Now the point of today’s text (Hebrews 4:12–13) is to help us do that by telling us about this Word. Be diligent, verse 11 says, because (verse 12 says) the Word of God is . . . And then it tells us about this Word.
So let’s read again what it says about this Word. Verse 12:
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Now I am tempted to take every word here and probe into why it is used. Like, why mention joints and bone marrow? And what’s the difference between spirit and soul? And what precisely is the difference between thoughts and intentions? And do the words “living and active” perhaps correspond to any of these other pairs: spirit-soul, joints-marrow, thoughts-intentions? Is the “heart” (mentioned at the end of the verse) different from the soul and spirit? And so on. These are good questions and they are worth meditating on for hours.
But this morning I don’t want to lose the forest for the trees. I wonder if we couldn’t all agree on this much from verse 12: one of the functions of the Word of God when it comes into us is that it penetrates very deep—like a sword through tough, hard layers—and makes judgments about what’s there.
The word “judge” in verse 12 (“to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart”) does not mean “condemn.” It means “assess.” When we show somebody a painting and say, “What’s your judgment?” we don’t mean, “What’s your condemnation?” We mean, “What’s your assessment of the quality? Is it good or bad?” So the Word of God penetrates to the deepest place in our lives and assesses what’s there. Is it good or bad?