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God's Word was written by human hands divinely guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:5; 1 Peter 1:12; 2 Peter 1:20 – 21). “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16 –17). God gave us his Word to teach us who he is and what his will for us is, and to train us to be righteous and to do his work. God wants us to understand and to respond to his Word. So, he gave us a book we can understand. It is written with great clarity, brevity, and on a level that even the least educated of us can understand. However, understanding God's Word is NOT just a function of the clarity of the writing and the message. Nor is it merely a function of the intellect of the reader. It is dependent on the spiritual condition of the reader's heart.

The parable of the sower in Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8 makes this clear. The seed sown is the Word of God. The different soils (hardened path, rocky places, thorns, and good soil) the seed falls on represents the different conditions of our heart, which directly affects how we receive God’s Word and how it impacts us. In the same parable (Matthew 13:14 –15), the heart that cannot understand God's Word is described as “callous” (hard soil).

Understanding the Word of God is not just a mental exercise but a spiritual one. God's Word is NOT a man-made book, but a spiritual one written by God (Galatians 1:11–12; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). It is “living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Our heart determines how we understand and respond to the Bible, not just our minds. God warns us throughout the Bible to “guard our heart above all else” (Proverbs 4:23). The condition of the heart is reflected in our attitude toward God's Word. A stubborn heart refuses to listen to the word (Jeremiah 13:10). A good heart delights in God's Word, meditates on it, craves it, and obeys it. God responds to a good heart by giving insight, understanding, wisdom, and knowledge (Proverbs 1:1– 6 and Psalm 119).

— Cynthia Clayton

Picture credits:
©Patty Gibson