Certain details in Scripture are easy to miss if we do not slow down to meditate on them. One of those passages tells us Daniel was overcome and lay sick for some days after seeing a vision (Daniel 8:27). We can often read passages like the one that reveals the vision Daniel saw with presumption. We assume it is not worth a lot of our time, yet it is so dramatic Daniel could not even get out of bed for several days after it was revealed to him.
We often approach the word of God as if we are above it—as if we are the judge to determine what is significant and what is not. We do this unconsciously when we give Scripture a surface-level reading and think we have given it the consideration it deserves. We regularly sit as judges over the word of God when we go to church and listen to sermons.
Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones once asked, “When did we last go to church and expect something to happen?” We usually expect church to be the same old routine experience it has always been because we have been conformed to the pattern of this world. We listen to a sermon and then make our worldly declarations over it. We determine what is good and what is lacking. Did we like the pastor’s voice? Were his anecdotes funny? And on and on we go. When we do this, we fail to realize that if the pastor was faithful to the text he preached, we did not have an encounter with a preacher; we had an encounter with the Word of God. Yet our hearts were unresponsive.
In Hebrews 4:12, we are told the word of God is living and active. It can pierce to the division of soul and spirit. It can discern the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. In other words, as we read the Word of God, it also reads us—no wonder we prefer surface-level readings.
We often read this passage in Hebrews about the living word as a joyous proclamation of the power of Scripture, but in context, it is a warning. The author of Hebrews is warning the readers that if they have hearts of unbelief and harden their hearts, they will not enter the spiritual rest provided by Christ—neither in this life nor the life to come.
The warning continues. “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” (Hebrews 4:13). Our hearts are exposed before the Lord even if we never let the Scripture read us. Or more accurately, we are most exposed before the Lord if we never let Scripture judge our hearts and point us to Christ.
If we can read the word of God or sit under its proclamation without it piercing our souls as we sit in judgment over it, the problem is not with the word of God. The problem is that our hearts of unbelief are leading us away from the living God and keeping us from the rest the word can provide when it troubles our souls.
The vision that made Daniel sick involved a ram, a goat, and several horns. All of these represented powerful rulers. Eventually, one of them made deceit prosper under his hand, and without warning, he would destroy many. He would ruin many until he rose up against the Prince of princes. Then he would be destroyed but by no human hand (Daniel 8:25). There is no heart of unbelief or self-deceit, no matter how powerful that person becomes in this life, that will not face the wrath of the Prince of princes. God has sworn in his wrath, they shall not enter my rest (Hebrews 4:3).
Upon seeing this vision, Daniel was overwhelmed and became ill. It is good when the word of God troubles our souls. If the depth and majesty it reveals about the Lord of all creation does not produce the fear of Him in our hearts, then the blessings it pronounces do not belong to us either. Read the word of God, listen to it being proclaimed, and let it pierce your soul.
Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart (Hebrews 4:7).