September 13, 2014

Superhero Theology IV: The Fiery Hammer of God

Jeremiah 23:29: "Is not my word like fire, "declares the Lord, "and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?"

Uh, no, we do not have the hammer of Thor here. For our theological purposes it is the hammer of God. Why? Because Thor is a false Norse / Germanic pagan god and it is also because the picture fits the wordage in the Scripture above and the following post, that's why!

The theology in this Scripture isn't easy to see. The context of Jeremiah 23 is speaking of leaders, ministers, ministries and people that stand in lieu of God to communicate His truths. In context it is also an epilogue of three kings in Chapter 22 and serves as a warning about unrighteousness to Zedekiah whose reign is now beginning. In particular verse 29 is in a portion of Scripture that is drawing distinctions between the true prophets of God and false prophets. God is essentially saying that false prophets are frivolous and dangerous dreamers. It then leads to the verses in the spotlight…

“I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds?  They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name, just as their ancestors forgot my name through Baal worship. Let the prophet who has a dream recount the dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?” declares the Lord" Jeremiah 23:25-29

In this passage the false prophets are shown the origins of their own lies. Their lies are from the deceit of their own hearts and minds (sin). Their hearts and minds have been divorced from Scripture and God. They are therefore debased and demonic. The effect is to lead others away from God and forget God. That is the clear calling-card of the false prophet. They may at first do things to bring attention to themselves and seek unmerited gain but in the end, they just end up serving as a tool of Satan to deceive people and lead them astray including themselves. They start to believe their own press.

So where is the theology in this post? It is in God’s word through His true prophets in Jeremiah's time (the Bible today) in contrast to the false prophets. A true prophet will align with Scripture and bring men to God, not drive them away from Him with lies and deception. It is as verse 29 says, “like a fire and a hammer that breaks rock to pieces.” It is no laughing matter and later verses will rebuke the people of Israel for deriding and mocking Jeremiah in his call for God. The worst mockery though comes through those that will presuppose God and stand defiantly in opposition to God’s true speakers of His word (prophets, preachers). God nor His word will be mocked without a severe hammering and searing consequences as these verses tell us.

Jeremiah first says God’s word was wheat, because souls are sustained by it. He compares the chaff to the false prophets. As for the fire and hammer? They are images of the word of God and every man called to ministry in the Christian Faith is called to preach the word of God. Are we to water it down? Do we dull its edge? Does a lumberjack purposely blunt his axe before cutting wood? Does blacksmith break the handle of the hammer that will forge hot steel? Listen folks! The word has the ability or power under its own merit to burn impurities off and crush unrighteousness like a mighty hammer to stone! Does not the true word of God build people up and the false word of deceivers harden the wicked? The wickedness then drives them farther down the path of sinners?

The fire and hammer are symbolic. The fire spoken of here has a destroying and refining effect to it. It can raze things to a pile of ash but at the same time it can burn away impurities. It can warm and can sustain life but can also incinerate it. It will consume trash which is akin to saying that the rubbish spewed by false teachers and prophets will not last but God’s word will. 

The hammer on the other hand is a force that can be used to subdue or destroy as in the case of deceit and lies of false prophets. It can also be used to build. Additionally, the hammer used in conjunction with the flame can be used to forge and make things stronger or it can be used to mold things into the shapes that they need for God’s purposes. How many of us have experienced that personally? Quite a few I would imagine. 

The fire and hammer can therefore be viewed not only as images of wrath and judgment but also of love and building of people. The difference? 

Intent of the hearts of the people wielding them.

It was the people’s hearts drifting away from God that would reap them the judgment of the fire and the hammer. It would be their obedience that would bring the positive building, shaping and cleansing of the same element and tool.

It is in obedience to the word that believers are completed (2 Corinthians 10:6). It is by hearing the word that men gain salvation (emphasis mine).

Romans 10:14-17 ~ “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

The word is life giving but it can also be life taking. The word is not only self-sustaining…it can profoundly affect others. It can be despised or loved. Like God it needs neither. It stands on its own. It is absolute just as God is. It gains no benefit from man nor does it degrade in the face of man. It is what man is to be measured to and man cannot stand next to it without faltering. It is food that sustains the righteous and poison (judgment) to those that will purposely revile it. Those that choose to ignore it will remain ignorant and those that heed it will avoid death.

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