Before fallen humanity babbled their way into new heights of pride and idolatry, before Adam and Eve taught Cain and Abel their Hebrew alphabet, and before God conversed with Adam and Eve as they walked together in the cool of Eden:
God spoke. God used words. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light (Gen 1:3). And God did the same for the next five days of creation as well. God spoke. God declared. God said, and it happened.
Stop for a moment and think about how remarkable that is. When I grumble at the TV while watching hockey, my word does not reverse a single call. When I am stuck at a stoplight, my word does not move those LED lights from red to green any faster. When I tell my cat Tillamook to get off my seat on the couch, he does not budge.
God’s word, on the other hand, does what he says. God’s word is action. God’s word is an event. God’s word is living and active (Heb 4:12). God’s word, Isaiah says, is like the rain and the snow and it does not return void or empty but rather, gives life as he plans and promises (Isa 55:10-11). When God speaks, things happen. Creation is called out of nothing. Patriarchs are called and chosen by God. Prophets are sent to proclaim God’s warning and consolation. A virgin conceives and bears a son.
The Son of God, the Word made flesh, speaks as well. And when Jesus speaks, things happen. Demons flee. Lame men walk. Blind men see. Wind and waves obey. Crowds stand amazed at his teaching. A dead man rises from his grave. Jesus told his disciples that he would be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, and on the third day he would rise again. And he did, just as he said. Now, that is quite a word. But then again, when God in the flesh speaks, things happen.
This comes as no surprise. After all, from the beginning of creation in Genesis to the promises of the new creation in Revelation, God is the God who speaks. God uses words and gives his word. He hears the words, prayers, and praise of humanity, and he speaks and reveals himself to humanity in his word.
Sixty-six books. Hundreds of chapters. Thousands upon thousands of verses. Myriads and myriads of verbs, nouns, subjects, and objects. And all of it God’s word. God’s word of law that reveals the greatness of our sin. God word of gospel that reveals our greater salvation in Jesus.
But have you ever stopped to wonder, why God chose to use words to create, to communicate, to reveal himself and his love in the first place? Why did he establish his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and why did God announce the coming of a Savior, Jesus using simple, ordinary words?
The answer, or at least a few answers, are found in his word. Just think for a moment of your favorite psalm. The richness of the language, the vibrant, lively words that leap off the page and into our ears, hearts, and minds. God is a shepherd. A fortress. A shield. A rock. These are not abstract words, but comforting, concrete, promises about who God is in his love for us. He protects, delivers, rescues, preserves, and saves. Or think of the divine words of wisdom in books like Proverbs or Ecclesiastes, even the detailed genealogies of the Old and New Testaments. The many and various ways God spoke to his people of old, and still speaks to us in the Scriptures, reveals his delight in using words to reveal his love and grace to us. Yes, God’s word is full of doctrine and teaching, and these gifts are important. But he also gives us his teaching and word that we might delight in the truth. Find joy in his promises. Receive life in his word. A word we can understand, hear, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest, as the old prayer goes.
Time and time again in Scripture, this is how God works. He takes the stuff of his creation – water, words, bread, and wine – and he uses it to bless, forgive, and save us. It is ordinary and extraordinary all at once, just like God’s word. He takes human authors, languages, and speech, and fills them with his divine promise, power, and life-giving Spirit. He breathes the breath of life into his word just as he breathed life into Adam.
God also creates language as a gift. This is true even after the fall, even after the Tower of Babel. God preserves language so he might continue to communicate his love and grace to us, and that we might communicate his love and grace to others. In this way, God’s gracious work of speaking and giving are woven together. When he speaks, he gives. When he gives, he speaks. And as the words of the prophets and apostles remind us, God is a cheerful giver. His words and gifts are abundant because his grace and mercy toward us are also abundant.
This is what the author of Hebrews declares at the beginning of his sermon. “In many and various ways, God spoke to his people of old by the prophets. But now in these last days, he has spoken to us through his Son” (Heb 1:1).
The eternal Word who was present at creation and before the foundation of the world became flesh. God became man. Jesus, the Word incarnate, was born to live, to suffer, to die, to rise, and yes, to speak God’s word as the Word made flesh.
Jesus, the Word who spoke creation into existence, declares us a new creation by water, word, and Spirit. Jesus, the Word who was made flesh, gives his flesh for the life of the world in bread and wine. Jesus, the Word says you are forgiven, justified, and righteous. And it is so. You have his word on it.