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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Why Is the Bible So Special?

Don Stewart :: What Symbols, or Word Pictures, Does the Bible Use to Describe Itself?

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Question 9

What Symbols, or Word Pictures, Does the Bible Use to Describe Itself?

The Bible uses a variety of symbols, or word pictures, to describe itself. They give us a better understanding of the character of the Word of God. The word pictures found in Scripture include the following symbols:

  1. Milk

    The writer to the Hebrews compared the basics of the Word of God to milk. Milk is contrasted to solid food. He wrote:

    For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of God’s revelation. You need milk, not solid food. Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature--for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14 HCSB)

    The people to whom this letter was addressed should have advanced beyond the “milk” stage. Yet, they had not.

  2. Solid Food

    Scripture is also symbolized by solid food. This speaks of maturity, while milk speaks of infancy. Paul wrote the following to the Corinthians:

    Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to mature Christians. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. I had to feed you with milk and not with solid food, because you couldn’t handle anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready. (1 Corinthians 3:1-2 NLT)

    While solid food gives a person physical strength—the solid teachings of the Bible gives spiritual strength to the one receiving it.

  3. A Sword

    A sword illustrates the power of God’s Word to penetrate to the depths of our being. The writer to the Hebrews said:

    For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 NKJV)

    The Contemporary English Version reads as follows:

    What God has said isn’t only alive and active! It is sharper than any double-edged sword. His word can cut through our spirits and souls and through our joints and marrow, until it discovers the desires and thoughts of our hearts. (Hebrews 4:12 CEV)

    Paul emphasized the same analogy of a sword when he wrote to the church at Ephesus. He said:

    Also take salvation as your helmet and the word of God as the sword that the Spirit supplies. (Ephesians 6:17 God’s Word)

    The sword is a powerful illustration of what the Word of God can do; it cuts to the heart.

  4. Fire and a Hammer

    In the Book of Jeremiah, the Word of God is compared to fire and a hammer. This is how the Lord Himself describes His Word:

    “Is not My word like a fire?” says the LORD, “And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29 NKJV)

    Fire purifies, and a hammer can break something in pieces. These are some of the things that the Word of God can accomplish.

    The Contemporary English Version puts it this way:

    My words are a powerful fire; they are a hammer that shatters rocks. (Jeremiah 23:29 CEV)

    The power of God’s Word to change lives is a constant theme of Scripture.

  5. A Mirror

    James uses the symbol of a mirror to illustrate the power of the Word of God. He wrote:

    Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:23-25 NIV)

    Today’s New International Version translates these verses as follows:

    Those who listen to the word but do not do what it says are like people who look at their faces in a mirror and, after looking at themselves, go away and immediately forget what they look like. But those who look intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continue to do this, not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. (James 1:23-25 TNIV)

    As a mirror reflects how we look on the outside, God’s Word illustrates what we look like on the inside. It reveals our true selves.

  6. A Seed That Is Sown

    The Word of God is compared to imperishable seed that is sown. Peter wrote the following:

    For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. (1 Peter 1:23 TNIV)

    Seeds that are sown bring forth life. In the same way, God?s Word gives life to those who receive it. This life is imperishable; it lasts forever.

  7. A Lamp and a Light

    The Word of God is compared to a lamp and a light. The psalmist wrote:

    Your instructions are a lamp that shows me where to walk, and a light that shines on my path. (Psalm 119:105 NET)

    His Word shows us how to walk the path of life. It keeps us on the straight and narrow road that leads to life. Jesus said:

    Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14 RSV)

    God lights the path for those who trust Him.

  8. It Is like a Light Shining in the Darkness

    The Bible is also compared to a light shining in the darkness. Peter wrote:

    And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. (2 Peter 1:19 NIV)

    Today’s New International Version translates this verse as follows:

    We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. (2 Peter 1:19 TNIV)

    As a lamp and a light guide a person through the physical darkness, God’s Word guides us through the spiritual darkness.

  9. Water

    The Word of God is compared to water ? a necessary source of life. Paul wrote the following to the believers in Ephesus:

    Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word. (Ephesians 5:25-26 TNIV)

    In the world of the Bible, water was very precious. The hot, dry climate created the need for saving water in every possible way. In the same manner, God’s Word is both necessary and precious.

  10. Gold and Honey

    According to the psalmist, the Scriptures are more to be desired than gold, or sweeter than the drippings of the honeycomb:

    The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:9-10 NKJV)

    The New Living Translation says:

    Reverence for the LORD is pure, lasting forever. The laws of the LORD are true; each one is fair. They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb. (Psalm 19:9-10 NLT)

    God’s Word should be sweet to us and to our taste.

  11. An Anchor

    The Word of God is compared to an anchor. We read the following in the Book of Hebrews:

    So that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God would prove false, we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to seize the hope set before us. We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain. (Hebrews 6:18-19 NRSV)

    An anchor speaks of security. God’s Word provides security for those who rely upon it.

    These word pictures, or symbols, that the Bible gives to describe itself are very helpful in our understanding of the importance of the Word of God.

Summary - Question 9
What Symbols or Word Pictures Does the Bible Use to Describe Itself?

As we examine the various symbols the Scripture uses to describe itself, we come away with a better overall understanding of it. The Bible can be compared to solid food, milk, water, honey, gold, a sword, an anchor, a mirror, a lamp and a light shining in the darkness. These different symbols provide greater insight into the character of Scripture.

Why Is the Bible Divided into Chapters and Verses? ← Prior Section
What Does the Phrase, “the Word of God” Mean? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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