Sword Imagery and the Word of God

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 ESV)

Scripture sometimes evokes sword imagery when referring to the word of God. This is particularly so in the book of Revelation: “From his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword” (1:16), “The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword” (2:12), and “From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron” (19:15). 

These verses echo passages in the Old Testament, for example concerning the branch of Jesse: “But with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked” (Isaiah 11:4). Elsewhere, Ephesians 6 urges believers to put on the armour of God and take up “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (6:17). 

Such imagery is essential to our understanding of the biblical theme of the word of God, whether His spoken word (by which He created the world), His living, active and powerful word (eg Jeremiah 23:29), the Incarnate Word (John 1:1, 14) from whose mouth comes a two-edged sword, and finally the written word “breathed out” by God for our instruction and correction: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). 

Which brings us right back to Hebrews 4:12. This verse is the culmination of the author’s exposition of Psalm 95 urging the need for perseverance, striving to enter God’s rest and the “penetrative power” (RT France) and testing of God’s word by which we will give an account (4:13). May we strive to love, learn, obey, observe, be guided by and study the word of God, in all its manifestations.

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