Jesus Is the Word of the Lord

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?

Jesus.

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?

276.

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.

Hmmm…

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.

The Word of the Lord – What, or Who, Is It?

TODAY’S READING: DEUTERONOMY 5-8

“The word of the Lord.”

In Deuteronomy 5:4-5, Moses says, “The Lord spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the midst of the fire, while I stood between the Lord and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the Lord.”

This phrase occurs 276 times in the Bible. Of the 276 occurrences, “the word of the Lord” is found 262 times in the Old Testament and just 14 times in the New Testament. All but three of the New Testament uses of “the word of the Lord” are found in the book of Acts.

Of the 276 instances of “the word of the Lord,” 109 of them say “the word of the Lord came” to someone. All of these are in the Old Testament.

What is “the word of the Lord?”

Is It just the words that God spoke to a prophet? Is the word of the Lord the writings of Moses and the prophets?

Maybe a better question is – who is “the word of the Lord”?

THE WORD OF THE LORD CAME

The first time we see the phrase “the word of the Lord” is Genesis 15:1, which says, “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision.”

Abram had rescued Lot and all his people and possessions from Chedorlaomer. Then, he had an encounter with Melchizedek. It was after these things, that “the word of the Lord came” to Abram.

The word came in Hebrew is hayah. Hayah generally means to come to pass, occur, happen; to be, become, have. But, this simple word is used in many ways, sometimes with much more importance than an event simply happening or taking place.

Perhaps the most extraordinary use of hayah is that is the root word in the name of the Lord given to Moses – I Am That I Am. That alone tells us the word can take on very special meaning.

The Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament has some interesting things to say about hayah. I will quote a few of the more interesting comments.

  • “The use of hayah generally gives rise to a more fully packed and dynamic statement concerning the being of a person or a thing, a being expressed in the entity’s actions or deeds, fate, and behavior toward others.”
  • “Miracle accounts use numerous verbs of action, but hayah appears at the climax of the narrative to describe the wondrous event…In each case, the report uses hayah to describe not a simple historical process but the reality of the event that intervenes in earthly affairs and manifests the absolute power of Yahweh.”
  • “The final literary context of the theological usage of hayah to be treated is that of the covenant formula…Here hayah indicates the mutual behavior of the covenant partners in the present and the future in its active and dynamic character.”

Note how these statements give emphasis to “the word of the Lord came” in Genesis 15:1-18. When the word of the Lord came to someone it was a very special event.

So, that the word of the came to Abram is a significant event.┬áThe word of the Lord said to Abram “I am your shield.” The word of the Lord said to Abram “your very own son shall be your heir.” The word of the Lord was making promises to Abram.

After the word of the Lord finished speaking to Abram, Genesis 15:6 says, “And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” Now, “the word of the Lord” is equated with the God himself.

Genesis 15:7 says, “And he said to him, ‘I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” Now the word of the Lord says he is the Lord.

THE WORD OF THE LORD MADE A COVENANT

As the account continues, we read that it is the word of the Lord that makes a covenant with Abram. Abram brought the animals required for the covenant and cut them in half. But, Genesis 15:12 says that “a deep sleep fell on Abram.” Therefore, Abram did not participate in the actual making of the covenant. The covenant was one-sided, made and fulfilled completely by the word of the Lord.

Except that Genesis 15:18 says, “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram.” Here, it is God that made the covenant with Abram. Again, we see an equality, a oneness, between the word of the Lord and God.

The word of the Lord that came and made a one-sided covenant that he completely keeps sounds a lot like Jesus.

In Matthew 26:28, Jesus says, “For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Jesus poured out his blood to make a covenant with us for the forgiveness of sins.

In Jeremiah 31, God says this covenant that Jesus would make is not like the covenant that he made with Israel after he brought them out of Egypt. That covenant had obligations on that needed to be fulfilled by both parties. Basically, if you, Israel, keep these laws and statutes, then I, God, will bless you.

The covenant that Jesus would make would be kept completely by him. It be completed and kept by one party, not two. Jeremiah 31:33-34 says, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall me by people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more.”

Everything is done by the Lord in this covenant. But, through this covenant, all will know the Lord directly. He will be in their hearts to direct them personally.

Hebrews 13:20-21 says, “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Jesus was the word of the Lord that came to Abram to make a one-sided covenant completely fulfilled by him alone. And, Jesus is the one that comes to make a one-sided covenant with us that is completely fulfilled by him. Note that Jesus will “equip you with everything good to do his will.” It is Jesus “working in us that which is pleasing in his sight.”

THE WORD OF THE LORD IS A SHIELD

The first time the word of the Lord appears in scripture in Genesis 15:1 he says to Abram, “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield.” The word of the Lord said this to Abram after he had delivered Lot and all his people and possessions from the enemy.

David wrote Psalm 18 on the day when the Lord delivered him from all his enemies. In Psalm 18:30, David says, “This God – his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.”

“The word of the Lord proves true.” Jesus is the way. And, Jesus is the truth. But, not only that, Jesus is also our shield.

Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus is “the founder and perfecter of our faith.” How does Jesus give us this faith? Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” And, Ephesians 6:16 says that “in all circumstances take up the shield of faith.”

So, Jesus both gives and completes our faith. We receive that faith by hearing the word of Christ, that is Jesus himself. And having received faith through the word of Christ, we have the shield of faith we can use in every circumstance.

THE WORD OF THE LORD IN ACTS

The book of Acts contains some very interesting uses of the phrase “the word of the Lord.” Almost all of these show that the phrase means much more than some spoken or written words. Indeed, most of the time “the word of the Lord” in Acts is referring directly to Jesus.

In Acts 11:16, Peter says, “And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'” Peter calls the word of the Lord a he. Peter directly says that the word of the Lord is Jesus because he remembered something that Jesus, the word of the Lord, said.

Acts 13:46-49 says, “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. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”‘ 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.”

In this passage, the word of God spoken to the Jews is linked to the word of the Lord. When the Gentiles heard the word of God was being given to them as a light for salvation, the glorified the word of the Lord. The Gentiles weren’t glorifying the message that Paul and Barnabas brought. They weren’t glorifying the words Paul and Barnabas used. No, they were glorifying Jesus, the word of the Lord.

And, the word of the Lord spread through the whole region. This doesn’t mean that the actual words Paul and Barnabas spoke continued to spread. It doesn’t mean that scriptures of the Bible continued to spread. Writings and books don’t spread. No, Jesus, the word of the Lord continued to spread because each new believer expanded the territory in the earth that his body occupied.

Acts 15:35 says, “But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.” This does not mean Paul and Barnabas were teaching the scriptures. It doesn’t mean they were teaching the Bible. The Bible didn’t even exist yet. And, the Bible is not the word of God. No, they were preaching and teaching Jesus, the word of the Lord.

In 1 Corinthians 1:23, Paul says, “we preach Christ crucified.” Paul explains this further in 1 Corinthians 2:2 when he says, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

THE WORD OF THE LORD IS JESUS

In Acts 13:46-49, we saw the word of the Lord was linked to the word of God. They are one and the same.

John 1:1-2 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.” Here, the Word of God is clearly identified as a he, a person. That person is Jesus Christ.

John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” I find this fascinating because when the Word of God became flesh, when Jesus became flesh, the phrase the word of the Lord was never used.

I don’t know if you noticed, but the phrase the word of the Lord was never used in the gospels. That is, during Jesus’ earthly life in the flesh, the phrase the word of the Lord is never mentioned. But, after he died, was resurrected, and ascended back to heaven, the phrase the word of the Lord returns in the book of Acts. I think this clearly shows that the word of the Lord is the spiritual coming, the spiritual manifestation, of Jesus, the son of God, from heaven. The word of the Lord is the non-flesh-and-blood-as-we-have Jesus.

We must also remember that only those instances were the word of the Lord is doing something that Jesus in the flesh would have done are actually the word of the Lord. Just as not everything attributed to God in the Old Testament is actually an act of God, so too everything attributed to the word of the Lord in the Old Testament is not actually an act of the word of the Lord.

Nevertheless, when we see the phrase the word of the Lord, we need to first think of Jesus. We need remember that this is Jesus acting. Jesus didn’t just start working when he has born in the flesh. He has always been at work in his creation.