Fire and a Hammer
by Jacob Hudgins
“Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”(Jer 23:29).
In Judah’s last hour, God sends Jeremiah to express his frustration with the prophets and the people who follow them. The prophets “prophesy lies” and “prophesy the deceit of their own heart” and “think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another”(Jer 23:26-27). It is a tragic departure from the way God expects his relationship with Judah to work.
Failing to speak God’s word reveals a tremendous lack of faith. “Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD”(Jer 23:23-24). The lack of faith here is that the prophets don’t seem to believe God would even know that they are ignoring him. Do we think he won’t notice?
Failing to speak God’s word shows a heart full of deceit. This is a strong charge, but God makes it. “I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal?”(Jer 23:25-27). God has heard the prophets telling lies in his name. Yet he knows that the source of their lies is not a word from him, but from “the deceit of their own heart.” They do not appear to realize that they are lying in the name of God. They want these things to be true, yet they have refused to hear and tell the true word of God.
Failing to speak God’s word substitutes pale imitations for the real thing. “Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the LORD”(Jer 23:28). Man’s words are straw; God’s word is wheat. They are not in the same class. Our thoughts are not nearly as profound—or as life-changing—as the real thing. Why would we exchange one for the other? Why would we accept the imitation? “Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rocks in pieces?”(Jer 23:29). God’s word has a unique power. It is like fire that burns and consumes and cuts. It is like a hammer that breaks rocks. These pictures show that God’s word can break up hard hearts resistant to him. It can do damage, yet it can also become a burning passion within us (Jer 20:9). Man’s words don’t do this.
The thrust of this text is twofold. God warns those who speak for him to “speak my word faithfully.” This is a challenge because of our own hearts and the forceful power of the message. But also implied is the reaction of the audience, who would sometimes prefer interesting dreams and unique human thoughts to the “fire” and “hammer.” We must develop a hunger to hear from God.