By the word of YHWH were the heavens made / and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth (Psalm 33:6).
How we believe language communicates has changed over the years. These days we tend to use language to describe things as they are, taking a “just the facts, ma’am” approach to how we communicate. This holds true even in fiction: the story may not be true but is nonetheless written in descriptive fashion.
Descriptive uses of language are found frequently in the Bible, telling the story of Israel, Jesus, and the church. Yet Israelites recognized that language can do more than just describe: language also functions creatively and evocatively. They knew this because they put their trust in YHWH as their God, and from the beginning YHWH spoke the heavens and earth into being (Genesis 1:1-2:3, Psalm 33:1-8). In all the cultures around them people came up with imaginative stories which attempted to describe why things are the way they are; all of them attempted to describe what the Israelites knew could not truly be described but only brought into being through God speaking it into existence.
After the creation God’s Word did not stop bringing things to life. Israel might have thought that God was sustaining them with manna from heaven, yet where did that manna come from and how did God bring it forth? Moses said that it was designed to teach Israel that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from YHWH’s mouth (Deuteronomy 8:3). The Word of God was life for Israel if they would only love God and live according to that Word; if they turned aside from that Word they would be choosing death (Deuteronomy 30:15-20). In Psalm 19:1-6 David praises God for His benevolent care for mankind as reflected in the structure of the heavens; he immediately turns to praise God for His Law, testimony, precepts, and commandments for their benevolent care, as much a part of the structure of the creation as the sun, moon, and stars (Psalm 19:7-11). Israel had every reason to maintain steadfast confidence when God made promises, for once He spoke them He would assuredly give it life, to make it so (Isaiah 46:9-10, 55:10).
God had promised the Immanuel child, “God with us,” and He was born, not just as a man, but as the Word made flesh (Matthew 1:22-25, John 1:1-14). John expects us to understand Jesus to be God’s Word, as that which brought into existence the heavens and the earth and which continues to sustain and uphold (John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15-17, Hebrews 1:1-3). Jesus blessed bread and it multiplied; He then spoke of Himself as the Bread of life since He as the Word gives life to all things (John 6:1-69). Living water could flow from Him in the Spirit to others since He is the embodiment of the Source of life (John 7:37-39). Through His life, death, and resurrection Jesus can promise abundant life because God spoke the Word into existence and the Word continues to give life (John 10:10).
Through the Word made flesh, Jesus of Nazareth, we can overcome sin and death and obtain eternal life (Romans 8:1-5, 1 Corinthians 15:50-58). The revealed Word in Scripture is no less alive and active according to Hebrews 4:12; it has life through the Spirit which inspired it and the power of God which works through it, convicting the hearts of men regarding the Gospel unto repentance toward God, obedience to the Lord, and sanctification in the Spirit (Romans 1:16, 10:17, 1 Corinthians 1:18, Ephesians 1:13, Colossians 3:16, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 3:14).
While God communicated to mankind in ways he could understand, His Word is a message ultimately unlike any other message. The Word of God does not merely describe the way things are; God has created through His Word and continues to provide life through that Word. We encounter that Word in the pages of Scripture and embodied in the Lord Jesus: God’s message is never just ink on a page, or pixels on a screen, for paper fades, ink runs, screens lose power and die, yet the Word of God remains living and active, bringing into being according to the purpose God has established for it. The Word of God is living, active, and powerful, yet operates on the heart and soul of mankind, not to be left as words in a nice leather book set in the corner or glanced at during the assembly (Hebrews 4:12). Do we want life and to have it abundantly? Then we must find life in God’s Word, Incarnate and Revealed, and live for Him!
Ethan R. Longhenry