TODAY’S READING: JEREMIAH 1-3
“The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, to whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign.” – Jeremiah 1:1-2
“Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying…” – Jeremiah 1:4
“And the word of the Lord came to me, saying…” – Jeremiah 1:11
“The word of the Lord came to me a second time, saying…” – Jeremiah 1:13
“The word of the Lord came to me, saying…” – Jeremiah 2:1
“Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the clans of the house of Israel.” – Jeremiah 2:4
“And you, O generation, behold the word of the Lord.” – Jeremiah 2:31
In just the first two chapters of Jeremiah, the phrase “the word of the Lord” occurs seven times. In the entire book, “the word(s) of the Lord” occurs 58 times, which is the second most of any book of the Bible (Ezekiel uses the phrase 60 times). And, in the entire Bible “the word(s) of the Lord” is used 276 times, which is a curious number of uses of this phrase that I will get to by the end of this post.
Clearly, “the word of the Lord” is a significant phrase.
But, what is “the word of the Lord?”
For the vast majority of Christians, particularly western Christians, “the word of the Lord” is the Bible. Just listen to the way the average Christian talks. Or, listen to the sermons of almost any pastor or teacher at random. Almost without fail you will hear the phrase “the word of the Lord” or “the word of God” used synonymously with the Bible.
Ironically, that is not Biblical.
So, if “the word of the Lord” is not the Bible, then what is it?
Actually, the appropriate question is, who is “the word of the Lord?”
The answer is Jesus.
More specifically, the answer is Jesus Christ crucified.
John 1:1-3 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
In this passage, the vast majority of Christians understand that John is referring to Jesus as the Word, the logos. Therefore, as the Word, everything that was made was made through Jesus.
We tend to think that Jesus is the word of God that created everything is just New Testament stuff. That’s the revelation of the New Testament. But, not so fast.
Psalm 33:6 says, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.”
So, John 1:1-3 says that everything that was made was made by the word of God, Jesus. And, Psalm 33:6 says that the heavens, which are part of everything that was made, were made by the word of the Lord.
Further, Hebrews 11:3 says, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”
And, 2 Peter 3:5 says, “For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God.”
Therefore, when Psalm 33:6 says that “the word of the Lord” made the heavens, I believe that indicates that Jesus is “the word of the Lord” in the Old Testament.
There is a second way to identify “the word of the Lord” as Jesus Christ crucified. Of the 276 uses of the phrase, 78 of them are related to hearing. Most of these 78 uses say, “Hear the word of the Lord.”
Why does the word of the Lord and its association with hearing reveal that the word of the Lord is Jesus?
In Matthew 17:5, when Jesus was transfigured in front of Peter, James, and John, “a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.'”
It’s important to note that on this mount Peter, James, and John saw Moses and Elijah with Jesus. Moses and Elijah represented the law and the prophets or the entire scriptures, the Old Testament. But, these two disappeared when God said told Peter, James, and John to listen to Jesus. In other words, Jesus, and Jesus alone, is who you are to listen. Jesus takes sole authority and priority over anything written by Moses and Elijah, the law and the prophets.
Who does God say we are to listen to?
So, when the Bible says “hear the word of the Lord,” I believe we are to understand that as “listen to Jesus.”
Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
The word of Christ, or the word of the Lord, when heard is what brings faith. Notice that Paul did not write that the scriptures or the Bible when heard brings faith. This does not negate the importance of scripture, as scripture points us to Jesus (even Jesus said so in John 5:39-40). But, the Bible does give us faith. Hearing the word of Christ, the word of the Lord, Jesus Christ crucified, is where faith comes from.
We must realize that even the specific phrase “the word of the Lord” is not isolated to the Old Testament. In fact, even the specific idea of hearing “the word of the Lord” is not just an Old Testament concept with an abstract meaning of hearing the scriptures or the Bible.
Acts 13:44-46 says, “The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, ‘It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.'”
There are some really key insights in this passage.
First, the word of the Lord is equate with the word of God. Most agree that the word of God is Jesus. Therefore, if the word of God is Jesus, then so is the word of the Lord.
Second, Paul and Barnabas said the word of God was spoken. This ties it into the word of the Lord because that’s what the whole city came to hear. The word of the Lord and the word of God are something that is spoken, implying that the word of the Lord, the word of God, is alive rather than written and therefore dead.
Therefore, Paul said in 2 Corinthians 3:3-6, “And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
The letters written on stones kill. But, the Spirit “writes” on the heart, which brings life. How does the Spirit “write” on our heart? By actively, presently, continuously, speaking the word of the Lord to us.
This is what Hebrews 4:12-13 means when it says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
Take note that in these two verses that “his” and “him” refer back to the word of God. The word of God, and therefore the word of the Lord, since Acts 13:44-46 equates them, is a person. And, that person is Jesus Christ crucified.
Back to Acts 13:44-46, a third insight is that the word of the Lord is very specifically Jesus Christ crucified. Had Paul and Barnabas merely been talking about the scriptures, the Jews would have had no problem. However, the Jews contradicted Paul and Barnabas because they were preaching a messiah that was crucified. A crucified messiah was not what the Jews believed their scriptures prophesied. They were waiting for a king that would conquer in war like the kings of the earth. Further, the Jews contradicted Paul and Barnabas because they were preaching a crucified messiah, Jesus Christ, that came to save not just the Jews only but also the Gentiles.
What was the response of these Gentiles to the preaching of the word of the Lord by Paul and Barnabas?
Acts 13:48-49 says, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.”
The Gentiles glorified “the word of the Lord.” This is not the Bible. For starters, the Bible did not even exist at this time. Secondly, in all likelihood, none of these Gentiles would have ever seen or heard the Jewish scriptures. They heard Paul and Barnabas preach “the word of the Lord,” Jesus Christ crucified, and they glorified “the word of the Lord,” Jesus Christ crucified.
Also, “the word of the Lord” spread throughout the region. The Bible does not spread. To say that “the word of the Lord” spread throughout the region means that there more who believed the message of Jesus Christ crucified. Therefore, the church was growing. And, the church is the body of Christ. Therefore, Jesus was spreading throughout the whole region.
Now, back to the 276 occurrences in the Bible of the phrase “the word(s) of the Lord.” This is indeed a curious phenomenon.
John 2:18-21 says, “So the Jews said to him, ‘What sign do you show us for doing these things?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It has taken forty six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking about the temple of his body.”
It took 46 years to build the temple that existed at the time of Jesus. This was the temple of Herod that replaced the temple of Solomon. This is the only time the number 46 is used in the Bible. So, we can clearly associate the number 46 with the temple of Herod.
It is commonly accepted that the number 6 symbolizes man.
What is 46 times 6?
Paul was being transported by ship to Rome for a trial in front of Caesar. Acts 27:37 paranthetically says, “We were in all 276 persons in the ship.” It seems a rather odd and strange detail to include in the story. During the voyage, all 276 persons were shipwrecked. Yet, Acts 27:44 says, “And so it was that all were brought safely to land.” All 276 persons aboard the ship were saved.
The number 276 is 46 times 6. Therefore, we could think of 276 as the temple of man.
But, all 276 passengers on the ship were saved.
What saved all 276 passengers?
“The word of Lord.”
Or, is it just a coincidence that “the word(s) of the Lord” is used 276 times in the Bible?
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:19, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
When Jesus said he would raise the temple in three days he was speaking of his body. When we hear the word of the Lord, Jesus Christ crucified, we are saved, becoming part of the body of Christ that was raised on the third day.
We hear the word of the Lord because our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts and “writes,” or speaks the word of the Lord directly to our hearts. Again, this is what Paul was saying 2 Corinthians 3. Paul even said this was a new covenant.
What is this new covenant?
Hebrews 10:15-18 says, “And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,’ then he adds, ‘I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’ Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.”
Not coincidentally, this passage from Hebrews is quoting Jeremiah 31:33. And Jeremiah is the book with the second most occurrences of “the word of the Lord.”
Here again we see “the word of the Lord” is Jesus Christ crucified.
For, what is the promise of the new covenant?
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
What did Jesus say as he was being crucified?
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Yes, Jesus is the word of the Lord.