For centuries Christians have believed that the Bible is the Word of God. And so I’m fascinated by the way the Bible describes itself. Many words are used to communicate the nature and purpose of this Book of books.
Here are a few examples. “Is not my word like fire”, declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29). “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” (Hebrew 4:12).
The Bible is described as fire, a hammer, and a sword. What do those three things have in common? Perhaps many ideas come to mind, but the one that stands out to me is the concept of pain. All three cause pain.
The Word of God is a source of pain. Of course it is also a source of much joy and peace. But when God speaks to us through his Word, he usually must hurt us before he can help us.
The most obvious example of this is with regard to salvation from sin and all its devastating consequences in both this life and the next. Before God can save us from sin, he must make us realize how much we need to be saved. And for that to happen, we must come to grips with what wretched miserable sinners we are. Is there anything more painful than that?
When we come to the end of ourselves and start crying out for mercy (which is a process best summarized by the word “repentance”), this is not pretty. In fact, repentance can get very messy. But God loves us so much that he’s not going to let us stay the way we are. To get us where he wants us to be, he’s going to “mess us up”. And that is painful.
A passage that describes this cycle of being hurt by God in order to be helped by God is Hosea 6:1-2. “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.”
I love this passage because it is so realistic. This is the way God works in our lives. He tears us to pieces and he injures us in order to heal us, revive us and restore us. Yes, God causes us much pain, but there is a purpose in the pain. The purpose of the pain is to get our attention — to burn away our arrogant self-righteousness, shatter our prideful self-sufficiency, and perform divine surgery on our souls so we realize how much we have offended a holy God and need his grace, mercy and love. Then, and only then, can we come into his presence. All this is made possible through Jesus Christ, who endured the ultimate pain of crucifixion, the perfect Son of God dying for the imperfect children of wrath. Because he experienced more pain than we will ever have, you and I can receive the gift of repentance and the joy of forgiveness that follows.