The Power of the Word

Unseen, unheard, yet everywhere powerful.

Foundations for a Christian Worldview: Unseen Things (6)

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.  Genesis 1.3

Heard and unheard
When we think of the Word of God, the Scriptures naturally come to mind. The Scriptures are certainly a tangible thing – something we can see and handle. The words written down in Scripture are in familiar forms. There is nothing magical about them; they can be easily read, understood, and interpreted, with a little practice and due diligence. The Scriptures are true and reliable altogether, and we praise God for the great privilege of His giving such written revelation to us, beginning in the days of Moses.

But we also include the Word of God in the category of unseen things because by far and away, most of that which God speaks does not fall on the ears of human beings, or come before their eyes. God’s Word is active and powerful regardless of whether anyone ever hears it. Should the Word of God be spoken in the forest – as it is at every moment and in uncountable ways – though no one were around to hear it, it certainly will have the effects God desires.

So as we consider the power of the Word of God as revealed in His Law, we’re thinking primarily of that Word which does not come to the ears or eyes of men like Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses. We’re thinking of the Word that operates in the background of creation, the Word which explains and sustains creation, and without which, creation itself could not exist, not even for a moment.

The unseen, unheard Word of God is real and powerful, and, next to God Himself, it is the most important facet of the unseen things in our Christian worldview.

Let’s note three ways in which the unheard Word of God is active and powerful: in its power to create, its power to define, and its power to rule. 

Power to create
The power of the unseen, unheard Word of God for creating is mysterious and immense. In Genesis 1, Moses recordsthe  creation of the cosmos and everything in it. No one was present when God spoke the cosmos into existence. But that His Word brought forth everything out of nothing is clear from the record of Genesis 1. We’re not sure how the knowledge of creation came to people. Perhaps God explained it all to Adam, and Adam simply passed the report along faithfully, as did the generations of the sons of God who succeeded him.

God’s work of creating by a Word is unique, so much so, that the Hebrew uses a special verb, בָּרָ֣א(bara - He created), to report His work. This verb rarely occurs in the Old Testament, and when it does, nearly always God is its subject and God’s work of creation is the context. Only God can בָּרָ֣א by speaking things into existence. His unseen, unheard Word is powerful to make something out of nothing.

And that is a very great power, indeed. It is a blasphemous and foolhardy tenet of unbelieving faith to insist that the cosmos is eternal – that God did notspeak it into being. And it is equally blasphemous and a foolhardy tenet of misguided faith to say, “Well, OK, God spoke it all into being, but He had to do it in the way science says.” Who are we to tell God what He can or cannot say? It’s like telling Jesus, “Look, if You want to make wine, You have to follow proper protocols.”

Power to define
When God creates, God also defines. The naturalistic view of the cosmos insists that nothing has any real identity until human beings give it a name, describe its principles and propensities, and assign it a place in the world as we define and know it. All the stuff of the cosmos is just that, unnamed, valueless stuff, until people – read: scientists – give it a name and assign it a role according to our understanding of the world.

But this is not what the Scriptures teach. God named the heavens and the earth, the sun, moon, stars, waters, land, and the general categories of plants and animals. God defines the nature of humankind and what our purpose should be. His Word tells us what things are and what they are for in large, general categories of being, and that they are good to the extent that they are used according to His intended purposes. Within that defining framework, people are assigned the task of further discovering, naming, and using the stuff of creation. But this must be done within the limits of God’s defined and declared purposes, or we run the risk of abusing the creation God intends should serve our needs.

God’s Word defines right and wrong in human conduct as well. He has written His Word on the heart of every human being, as we discover from later revelation (cf. Rom. 2.14, 15); and we see that fact at work throughout the Law of God. Some people are identified as evil, and some are identified as good, and those definitions derive from God and His counsel, together with the Word He has written on the hearts of people and revealed in His Law. The unseen, unheard Word of God is inscribed on the heart of every person. With the mind we understandthat Word, and by the exercise of conscience we translate its implications to the will. 

Power to rule
Finally, we note that the unseen Word of God has power to rule, that is to direct, sustain, extend, and employ all aspects of the seen world, whether in patterns of consistency and predictability, or for His own extraordinary purposes. God can burn within a bush, and not consume it. He can cover a mountain with fire and smoke, and not destroy it. He can bring quails out of nowhere; marshal hosts of frogs and locusts to confound a world leader; part a sea and dry its bed so that people can walk across; and much, much more. And He does all this without an audible word, but by speaking to the creation in ways human beings cannot hear.

But what does this suggest? That is, if God can intervene to incite the creation to motions that are not according to its usual patterns, does this not indicate that He, by His unheard Word, is sustaining the normal patterns and motions of the creatures of the vast cosmos? That would certainly seem to be the case. We call something a miracle only because it seems unusual to us. But what we’re seeing is merely the creation in some form obeying a momentary change of instructions from the sovereign God, Whose unheard Word sustains the cosmos and everything in it at all times.

The penchant of unbelieving cosmologists to talk about such things as “cosmic background noise”, “dark energy”, and “dark matter” as the framework and explanation for the seen cosmos is an act of disrespect and even blasphemy. Such things may well exist, but they are not the last things, the ultimate explanations or sustaining powers of the cosmos. 

God is, as is His unseen, unheard – but always present, and always to be reckoned with – Word.

Questions for reflection
1. Why does this matter? Why is it important that we understand that God’s unheardand unseen Word is always being spoken to the cosmos?

2. Should we expect to be able to learn something of God’s Word by reading and using the creation as He intends? Explain.

3. Since God’s Word undergirds and sustains everything in the cosmos, everything in the cosmos has the potential for revealing and glorifying Him. But how does that happen?

Next steps – Conversation: Spend the day making observations about the power of God’s Word in creation. Look around you. Think of what God is saying to the creation. Make some notes and reflect on what you learn about God from them. Share your observations with a Christian friend.

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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