For the word of God is alive 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. - Hebrews 4:12
This verse has seemed EXTREMELY accurate recently. It seems that every piece of scripture or reflection that I read applies exactly to what is on my heart. Every little thing pierces me personally and makes me pause to consider all that I’m doing.
So many people see the Bible, the word of God, as something that is old, written thousands of years ago, and has nothing to do with them. BUT this verse here tells us that it is ALIVE and ACTIVE.
Why does this verse feel so poignant to me? Part of it probably has to do with the fact that I am well aware of the sharpness of swords. I grew up in a family that ran a renaissance fair and have two uncles who were a part of a group of medieval battle reenactors. At our family Christmases, multiple times, swords or daggers were exchanged as gifts. (Example below: Me opening this beauty in our white elephant exchange one year. Yes, it is a real knife!)
So when the verse says that it is sharper than any double-edged sword, I have real memories to think back to of how sharp that is. But if you don’t, let me tell you a little bit about them.
First of all, sharpness is the ability for an object to be able to cut through other objects. This can be viewed through simple physics. When force is exerted over a small area, it gives more pressure on any given point than when it is exerted over a wide area because the force is evenly distributed across all of the points.
This is why when you cut things, you want the edge of the blade to be very thin. This causes all of the force you’re giving it to be centrally located on a single point. The sharpest tools are able to inflict the most pressure on a single point with the least amount of force applied. If you’re hit with something wider and duller, it may still hurt, but it’s not going to break the skin.
When it comes to double edged swords, they are not only sharp, but they are sharp on all sides. They have the two edges, the two sides of the sword, but that sword also comes to a point where the two edges meet.
This new shape, compared to older forms of swords, made these weapons extremely good at stabbing. This came in handy when trying to penetrate armor. Instead of all of that force along the long thin edge of the blade, it is all focused on a single point.
It might be a bit graphic to think of a sword going through someone’s armor to penetrate their flesh, but this is the power that Paul wanted to express in his letter to the Hebrews. This is how strong and sharp the word of God is. Swords were made to be sharp so that they could cut through armor, and God’s word is meant to cut through all of ours. People don’t like change. They don’t like to be told that they are wrong. That is why we put up these defenses because we’re stubborn and don’t want to hear the truth. The truth is we NEED to hear the word of God. We NEED to be struck by it. Change is hard, but we will never grow without changing. We will never know what part of us needs changing until we let the word of God in.
This means we need to open the Bible. We need to read the scripture. For this week I am giving you a simple challenge. Every week we are already handed a few passages from scripture that all fit together nicely to teach us something, the Sunday readings. I challenge you to read this Sunday’s readings BEFORE Sunday. When we walk into Mass, our heads might be somewhere else, we may not be fully paying attention. We need to listen to those readings and to pray with them. I’m encouraging you to take 15 minutes some time during the week and read these readings on your own. Think about them. What do you think God is trying to tell you through those readings? I promise that if you start doing this regularly, you’re going to get more out of it. God is going to pierce you like a double-edged sword, cutting away our misguided thoughts on the world and challenging us to change, to be better.