- 12) For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
- 13) Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
- 14) Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into (or through) the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
- 15) For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
- 16) Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
The book of Hebrews presents the “ifs,” and there are two things that are necessary for us to enter into our rest: the Word of God, and the Mercy Seat.
“The word of God is living and operative” = God is working in His people, and He speaks to us. And there ought to be a response. What do we answer to it? What is our response to the ministering of God to us?
- The soul is the center of the desires. It is really the person.
- The spirit is what brings us into contact with God. The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the innermost parts of the belly (Proverbs 20:27).
We may have many desires, but we do not know whether they are right or not until we go to the Word of God — until we get into His presence. This chapter brings us right into the very presence of God before we get to the Mercy Seat.
Music, or even good singing, can only act on the emotions of man. They can make man feel happy, or religious, without any real occupation with or enjoyment of Christ. Without self-judgment, the person could be quite pleased with everything. It could be just the soul and not the spirit. The Word of God comes in and sifts out what is not of the mind of the Holy Spirit. So we get a verse like this that says, “speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and chanting with your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19), so that if there is that which is of the Spirit, what is of nature and the natural emotions, is not the governing force that is there.
The Word is given a special place in connection with the believer and his journey through the wilderness. Do we really read it every day? Is it dust covered? And we say we are really going on to our rest? What about the Queen of Sheba? She steps down from her throne, to brave the desert sands, in order to hear the words of Solomon, who was reigning over God’s people. The Spirit of God brings before us in Matthew 12, that if we are going to get into the blessing of Matthew 13, there must be a burning desire for the Word of God.
“Piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit” = Soul is that which appertains more to nature (our desires and wants), but the spirit is that which is intelligence as to the mind of God — and it is only by the Word of God that we can get this. It shows that we may have some real desire, but it may be just from that old nature of ours. The spirit, however, is that which has intelligence as to the mind of God, and we get it in the Word of God.
“thoughts and intents of the heart” = if these are not subject to the Word of God, we see the digression from the 3rd chapter: hardening hearts (vs. 8) –> erring hearts (vs. 10) –> evil hearts (vs. 12).
How wonderful and necessary to have the Word of God, and to read it!
“two-edged sword” = the Word of God should apply to ourselves first before used to minister to others; the case of Peter cutting off the ear of the high priest’s servant — he ended up giving the Lord more work to do. We ought to read the Word and also be subject to it ourselves — to be willing and obedient. Faith produces obedience. If we are unwilling to submit to His Word, we have prevented the Spirit of God from leading us on in the truth and guidance of the Lord.
Notice how these verses begin with the written Word, but they end with the living Word — Christ Himself — for He was the living Word. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God!” In Revelation, when we see the Lord riding out of heaven on a white horse, it says that is name is the Word of God. So the man that has rejected this Word in the world of sin, will face the Living Word in judgment when the Lord comes to judge the world in righteousness and executes His government upon this guilty world. But now He is the Word for those who will accept Him personally as a Savior. “Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name” (Psalm 138:2).
“his sight” and “him with whom we have to do” = it is the Person, the Word
This preceding passage comes before the end of the next chapter, which brings before us doctrine and growth in the soul. The purpose of Hebrews is to show us the Lord Jesus and His offices. In the first 2 chapters, we see the Person — God and Man — and the place He has in the counsels of God. Then, we see in varied ways, His offices — the One who fulfills those counsels of God as King and Priest.
Hebrews 5:11 reads, “concerning whom we have much to say, and hard to be interpreted in speaking [of it], since ye are become dull in hearing.” Why are we so dull in hearing? We must confess it. “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (vss. 12-14). Now, this takes us back to our chapter where the Word of God is exercising between soul and spirit. In the next chapter, in the 6th chapter, the Apostle as much as says, “I don’t know what you’re going to do, but I am going on — on to perfection, on to maturity, on to heavenly things!” That is what he wants to bring before them.
The Word of God searches me, but the throne of grace sustains me.
All of this shows us the special view that is given to us in the book of Hebrews. It is wonderful how the Spirit of God has given us different epistles, to give us different view of what is needful for the instruction of the saints. Ephesians views us as already seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus – giving us the very highest truth we can find. But we are still aware that we are here in a great and terrible wilderness. So the book of Hebrews is especially connected with the wilderness journey of the Christian. That is why the tabernacle is prominent in the book of Hebrews. The Temple (seen in Ephesians) was after they were established in the land. The whole view is of a people delivered out of Egypt by the blood of the lamb, going through the wilderness with Canaan as the country before them — and all of their dangers, all the efforts fo the enemy to defeat them — All of this comes wonderfully before the reader of this Epistle. And there are two provisions which are given to us as were given to them for the wilderness journey — the Word of God and the priesthood.
The Word of God was given to settle every question and guide them for every turn in the road. Nothing was just left up to Israel in terms of deciding — they did not even move their tents until the cloud moved, then they were to follow the cloud. Everything was provided to them by the Word of the Lord. God directed everything for the journey of His people. Sadly, then came in failures and the disobedience.
Sadly, then came in failures and disobedience. This is where the priesthood is especially important. There were instances that have been taken up concerning how the priesthood spared the people. We remember the rod that budded — God said that was the rod that would lead them into the land. This was true when God told Moses to bring “the rod,” and speak to the rock. We understand Moses’ failure there. That brought out that the law-giver, or law itself, could not bring them into the land into the rest of God. The priesthood of Christ can! And this is what the rod spoke of there. A type of Christ going down into death on the cross, and coming out in resurrection in all the fragrance and all the fruits of resurrection. And it is that prieshood which is the means that God uses in connection with a people so prone to wander and to displease Him. God is going to carry a people on through into that rest which remains for the people of God.
It is weakness that is supposed in Hebrews, but not willfulness. Willfulness is not allowed at all. There is an allowance for weakness, and that is why there is a Priest. In Job, it reads that, “God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not” (33:14), and it is solemn when He speaks the third time. We have also in Job that God uses various ways in which He speak, but when man’s willfulness has exceeded, He executes judgement.
In Hebrews, we see that they did not hearken, and they hardened their hearts (3:8). Like Judas who walked with the Lord, he did not hearken to the Lord. The Lord allowed it to go on. On one occasion he did say that one of you has the devil, but yet the others did not know. Later, Judas became a thief (going along with Hebrews 3:10) — he did err in his heart, but there still there was some leeway granted. Until you get to Hebrews 3:12, you get a wicked man who betrays His master — that’s Judas! He is a picture of this principle here. He finally in a wicked heart of unbelief openly makes it known. Every nature must express itself, and it will! This is solemn.
“There is allowed weakness, but not willfulness.”
“If we would judge the things that our brethren don’t see, we wouldn’t have to judge the things that our brethren do see!” We judge those desires before they come out into sad manifestation to the dishonor of the Lord causing sorrow and discipline.
That returns us to what has often been said, that we ought to keep short accounts with God and not allow things to go on unjudged before God. That is the “the dividing asunder of soul and spirit,” is it not? That is bowing to the Word of God as it is brought home to us to exercise our hearts.
Repentance = is not just taking God’s side against oneself, it goes deeper than this in the soul of the individual – I should judge myself for what I am and what I have done in the presence of God — it is an exercise within! The Word of God would bring us to that point, such that blessing could flow out. “Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ!” (Acts 20:21). It produces true action. It is sin perceived, sin abhorred, and sin forsaken.
1 Corinthians 11:31 in connection with the Lord’s Supper says, “for if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.” It doesn’t say things, matters, concerns, etc. It is judging ourselves. Why am I in such a state that this failure was brought about? It is getting to the bottom of it.
There is the repentance of the lost sinner, and the repentance of one of God’s own children. Like Peter, who thoroughly judged his dishonoring the Lord — that was a true repentance! There was repentance at the assembly in Corinth that prompted restoration there. It is really getting into the presence of God and dealing with one’s own state there.
We live “soberly,” and I believe that is repentance. As we go on learning our lessons down here, we find things that are not in keeping with God’s truth. So repentance becomes a state of soul, and we live this way. Soberly, and in self-judgement. Israel revisited Gilgal (“cutting off of the flesh”), and it was taking that low place before God that sobriety would suggest. So that the full provision that we possess is not in ourselves, but in Christ.
“We should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:12).
- Soberly (self-judgement, and this comes first)
- Righteously (towards others)
- Godly (our responsibility and privilege in connection with God is carried out)
Verse 14 – “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into (or through) the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.“
The thought of the tabernacle comes before us. When the high priest went into the holy of holies, he went through first the court of the tabernacle. There the brazen altar and the brazen laver were placed. This is a picture of the immediate heavens above us where the birds fly and the lightning flashes. After this, he went through the holy place, where the candlestick, the shewbread, and the altar of incense were placed. Then there was the third compartment, which was the holy of holies.
When the Lord left this scene to go back to the Father, He passed through the heavens, carrying out the figure of the high priest of old. He has passed through the heavens, and now is in the presence of God. After this it says, “hold fast our profession!” Notice carefully that it does not say hold fast our salvation. God will take care of that, but it is our profession — that is what we confess as believers in the Lord Jesus. That is searching, isn’t it? Are we holding that fast such that our neighbors, coworkers, classmates, etc., see that it is manifest before them that we belong to the Lord Jesus. We confess Christ — we say that we belong to Him, and that He saved us! Do we show through our ways that this is a reality in our souls?
And we have “boldness (or liberty) to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Hebrews 10:19). He entered in first.
When the high priest went in, the people waited outside. The high priest had bells and pomegranates on his garments. As long as they heard the bells rings (those are the gospel bells we hear today), they knew he was being accepted for them. Pomegranates spoke of fruit. When he came out, he came out to bless the people — and that is what we have at the end of this chapter. When we go there to the throne of grace, He is there to bless us — we go there for seasonable help, and He will give it to us if we have faith.
“yet without sin” – This of those positive statements of the sinless perfection of our Lord Jesus. He was sin apart! Although He can sympathize with the infirmities, he cannot sympathize with us in connection with our sinfulness. If I have rheumatism, then He can sympathize with me, but if I get cranky as a result of rheumatism, He cannot sympathize with my sinfulness.
Others may not understand our deepest sorrows, but there is One above who understands. And He is up there making intercession for us! and we can experience His sympathy when the heart is bowed and broken with grief and sadness.