The Power of God’s Word

Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (v. 29).

- Jeremiah 23:9–40

Central to the biblical worldview is the power of the Word of God. Scripture presents this truth in various ways. Isaiah tells us that just as precipitation is sure to cause plants to grow, God’s Word accomplishes its purposes (Isa. 55:10–11). Paul explains that the Lord saves His people by means of the foolishness of preaching (1 Cor. 1:18–25). In today’s passage, Jeremiah makes the point by saying, “Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (Jer. 23:29).

Jeremiah originally spoke these words when he had to deal with the problem of false prophets who told God’s people that they would remain safe despite their following of their own stubborn hearts, not His law (vv. 16–17). These ungodly messengers, we have seen, believed that the Lord’s promise to dwell among His people in His temple meant Jerusalem would not fall (7:1–4). Of course, the problem with this message was not that it was wholly devoid of truth; rather, the problem was that the false prophets only believed part of what God had revealed. The Lord did promise to give His people victory in battle (Num. 10:1–10), and there was the assurance that God would save Zion, that is, Jerusalem (Ps. 69:35). Yet the false prophets did not remind the people of Judah that the Lord’s presence was contingent upon faith and repentance, upon the good-faith effort to do the will of God and contrition when there was failure (Lev. 26).

The false prophets preached only the comforting passages of Scripture, neglecting its hard truths. True, the Lord dwelled with His people in Jerusalem, but His presence was not bound to that city. Since He also fills heaven and earth, He is sovereign over space and time (Jer. 23:23–24), and in His omnipresent lordship He could cast out the covenant community while remaining with the faithful remnant in their exile. His Word is forceful and fiery, bringing about the destruction it promises upon the impenitent and nourishing the souls of His children just as grain nourishes the body (vv. 28–29).

This same Word guaranteed that after the exile, a righteous descendant of David would sit on the throne and rule just as the leader of God’s holy people should—in justice and righteousness (vv. 5–6). The Lord would bring the remnant of Judah and Israel back from the countries to which they would be sent, and this salvation would surpass in glory the exodus from Egypt (vv. 7–8). In Christ, God has kept these promises.

Coram Deo

Fire and hammers destroy and demolish—so we should expect the Word of God to afflict our consciences and bring us to the end of ourselves. Yet fire and hammers also refine and shape—so we should expect Scripture also to purify us and build us up in godliness. As Christians, we need to experience both aspects of God’s Word, and we need to preach both the afflictions and comforts of Scripture to ourselves and to those around us.

Passages for Further Study

Job 5:17–18
Jeremiah 5:14
2 Corinthians 7
Hebrews 4:12–13

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