"Is not my word like fire," declares the LORD, "and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?"
There is much talk these days about “clobber passages”. These are scriptural references that describe certain behaviors as being wrong and therefore, displeasing to the Lord. I agree that no one enjoys being clobbered by the word of God. But in Jeremiah’s day there were a lot of attitudes and behaviors in God’s beloved children that He was not pleased with. In fact He was furious and sent many prophets to clobber them with all the reasons why. A prophets chief duty was to rebuke people for their many sins, call for repentance and warn them of judgment should they refuse. Seventeen prophetical books are exclusively dedicated to this endeavor. That’s 25% of Scripture! I think it’s valid to conclude that the God who dearly loves us cares about our behavior and wants obedience to His ways.
As you can imagine, the prophets were not popular people. Like many of the others, Jeremiah's message of impending judgment and exile was disturbingly negative. And the leaders of his peers responded, “(Jeremiah) should be put to death. He is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, as well as all the people, by the things he is saying to them. This man is not seeking the good of these people but their ruin” (Jer. 38:4). Then they disposed of Jeremiah by lowering him into a cistern. Faithfully speaking what God says was and still is a dangerous business. Fire and hammers inflict pain, especially when it comes to prideful and hardened hearts.
Like Jeremiah, Martin Luther was also well acquainted with the hazards of adhering to God’s word when it opposed the religious and political powers of his day. Condemned as a heretic, he stood before his accusers to defend the position of salvation by grace through faith, and said:
“I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one's conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen.”
If I am convinced, and my conscience bears witness, that all scripture is God breathed, and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16), then it has the authority to do just that. Here I must stand and let God’s word have it’s way—in me. Until I’m completely sanctified, I must be continually clobbered!
Is there anyone who can honestly read the scriptures and not find in themselves something they don’t want to see? Like an acne-faced teenager looking in the mirror for good news only to find yet another pustule to dash the dream of human perfection and beauty, the word of God sheds light on the truth that I am flawed and in need of change. The answer is not to amend the definition of a blemish in order to beautify ugliness, but to face the facts and immediately order some Proactiv Plus to address the problem I see in my reflection!
For example: when my husband and I disagree about a decision that needs to be made and we are at odds, I open Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and in Chapter 5:22 I’m clobbered—“Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord.” What? This makes no sense, why should he get the final say and not me? Aren't we equal? Every prideful fiber of my being bristles in protest! Then I begin to reason to myself that maybe Paul got it wrong. Maybe in that patriarchal society this idea was normal and accepted—but surely, God understands that in our sophisticated modern world, this notion is outdated, barbaric, and promotes victimization. Suddenly I find myself making excuses for those particular passages that go against my natural inclinations and preferences as a 21st century American woman.
Where is my resolve now? Am I still so convinced that this ancient text is God's word and that He knows what He’s talking about when it comes to matters of the home and heart? Yes, but compliance is about as pleasant as being branded with a hot iron or taking a right hook to the face. To accept God’s word is to accept it as it is: like a fire that burns until my pride is consumed; like a hammer that wallops me where I am stubborn until I am broken, crushed and thoroughly chastened.
People haven't changed much since Jeremiah’s day. We always seem to think we know better than God. We think love has to look and feel good to have a positive effect. But the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation tell a different story. Allowing God’s word to have it’s way in our lives always hurts. It hurt for Abraham, Joseph, John the Baptist, and Mary. They all bore the wounds of obedience out of love for God. As sinners, His word cuts us deeply like any double edge sword, piercing its way through our well thought out arguments and excuses. Its authority and power judge the true thoughts and intentions of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12). If we let it do it’s job, it’s gonna leave a mark.
Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land,
I hear them hail thy bright ascendant star,
Hast thou no scar?
Hast thou no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers, spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned:
Hast thou no wound?
No wound, no scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And, pierced are the feet that follow Me;
But thine are whole: can he have followed far
Who has no wound nor scar?