The Bare Soul - July 22, 2012
The Hammer of the Lord

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

During much of my elementary school years my father labored as a carpenter. He would come home from work with his tool belt usually dusted with sawdust from whatever they had framed out that day. While I never spent a day with him on the jobsite, he was always building something around the house. Long before pneumatic nail guns, I would marvel how he could take a framing nail and drive it through 2X4s with one or at the most two blows from his hammer. This practiced hand/eye coordination allowed my father's strength to become focused in a very small area. The framing hammer seldom missed its mark and provided the brute force needed to successfully join lumber together until whatever he was building took shape. Then, with equal skill, he would often complete his work with smaller nails and a lighter finishing hammer. The same accuracy applied as he attached paneling on our house or wood shingles on an enclosure for the dog. The application was often indicative of the tool need for the job, while the finesse of the craftsman would then determine the quality of the work. I was never disappointed in what I saw my father complete, for it showed his character of care and concern over the finished project.

Upon reflection of our lead verse, I have often wondered why we do not see God's word similarly as a hammer in the hands of His children? Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Israel regarding their sin in chapter 23 of his oracle. He was comparing the difference between those who falsely spoke concerning their dreams about Israel's future and when God spoke. As with much Scripture, there are similarities between what was going on then with today. Some would present a Gospel of prosperity and faith devoid of obedience. These would tell us all we must do is believe God's word and all of His promises are ours. However, the Bible is quick to point out how how true prosperity cannot come without obedience to the Lord. Otherwise, our faith becomes idolatrous as we seek to cultivate a belief in what created things we can obtain rather than clinging to the Creator. When our devotion is divided, we find that the "hammer" in our hands does not have near the effect as it did in Jeremiah's day. The word, when it is diluted by the world, becomes much less than a powerful hammer that is able to strike a rock with precision and pulverizing force. Instead, it becomes like a rubber mallet, capable of only stunning or reverberating the rock, but never shattering it. The mallet in the hands of many today wielding the word of God bears little resemblance to the hammer of which Jeremiah spoke. The mallets many of us possess, in regard to how we live and share the word of God, has been formed by both preachers we have sat under and the world which has wooed us with compromise. No longer is it strong with a precise strike, but it is flat and wide like a mallet with little power to either drive a spiritual nail into the heart of those needing conviction, nor is it able to destroy the stony heart by which so many hide from God.

Not surprisingly, the word mallet is not used anywhere in scripture. A wooden mallet may have been used in various instances, but the context of the use of the word in Jeremiah implies a hammer used in a forge. The transliteration of the Hebrew word is pattiysh meaning a hammer used in the fire of forging metal. This is most appropriate to the first part of Jeremiah 23:29 where the Lord states through the prophet how His word is first like fire, then like a hammer. God desires to heat up His people to the melting point with the intense glow of His word where we are malleable. Then, the precision work of His hammer can go to work, molding and shaping according to His desire. Could an instrument such as a wooden or rubber mallet accomplish anything in this regard with heated, glowing metal? Certainly not. That is why God's word will never return void, even if it is limited through His servants. It always goes forth and accomplishes that which it was sent to do (Isaiah 55:11). However, for it to succeed to the uttermost, we must be those who obediently weld the hammer of His truth with skill and accuracy. We must not shrink from those under conviction, but we must take the hammer which God has given us and disciple effectively. Remember, Christ has sent us into the world to teach all nations. He does not desire us to shrink from the heat He produces in the forge of holiness, but He desires we strike lives with precisely those things which will lead to sanctification---passionate love and obedience for the Savior!

A hammer does not excuse itself for what it is, nor does a mallet. They function largely in the manner they were created. It is our choice which one we choose to wield in our lives and with those whom we will disciple. They might be those in our families or others we encounter. However, we will only be able to stand the heat of God's forge if we have been there ourselves. That will allow us to know how to help form those God brings into our lives. We must not shrink from using the hammer of the Lord in a deliberate, yet loving way. It is our responsibility, beloved, to become master craftsmen, who know how to hit the mark in which God has entrusted to strike. By doing so, we ensure the word of God is a tool which can penetrate into the lives of those whom He has called us to love. If we pursue Christ in this way, the fires of sanctification will become "friendly fire" for both us and those we are helping to shape through His great love. May we all have wisdom to take up His word and use it with great effectiveness, for His glory.

Heavenly Father, forgive us for using Your word for our own pleasures. Allow us the wisdom to take up the hammer of the Lord and use it with Your great love and zeal. Start with us, Lord. Purify us and allow Your hammer to cleanse us from all disobedience. Then, show us how to strike the hearts of others with Your great hammer of love and change lives forever. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

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