(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
We have already seen in the last three Gems how God’s “…word is like a fire…” (Jeremiah 23:29). But that is only half the verse! Here is Jeremiah 23:29 in its entirety: “‘Is not My word like a fire?’ says the LORD, ‘and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?’”
I read my available commentaries on Jeremiah 23:29, and most of the commentary authors seem to agree that God uses the hammer of His word to break the stubborn hearts of unbelievers! But first we must understand what ‘the heart’ meant to the ancient Israelites (from Eerdmanns, The New Bible Dictionary):
- Old Testament – “Personality, inner life…or character in general….Volition of purpose….”
- New Testament – “…it is the seat of the will…the intellect…and of feeling. This means that ‘heart’ comes the nearest of the New Testament terms to mean ‘person’”
Here are three examples of what I found in the commentaries:
- Adam Clarke’s Commentary On The Bible – “…surely the hammer cannot break the rock in pieces, unless wielded by an able workman. And it is God’s Spirit alone that can thus apply it….”
- Robert Hawker – Poor Man’s Commentary – Jesus’ “…accomplishment of…redemption… when taught…by God the Holy Ghost, will prove…that this word is as fire, and as the hammer…to break and to inflame…the souls of the hearers…with the truth of salvation.”
- Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible – “The unhumbled heart of man is like a rock; if it will not be melted by the word of God as the fire, it will be broken to pieces by it as the hammer.”
Why does Matthew Henry write, “The unhumbled heart of man is like a rock…”? Perhaps he has in mind Ezekiel 36:24 through 27 – what the LORD told the prophet concerning the Israelites taken as captives to Assyria and Babylon:
For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all the countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep my judgments and do them.
The heart of stone is resistant to the things of God! It is rock-hard, and nothing can break it open! ‘Nothing,’ that is, except the hammer of God’s Word! Here is how the Bible describes the heart of the unsaved person:
- Genesis 6:5 – “…the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
- Ecclesiastes 9:3 – “Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.”
- Jeremiah 17:9 – “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?”
- Matthew 15:18-20 – “…those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man….”
In our featured Scripture, fire and rock are named in the same sentence. Adam Clark gives an appropriate illustration in his commentary (cited above):
"There may be an allusion to the practice in some mining countries, of roasting stones containing ore, before they are subjected to the hammer, in order to pulverize them....I have seen them roast the tin stones in the fire, before they placed them under the action of the ham- mers in the stamp mill. The fire separ- ated the arsenic from the ore, and then they were easily reduced to powder by the hammers...; afterwards, washing the mass with water, the grains of tin sank to the bottom, while the lighter parts went off with the water, and thus the metal was procured clean and pure."
- The fire is perhaps a reference to trials that come to the life of every human being (see Isaiah 43:10; I Peter 4:12). Although the two references allude to the trials that God uses to purify the hearts and lives of believers (see James 1:2-4), the fire that touches the heart of the unbeliever can be used by the Lord to prepare that hard heart for the work of the Word’s hammer!
- For the heart of stone must be broken (pulverized!) so the Holy Spirit can indwell a divinely created heart of flesh that is responsive to God.
Please, listen to and heed the Word of God,
Lest you have to be burnt again and again!
And that you must be then
hammered into His submission!
He loves you so much,
that He will not give up on you!