If someone speaks to us about the Word of G-d, we often think first about our Bibles. If so, it is probably because this is the most frequent way that we hear it used. But the Word which John says that he touched with his hands was Messiah: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”
Abraham also saw the Word: “After this, the Word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision”, and then he walked with Him out of the tent to look at the stars: “He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the heavens and count the stars… ‘”
Samuel also saw the Word: “The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.” This is how the NIV reads, but I could also translate the Hebrew words in this way: “And the LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, because he revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh in his Word.” (1 Samuel 3:21).
We are used to the idea that the Lord speaks to us: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” And we know that we normally hear Him through the Holy Spirit: “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”
But we do not usually think of ourselves as seeing the Word of the Lord unless it is in writing in our Bibles. However, the words written on the pages of our Bibles are not alive. But Scripture says: “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.”
This means that the true Word of the Lord is not physical, but spiritual. The Spirit of the Lord speaks to us, often without words, to make us aware of His truth. Sometimes He shows us His truth with the help of pictures which we see in dreams or in visions. Sometimes He makes us aware of truth through a gift of knowledge or wisdom, and then to explain this to others can require many words using examples of things we know about in this world.
Words written in a book cannot create things, nor heal people. But the Living Word of G-d does both of these things. We can know all about what is written in the Bible, but we still might not know the Living Word of the Lord. We have this sad statement by the Lord regarding the coming Day of Judgment: “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
This is remarkable! We can speak the Word of the Lord in prophecy, and still not know Him! How is this possible? Some people even think that hearing sermons about the Word of the Lord or studying the Scriptures will save them. But what did the Lord say? “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’” And also: “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me”.
We have in the prophet Balaam the son of Beor an example of this, who started off by saying: “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything, either small or great, contrary to the command of the LORD my God”; but later he counseled how to cause Israel to sin: “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the LORD in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the LORD’s people.” and in the end he was killed together with Israel’s enemies: “In addition to those slain in battle, the Israelites had put to the sword Balaam son of Beor, who practiced divination.”
We can think that by memorizing the Word of the Lord, it will mean that we know the Word of the Lord. But that does not mean that we know the Living Word of the Lord. How do we really know that we know Him? “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
And how can we come to obey His commands? Only if through His Spirit, He is living inside of us: “Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.”
This was, in fact the testimony of Paul: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
(This article was first published in the third series of Tishrei Journals, Number 9, June 2010)