THE POWER OF WORDS: A FOCUSED BIBLE STUDY OF HEBREWS 11:3 & JOHN 11

Hebrews 11:3 (NASB) says, “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.”

It quickly becomes clear that God is in the business of words, for this is the medium He chose to bring “the worlds” into existence. It naturally follows that in Hebrews 12:2, the text says that Jesus is an “author.” Authors use words to create and tell stories, just as God used words as the currency to procure our reality. Unmistakably, words have tremendous power as divine legal tender—faith comes by hearing the Word, prophets call others to God through their words, priests intercede for others with words, and we profess our allegiance to the King with our words. Moreover, one of the most intimate gestures we can execute to draw near to God—prayer—requires us to use our heartfelt words. While our words in earnest prayer do not change God, prayer can change things exclusively as a function of The Lord Who hears them. To put it another way, prayer provides the raw material, through words, by which the divine can materialize natural things from spiritual supplications.

The power of words reveals that God’s words always have effects beyond the words themselves.

God is unseen and so are His words. Consequently, when a transcendent, unseen, supernatural Word pierces the veil of our seen, natural existence, the results are far from ordinary. When God said, “Let there be light” in Genesis 1:3, He did not have to specify all the peculiarities and factors in our universe that had to come into existence to produce light. He didn’t say, let there be a gigantic star with a specific mass in a specific location. He simply said, “Let there be light” and the universe obeyed. In this dynamic, reality becomes altered to accommodate His Word. One command has an innumerable number of effects and so the result is not only predictable but exponential. In contrast, I may command my two-year-old son to “Stop!” before he pulls the handle of our front door and attempts to go outside. When I issue such a command, the results are intermittently reliable and alter existing realities but do not create new ones.

The power of words reveals that God always sends His Word before He arrives.

Hebrews tells us that “the worlds were prepared by the word of God.” The language suggests that the Word comes first and then the reality. God sent His Word first in creation to prepare the Earth for the arrival of humankind. He sent His Word and the promise of a Savior in Genesis 3:15 before the arrival of the Messiah. In reference to the ailing and soon-to-be-deceased Lazarus, Jesus sent His Word to Martha and Mary that “This sickness is not to end in death” (John 11:4). This of course happened before Jesus appeared in the flesh to both women. Jesus sent His Word in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16–10) to baptize all the nations before He makes His triumphant return to the Earth.

Words make up a story. The power of words reveals that His words already finished our story.

Our theme verse tells us that “the worlds were prepared by the word.” Prepared is in the past tense, which means God used words to write the already completed story of our lives. In fact, He put His pen down before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3–6). Oftentimes, this means we can turn through the pages of the story of our life and encounter a narrative that we may not like, we may find difficult, or may persuade us to give up and put the book down. Yet, those words always stand under the authority of God, and regardless of our current story line, the Author is standing at the end of the book waiting for us to catch up. For the elect, that ending always places us into the arms of a loving God. So when Jesus sent His word to Martha and Mary that “This sickness is not to end in death” (John 11:4), the only question the two had to struggle with is what to believe—the inanimate words of their story that said, “Your brother is dead” or the word from the living Author Himself: “This sickness is not to end in death.” Placing trust in manifested reality means limitations by what is visible. Placing trust in the unseen Author means trusting in the only One who is unlimited and can proclaim new words to create fresh new possibilities.

The power of words reveals that God is more forward-focused than present-focused.

Christ said Lazarus’s sickness is not to end in death. Christ didn’t say Lazarus could not pass through death or around death, only that his sickness wouldn’t end in death. And in fact, when we read John 11, the Bible tells us that Lazarus did in fact die, but his sickness did not end in death. His corpse lay in a tomb for four days and then Jesus cried out, “Lazarus, come forth!” (John 11:43). The man who was once dead then stepped forward, was unbound, and set free. So as we see from John 11, God sent His Word, then God arrived, and then the fulfillment of that Word came to pass exactly as God said. God’s Word at the beginning of John 11 was intently focused on the end of John 11, even though the course taken to the end went through the heartache and pain of the grieving Martha and Mary. It was God’s Word that created new life where there was death, and the timeless God waited at the end of this story for all of us to catch up. So while many people in the middle of John 11 may look back to the beginning of John 11 and ponder if God’s Word is trustworthy, what they fail to realize is that His Word is also at the end of the story, ready to resurrect, ready to breathe new life, and ready to provide a miraculous breakthrough. God’s just waiting for you to keep on reading because His word at the end of story is so much more powerful when you struggle through all the words in between.

 

Dr. C. H. E. Sadaphal

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