Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? — Jeremiah 23:29
God’s Word is powerful enough to impact the most hardened of hearts. A member of the Portland Apostolic Faith Church, Don Morse, often testified about how this was proved true in his life. Don’s mother died when he was young, and while still a boy, he ran away from home and became a drifter. Many times he slept in boxcars, covering himself with cardboard to stay warm. Bad habits attached themselves to his life, and he began smoking four or five packs of cigarettes a day, and gambling all night until his money ran out. Bitterness, blasphemy, and hatred filled his heart, and he even contemplated suicide.
While sailing around the world as a merchant mariner, Don’s ship came into Portland, Oregon, and he was invited to a church service. Sitting in that meeting, tears began to flow down his cheeks. “Many times I had wished that I could cry,” he related. “One time when leaving home in Minnesota, I went out to the barnyard, lit a cigarette, and blew the smoke into my eyes to make it look like I had tears. Then I quickly went to the house to let them see my red eyes. But when God’s Spirit brought tears to my eyes that night in church, they were real ones.
“Though I did not pray through to salvation that night, when I went back to my ship, I started reading the Bible. I couldn’t understand everything I read, but what I did understand touched my heart. The words in the Bible were like a magnet; they drew me. One day I was reading my Bible in the mess hall. Some of the crew said, ‘Throw that thing in the furnace. It won’t do you any good.’ Another said, ‘You had better see a psychiatrist. You need help!’ But I ignored them and kept reading.”
The Word of God began to have an effect. Don’s ship had gone back out to sea, but when it returned to Portland, his one desire was to get back to church and pray again at the altar benches there. On his knees, he sought God in earnest, and God miraculously transformed his life. For more than fifty years, until his death in 2009, he treasured the Word of God that brought deliverance to his sin-hardened heart, and took every opportunity to share his testimony with others.
Our focus verse brings out the power and force of God’s Word by comparing it to fire and a hammer. Like a fire, it can purge impurities, and like a hammer it can break down the stoniest heart.
Don Morse was one who yielded to the power of God’s Word, allowing it to impact his heart and bring him to a place of repentance. What effect has the Word of God had upon your heart? If you have yielded to it, rejoice in that and, like Don, purpose to share it with others. If you have not yielded, do so now!
Today’s text is the tenth sermon by the Prophet Jeremiah, and was directed to the prophets and priests. Judah’s false prophets had resisted Jeremiah’s prophecies as he declared the word of the Lord, and in these verses he strongly condemned them.
Jeremiah was horrified at the disregard the religious leaders and the people had for God and for the judgment that would be the consequence of their rebellion, and described his reaction by saying, “All my bones shake.” They had brought idol worship into the Temple itself: “In my house have I found their wickedness” (verse 11). They had seen the demise of the Northern Kingdom, who “prophesied in Baal” (verse 13). Yet, rather than learning from Israel’s example, the religious leaders of Judah had done worse. In Jerusalem they had the Temple, where the pure worship of God was to take place, but they had claimed to worship Him while they committed vile sins. As a result, they would face disaster and death. The “water of gall” (verse 15) means water that is poisoned.
The errors of the prophets were detailed in verses 16-22. Their prophesies were from “their own heart” and not from God. They gave messages that the people liked, telling them their sinful ways were all right. The prophets had not spent time in God’s presence or they would have known to warn the people of His judgments.
In verses 23-32, God expressed His disgust with these religious people. They acted as though He could not see their actions, when He is omnipresent. Dreams were one of the ways God revealed Himself in Old Testament times, but the dreams of these prophets were not from God. False dreams were compared to chaff, which is worthless, while God’s revelations were equated to wheat. In contrast to the untrue statements, God’s Word has power, like a fire or a hammer breaking a rock.
The final passage of today’s text, verses 33-40, is about “the burden of the LORD.” In Jeremiah’s time, this phrase was used to mean a message that God had sent to the people, which was both a weight to Him and also to those who heard it. However, the religious leaders of Jeremiah’s time had used the phrase to mock, and so God said not to use it anymore. The consequence of their light treatment of God’s message was that they would be cast out of His presence and experience reproach and shame.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The pronouncement of judgment against Judah
A. The condemnation of the prophet
10. The tenth message: Against Judah’s false prophets (23:9-40)
a. The character of the false prophets (23:9-15)
b. The claims of the false prophets (23:16-22)
c. The condemnation of the false prophets (23:23-40)
The Word of God is a powerful force. May we determine to allow it to do God’s perfect work in our lives!