Study 9 IS NOT MY WORD LIKE FIRE?
GREAT QUESTIONS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: Jeremiah 23:29)
This verse is couched in the form of a simile because Jeremiah likens God’s Word to fire. Similes are used by the writers of books of the Bible, for we find God’s Word is also likened to: (1) A sieve to sift (Psalm 105:19); (2) A light to search (Psalm 119:105); (3) A hammer to break (Jeremiah 23:29); (4) A knife to cut (Acts 5:33); (5) A seed to sow (1 Peter 1:23); (6) A sword to kill (Hebrews 4:12) – and here, in our verse, the Bible is likened to: (7) A fire - to do what? Before we consider this, notice that in our key-verse we have:-
- 1. The SOURCE of God’s Word. It is spoken of as “My word…” Notice also the words “declares the Lord”. The Bible is God’s Word. It is inspired and authoritative (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21).
- 2. The FORCE of God’s Word. It is said to be ”like fire”; which is active, energetic and powerful. What a mighty force it is when it is released through the lips of the preacher and when it is received into the heart!
- 3. The COURSE of God’s Word. If it is a force, having energy and drive, how does this force operate and along what lines does it proceed? In other words, in what way is God’s word like fire?
1. IT IGNITES THE SOUL
Fire ignites, and God’s Word sets light to men’s souls. Any gardeners will know what it is to clear up the dead leaves and weeds and place them in a pile for burning. The rubbish is heaped high, but it is only a dead mass until it is ignited - and then it goes up! By nature man’s soul is like the bonfire heap before the match has been put to it; it is dead, dry and an ugly mass! But God in His mercy and grace ignites man’s soul so that becomes alight and alive with divine life and light. The Holy Spirit applies the ‘match’ of God’s Word, which is ”like fire”, for it begins a conflagration in the soul and sets it alive with the light and life of God. Has God’s Word set light to your soul, are you dead and lifeless?
2. IT BURNS THE CONSCIENCE
Fire burns. Put your hand into the fire and see if this is not so! God’s Word is the instrument that the Holy Spirit uses to touch and burn our consciences, so that we become aware of the things that are displeasing to God and contrary to His will. Read John 8:1-9, and particularly notice verses 6-9. Jesus wrote on the ground, and His word was like fire; how it burned the consciences of the scribes and Pharisees! Does your conscience burn as you read Ephesians 5:25; 5:28 or Ephesians 5:29? There are three illustrations only of the way in which God’s Word is like fire in that when we read it and apply it to ourselves it burns our conscience, showing us the things that are grieving to the Lord and leading us to do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
3. IT PURIFIES THE LIFE
Fire purifies. We have an illustration in Isaiah 6:1-7, particularly verses 5-7. God’s Word is the instrument the Holy Spirit uses to effect this purifying of the life - look up Psalm 119:9; John 15:3; 2 Corinthians 7:1. What an argument this is for the regular studying of His Word to bring about a purified life.
4. IT ILLUMINATES THE MIND
Fire sends out an illuminating ray (Psalm 119:105,130). Compare Psalm 78:14. Fire sheds forth light. That is why we claim that the Bible is our all-sufficient guide for faith and practice. If we reject its authority the result is darkness, for only God’s Word illuminates the individual Christian and groups of His people.
5. IT ENERGISES THE WILL
If fire is put into a steam engine great energy is generated; and God’s Word in the hands of His Spirit energises the will of the Christian. It gives inward strength so that we desire not just to please Him, but have the will and strength to do so. Notice the psalmist’s constant prayer, such as Psalm 119:28. He is saying, ‘Let your Word come to me like fire, to energise me and fortify my will…’
Compare Ephesians 6:10, and link this with Ephesians 6:17.
6. IT WARMS THE HEART
We sit in front of a fire to be warmed, encouraged and cheered up; and God’s Word does just that. Often we are discouraged and downcast, despondent and cold. Then we attend church and hear His Word faithfully preached - or better still, in our personal devotions we faithfully read and take in the portion for the day – with what result? We are warmed, encouraged and cheered up. For three illustrations look up Psalm 39:2-3; Jeremiah 20:9; Luke 24:32-34.
7. IT FUSES THE FELLOWSHIP
Mix a heap of iron ore with some earth. How can the metal be separated from the earth to become a glowing mass? Well, the ore must be flung into a white-hot furnace and the fire fanned by a powerful draught so that it plays upon the mass of ore and earth until the dross separates from the metal, and the metal is then fused together into a molten mass. How can a variety of men and women, all different and imperfect, be welded together into one holy Christian fellowship? Only by the Holy Spirit’s work. See Acts 2:41-47 and compare Acts 4:32 to see this illustrated. We enjoy the truth of Galatians 3:28 when we receive and rejoice in the full inspiration and absolute authority of the Bible as God’s Word. It fuses us together and produces the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:3,13). Is God’s Word working as a fire in your life?