The Bible assumes two facts about God: that He is king and that He speaks.
A king in the ancient world would speak regularly on two levels, and for two purposes. One, he would enact regulations and laws that determined his subjects’ environment. Further, he would make public speeches whose aim was to engage the minds and hearts of his subjects, to establish a bond with them. The Bible pictures God’s word as having the same twofold character.
In the sphere of creation, God’s word is a sovereign ‘let there be’. God’s personal address to us is in the form of royal torah (the Hebrew word translated “law”). Torah has a triple character:
- some of it is law, in the narrow sense of commands and prohibitions with sanctions attached
- some of it is promise—favourable or unfavourable; conditional and unconditional.
- some of it is testimony—information given by God about Himself and men, and their respective acts, purposes, natures and prospects.
God’s word to us not only governs us, but also is an instrument of fellowship. Since He knows everything about us, He speaks to us to enable us to know Him.
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We meet the word of God in its various forms in Genesis 1-3. In chapter 1:1-26, we see God creating, shaping our natural environment. In 1:28, He gives a command, followed by a testimony in v 29 about man’s food. We encounter a prohibition in 2:17; and after the Fall, God has words of promise—both favourable or unfavourable (3:15-20). The rest of the Bible reiterates and confirms this presentation of God’s word.
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We are to believe and obey God’s word, not only because He tells us to, but because it is true.