Hebrews 4:11-13

The eleventh verse concludes the caution against present rest for the Christian followed by a statement of the means grace supplies to safeguard us through the wilderness.
“Let us therefore be diligent to enter into that rest,1 that no one fall into the same example of disobedience. For the word of God [is] living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing to dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and a discerner of thoughts and intents of [the] heart. And there is not a creature unapparent before Him; but all things [are] naked and laid open before the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do” (ver. 11-13).
We are exhorted to earnest striving now; for there is much that invites us to ease and relaxation. The very mercy of God to our souls might so dispose us, especially if brought up in a previous school of legal thought. For deep and full is the peace with God into which faith in Christ introduces; and so much the more is it enjoyed, if we have been toiling to better our case by self-denying efforts and a round of religious observances. Immense is the deliverance from bondage and doubt and dimness by the simple yet profound gospel of God. Yet the danger of reaction is not small. We are saved that we may diligently serve Him. We are put into fellowship with God's feelings as to all that surrounds us as well as what surrounds Him. This is not our rest, but our scene of labor where people and things are estranged from God. We shall rest when we enter what is perfectly according to His nature and purpose. Hence now and here below is the strongest call to diligence, not to rest. The rest for our conscience sets us the more free to labor in presence of sin, misery, and death. For we are now by faith in the secret of God, and our eyes are opened to discern the deceptions of the enemy. The world no longer appears a pleasant place, but the great snare to hinder progress and to turn from the glory of God where Christ is. It is the scene of His rejection and sufferings; it had the guilt of crucifying Him. And from this guilt no one is purged, save by faith of His blood which brings us nigh to God, Whose love, too, calls us to be witnesses of Christ to sinners and saints, as our Lord was when here.
Let us then be diligent to enter into that rest, refusing every other. Israel is the great example of falling through not hearkening to the Lord. This is the fatal disobedience here spoken of. They stumbled at the word, being disobedient. And such is the danger of all Christians now, as well as of those immediately addressed. We stop short, grow weary, make difficulties, get preoccupied, distracted from God's objects, attracted by things that are seen and temporal. We are called now to the work of faith, and labor of love, while we patiently wait for rest in glory at Christ's coming.
Unbelief may work in us as in Israel as to both the way and the end. They were weary of the one, and they despised the other. Let us take heed that none of us fall into the same example of disobedience. Therefore had that generation to wander forty years in the wilderness instead of going peacefully into the inheritance of the Lord, that the unbelievers might fall, and a generation to come be led into the goodly land.
The word of God is the needed correction, as we see it here. Indeed it is the revelation of God to the soul. Hence it is spoken of in terms which so approach the person of Christ that many take the language here as pointing to Him. And beyond doubt there is the closest connection between the word written or spoken and the Word personal. Scripture habitually has Christ as its object direct or indirect, for it may be an analogy of contrast as well as of resemblance, as we see in Adam or Aaron, David or Solomon, or any other person or thing spoken of.
Now it is the flesh, self in one form or another, which, when unjudged, exposes to falling in the wilderness. If we walk in the Spirit as we live in it, we should be kept straight and go forward. For the Holy Spirit ever glorifies Christ, and acts by the word in us, as Christ when here lived by the word. It is the true path of dependence and obedience, which glorifies the God who gave it. So He defeated the enemy and did the will of God. Nor was it so only in the activity of His blessed life; but not less, yea, much more, in that death which was preeminently accomplishing the word of God.
And we are now following His steps in the same world which hated and cast Him out. And as we are kept by the power of God through faith, so it is His word that acts on and in us by the Holy Spirit. For this alone applies to us, the revelation of God's nature as seen in Christ, which nourishes the life we have received in Christ, and detects the working in us of all that is outside the life which would dishonor God and would defile and endanger us. “For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword.” There is no instrument so exquisitely keen and cutting to deal with what is opposed to the mind and gracious, holy, purpose of God about us.
Therefore do the true-hearted believers welcome the application of its edge; for, if not pleasant to nature, it is profitable to us and due to God. As we are further told, it is penetrating “even to dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and a discoverer of heart's thoughts and intents.” No word of man has any such effect. It may be instructive, or pathetic, or alarming, to say nothing of its lighter qualities; but the word of God has the energy of its source and its own unmistakable character. It arrests the conscience, it sounds the heart, so that feelings and motives can no longer be hid. Christ, its great theme, shines as the True Light and makes everything manifest that is not like Himself. And how much there is in that horrid thing, self, which was never for an instant in Him!
Thus God's word acts “to dividing of soul and spirit,” two things so closely allied and so resembling as to yield to no other discriminating means. “Of both joints and marrow” seems to be a figure of close physical conjunction, which are beyond the reach of human instrument, as “soul and spirit” still more impalpably. It is possible that both phrases go beyond severing one from the other, and mean that each is pierced by the word of God as nothing else could. For it is the life of the Spirit, and in no way an instrument of death, save to that which it expels as foreign and evil.
The word of God is also said to be “a discerner of the heart's thoughts and intents.” Every working within the heart is thereby judged. There is no sparing of our own will. This the believer can hail, having a new nature which hates evil and feels according to Christ, the only One Who, though man, never did His own will, and Who is applied as a test and pattern. Thoughts before they are articulated in word, intents not yet reaching action, are sifted and vanish. Now where spiritual integrity exists, this is just what is wanted and desired; for we, from our new birth, are sanctified by the Spirit to the obedience of Christ; nor could it be otherwise, if Christ be our life. For life is prompt to act according to its nature, as we cannot fail to see, even in the bent of any animal according to its kind. Only in our case we have still the old Adam in us, which is never good and in the Christian to be always refused, now that we have a new and eternal life in Christ, which alone the Spirit exercises and. directs, strengthens and cheers.
Even an O.T. saint ignorant of the superior power and privilege of the gospel could say, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psa. 139). How much more should we not welcome that word which makes it good in us? The germs of mischief are thus detected and destroyed; what can be more gracious though the probe may be sharp? It is just because we are redeemed out of Egypt, but not yet in that rest where all will be according to the perfect love and glory of God. We are still in the view of this Epistle journeying through the desert, where God in His goodness is proving us to know and let us know what is in our heart. It may be humbling, but nothing can be more wholesome.
The final words are very impressive. “And there is not a creature unapparent before Him; but all things [are] naked and laid open to the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do.” This is exactly what unbelief hates and shirks at all cost; anything but the presence of God, and the consciousness of all out undisguisedly and without reserve in His sight. How much there is that we fail to discern within us! Self-love, will, haste, zeal, constantly tend to blind us. He with Whom we have to do acts in His own absolute knowledge of all, and uses this or that to discover what is the moving spring or the hidden aim. Not only in vain is the snare set in the sight of any bird, but we have the comfortable certainty of God as it were speaking to us, and this in the most safe and solemn manner; for He has magnified His word above all His name. Those who slight His word, treating it as dead and powerless, unless you have an erring man to enforce it, forget that we have to do with a living God, Who abounds toward us in suited helps and mercies even in this day of weakness, declension, and scattering. And if all other things and persons fail, He cannot, but watches over us in a holy love that acts for His own glory. His word puts us morally before Him when His eyes deal with our consciences. And as there is not a creature hidden from Him, all things are bare and laid open to His eyes with Whom we have to do. It is verifying in us now what manifestation before Christ's tribunal will do perfectly by-and-by; and the effect is to deliver from settling down into a present rest of our own, that we may pursue our pilgrim path and labor of love, intent on His rest in glory to come.