The Word, the rhema

Until this lesson, I did not realize how potent a rhema is — a spoken word, coming like a slice of light from the mind of God — to instantaneously make us alive to Him.  AND in thirty-two years of teaching, I have rarely sensed the forces arrayed against any one lesson, as I have felt against this one. A dark host of timeless strategies targets every single one of us, to keep us from acknowledging a rhema when it comeslest in penetrating our hearts, it should make us alive to Him.


The rhema and you

This message begins at a point of time thousands of years ago, a specific moment on the plains of Moab, just prior to Israel’s crossing the Jordan to enter The Promised Land. Moses knows his departure is imminent; God has told him that he will die on this side of the Jordan, and that Joshua, not he, will be the one to finally take Israel home.

A gust of wind rises. Moses’ heart stirs as he looks out upon the beloved multitude he has led so long, through so many challenges, across so many miles. Spread out before him, his people wait expectantly to hear what he will say. What thoughts flood Moses’ mind as he measures his shortness of time against all that he still needs to teach them, to remind them in preparation for what lies ahead? More than anything, he longs to be sure that after he is gone they will be able to follow The One who has brought them this far.

Closing his eyes for a moment, Moses does an inward search to discern how God would have him begin. Over the course of decades he has learned that it is not impossible for him to ascertain what God’s word is . . .

The thought streams through him, “this is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word (hadaabaar) is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.”  (Deut 30:11-14, NKJV)

The hadaabaar, the word God speaks, is so near to Moses that it is already in his heart and mouth that he may do it.  His people must recognize the hadaabar God sends, if their spiritual life is going to be sustained after he is gone.  Moses’ eyes fly open, burning with the passionate intensity of a much younger man. Knowing what he needs to say, he resumes his discourse.

Deut 8:2-3, NASU

“You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.


the symbols speak

Because God’s mind is infinitely beyond anything we can grasp, He speaks to us in symbols. Each word, or symbol, carries the power of a reality that can be released in us. Like a code within a code, every ancient word, every name, every number, every picture in Scripture is a symbol. And, we will only begin to realize the full power of the message God wants to release in us through scripture, as we begin to extrapolate the meaning of its symbols — which tell us far more than just the words themselves.


Symbol #1, The Wilderness 

. . . the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness . . .that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart.

The wilderness through which Moses has been leading Israel all these years is a symbol of a place they will return to over and over again.  And when they find themselves there again in the future, Moses (and God through Moses) wants them to understand what it means. The wilderness is the place God takes us, when He wants to get us alone to Himself.  It takes us far beyond the busy, noisy distractions of life-as-ususal. It strips us down to the simplicity of the essential.

In the wilderness hardship tests you — revealing who and what you are — without the props.  The wilderness is a place of unrivaled beauty, but not without danger. The wilderness is the sojourn that lies between where you’ve been and where you are meant-to-be. Its humbling, testing and revealing are the process God must take us through, to make us fit to receive what He yet wants to be and do for us.

The unexpected turn of events that shreds our illusion of security, the results of a lab test telling us there is a problem, a devastating personal loss suddenly ending our life as we have known it — these hurtle us unwillingly into the wilderness — where He waits for us.


Symbol #2, The Manna, Which You Did Not Know 

He . . . let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know . . . 

Stripped down to the bare essentials in the wilderness, Israel did not have the means to provide bread for herself. Moses is clear: God purposely let her experience hunger SO THAT He could feed her with manna, which she did not know.

What does this manna symbolize? . . . it is described as being like coriander seed, with a taste like honey, falling upon the wilderness floor, [1]  awaiting them early every morning, melting away in the heat of the day.  And why have we not known it? It is a picture of the word God speaks, a picture of His supernatural provision to sustain us spiritually.  It is the reason we get up early, while it is yet dark, to have our quiet time, so that we can gather the message that He has sent us that day.

If we lose our appetite for the word in the busyness and distractions of life-as-usual, we  languish;  for our sakeGod takes us into the wilderness to strip us down and let us be hungry, to reintroduce us to the manna we have not known .  A return to the wilderness signifies that God is taking us away from the “junk food” with which we satisfy ourselves, SO THAT He can feed us with the life-giving manna He provides.


Symbol #3, That Which Proceeds Out of the Mouth of God

. . . that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.

This symbol holds the key to God’s supernatural provision meant to sustain our spiritual life. Moses did not want to die without giving his people this key.  Even though it should be obvious, we lose sight of the fact that we are more than just a body. Moses makes a striking but simple comparison to drive home his point: we have two different kinds of life that need to be sustained by two different means.

  • We have our physical life that needs to be sustained by physical bread, and
  • We have an inner spiritual life that needs to be sustained by what is proceeding out of the mouth of God

This is pre-Christian. This is a universal statement being made, not just to Israel, but to all mankind. And this did not change with the coming of Jesus.

A thousand years later, Jesus emphasizes the same truth. In the midst of his own wilderness experience, being tested, being proven for what and who he is, without the props . . . seeking hard to know how the Father is leading him, Jesus could not be clearer,  “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every reémati (rhema, a spoken word) that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” [2]   

We possess two lives:

  • one sustained by bread,
  • one, even more precious,  sustained by the rhema, the spoken word that proceeds (actively, currently, in present time) out of the mouth of God.


* * *

This is the manna that we have not known,

The supernatural provision of God

. . . that the darkness does all it can to keep us from, to obscure

. . . that the darkness does all it can to keep us from believing, to cause us to doubt


Our spiritual practices impact our receptivity to the rhema. . . sharpening or blunting our ability to recognize a spoken word when it comes. This is why

Scripture forbids us to get mixed up with psychics, tarot card readers, channeling, Ouija boards, astrology, worshipfully opening of ourselves to spiritual entities,  witchcraft and other occult practices . . . because these compromise our ability to recognize and respond to God’s spoken word.

But The Name of Jesus, spoken in worship and revelation, empties every dark strategy of its power, restoring our ability to recognize God’s hadaabaar.

Jesus’ rhema, Moses’ hadaabaar, the spoken word proceeding from the mouth of God —  these all describe the manna, the same supernatural provision meant to sustain  our aliveness to God — which, tragically, too many have not known.

Moses and Jesus clearly give us a double witness that we are meant to live on the words proceeding out of the mouth of God to us.  Who or what has convinced us differently?

* * *

The rhema threatens the darkness because

It makes us alive to God

To be alive to God means that

  • you see Him at work in your circumstances because you know what He wants you to do and you do it, [3]

  • you hear and know His voice [4]

  • you are led and taught by Him, and are aware of His correction and discipline

  • you know Him the same way that you know any person who has shared their mind and heart with you.

Jesus defined eternal life not as longevity of existence, but as being alive to God here and now, knowing God and knowing Him [5]


The Rhema, the Spoken Word of God

Every rhema is a word from God, 

springing from the core of His bright burning mind and heart  . . .  making  us  alive to Him . . .  by kindling His light and truth in us


Ps 43:3-5

Oh, send out Your light and Your truth!

Let them lead me . . . Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.


A rhema is not only the quickened word God speaks, but it is our life.

John 6: 63, 64

It is the Spirit who gives life . . . the reémata (rhema) that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.



Every rhema brings a thought to us from God.

 Ps 139:17-18

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!  How vast is the sum of them!  If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.


God’s spoken word is our manna in the wilderness 

King David was no stranger to life’s sudden devastating turns. In his times of wilderness he waited with longing for the rhema that God would speak to him answering his questions: telling him what to hope for, what to count on, what to believe in.

Ps 119:49-50

Remember the word to Thy servant, In which Thou hast made me hope.  This is my comfort in my affliction, That Thy word has revived me.


In the wilderness of his trials, David had (as we do) The Scriptures, The Law and The Prophets to comfort him with the redemptive message they bore to all mankind. Their collusion grounded him, giving him strength and clarity. But in times of personal extremity, David’s psalms describe his longing for something more, a different kind of word, not a universally true word of wisdom, but a personal God-spoken-word sent just to him,  addressing him where he was — for this kind of word he longed.

Ps 119:81-82

I wait for Thy word.  My eyes fail with longing for Thy word


* * *

I had been flung into a black, emotionally painful place like I had never been. It did not occur to me that this was a wilderness experience, because I couldn’t imagine that God had any part or purpose in what was unfolding. My agony roared out of the depths of my insecurity with such ungodly fierceness, that I drove everyone away, who tried to come close enough to help me.

Fear spoke loudly. And every form of general wisdom — no matter how tried and true –seemed trite and totally incompetent in helping me find my way out.  What I had always feared the most seemed to be coming upon me; and I had no power to stop it.

I raged over my helplessness for two days. Finally, my third day alone in that wilderness, having cried all the tears I had, having found no consolation from any of my normal sources, my eyes fell on a new book sitting in a deep stack on my table.  It was not a book I had bought for inspiration, but for research.  But that book just kind of beckoned me, inviting me to open it. Reaching for it, I turned to this:

“I fully believe that we can alter the course of our destiny in wondrous ways when we invite into our lives the very lessons that frighten us most.” [6]

 A rhema had finally found me, plunging into the darkness of my heart like a fiery arrow, filling my inner being with His light and truth, telling me what I needed to do.

He was giving me the framework to handle what lay before me.  He was bringing me His word,  for which I had been so intensely longing. . . And as He spoke tenderly and powerfully, our communion began, upon which I  so desperately needed to feed. . .


Coming to me in this rhema,  Jesus was asking me to trust Him with this lesson. He had brought me to this place, but now He needed me to trust Him enough, that I would welcome what was taking place in my life as His means to make those changes necessary in me  — if He was going to make me fit to receive — what He desperately wanted . . .  to yet become and do for me.

The moment we recognize a rhema, allowing it to speak, to penetrate us — the power of despair evaporates. With just a word, He had made me alive to God again.

Bowing my head, clasping my hands, I gave Him permission to carry me through this lesson that frightened me so much, knowing He would keep me close and safe, because I trusted Him.

In that wilderness He led me through one of the most profound healings of my life,  setting me free into a liberty I had never known before  — a liberty in which I continue to thrive to this day.

* * *

These things being true, what will you believe about the rhema and you?


[1] Exodus 16, Numbers 11

[2] Deuteronomy 8:3;  Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4

[3] John 14:19-22  “After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. “In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”

[4] John 10:27-28  “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;  28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.

[5] John 17:3  And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

[6] Sarah Ban Breathnach, Something More, Warner Books, New York, N.Y. 1998.  p. 6

 [7] Numbers 22, 23








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