Text: Jeremiah 23:29: “Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?
God’s word is like fire, like a hammer that breaks rocks in pieces. This reminds us that God often waits to act against evil. God’s power is so great that he does not want to use it until he can really show us how powerful he is.
In Jeremiah’s case it was the Babylonians. During Jeremiah’s career as a prophet, the Babylonians had come and conquered the land of Judah and carried the people off into exile. Jerusalem was completely destroyed.
The people of Judah cried out for help and Jeremiah told them to wait. Other prophets came along, false prophets that told the people that the time of exile would be very short, that in just a few years God would allow the Jews to return to their homeland. Other false prophets urged the people to turn to Egypt for help.
Jeremiah, who had actually listened to God, said, “No, the exile is going to last 70 years. So settle down and build houses in Babylon. God will act but it will take a long time.” Sure enough, after God allowed the Babylonians to get very powerful, he showed that he was even more powerful. He sent in the Persians, who conquered the Babylonians. Then the Persians allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild.
When the people of Israel were in Egypt the same thing happened. The king of Egypt was great and powerful and enslaved the Jews for 400 years. But by the time God was done with him he was finished. Through a series of ten plagues God reduced the powerful Egyptian nation to nothing and set the Israelites free. For good measure God even drowned the Egyptian army in the Red Sea.
The problem for believers is that, while we wait for the wicked to gain enough strength so that God can show his almighty power, we suffer. We have to wait for our enemies to get really strong so that God can show his almighty power by destroying them and that is never pleasant.
As we look at events around the world today we are often dismayed. Crime is on the rise. Wars and rumors of wars. Hatred and prejudice. Society’s attitude toward marriage, children and the family is far from what God designed. Churches across the country are in great decline. Evil is called good and good is called evil. We cry out to God and he seems to do nothing.
So while we wait it is good to remind ourselves that God is waiting. He is waiting for wickedness to gain enough strength so that, when he does finally act, everyone will know how much more powerful he is than anyone or anything else.
The same is true in our own lives. God waits to help us overcome challenges and difficulties until we realize there is nothing we can do, that our own strength is not enough to overcome our challenges. Then he acts.
Again while God is waiting, we tend to panic, to think that there is nothing that can be done.
There are the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 32:36: “For the LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants, when he sees that their strength is gone and there is none remaining, bond or free.” God will vindicate his people when he sees their strength is gone.
This is what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:8–10:
“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.  He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.”
This, of course, is also what happened when Jesus died on the cross. Evil thought they had won a great victory; the Son of God was dead and buried. But then God showed his greatest power of all when he raised Jesus from the dead. Rising victorious over death, never to die again, is by far the greatest display of God’s power that he has shown.
Not only that, God has promised to give us the same power over death through faith in our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Isaiah 12:2: “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”
Psalm 28:8: “The LORD is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed.”
Isaiah 40:31: “But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
And as Jeremiah points out in the text, this is all done through his word. His word is a fire and a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces. The same word that created everything in the world can overcome all powers of this world and the power of death.
It does not follow from this though that we have to wait for things to get really bad to call out to God for help. No, he does want us to bring all of our cares and concerns to him, even the small ones. Just because he often waits for things to get really bad before he acts does not mean he does not care about our smaller problems. He wants us to bring ALL our cares to him.
So when it seems like evil has the upper hand we do not panic. Jeremiah did not. He had stood in the council of the Lord and heard the very words of God and knew that the almighty God had a plan to break all the forces of evil including death. When our strength is gone we know that God’s almighty power will prevail and win the victory.