Occurring 1,455 times in the Old Testament, davar (plural: devarim) basically means a word or speech that works a dynamic, effective action. It can refer to a legal challenge, verdict, or claim; it can be a decree, a promise, a commandment. It can refer to speech’s outworking as event. Generally speaking, a davar is a word that has power to bring about events of righteousness in the world.
The word is understood theologically to be the action of God in his speech. God never speaks in vain; his words always carry out their purpose. When God speaks and acts, the word-of-action is called God’s davar. The first devarim, or words-of-action revealed to us, are those which brought the world to life, the words of creation. In the Genesis account each new creative act is introduced with the words “and God said”. Other celebrated devarim are what the Bible calls the “Ten Words” given at Sinai – what we call the Ten Commandments. Literally they are called “words” of God, alive and full of power, penetrating and dividing, exposing the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. They celebrate the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.
Likewise Jesus considers our words to be as weighty as our actions in spiritual worth, and we shall be called on every vain word we have uttered in this life. Words, or devarim, have power in our mouths too, made as we are in God’s image and likeness.
Our word davar points to the very essence of who God is – love in action. It is no accident that John chose to use the word logos, the Greek equivalent of davar, in the opening of his Gospel, written to evoke the opening of Genesis. Jesus the Logos is God’s love in action towards us, the devar elohim or Word of God, the passionate Word who creates, saves and sustains.