PICTURES OF THE WORD
Symbols That Help Us Understand The
By Frank R. Parrish
Painting A Picture
Jesus, in describing the importance of the Bible, the eternal Scriptures,
said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that
proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4). He used this quote from
Deuteronomy 8:3 as He triumphantly resisted Satan’s temptations in
the wilderness at the beginning of His ministry. This dramatic and
crucial moment will forever stand as a lesson to us in the use of
Scripture as a powerful weapon against temptation, sin and the devil.
But there is more to this passage than simply a method for resisting
As Jesus speaks these words, it is as if He is painting a picture for us.
Jesus links the idea of bread and Scripture and hunger together. This
is a concept that can be grasped immediately, especially if one has
been fasting 40 days like Jesus had been! Later in His ministry, Jesus,
the Living Word of God, declares that He is the Bread of Life come
down from heaven, and those that eat of it will live (see John 6). Jesus
used a kind of picture-language called “parables” to help people
understand – or see – more clearly what He was saying.
In the same way, the Holy Spirit used “picture language” throughout
the Bible in describing the Holy Scriptures themselves, which were
inspired by God. Often spiritual truths can be portrayed more clearly
by the use of symbols. These symbols bring a picture to the human
mind, making it much easier to understand certain truths.
There are a number of symbols that God Himself chose to describe His
own Word. These symbols help us understand more about the nature of
the Scriptures themselves. They also assist us in perceiving how the
Holy Spirit uses the Word in the lives and circumstances of the
believer whose life is surrendered to the Lordship of Christ.
This article will briefly examine these God-inspired symbols for the
Word of God that the Bible contains, giving further insight into the
power and life contained in the Holy Scriptures.
The Image Of Jesus
“For if anyone is a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like a man
observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes
away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who
looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a
forgetful hearer but a doer of the word, this one will be blessed in
what he does” (James 1:23-25).
God’s Word is a revealer of the human heart. It helps us to better
understand our motives and our actions. The Bible reveals to us:
· What we are like,
· Why we are that way,
· What we ought to DO about what is revealed.
God uses the revealing power of the Word to bring us to a place of
taking action on what is revealed. If we were to look at ourselves in a
mirror and see dirt on our face, food on our chin or our hair mussed up,
would we walk away and do nothing? Or would we stop and take
action on what is revealed? Would we leave the mess that we see, or
would we get cleaned up?
The Spirit and the Word, working together, call us to take notice of
the Bible’s corrective instruction in our lives, be obedient to what it
tells us to do, and be changed more into the image of Jesus!
From Glory To Glory
But there is another important lesson to remember about what the
Bible reveals. It is the temptation to see (and judge) others with the
Word, instead of applying what we learn to our own lives first. It is
too easy to get caught up in our opinions of what we think others
ought to do with the truths of Scripture, and completely miss the
opportunity for the Word to change our own lives first.
Second Corinthians 3:18 also describes God’s Word as a mirror: “But
we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the
Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory,
just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” In this mirror, we see the image of
When we put this scripture together with James 1:23-25, we learn an
important dynamic of how this scriptural mirror works.
The Word shows us the image of Christ so that we will measure
our character and conduct by HIS standards; and then allow God
to shape us more and more into His image. When we allow
ourselves to be changed by the mirror of God’s Word, we will end up
being of more help to others than if we spent our time trying to correct
them (see Matthew 7:1-5).
This process brings us fully into the “law of liberty” (James 1:25), a
life lived and shaped under the power of God’s amazing grace, and
then used to help others!
Armed And Ready
“And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Eph
In Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul outlines the armor that every good soldier
of Christ ought to have with him constantly. This armor should not just
be something the soldier carries; but by constant use, it should become
familiar equipment that he skillfully uses.
The Holy Spirit revealed to Paul that believers are in a constant state of
warfare. They are wrestling not against other humans “but against
principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this age, and against
spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12).
Because this is true, God has given us five defensive pieces of
armament (Eph 6:14-17), and one weapon for both offense and
defense. This one special weapon is the “sword of the Spirit” – the
Word of God.
Satan’s strategy from the beginning of time has always been to
question God’s Word. Satan sows doubt in people’s minds, appeals to
their “reason”, and tries to tempt them to not take God at His Word by
In Genesis 3:1, Satan approached Eve in the garden of Eden with the
opening line of “Hath God said…”. He used this question to cause her
to doubt a simple, straightforward command from God. She then began
to question the command God had spoken, until she convinced herself
that she did not need to obey it. The results were devastating for all of
mankind from that day forward.
Satan tried the same strategy in tempting Jesus in Matthew 4:1-11.
Here again the devil implied doubt about what God has said: “If you
are the Son of God…” . Satan said this right after the baptism of Jesus
(Matthew 3), when God had already declared in an audible voice,
“This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17).
But Jesus, knowing the power of God’s Word, used it with authority to
both defend Himself from the devil’s temptation and counter-attack
his treacherous lies.
Hebrews 4:12 shows us another way in which God’s Word is the
“sword of the Spirit.” This passage describes the Scriptures as “living
and powerful, and sharper than a two-edged sword”. The Word of
God contains a life and power by the Holy Spirit’s anointing that is not
placed upon any other words or books. There are many books filled
with words, but only God’s Word gives life (John 6:63). There are
many sermons that are inspiring and clever, but they cannot compare to
the power of God’s Word.
God declared in Isaiah 55:11 that His Word “shall not return to Me
void [empty, without fruit], but it shall accomplish what I please, and
it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it”. God was telling us that
His Word is powerfully alive. His Word is a force, which goes forth
and accomplishes things. That is because all of God’s life and power
back up His Word – and ONLY His Word.
The anointing of God flows through His Word. We can never defeat
God’s enemies or win God’s battles without God’s Book. God’s Word is
TRUTH! It is a weapon of Truth-a Sword that can cut through the
devil’s lies, and break the bondage that can come from believing those
lies. It has a delivering power that can cut through the deceptions of
our enemy, Satan, and bring freedom to a person in body, mind and
spirit. “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you
free” (John 8:32).
A well-known evangelist had just concluded a meeting. As he was
leaving the sanctuary, he saw a man lying unconscious on the floor. He
was told the man was a heroin addict in a coma from a recent
overdose, and that he would probably die.
The evangelist knew that the man might not hear or remember
anything he would say to him at that moment. But the Holy Spirit
prompted him to speak to the man the scripture, “You shall not die, but
live” (Psalm 118:17). So he went over and spoke into the man’s ear
this verse from God’s Word.
The man who was the heroin addict later said he did not remember
anything about that night except the words going around and around in
his mind, “you shall not die, but live”. Over and over, he kept hearing
that phrase in his mind. The next day, he suddenly awoke from his
coma and was immediately sober and in his right mind. He had
completely lost his craving for drugs, his addiction had been broken,
and he received Jesus Christ as His Lord and Savior that very day!
The Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, is truly a mighty weapon
of warfare against the deception and bondage of the devil!
The Very Depths
“For the Word of God…is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of
the heart” (Heb 4:12). The Word of God is very penetrating. It is like
an extremely sharp knife that can cut through even the hardest of
In this same verse, the Holy Spirit says the Scriptures are “piercing,
even to the division of the soul and spirit”. These two phrases in
Hebrews 4:12 show us that the Word of God can reveal the very depths
of the human heart, even what appears confusing or hidden. Reading or
hearing the Scriptures can reveal the subtle differences between the
soul and spirit, and show whether a person is living a soulish life or a
The Greek word for “discerner” is kritikos, from which we get the
word “critic”. The Holy Spirit purposefully chose this word to describe
the role of the Scriptures in our lives. In this we can see that God’s
Word provides the standard, or “measuring rod”, against which our
lives are to be compared.
God’s Word gives us something to measure our lives by, to see if we
are living in a way that is pleasing to God. However, the Bible does not
measure our outward actions alone, which can appear pure to human
eyes. His Word also reveals our inward motives, those secret things in
our hearts that are behind our actions. “…But all things are naked and
open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Heb 4:13; see
also Proverbs 16:2).
It would be no stretch of interpretation to say that God’s Word tests
both a man’s earthly life and his spiritual life. His bodily life and his
spiritual life alike come under the scrutiny and inspection of the Word
There are times when we might doubt our own motives. Sometimes
false condemnation can slip into our hearts. That’s when the Word of
God can either reassure us or convict us, and help us to know how to
respond to God and His work in our hearts. The Holy Spirit will use
the Word of God to guide us into righteousness.
To avoid using this “critical discerner” only on others, we should
remember the lesson Jesus taught His disciples. In Luke 6:37-42, Jesus
warns us against being judgmental and critical of others, especially
when we might be blind to an even worse condition in our own lives.
A person who is quick to condemn the faults in others, while ignoring
his own shortcomings, will be of little help to God in influencing the
lives of others for Jesus’ sake.
We can serve the Lord and others best by first and foremost
applying the discerning power of the Word to our own lives.
“…that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water
with the Word” (Eph 5:26). In this passage the Holy Spirit, speaking
through Paul, uses imagery (or symbolism) to create understanding in
the minds of both Hebrews and Greeks. This verse compares the work
of the Word of God to being washed with water.
Ephesians 5:26 describes a double action:
· The Living Word of God-Jesus
· The words of God-the Scriptures.
In both the Jewish and Gentile cultures, before a bride was presented to
the bridegroom she received a “cleansing bath”. She was then dressed
in her bridal clothing and the groom received her as his wife.
Jesus, as the Word of God incarnate (John 1:1-4), gave Himself as a
sacrifice for His Bride-to-be, the Church (see Revelation 1:5; Titus
2:14). We are cleansed from sin by His blood, being justified by faith
in His Name for salvation. The blood of Jesus provides the Church
with a “washing” – a cleansing from sin in our lives. For this we will
give Him praise now and throughout all eternity! HALLELUJAH!
But there is a second truth at work here that can have tremendous
effect on our daily lives if we apply this principle. In John 15:3, Jesus
said to His disciples, “You are already clean because of the word
which I have spoken to you.” The Word of God has a cleansing power.
This cleansing power of the Word of God acts in both a spiritual and
God Almighty has so designed His Word that it can cleanse, restore
and rebuild our minds and our spirits as we read it, study it, and open
ourselves to the Holy Spirit. There are many good books that say many
good things; but there is only one Holy Bible, which is “given by
inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for
correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may
be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:1617).
We live in a sin-filled and broken world where we, as leaders, are often
exposed to the brokenness of others. This can weigh heavily on our
minds and in our spirits. We can have the added burden of our own
failures because we, too, sometimes fail and fall short of the glory of
God (see Romans 3:23).
But there is a remedy – a regular, daily “bathing” in God’s Holy
Scriptures! God’s Word has power in it, the power of the Holy Spirit.
God’s Word has a tremendous inward, purifying effect in the heart and
mind of the believer in Jesus Christ.
Without Spot Or Wrinkle
Reading the Scriptures daily can give us the strength to repent and
replace sin with God’s righteousness, peace, joy, guidance, and
strength! When we read the Word of God, it will often have the
“mirror” effect (mentioned earlier) and reveal our sin. But God is so
good! The same Word that reveals our defilement ALSO provides us
with A MEANS OF CLEANSING!
So then, we are cleansed from condemning sin by receiving the free
gift of the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross; and we are
cleansed from the stains of this world by the living power of the
Word of God. Both work together to make us a fit Bride, “not having
spot or wrinkle”.
There is a special insight into the Word for the believer who was raised
as a Jew. In the Old Testament, in the Tabernacle, there was a large
bronze basin called a laver. In Solomon’s Temple, it was called a
Bronze Sea: it was 15 feet across and held approximately 8,000 gallons
of water for the priests to wash in. (See 2 Chronicles 4.)
This bronze laver was positioned in a special place in both the
Tabernacle and the Temple. The bronze laver stood between the
worshipper and the rest of the Tabernacle, providing a means of
cleansing. A worshipper was required to wash before being allowed to
enter into worship.
In Exodus 30:17-21, God commanded Moses to make a statute for the
priesthood concerning the bronze laver. Priests were required to wash
their hands and feet before they could minister before the Lord. Their
hands and feet, just like yours and mine, are what touched the things of
Hands and feet are symbolic of our exposure to the sin-filled, fallen
world we must live in.
In the days when Israel worshipped in the Tabernacle and later in the
Temple, the priesthood was to go through a ritual cleansing before
they were allowed to minister to the Lord on behalf of the people. They
were to do this without fail…otherwise judgment would come and
they would die (Exo 30:20).
A Real Washing
Since Scripture states that “all these things [in the Old Testament]
happened to them as examples, and they were written for our
admonition” (2 Cor 10:11), we can learn some principles from the
bronze laver of the Tabernacle.
First, in combining Exodus 30:17-21 with Ephesians 5:26, we see that
the bronze laver is a “type”-a symbol-of the Scriptures. Just as the
priests were required to go through a ritual washing before they
ministered to the Lord and the people, so must we go through a real
Our “washing of water by the Word” does not just happen at our
salvation experience; it must happen continuously. The Old Testament
priests had to wash every time they were to serve. We, too, need
regular “washings” of the Word of God to keep us clean and purified
from sin and the effects of this world.
Our ministry to others needs to be with clean hands and a pure heart,
in order to be blessed and useful for service (see Psalm 24:4).
Second, we need a constant washing with the Word if we want to
regularly experience the fullness of life Jesus offers. The Word of God
feeds both our spirit and our mind. This helps to keep us spiritually
alive and strong.
God had a harsh judgement (death) for the priest who did not wash. In
much the same way, God calls us to keep our lives free of the spiritual
“deadness” that comes from missing the regular washing by the Word
of God. We must be disciplined, and daily read and meditate on
God’s Word, in order to be cleansed and to receive spiritual life and
Life And Power
Third, it is a biblical principle that whatever is in the spiritual life of a
leader (or parent of a family) can be duplicated in those who follow
him or her. Therefore, it is necessary that we are washed by the Word
and are alive spiritually. This will help ensure that we are passing
along spiritual life and health to those we serve, instead of spiritual
Those we lead need to be taught how important it is to be washed in
the water of the Word. It is a very important part of every believer’s
life. If people are cleansed, and filled with the life and power of
God’s Word, anointed by His Spirit, they will be able to minister
powerfully to their family, their church…and to the world.
“…having been born again, not of corruptible seed, but incorruptible
through the Word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Pet 1:23).
God exalts His Name and His very words in the Scriptures. He and His
words are also exalted in the preaching of His Word.
But He also exalts His Word in the saving of lost men and women. For
it is by His Word and His Spirit, and not by testimonies, eloquent
arguments, or emotional appeals, that He brings to true salvation those
who are spiritually dead.
We owe our natural existence to the Creator’s spoken Word and His
life-giving breath (see Genesis 2:7). In the same way, we owe our
spiritual New Birth to the power of God’s Word activated by the Holy
By studying 1 Peter 1:23 closely, we can learn some important lessons.
The language structure of this verse in the Greek shows that the
bringing forth of this seed to life is God’s action; He and He alone
does it. This means that people cannot attain this through study or self-
effort (see John 1:12,13). Only God can cause the seed to bring forth
salvation life in the human heart.
The seed is the Gospel message of the Kingdom of God. Jesus Himself
declared in His parable of the sower that the Word of God is seed
(Luke 8:5-15). God may allow people to sow the seed by preaching the
Word, or to water or nurture the seed. But only He can cause it to
bring forth life unto salvation (1 Cor 3:6-7).
Sometimes we, as leaders, are tempted to “help” God or His Word. We
may want to push or force someone into responding. Sometimes we
get in God’s way and try to take the place of the Holy Spirit.
Instead, we need to believe in the power of God and His Word to
perform that which it was sent to do (see Isaiah 55:11). We can sow
the seed and plant the truth of God’s Word into people, but He must be
the One to cause it to grow into life.
A Waxy Buildup
But we can play a part in the process of the Word bringing forth life.
Our part is revealed in James 1:21, another verse of Scripture about the
seed of the Word of God. “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and
overflow of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word,
which is able to save your souls.” This scripture indicates clearly that
we are called to respond to the Word of God as it is brought to us.
There are many truths in this verse in James. This time, let’s focus on
just two of them.
First, this passage commands us to “lay aside all filthiness and
overflow of wickedness”. The text uses a special Greek word for
“filthiness”: It is the word ruporia, which comes from the root word
rupos. This word had a special medical application in the Greek
language: it meant a “waxy buildup in the ear”.
So, with this “word picture” in mind, it is clear that the Holy Spirit is
warning us that we are to rid ourselves of anything that can block
our ability to hear God’s Word. The collecting up, or accumulation,
of man’s sins can make him deaf to God. Attitudes of unforgiveness,
self-righteousness, hatred, anger, pride and judgmentalism – along
with the more obvious sins of sexual immorality, drunkenness, lying
and stealing – can all cause spiritual “deafness”.
This kind of deafness is hard to fix because it blocks out one of the
most important “medicines” for a cure – the Word of God! Scripture
exhorts us to clean out our spiritual ears and keep them clean. This
truth gives us new insight into what Jesus may have meant when He
said, “For him who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt 11:15).
Only One Lord
A second great truth is in the phrase “receive with meekness”. The
word “meekness” or “meek” is often misinterpreted by the world as
“weakness” or “weak”. But the term actually means the opposite. To
be meek means to “have power or strength under control”. Now
why would the Holy Spirit choose “meekness” to represent the attitude
of our heart when we are receiving the Word of God?
God created us, and took on human flesh and lived among us;
therefore, He knows what our flesh will try to do. Our “flesh”, or old
sin nature, will try to block the whole Word of God, and receive only
the part we like. Our “old man” (see Ephesians 4:22-24) wants to take
the Word of God and twist it to fit our own liking or advantage.
There can be only one Lord of your heart, and it will be either you
or Jesus Christ. How we treat His Word and apply it to our lives will
reveal who sits on the throne of our hearts (see John 8:47). Either we
will make excuses for ourselves and justify our sin – or we will be
strong in God and allow the Holy Spirit to use God’s Word to convict,
break, mold and shape us according to God’s desire.
“Receive with meekness” tells us to take the seed of God’s Word and let
it be planted deeply into our hearts. We are to let it take root in us
and produce much fruit. We must provide good soil in our hearts into
which the Word of God can be planted. We cannot allow “weeds” to
grow up around it and choke out the life of the Word growing in us.
We must rise up in the strength of God – under His Lordship and
control – and resist the things that would oppose the Word of God
being planted into our lives.
Read Luke 8:5-15 several times, and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to
you about the condition of the soil of your heart.
By His Word…
” ‘Is not my word like a fire?’ says the Lord” (Jer 23:29).
The Word of God is like nothing else in all the world. Though there are
many religious writings in the world today, none of them contains
THE FULL TRUTH about God, salvation, and the right way to live
except for the Bible, God’s anointed Scriptures.
Fire is a profound symbol of the Word of God.
The Scriptures declare that God “upholds all things by the word of His
power” (Heb 1:3). This ties in with Psalm 33:6-8, which declares that
by His word God created the heavens and the earth and by that same
word He holds them in place. God’s Word is awesome and powerful!
The Holy Spirit shows us this powerful creativity by comparing the
Word of the Lord to fire. This comparison suggests three very
important actions of the Word in our lives.
1. God’s Word As Purifier
There is a kind of fire that only God can bring to our souls. It brings a
deep conviction of sin as well as an overwhelming desire for purity.
The Word activated by the Holy Spirit in our hearts is what God uses
to begin the purifying process.
Psalm 119:9 asks the question, “How can a young man [or any person
of any age] keep his way pure?” All of us who have struggled with sin
in our own lives have asked this question. The same Psalm answers
the question in the same verse: “by taking heed according to your
How do we “take heed” to God’s Word?
“Take heed” literally means “to pay attention, take notice”. We must
not ignore the Word of God. We must carefully pay attention to God’s
instructions contained therein, and act upon those instructions.
The same Psalm just two verses later says, “Your word have I hidden
in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Certainly this means
more than just preaching it, teaching it, or believing it with only our
minds. We must take God’s Word into every part of our life and being
– so much so that God’s Word fills us, and stands like a mighty
mountain at the very center of our being.
It is from this centermost place in our hearts that the Word begins its
purging activity. It can reach deep within, to cleanse even the vilest
sinner and the vilest sin. God’s Word can purify our minds and hearts
from foolishness, unbelief, lies, and other thoughts and attitudes that
would be displeasing to God.
The Word of God is a consuming fire, burning up the chaff in our
lives. “Chaff” is the dry, dead husk from the kernel of wheat. It is the
waste, or worthless matter that surrounds the healthy seed. We need
the purifying fire of the Word of God to burn up what is worthless and
unfruitful in our lives, so the life-giving seed that God imparts can
The power of the Holy Spirit of God works in, through and with
the Word of God!
If we want to live a pure life, filled with God’s holy power, the
Scriptures must be an essential part of the content of our heart. Hide
the Word in your heart by reading it often, memorizing it, and doing
what it says. Either the Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep
you from the Bible.
2. God’s Word as Igniter
The picture of “fire” suggests that there is a consuming impulse or
energy that comes from the Word.
Jeremiah 20:9 describes how the prophet was trying to resist speaking
God’s Word to a rebellious people. But he could not keep quiet!
God’s word burned within him and he knew he must declare the
whole of God’s counsel to God’s people.
There is an energizing that comes from God’s Word, which enables
and equips us through the Holy Spirit to do God’s will and word.
David, in a moment of great despair, when even his own followers
wanted to kill him, “strengthened himself in the Lord his God.”
Surely this “strengthening” included meditating on the Word and what
it revealed of Who God is – reminding him that his trust is in God,
not circumstances. God brought victory that day because David sought
the Word of the Lord (I Sam 30).
When Jonah finally obeyed God and brought the Word of the Lord to
Nineveh, a great revival was ignited in that city. It was such a
profound revival that even the Son of God commented upon it (Matt
God’s Word ignites life in the discouraged soul. God’s Word ignites
conviction, so people will repent. God’s Word ignites zeal for the
things of God. God’s Word is a fire that ignites His people!
3. God’s Word As Strengthener
In ancient human history, people used fire to harden certain tools and
weapons made out of wood (such as the tip of a spear). In some
primitive parts of the world today this is still being done.
God uses the fire of His Word to bring strength and depth to our
convictions. As Christians, and as leaders, we have nothing firm to
stand on if we do not stand on the Word of God.
The Bible itself warns us of the danger of being weak or wavering in
our convictions. In James 1:7-8 we are told that a person who is weak
in his convictions and moral strength is “double-minded.”
This is a unique Greek word, used twice in the book of James (1:8;
4:8) and nowhere else in the New Testament. The word is dipsuchos,
which literally means “a man with two souls, or having two different
minds inside his head.” This word gives us the picture of a piece of
wood tossed about by the waves – coming near the shore, then being
drawn back out to sea. It could also be a picture of someone who is
drunk and staggers from one side of the street to the other, but never
making any progress forward.
A “double-minded” person wavers back and forth between two
opinions or two beliefs. This person has not wholly given himself to
God or fully accepted all that the Scriptures reveal about Him.
James says this man will never receive anything from the Lord (1:7)
and is “unstable in all his ways” (1:8). This person desperately needs
the strengthening power that comes from the Word of God! Feelings
will lead us astray, circumstances may show the facts, but what we
really need is the TRUTH! And the truth, the whole truth and nothing
but the truth is found only in God’s Word!
It is in the holy Scriptures that God reveals Who He really is, and what
He wants to do for us and through us. His Word will not disappoint us,
for not even “one jot or tittle will pass away” (Matt 6:18). We can
have confidence, unshakable faith, when we know what the Word of
God says on any given subject having to do with life and godliness.
The whole world is full of conflicting opinions, each of them fighting
for our attention and allegiance. Those opinions change constantly
according to what is popular or what seems to fit within our culture at
My wife and I lived right near the ocean on the Oregon coast. Our
weather changed constantly, even several times in one day. It would go
from a rainy downpour to bright sunshine and back to rain again. We
used to say, “If you don’t like the weather, wait for half an hour and it
will change!” Men’s opinions are like that. They may declare
something as absolute truth one day, and deny it just as fervently the
Thank God His Word is not like that!
“Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled [stands firm] in heaven” (Ps.
Changing a Nation
There are many excellent examples of the strengthening fire of God’s
Word in the Scriptures. One of the most powerful is found in 2
Chronicles 34 and 35. This is an historical account of Josiah’s reign in
the Kingdom of Judah around 640 BC. He was only eight years old
when he became king, and he was one of the few godly kings Judah
In the eighth year of his reign, Josiah began to diligently seek the
Lord (see 2 Chronicles 34:3). He was only 16 years old at the time;
but the result of this young man’s earnest seeking of God’s face
was great spiritual reform in his nation.
Something profound happened during the reign of Josiah, changing the
destiny of the nation of Judah.
While the temple that Solomon had built was under repair, Hilkiah the
priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord (34:14). When the
Scriptures were read to King Josiah, he tore his clothes (a sign of
repentance in Jewish culture).
Josiah then inquired of the Lord, gathered all of the elders of Judah
and read all the Scriptures to them. He then led all the people, great
and small, to the temple where they renewed their covenant with the
God of their fathers.
Josiah, so deeply convicted by God’s Word, cleansed the nation of
Judah from every idol, high place, altar and form of worship other than
the worship of the one true God (see Kings 22-23). But Josiah did not
just cleanse out the bad. He went the rest of the way and replaced the
bad with the good.
These events brought a time of great restoration to Judah. 2 Chronicles
35:18 says that the celebration of the Passover was so great that “there
had been no Passover kept in Israel like that since the days of Samuel
The Word of God is living and powerful! It is a consuming fire! When
we allow the entrance of God’s Word into a situation, or circumstance,
or into our heart, great things begin to happen. We change; and
because we change, everything we influence also begins to change.
Without God’s Word, we are weakened and our convictions can be
easily swayed. We can get caught between two “minds” or beliefs. We
can begin to doubt God and the power of His promises.
But with the strengthening fire of God’s Word and the grace of God,
we can be mightily used of the Lord – even to the changing of a
A LAMP AND LIGHT
“Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105).
This is such a familiar scripture to us as leaders that we might overlook
the significance of God’s Word as light. In Psalm 119:130 the writer
declares, “The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives
understanding to the simple.” Into our minds darkened by sin, and
into situations we encounter in our dark and sin-filled world, the
entrance of the Word of God brings light. The Word is a light that can
illuminate any situation or person, no matter how bound by sin or
broken by failure.
We can begin to see how the light of God’s Word disperses and defeats
darkness by looking at just one word of one verse in the Gospel of
John. In John 1:5, the Holy Spirit reveals that “the light shines in the
darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it.” That Light is Jesus.
He is the personification and exact representation of the Word of God;
and, as the Word of God, He is the Giver of all the words of God.
The Greek word for “comprehend” is katalambano. This is a unique
and special word in the Greek language in which the New Testament
was written. In His wisdom, God chose this language because it is
flexible yet very accurate and precise in its linguistic characteristics.
This word for “comprehend” in John 1:5 is a perfect example.
The Greek word katalambano (comprehend) can be interpreted three
ways in this verse. All three interpretations are theologically and
doctrinally correct and do not contradict each other. Rather, they
complement each other in this particular verse. By using katalambano
in this passage, the Holy Spirit gives us greater insight into scriptural
truths. Let us briefly examine the three equally correct interpretations
of this word.
The word katalambano (comprehend) can be interpreted as:
1. “To seize, lay hold of, overcome”
If we use this interpretation, John 1:5 reads, “The darkness cannot
gain control of it.”
This means that hell, no matter how hard it tries, cannot control, stop,
diminish, modify or turn God away from accomplishing His purposes.
The devil cannot interfere with or defile what God will do. This
should prompt us to praise His holy Name out loud right now!
But we don’t have to stop there. This same interpretation of
katalambano also means that all the demons of hell cannot control,
stop, diminish, turn away or interfere with any saint who is full of the
Holy Spirit and God’s Word and walking in obedience to the Lord’s
“Greater is He [Jesus] that is in you than he [the devil] that is in the
world”! If the Scriptures say it, you can believe it, and that settles it!
Satan cannot defeat us! Satan can only harass, tempt, or try to
intimidate the blood-washed, Word-filled, Spirit-anointed saint. We
don’t have to believe the devil’s lies or let him have control of our lives,
our families, our churches, our cities, or the nation we live in. He is a
defeated foe whose head was crushed at Calvary! Let’s not let him rob,
kill, destroy or darken people’s hearts any more!
2. “To perceive, attain, lay hold of with the mind;
to apprehend with mental or moral effort.”
This interpretation would make the verse read: “The darkness is
unreceptive and does not understand it.”
If the devil had known what God would accomplish at the cross –
Satan’s absolute defeat (Col. 2:15) and our total freedom from sin (Gal
6:14) – he would have tried to keep Christ from dying there for us! Of
course the devil wouldn’t have been able to stop what God had planned
(Acts 2:23) even if he tried!
Some have suggested that the devil and his minions howled with glee
as Christ was on His way to Golgotha where He was crucified. They
were not able to understand that the perfect plan of God was actually
being fulfilled. Their joy was turned to weeping and gnashing of teeth
as they discovered that the cross was our victory, loosing us from the
bondage of sin (Rom 6:16) and from the power of death (Heb 2:14).
Imagine their dismay when three days later the dead body of Christ
was raised to full immortal, eternal life – sealing forever our salvation
in Him (Rom. 6:5, 7-11).
Our adversary knows his days are numbered and he is a defeated foe!
Satan knows that he has no real power. He must, therefore, resort
to trickery and cunning deceit operating through the spirit of this
present world system. The devil is not only ignorant of God’s ways;
he wants us, believers and non-believers alike, to be ignorant and blind
to God’s ways as well.
Paul exhorts the Ephesian Christians in Ephesians 4:17-24 to no longer
walk in the futility of a “darkened understanding” (vs. 18), but to
“put off the old man” (our sin nature, corrupt and bound in spiritual
darkness-vs. 22), and “be renewed in the spirit of your mind” (vs. 23).
In Paul’s letter to the Romans the Holy Spirit uses the same idea and
makes it a command: “And do not be conformed [fashioned, modeled,
patterned] to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your
mind” (Rom 12:2).
How can we have our minds “renewed”?
It cannot be done through any self-effort of our own. But if the Word
of God is truly “a lamp to our feet and a light to our path,” then surely
a daily, deep feasting and soaking in the Word of God can radically
change us! It can illuminate our understanding and restore our minds.
I personally know a young man who was addicted to drugs. He had so
destroyed his mind with these substances that he would hallucinate
even when he wasn’t taking drugs! His memory was ruined and it was
killing him. But God saved him, and the Holy Spirit led him to start
reading the Bible every day – sometimes all day long!
Many years have passed, and now this man has graduated from college
and seminary – and serves God full-time as a Christian leader! His
mind was restored and his understanding illuminated by the living and
powerful Word of God! (Heb 4:12).
God’s Word has power – power to heal, power to restore, power over
3. “To quench, extinguish, snuff
out the light by smothering it”
With this interpretation, John 1:5 reads, “The darkness will never be
able to eliminate it.” Physicists tell us that the fastest thing in the
universe is the speed of light. But actually there is one thing faster:
the speed of darkness! Wherever light comes in, the darkness goes out
– fast! Wherever and whenever the light of God’s Spirit and His Word
are given entrance, hell can’t and won’t stay around.
There was a witchdoctor who was deeply involved in the spiritual
realm of the demonic. He used demon powers to see into the spirit-
world, and he could actually spot Christians coming as they passed by
on the street. This man could tell who the Christians were by the glow
of light he could see on the chests of believers. He could tell the strong
believers from the weak ones by the size and brightness of this glow.
Some believers were just smoldering, sputtering, barely alive
spiritually; others were so bright he could not look at them.
The Christians who were filled with light he would avoid at all costs.
The demons inside him would shudder in fear and make him cross the
street to walk on the other side just so he would not go near them.
Eventually, Christ caught this man in His arms of love and salvation.
When he shared his testimony about coming out of witchcraft and
demon-worship, he explained why certain Christians were glowing
brightly with light and others were barely glowing at all. He testified
that the light-filled believers were those filled with God’s Word! The
dim ones were Christians who had only a little bit of God’s Word in
their heart or life.
James 2:13 tells us that “even the demons believe – and tremble!” It is
time for God’s people to more fully believe and be transformed by
the light of God’s Word! Darkness cannot smother the light when it is
bright, fully lit and being fed by the holy Scriptures.
Light and darkness, the Kingdom of God and Satan’s chaotic realm, are
totally antagonistic to each other. They are in total conflict with each
other – and hell knows it has already lost the war! The darkness will
never be able to eliminate the light!
As ambassadors of Christ and His Kingdom, let us be filled with the
light of His Word – and with Jesus Christ, the Word incarnate, the
Light of the world.
To Break – And Build
“Is not My word . . . like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”
There is tremendous power in the Word of God. This power is not in
cleverly devised words (2 Peter 2:16; 1 Thess 1:5; 1 Cor 1:17-25).
“For the kingdom of God is not in word [the words of men] but in
power” (1 Cor 4:20). The power of the Word is the power of the One
Who spoke it, and Who backs up every “jot and tittle” of it with His
God describes His own Word as a hammer. A hammer is used for two
basic purposes: to break and to build. Let’s look at these two functions
of the hammer of God’s Word.
To Shatter The Strongholds
God’s heart toward all mankind is always to save, to heal, to reconcile
us to Himself. He draws us to Himself with “cords of love”.
But sometimes more harsh measures are called for when His
reasonable and righteous commands are ignored or rejected. His
written Word, just like the incarnate Word Jesus Christ, aggressively
pursues, overcomes and conquers demonic strongholds. God sent His
Son and His Word to destroy the works of darkness (1 John 3:8) – to
shatter the strongholds!
Like a hammer, the Word breaks through the…
Of Human Hearts
Many indeed have made their hearts a stronghold of the enemy. They
harden their resistance to God’s Word of grace…and of warning.
King Manasseh hardened his heart – and became one of the most evil
rulers of Judah. 1 Chronicles 33:1-16 and 2 Kings 21 tell us he built
temples to heathen idols, worshipped the stars of heaven and practiced
witchcraft. Not only did he do this himself, but he “seduced Judah and
all the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom
the Lord destroyed before the children of Israel” (1 Chron 33:9).
The Lord warned Manasseh and the people about this behavior, but
they would not listen (33:10). God sent His Word through His
prophets, but they ignored the Word He sent. Therefore, God stirred up
the Assyrian army to visit judgment upon Manasseh and Judah. The
Assyrians conquered the land and put hooks in Manasseh’s nose,
bound him with chains, and took him captive to Assyria.
God tried to deal with Manasseh through His Word, but Manasseh
hardened his heart against God’s warnings. God then sent a stronger,
more irresistible “word” in the form of judgment carried out by a
foreign invader. This was effective in getting Manasseh’s attention, for
we read that Manasseh genuinely repented, and God received him
back (2 Chron 33:12-13).
Manasseh further showed that his repentance was genuine by the
action he took – he cleansed the land of idols and foreign gods.
Proverbs 21:1 says “the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; like
rivers of water He turns it wherever He wishes.” God does not want to
deal harshly with us. He wants us to choose to do what is right in His
Yet for our own good and the good of others, He will deal with us in
whatever way necessary to bring us to righteousness. It is always
best to keep our hearts yielded and soft — willing to respond to His
The Word breaks the power of the…
Satan, who hardened his heart before the
world was made, hurls curses at humanity –
especially God’s people. Proverbs 26:2 tells
us “a curse without cause shall not alight.” In
other words, God will not allow a curse to
attach itself to us, unless we have opened a
door through sinful behavior or received a
curse by believing lies.
This principle is illustrated in Numbers 22-25. The prophet Balaam is
employed by a Moabite king to curse Israel, so that the Moabites could
defeat Israel in battle.
But try as he might, Balaam could not work his way past the Word of
the Lord to him that he was NOT to curse Israel. Eventually, God sent
an angel to intercept Balaam. As a prophet, Balaam should have seen
the angel, but was blinded by his own greed. The Lord went so far as
to speak to Balaam through his donkey (22:28); and Balaam finally
God then used Balaam to bring blessing on the children of Israel! A
plan for cursing a nation was turned to blessing by the power of the
Word of the Lord (see Deuteronomy 23:5).
Christians need not fear those who would try and use demonic power
to curse them. For “greater is He that is within you, than he [satan]
that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Christ actually stripped away all of
hell’s power and authority at the cross (see Colossians 2:15).
The Word also assures us that there is no name more powerful than the
Name of Jesus. For God has “given Him the name which is above
every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those
in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that
every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of the
Father” (Phil 2:9,10).
There is no curse or demon power that can stand against the power of
the Word of God and the Name of Jesus!
No power can stand, not even the…
Of False Doctrines
“The Spirit [of God] expressly says,” Paul warned his young disciple
Timothy, “that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving
heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Tim 4:1). A
quick survey of the seven churches mentioned in the Book of
Revelation shows how three of them were destructively influenced by
These unbiblical doctrines were destroying the churches. Christ’s word
to them was “Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight
against them with the sword of My mouth” (Rev 2:16). This “sword” is
none other than the Word of God (Heb 4:12; Eph 6:17). The only thing
that can expose and destroy deception and lies is the truth. And the
only place to find THE truth is in God’s Word.
Jesus also tells us that “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set
you free” (John 8:32); and “I [Jesus] am the way, the truth, and the
life…” (John 14:6). The Truth is Jesus Christ Himself, and what He
has done and is doing for us as revealed in the Word of God! The
better we know Jesus and His Word, the less likely we are to be
deceived by lies.
Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44) and never tells us the truth. He
seeks constantly to ensnare people, even leaders, in his lies. But how
can we easily know the difference between the truth and demonic
In many countries, bank clerks are taught to identify counterfeit money
by spending hours and hours handling real money. They count and
touch genuine bills over and over again. In time, they become so
familiar with the characteristics and feel of real money that they can
easily detect counterfeit bills by just a quick look or touch.
This same principle works for the Christian. If one regularly and
consistently “handles the truth” of the Word of God, it becomes easier
and easier to identify the lies of Satan and doctrines of demons. The
more familiar we become with the truth of the Bible, the less likely we
are to be deceived!
We must know the Scriptures! The Word of God is a hammer, a
weapon given to us by the Lord to break the power of deception!
Thank the Lord for His Truth! “For though we walk in the flesh, we do
not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not
of the flesh, but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting
down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the
knowledge of God” (2 Cor 10:3-5a).
How easily the Word of God, full of His immeasurable wisdom,
Of Human Reason
Man’s mind builds up lofty intellectual arguments against the truth of
the Gospel. The people of the Corinthian church were all too familiar
with endless philosophical debates. Such discussions were common
among the Greeks. Paul addresses this when he writes, “Where is the
wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not
God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Cor 1:20).
Paul, one of the great thinkers of his time, declares with all his heart,
“I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ
and Him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). This means that if any doctrine or
argument is not firmly rooted and established in the Cross of Christ, it
will lead one astray, and is not worth wasting time on.
The call of the New Testament worker is to uncover sin and to reveal
Jesus Christ as Savior. Thus, we must always lift up Christ and Him
crucified in our preaching and teaching. We should avoid the clever
arguments of men, or useless, flowery words.
We should follow Jesus’ example in our teaching, speaking and
counseling. He consistently answered the questions, arguments and
verbal traps of the Pharisees and others with the Word of God. His
answers were simple and direct – and contained nothing but the truth!
It is the Truth that sets people free from intellectual and spiritual
And nothing but that truth can smash the…
Of The World System
The New Testament uses several Greek words for world. The most
significant is the Greek word kosmos. Its original and most basic
meaning is “order” or “arrangement”.
When used in the New Testament, kosmos represents our human
society as a system that is distorted by sin and subject to
uncontrolled desires and passions. This “world system” is influenced
greatly by the demonic (Eph 6:12) and is controlled by Satan (1 John
5:19). This warped system operates on basic principles that are not
from God ( Col 2:20; 1 John 2:15-17).
This world system can appear cultured, wise, powerful, even outwardly
moral at times. Yet all the unsaved who live in it are thoroughly evil
and separated from God. The world system is hostile both to God
and to those who have aligned themselves with Him (John 17:14; 1
Cor 2;12). This present kosmos is going to be done away with and is
even now disintegrating (1 John 2:17; 1 Cor 7:31).
In contrast, Jesus says “My kingdom is NOT of this world” (John
18:36). The world system constitutes a dark kingdom; but believers in
Jesus Christ – “the true Light” (John 1:9) — have been delivered from
this dark kingdom (Col 1:13,14). However, Christians must still live
their earthly lives on this planet.
This presents Christians with a dilemma: How do we live in this world
system, yet not be of this world system?
This is a big question, and the complete answer could fill volumes of
books. But to put it simply: the “hammer” of the Word of God is our
best protection against the influence of the world system. The truth
and promises contained in the Bible are a protection to us; they help us
to know how to live according to God’s order and not the world’s.
God’s Word tells us that a committed disciple is to “no longer live the
rest of his time for the lusts of men [evil human desires], but rather for
the will of God” (1 Pet 4:2).
Though we must live on this sin-warped planet in the society of
mankind, we are to do so in a special way. We are to have values,
marriages, relationships, business practices, and lifestyles that are
distinctly Christian. We must be constantly on our guard to not
unthinkingly adopt the attitudes, values and practices of the culture we
This can be done by applying the hammer of the Word of God to our
thoughts, “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of
Christ” (2 Cor 10:5). We need to present ourselves daily to God, and
be renewed and transformed in our whole being (Rom 12:1-2). We
must subject every thought, desire and attitude to the scrutiny and
washing of God’s Word on a regular basis.
His Word is able to break through the lies and mind-numbing
deceptions of this world. The Bible enables us to keep our hearts and
minds pure and undefiled, keeping ourselves “unspotted from the
world” (James 1:27).
The Word of God keeps us spiritually healthy. And it can even break
the chains of…
Forged by Sin and Satan
The Word of God is powerful! The Scriptures have a strength and
restoring power found in no other writings. However, they are not
“magical”. Believers in Jesus should not use the Word of God for
mystical chants, as some religions do with their sayings.
But when we confess and declare the truth of God’s Word with faith,
God’s power is loosed in our lives and into the lives of others.
There was a young man who was in a coma after a serious car
accident. The doctors gave him no hope of recovery, and could find no
brain activity with their instruments.
But his mother was a godly woman; she believed in the living power of
God’s Word. She would go daily to her unsaved son’s bedside and
read out loud from the Bible and pray over her son.
One day, after many months, her son suddenly awoke from his coma.
She could hear him speaking, at first weakly, then stronger and
stronger. To her amazement, he was quoting the Scriptures!
He told her later that all he could remember were words from the Bible
going round and round in his mind, calling to him, drawing him back
This godly woman’s son is now recovered and serving the Lord!
Psalm 107:20 declares: “He [the Lord] sent His Word and healed
them, and delivered them from their destructions.” Our adversary, the
devil, who “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may
devour,” seeks to put sickness, disease and calamity upon people.
But God’s Word and will are greater than Satan’s strategies! God’s
Word assures us that it is the Lord’s desire for us to be healed. He
reveals His nature to us by His very name Jehovah-Rapha, “the Lord
our Healer” (Exodus 15:26). He prophesied that we would have
healing provided for us by what Jesus did on the Cross (Isaiah 53:4-5).
And the Holy Spirit reaffirms to us that healing was released in
Christ’s atonement (1 Peter 2:24).
Thank God He “sends His Word to heal us,” and that He has sent the
“Word made flesh”, Jesus Christ, to be our Healer!
Jesus said that upon the bedrock of Peter’s confession (that Jesus is
the Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah) He would BUILD His Church
Paul declared that he laid a foundation in the Corinthian church, and
“no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is
Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:10-11). Paul goes on to say (vs. 10, 12) that
we will all build on that one foundation with a variety of materials.
Some will build with cheap, substandard material. Others will build
with durable, high-quality material. What is the difference between the
We need to know that how well we build and what we build with will
be judged by fire (1 Cor 3:13). It will be judged by the Word of God
and the incarnate Word of God, Christ Himself.
The appeal of its appearance, the cleverness of how it is put together,
and the wisdom of men will not be the standard of judgment. Our
works and lives will be judged with a righteous judgment based upon
God’s standard, not mankind’s.
The Holy Spirit affirms that, with Christ as the Church’s chief
cornerstone, the Church is built upon the “foundation of the apostles
and prophets” and “the whole building, being fitted together, grows
into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built
together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Eph 2:20-22). The
New Testament church understood this: “And they continued
steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine [teaching] and fellowship, the
breaking of bread and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).
Certainly, the “foundation” in Ephesians 2:20 could not mean the
apostles or prophets themselves; even though they were great saints,
they were still men with finite lives. Nor could it mean the ministry of
those apostles, for their ministries ended with the ending of their lives.
The only reasonable interpretation, in light of Acts 2:42, is that the
foundation was the teaching and doctrines given by the Holy Spirit
These teachings are preserved for us today in the New Testament, the
Word of God.
Peter affirms that the apostles’ doctrines and prophetic utterances did
not belong to them, but were given by God: “knowing this first, that
no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy
never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were
moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20, 21).
Paul, too, affirms this when by the Holy Spirit he states, “All Scripture
is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for
reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man
of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work”
(2 Tim 3:16-17).
It becomes very clear, then, that regardless of our gifts, or calling, or
ministry expression, we can build Christ’s Church with one thing
only: God’s holy Word as found in the Scriptures. And this we must
do under the anointing power of the Holy Spirit in obedience to the
Lordship of Christ.
Scripture, and Scripture alone, is our only totally reliable guide to
doctrine, practice and lifestyle.
Built In Us
The Lord also uses His Word to build us up in a very personal way.
Eliakim , a high priest in Israel, was said to be “like a peg driven in a
secure place” (Isa 22:23). Eliakim was a foretype of Christ. This
passage reveals a foreshadowing of the role that Christ fulfilled, in
Whom the hopes of mankind for salvation and a restored relationship
with the Creator would be realized.
As we walk in this intimate relationship with God, He works in us to
restore us to the image of Christ, Whose image we were originally
created in (Gen 1:26). To do this God uses the Scriptures, quickened
and ignited by the Holy Spirit, to shape our hearts and lives.
We humans have such difficulty retaining the “shape” we were
designed for. This is where we need the “hammer” of God’s Word to
drive the peg of His Word deeply into a secure place in our hearts and
lives. Jesus desires to fasten His Word permanently into our
hearts. He helps give us strong convictions through His Word, so that
whatever happens we can be secured and established by His Word.
But a house is not built with one “nail”; and so we must constantly
study, meditate on and memorize the Word of God. With daily
exposure and application of Scripture – “line upon line, precept upon
precept, here a little, there a little” (Is. 28:10) – we are built up in
Nourishing The Spirit
“I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary
food” (Job 23:12).
“Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the
joy and rejoicing of my heart” (Jer 15:16).
Scripture is full of a variety of foods that are symbols for the Word of
God. Food makes an excellent allegory – not only for the Scriptures
themselves, but also for what God’s Word does in us and for us. As
food is to the body, so Scripture is to the spirit of man.
A balanced, nutritious, daily intake of food helps us grow in healthy
ways. It also fortifies the body against sickness, disease and
weakness. Food aids in the proper development of tissues and organs
– such as our eyes, so we can have good vision. Balanced nutrition
promotes the growth and proper function of each part of the body.
A lack of proper foods, on the other hand, can have long-term effects
on us besides just hunger.
There are many places in our world today where healthy food in
plentiful quantities is not available. And even in some countries where
there is enough food, people may refuse to eat the foods that would be
best for them. Instead, they substitute poor-quality food that can have a
negative effect on their health and well-being.
Can you see the parallels between food and the Scripture? It is no
mistake or coincidence that the Holy Spirit chose certain types of food
and drink to illustrate practical principles of applying the Scripture in
daily life. As food nourishes the body, so the Word of God
nourishes the spirit…
Let’s look at four of these as outlined in the Scripture:
Pure and Unadulterated
“As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word that you may
grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2).
The Holy Spirit is showing us some precious truths in this verse. To
see this verse more clearly we must first look at its setting in the
The Holy Spirit, through Peter, is reminding the new believers that
they have been purchased with the priceless blood of Christ, and
therefore should live a holy lifestyle (1:13-21). Then Peter rejoices
with them over the fact that they have been living such a lifestyle –
purifying themselves since the “seed” of God’s Word, activated by the
Holy Spirit, has birthed them into the kingdom of God (1:22-23). He
goes on to remind them that God’s Word is eternal, unlike human flesh
that is so temporary. And this eternal Word is the word they have
Then the Holy Spirit starts the next chapter with an important word,
“Therefore”. Whenever you see that word in the Bible, pay close
attention because the Holy Spirit is linking together some important
truths. In this passage (1 Peter 2:1) it means, “Therefore [since all that
was in the previous verses – that we have received new life – is true]
now lay aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and all evil
speaking. . .” This verse commands us to strip off all the old way of
life. This is not an option, but rather a divine expectation upon us.
Thank God He gives us His Word and His Spirit to help us!
In the middle of this exhortation we are told to desire the pure milk of
the Word as newborn babes. What is the Holy Spirit trying to help us
understand here? Simply this: that there are two kinds of “milk” with
which we can be fed, and they come from two radically different
sources: the world and the Word. The world’s “milk” is characterized
in 2:1 as “malicious, deceitful, hypocritical, filled with envy and evil
speech.” The milk of God’s Word is “pure”. The Greek word used for
“pure” means “unadulterated.” This tells us that God’s Word is
guileless, it has no hidden motives or false promises, like so many
human teachings or ideas. Its only purpose is nourishing the soul.
Appetite For The Word
Two very important principles emerge from a careful study of 1 Peter
First, we are exhorted to earnestly long for God’s Word.
In the physical realm, if we are hungry we can eat food that is good for
us or food that is bad for us. If we eat good food we are nourished and
strengthened. If we eat bad food with no nutritional value, not only do
we not receive health from it, but we also lose our desire for good food
because we are feeling full.
In the spiritual realm it is also true that sin in the life destroys the
appetite for the Word of God. If we are full of the world’s “milk” it
will severely reduce our desire for the “pure milk” of the Word. The
Christian who tries to find satisfaction in the “husks” of the world has
no appetite left for the things of God. A spiritually healthy Christian
is a spiritually hungry Christian. God will always respond to
spiritual hunger in the human heart (Matt 5:6). And He wants us to be
filled and have a healthy hunger for only His Word. This is true
whether you are a “newborn babe” in Christ or you are a
“grandfather” in the things of God!
Second, a daily feasting in the Word of God is an absolutely essential
part of growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The final phrase of 2:2 is “that you may grow thereby.” The Greek
words used in this phrase are very expressive and actually say,
“resulting in your making progress in your salvation”. Peter is
addressing those who are new Christians, and helping them understand
that the Word of God is spiritual food. He is also showing us that
growth is an expected and desirable part of normal Christian
Our physical bodies do quit growing at a certain point. However,
our spiritual growth should continue throughout our stay on earth.
In fact, other scriptures seem to indicate that we will continue to
grow even in eternity! It would be safe to say that we are not human
beings having a temporary spiritual experience, but we are spiritual
beings going through a temporary human experience!
Growing Spiritual Teeth
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone
to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you
have come to need milk and not solid meat. For everyone who
partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he
is a babe. But solid meat belongs to those who are of full age, that is,
they have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb
As we take a closer look at this passage, several principles of growth
begin to emerge.
These verses clearly demonstrate the possibility and necessity of
personal spiritual growth. God does not want us to remain mere
“babes” in our walk with Him, but to be maturing, growing, learning
sons and daughters of the King. In verse 13 we are told that
“everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of
righteousness, for he is a babe.” This refers to those whose diet is
only milk. Adults do drink milk, but it is not their exclusive diet.
What this means is that a maturing Christian will always have and
appreciate the basic foundational truths – the milk – of his faith (for
instance, “We are saved by grace through faith”). But a maturing
Christian will grow spiritual “teeth” (understanding) in order to
absorb and use stronger teaching – the meat of his faith. (For further
study look up 1 Corinthians 14:20, Ephesians 4:14-15, Philippians
3:12-15, Colossians 2:6-7, 2 Peter 1:2-11.)
Nothing in life ever remains the same – it is either growing, or it is
going backwards, breaking down. This is also true of our spiritual
lives: we are growing or we are going backwards – regressing
instead of progressing. The people to whom the epistles were written
had stopped growing.
The writer of Hebrews rebukes them, telling them they had become
“dull of hearing” (vs. 11) and needed to be taught the simplest, most
basic things all over again (vs. 12).
Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthian church, makes a similar point:
“And I brethren could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to
carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you milk and not with solid food;
for until now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where
there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal
and behaving like mere men?” (1 Cor. 3:1-3). Here we see that the sin
of disunity, caused by attitudes of envy, competition and fleshly pride,
was inhibiting proper growth.
The word “babe” in both the Hebrew and Corinthian passages is not
the Greek word for either “child” or “new convert”, but rather means
You can be 40 years old in the faith, yet still be immature – a “babe”
But if God wants us to grow spiritually, why are so many people
immature in their spiritual life?
The Greek used in Hebrews 5:12-14 indicates that the Christians this
letter was written to had been at one time maturing believers; but now
they were in a settled state of spiritual sluggishness.
In verse 11 the writer tells them they are “dull of hearing”. The word
for “dull” in Greek means slow or sluggish. The same word was used
to describe the numb limbs of a sick animal. The Holy Spirit is telling
us that spiritual sloth (or laziness) in HEARING results in a lack of
spiritual GROWTH. It is important to know, however, that this
“dullness” in hearing has nothing to do with how intelligent we are or
how educated we are. It does have to do with how yielded we are to
the Holy Spirit and how willing we are to pursue personal spiritual
growth with all of our hearts.
In speaking of how we hear the Word of God, Jesus warns us to “Take
heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be
measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. For to
him who has, more will be given; but whoever does not have, even
what he has will be taken from him” (Mark 4:24-25).
Jesus is pointing out the importance of spiritual perception. Those
who receive and apply the truth will have their capacity for
understanding increased and their knowledge expanded. Those who
disbelieve, or who are indifferent or careless with the truth, will
lose whatever ability for understanding they had. Therefore they
will not only continue to be ignorant – they will get worse.
This illustrates what was happening to the recipients of the letter to the
Hebrews. These Christians were willfully refusing to grow. Their
“dullness” was a result of gradual and willful neglect of their walk with
God – especially spending time in God’s Word regularly and daily
prayer. But there is another principle of growth in this passage.
In Hebrews 5:14 we are shown that “strong meat” (i.e. solid food) is
for those who are truly maturing (“of full age”).
How have they reached maturity?
There are several factors, but a very important one is given in the same
verse. It refers to “those who by reason of use have their senses
exercised to discern both good and evil.”
Physical exercise is a necessary part of being healthy in our bodies.
This is also an allegory (picture or type) of a spiritual principle. As
Paul tells Timothy, his young disciple, “For bodily exercise profits a
little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the
life that now is and the one to come” (1 Tim 4:8). This “godliness”
Paul speaks of is what the writer of Hebrews refers to when he uses the
phrase “by reason of use”. It means that our spiritual senses can be
trained (“exercised”) by practiced habit of constant usage, so that
they are strong and sharp. The Greek word for “exercise” is the word
for “gymnastics,” and points to a condition produced by consistent
training. The same word is also used for practicing an art or
Let me illustrate this point.
Let’s pretend I was a trained engineer who understood all about the
physics, geometry and engineering needed to build things. Suppose
you came to me and asked me to build a bridge for you, so that your
town would prosper and grow. If I did not know how to practically
apply my education, what good would my knowledge be?! You, along
with your whole town, would be very disappointed.
The same is true in a spiritual dimension.
We must have our “senses” (faculties of perception) sharpened so that
we can distinguish between right and wrong doctrine and holy or
unholy conduct. The first place we can and should make practical
application of the Word of God is to ourselves. It is a sad truth that as
leaders we are very perceptive and discerning about others, but are
blind to our own shortcomings. Often we excuse, justify and
rationalize behavior and attitudes in ourselves that we would not
tolerate in the people we are shepherding. This kind of behavior leads
to the “dullness of hearing” mentioned earlier. When we are quick to
apply the Word to our own lives and live accordingly, there will be a
corresponding release of a greater anointing to minister to others.
The Word That Feeds Us
“…Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds
from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4).
Jesus is quoting a statement declared by God through Moses in
Deuteronomy 8:3. Bread had a central place in the Hebrew culture and
the Old Testament. A thorough study of this is beyond the scope of this
article. However, one important image or type as illustrated in the Old
Testament would be interesting to note.
The stories, events and prophecies of the Old Testament were written
as examples and a source of illumination for us concerning spiritual
principles for powerful and practical holy living. We discussed this
earlier in this article – see I Corinthians 10:1-11. The Old Testament
gives us many “foretypes” or symbols of New Testament realities.
In Exodus 25:23-30, God is instructing Moses on the building of
furnishings for the tabernacle, specifically the table of showbread.
This bread, baked fresh every week, was to be placed before the Lord
every Sabbath. There were twelve loaves representing the twelve
tribes of Israel.
This showbread is also a foretype of Christ Himself as the Bread of
Life (John 6:48).
It is also a symbol for the Word of God that feeds us and gives us
nourishment and strength.
This bread was unleavened, and as Leviticus 24:5-9 tells us, it was
made of fine (or pure) flour. The bread was unmixed with anything
else, and was considered “most holy” (vs. 9). Pure frankincense was
put on this bread, which was to be eaten only by Aaron the High Priest
and his sons. The showbread was to be placed every Sabbath “on the
table before Me always” (Exo 25:30).
Fine, Pure Flour
Here we see a rich symbolism that teaches and instructs us about the
place and priority the Word of God should occupy in our lives. The
following is just a brief overview of some important lessons we can
learn from the showbread.
First, the showbread, as mentioned above, is a type or symbol
representing the Word of God. It was made of fine, pure flour,
showing us that the Scriptures are pure and undefiled: They are not
mixed with the opinions of men, but are God’s holy and righteous
words. When we teach or preach from God’s holy words – the Bible –
we must make sure we are not mixing with them our own opinions and
We must be certain that we are following the scriptural admonition,
“rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:4). We must be accurate
and clear when we teach God’s Word, making it easy for others to
understand the truth. “Dividing” the word of truth does not mean
separating the Scriptures into parts; but it means rightly discerning its
truth and communicating both the actual Word and the spirit of the
Word. Let us make sure to study intensely enough to thoroughly
understand, and then communicate only what God would give to the
Second, mixed with the showbread was a generous portion of pure
frankincense. In both the Old Testament and New Testament, incense
was a symbol of prayer and worship sacrificially given to God. We
should add a generous portion of conversation with God (prayer) and
humble adoration (worship) as we partake of the bread of His Word.
A Life-Changing Experience
We should study God’s Word because it does so much for us; but,
more importantly, His Word reveals the character and nature of
Jesus to our hearts. Those moments when the Holy Spirit reveals
something of the nature, life or heart of Christ to us are life-changing
In Luke 24:35, the two disciples who had unknowingly walked with
Jesus on the road to Emmaus had a life-changing experience. As they
reported to the other disciples, “He was made known to them in the
breaking of the bread”! Their hearts were changed from
discouragement, fear and hopelessness to joy and great hope.
As we “break the bread” of God’s Word by reading and meditating
upon it, we must receive it into our spirit, not just our mind. This can
happen when we pray and ask the Spirit of God to breathe life in and
through the printed word on the pages of our Bibles.
God wants our minds filled with His Word; but He also wants His
Word to penetrate the deepest part of our beings. This will lead to us
“being transformed into the same image from glory to glory just as by
the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor 3:18).
Third, as Christians we have entered the “Sabbath rest” (Hebrews 4) of
daily intimate relationship with God through what the Lord of the
Sabbath, Jesus Christ, has done for us on the cross.
This salvation is by grace through faith, not by works (Eph 2:8-9).
Therefore we need not come to God only once per week through ritual
and ceremony. Instead, we can daily approach the Lord, the Bread of
Life (John 6:48), by coming simply and humbly to Him through His
To read and meditate on His great promises when we are troubled in
our soul, to be assured of His faithfulness by His Word when it seems
that our whole life is crumbling – this is what His Word, and only His
Word, can supply. The Bible is there to guide us into His Sabbath
rest of salvation and freedom from bondage.
A Most Holy Place
Fourth, Aaron and his sons in Leviticus 24 are instructed to eat the
showbread “in a holy place; for it is most holy to him from the
offerings of the Lord made by fire” (vs. 9).
This means we are to approach our daily times in the Scriptures with
deep respect and a true reverence for the Lord and His Word. We are
not permitted to add or subtract from His Word, nor to twist it and use
it for our selfish purposes (Rev 22:18-19).
But there is another lesson here.
God commands Aaron and his sons in Leviticus 24:9 to “eat it [the
showbread] in a most holy place.”
We as leaders can easily become too busy, or so “burned out” and tired
that we can forget some simple basics of keeping ourselves fed
spiritually. Although we can read the Word and have fellowship with
God anytime or anywhere, a scattered and unplanned kind of “quiet
time” with God doesn’t usually work for most of us.
May I make some suggestions?
First, find one place you can go most of the time to be alone with
God and His Word. Second, go at a time when you are alert, awake
and at your mental best. Third, do not let work or the demands of
people interfere with your “holy time” with God. There will always be
exceptions, times when you cannot have this daily communion; but if
they become too frequent, something is wrong. Either the devil is
interfering to keep you from God and His Word, or you are not
enforcing proper priorities in your life. Do not miss a single
opportunity for being with God in His Word and prayer – for that is
usually the time we need it the most.
“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my
mouth!” (Ps. 119:103).
There are several places in Scripture where the Word of God is
described as honey. In Ezekiel 3:1-3, the prophet is commanded to eat
a scroll. On this scroll is the word of the Lord to the nation of Israel.
Before the prophet can deliver the Lord’s message, he must first take it
into his own heart and fully “digest” it.
This should also be our practice as preachers and teachers of God’s
Word. His Word must be put into our minds, hearts and lifestyle before
God can fully bless and anoint the Word we deliver to others. God’s
Word was sweet to Ezekiel’s taste because he received the Word
We see a similar symbolic action and description of God’s Word in
Revelation 10:9-10. In this verse John also is commanded to eat the
“little book” containing God’s Word. Again, the Word is sweet as
honey as the message saturates the personality of the proclaimer. But
this time there is a difference: the sweet message of God’s grace, love
and mercy turns bitter in John’s stomach (vs. 10). This bitterness is
symbolic: though the revelation of God’s divine love is sweet, if it is
rejected it brings inevitable judgment. John is experiencing the
“bitterness” of the divine judgment about to come on the people who
have rejected God’s offer of salvation through Jesus Christ.
But the Word of God is sweet – sweeter than anything or any
experience we can have.
Honey was a rare and valuable substance in Bible days. It was
acceptable as a gift to royalty, and as a tithe or first-fruit offering to
God. It was also the sweetest known substance to the Hebrews,
sweeter than any fruit. Yet the writer of Psalms declares God’s Word
to be sweeter still!
…Sweeter Than Honey
So much more could be said, and has been said, regarding the Word of
God. The symbols of Scripture used by the Holy Spirit to describe the
Bible help us to understand its awesome power, its matchless beauty
and its incredible worth.
But one of the best things that can be said about it comes from the holy
“The law of the Lord is perfect,
restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
The statutes of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
The fear of the Lord is clean,
The judgments of the Lord are true
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Moreover by them Your servant is warned,
And in keeping them there is great reward.”