligent faith and obedience will enter into the rest God has prepared for his people.
This means that our relationship with God's word needs to be an intense one. We need to read it regularly, and heed what God tells us in his word, allowing him to expose our inner most thoughts to us so that we can allow him to transform us from the inside out. Yes, we may get tired as they did in the wilderness, the future may be uncertain, there may be danger from enemies, or it may just get monotonous at times. However, there is rest awaiting for us, therefore we need to be diligent in our walk with our Lord and allow him to guide us through his word.