God describes His word as a fire, a hammer and as a sword:
Both these descriptions show us that God’s word is powerful and active. Fire purges. Nothing looks the same again after fire. A hammer seems a small tool, but it has the strength and power to break hardened rock into pieces. A sword can pierce materials, even skin; it can wound and even kill. God’s word is powerful. It cuts into our lives; it challenges our thoughts and lifestyles and behaviour; it challenges us. If it doesn’t do this, perhaps it’s because our ears are blocked or our hearts are hardened.
Ps 40:6 says, ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire— but my ears you have opened.’ In the Hebrew, that literally reads ‘ears you have dug for me.’ We need God to open our ears so we can hear what He is saying to us (see Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 29; Rev 3:6, 13, 22) – even the quietest whisper (‘I hear this most gentle whisper from One I never guessed would speak to me.’ (Ps 81:5, The Message)
As we hear God’s voice (that Shepherd’s voice described in John 10), our attention is captured, our hearts are captivated and our behaviour is then changed. Eugene Peterson says, “Christians feed on Scripture. Holy Scripture nurtures the holy community as food nurtures the human body. Christians don’t simply learn or study or use Scripture: we assimilate it, take it into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolised into acts of love; cups of cold water; missions into all the world; healing and evangelism and justice in the name of Jesus; hands raised in adoration of the Father; feet washed in company with the Son.” (‘Eat This Book’, Eugene Peterson) As truth is assimilated into our lives and outworked in our behaviour, God’s word will not return empty.