When we think of God in relation to words, we often think of how God created the heavens and the earth by His spoken word (Genesis 1), how Christ is referred to as the Word (John 1:1), and perhaps also how the Bible is called the Word of God. But what I find more intriguing is just how much of the Bible deals with God speaking. God reveals Himself as a verbal God.
As already mentioned, God created all things with His word. And this isn’t just something found in Genesis, but consider Hebrews 11:3 (ESV): “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” And Romans 4:17 (ESV): “…God…gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.”
God also sustains His creation by His word, for we read: “And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3, ESV).
God’s word is efficacious (it accomplishes its purpose): “[M]y word…shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11, ESV).
Indeed, God’s word is what keeps people from sinning, as David declared: “With regard to the works of man, by the word of your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent” (Psalm 17:4, ESV).
We can also recall from my blog post just a few days ago that God’s foreknowledge is based upon His declaration of what will come, for it is His word that shapes the world by creating and sustaining it, and all that occurs within in: “[F]or I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’” (Isaiah 46:9b-10, ESV).
Indeed, while many in Israel missed this, the Roman centurion understood the power of the commands of God. We read:
After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well (Luke 7:1-10, ESV).
Ultimately, the reason why the word of God is so powerful is because God’s word is literally God. I don’t mean this as God’s word being the soundwaves created by vocal chords–obviously, God did not speak in that manner in order to create the universe, for there was no physical existence before God made it, and God does not have a physical body either. Thus, we have to take the word of God as being more equivalent to the very thoughts of God (a concept that is better explained by the Greek λόγος than English). Because of that, there is definitely a way where we can treat God as equivalent with His thoughts.
This is why the word of God is described with personal attributes: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12, ESV). These properties (living, active, and discerning) are all things that only a person can do (in this case, a divine person). Additionally, we know how concerned God is about His Name, and Psalm 138:2b (ESV) says: “you have exalted above all things your name and your word”. (Note: an alternative reading of that is: “you have exalted your word above all your name”).
All of this is just a small sampling of the vastness of what we read about in Scripture concerning the word of God. Of course, at this point someone might be saying, “That’s all well and good, and has some interest, but what difference does it make?”
For one thing, I think it can help us to understand more of who God is. If His word is Him, then the more we know His word the more we know Him. For another thing, I think that this helps us to grasp some of the concepts of divine simplicity (simplicity is the understanding that God has no parts, that ultimately all the “divisions” we have in Him are really just different ways of looking at the same thing–and if we see how the word of God is how God creates, how He sustains, how He orders, how He gives life, how He presents Himself, etc. etc. etc., then each of these things helps us to see how all of those attributes (creator, sustainer, commander, life-giver, revealer) are all at root the same thing). Finally, given the sheer volume of times the Lord speaks about His word, we can safely conclude it’s a big deal to Him, and far be it from me to minimize something God views as important!