Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Word of the living GOD

"Is not My word like a fire?" declares the LORD, "and like a hammer which shatters a rock?"  Jeremiah 23:29

In stark contrast to the dreams of false prophets, devised out of deceitful hearts, for the purpose of making God's people forget His name, the living God Himself likens His truth to (a) fire and to (b) a hammer. 

(a)  Fire consumes
       In I Kings 18, the authenticity of Elijah's commission as a prophet and the veracity of his message from God were on the line.  The prophets of Baal outnumbered him 450 to 1, and the hearts of the undiscerning people had been swayed to spiritual adultery.  Elijah proposed settling the issue by a contest: "Now let them give us two oxen; and let them choose one ox for themselves and cut it up, and place it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other ox, and lay it on the wood, and I will not put a fire under it.  Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, He is God," (vv. 23, 24). 
All morning, through the noon hour, even to the time of the evening sacrifice, the false prophets leaped about the altar, cut themselves with swords and lances until covered with blood, all the while yelling for their god to answer by fire.  The Bible says, "but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention," (v. 29). 
Elijah then models obedience to the living God's worship requirements by erecting the altar in His Name (v. 32), at the proper time (the evening sacrifice)(v. 36), and with prayer that glorified Him as God:  "O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel, and that I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word.  Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again," (vv. 36, 37). 
At the command of the LORD, "the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench." (v. 38) 
What the physical fire did in this narrative, the word of the living God does, spiritually, where it is proclaimed in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Speculations are destroyed, lofty things raised up against the knowledge of God, consumed by His invincible word which accomplishes what He desires, succeeding in the matter for which He sends it.
At the judgment seat of Christ, consuming fire will be used in the determining of rewards: "Each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work.  If any man's work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward.  If any man's work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire," (I Corinthians 3:13-15).     
(b)  Fire also purifies.  As it is that our hearts are "more deceitful than all else, and desperately sick" (Jeremiah 17:9), we are in continual need of the Word's purifying work on our hearts.  John Rippon's familiar hymn, "How Firm a Foundation" applies:
When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine. 

The Word is the tool of His grace by which His purifying work is accomplished.  Through hearing, reading, studying, memorizing, meditating upon, and obeying the Word, our impure motives are revealed, our secret sins surface for confession, hypocrisy unheeded is no longer ignored, the grieving and quenching of the Holy Spirit is taken seriously, and the desire to please our Lord becomes preeminent.

As a hammer, the Lord's Word shatters.  Why?
It is His Word.  The Word of the living God is all-powerful because He is omnipotent.  As Jeremiah records God's question, "Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?"  The prophet humbly affirmed, "Ah Lord GOD!  Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm!  Nothing is too difficult for You!" (Jer. 32:27, 17)
Isaiah also quotes the living God as He asserts, "My word which goes forth from My mouth shall not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it," (Isaiah 55:11).
As someone has well said, hard words produce soft hearts.  Conversely, soft words produce hard hearts.  Meaning?  The undiluted Word, the unvarnished truth, proclaimed in the power of the Holy Spirit, confronts the heart, pierces the soul (Hebrews 4:12), and makes one willing in the day of His power.  As Paul commanded his protege' Timothy, "Preach the word... reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction," (II Timothy 4:2).  Sound doctrine, strongly delivered, makes for softened hearts.
However, the deceitful heart is hardened when the truth is compromised, when pleasing to the tickled ears of the hearers, who will then eschew the truth and turn to myths (vv. 3,4).

In these days where false prophets abound, where the church has become worldly and the world has become so churchy that there's little difference between the two, and when a God-sent spiritual awakening is our only hope, pray the Lord of the harvest to raise up godly, Spirit-unctioned preachers who preach the shattering Word in its purity and power!   

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