Summary: God’s word is indeed alive! This short sermon focuses on God’s word which tells us of our sin and also tells us that there is somewhere we can go to find grace and mercy.
The words we have just heard from ‘Hebrews’ are important words for us. They were originally written to Jews who had become Christians; and the book as a whole affirms the authority of scripture, emphasising that the gospel of Jesus Christ brings the Old Testament to completion. They are important words for us because “the word of God is living and active” (Heb 4:12). God’s word is not just something from the past! God’s word is alive (Isaiah 55:11). It is not dead, and it is not a dusty old book which was given as a gift at a baptism years ago. God’s word, like God Himself is very much alive and active! So, as we read from God’s word we should not be surprised at the effect it has upon us.
These five short verses remind us of our sin (4:13), and yet they also remind us that there is someone to whom we may go to “receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (4:16).
The word of God reminds us of our sin because it is sharp. A bit like a traditional butcher at work with his meat cleaver, the word of God cuts to the heart of the matter. As I was cutting up carrots recently I pierced my left thumb. It was painful, and some blood was shed. The word of God “penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (4:12-13). Ouch! Do you feel some pain as God’s word cuts deep? I do, because it literally means that every action, every thought, every motive, every silent deed is known to God. Nothing whatsoever is hidden from him.
Now, how do you react to that? It causes me to throw myself once again upon the mercy of God, for we are not called to wallow in misery and self-pity! We are called to acknowledge our sin and take it to Jesus.
God’s word is not dead. It is not simply ‘ancient wisdom’, it is very much alive and active, just as our faith must be alive and active, since we will all come before God “to whom we must give account” (4:13). God’s word reminds me of my sin, but also reminds me that there is someone to whom we may go to receive mercy and find grace.
Jesus is able “to sympathise with our weaknesses” since he was “tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin” (4:15). Jesus has a heart beating with love, compassion and sympathy for us. He is full of mercy and grace, and yet the reality is that often we say these things and then do nothing about it! Hebrews 4:16 compels us to take action because Jesus knows us and because he understands us. We are compelled to take action! We are compelled to “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (4:16).
Members of (the UK) Parliament hold surgeries with their constituents (an opportunity to talk), but the reality is that relatively few people actually have a conversation with their MP. God’s surgery, God’s prayer line of conversation, God’s throne of grace is available through Jesus Christ. The question is whether we actually go there. Do we go there often? Do we go there daily?
Today’s portion of scripture encourages us to “hold firmly to the faith we profess” (4:14).
Brothers and sisters – hold firmly to the faith! Brothers and sisters – profess the faith!
God’s word calls us to acknowledge our sin, to find grace and mercy at God’s throne – God’s surgery, and to hold firmly to the faith we profess; since our faith is not something private, not something just for me. It is good news of mercy and grace to be shared. Let’s hold firmly to the faith we profess!