Summary: God’s Word has to the power to expose and crush all falsehood and to buildup and refine in its truth.
Sermon Text: Jeremiah 23:23-29
September 2, 2001 -- Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
GOD’S POWERFUL WORD – A HAMMER AND FIRE!
It’s been said that the pen is mightier than the sword. What that means is that words can be powerful. Words can be weapons. A careless, harsh word can cut a person like a knife. Words can also be helpful tools. Wise words spoken at the right time can prevent tragedy. A kind word can also provide comfort and consolation to someone who’s hurting.
Words are powerful. This certainly pertains to the greatest words of all – God’s Word. God’s Word is like no other. It is infallible and all-sufficient. And God’s Word affects people in unimaginable ways. Today God reveals HIS POWERFUL WORD -- HAMMER AND FIRE. 1) It tears down and rebuilds, and 2) It consumes and refines.
1) It Tears Down and Rebuilds
One of the first things we’d use a hammer for would be pounding, or even breaking. That’s the picture God paints concerning his holy Word. It functions like a sledge hammer – shattering and breaking down. That’s exactly how Jeremiah understood God’s Word to be used. The situation in Jeremiah’s day was not unlike our day. In this chapter God gives one of the most scathing indictments against false prophets who were scattering His sheep. There had been a controversy between Jeremiah and the false prophets over the simple question, Will God punish sin, yes or no?
There was a war being waged in Judah against the faithfulness of God’s Word. These false prophets were placing false hopes in their own imaginations. “I have dreamed!” they cried. They thought they could make all the others lose sight of God.
Dreams versus reality – that was the issue. Sometimes dreams are good. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a good dream. He had a dream of racial justice and equality. There’s an example of a dream that led to reality. And then there are dreams of the likes of Thierry Deveaux, french daredevil, who apparently had the dream of crashing a motorized hang glider into the Statue of Liberty. He dangled on the monument’s torch for more than 30 minutes before police apprehended him. It appears that he had dreamed of doing this all for the name of art. His little stunt risked lives and cost a bit of money – not a very good dream.
These false prophets had dreams of their own. What was their dream? Their big hope was that they could dupe the rest of the people into a false sense of security. They wanted everybody to believe their lies, so that they could be popular. They wanted to be the sensations! They wanted to be in the limelight. And so they told the people they had dreams. What they meant was that they had received special revelations from God. Yet, behind it all they had their own dreams and aspirations. What’s so bold is that they were doing this in the name of God; claiming he gave them these false notions!
The sad thing is that they didn’t care if they undermined God’s Word or not. In fact, it was essential for people to doubt God in order for to believe the lies. Just think what they said about God. God even questions their falsehood: “Am I only a God nearby,” declares the LORD, “and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him? Declares the LORD. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the LORD. By those very questions we can see what kind of lies these false teachers were spreading about God. They’re saying that God can’t see us. He can’t hear us. He’s far away from us. He really doesn’t care about us.
That message contradicts everything Jeremiah had said, and became a stumbling block. Any falsehood against God’s truth is a stumbling block. The same stony lies that were spoken against Jeremiah are still prevalent today. Even in our day and age, there are so many people who claim that God isn’t who he claims to be.
In fact, there are a lot of churches, which found themselves on their contradictions of the Bible and insist they are right. And so they’ll say things like, “Oh, we don’t believe the Bible literally means what it says. No, we practice a higher method of criticism,” or “it’s all a matter of interpretation. You understand it your way, and I understand it my way.” What happens is that many people have no knowledge of the Bible. It’s no longer seen as reliable and true. In fact, it’s seen as the opposite – unreliable and full of errors.
What subtle lies! These are the bricks and mortar that harden and hide our hearts from God. We all have the inherent desire to want to stonewall God. Our sinful flesh thinks it can build up barriers to keep God out, so that we can find the answers to our dreams all on our own. God knows all about the stubborn casing we place around our hearts and lives. His Word is strong like a sledgehammer, smashing stone and concrete. His Law hammers us to pieces. We might have selfish dreams of lives without God.