Hammer of God

041110-N-5386H-004Hammer… Hammer of God, is that a real thing? I didn’t really think so, although God certainly uses people as instruments in his hand. Tools. Equipment. I wasn’t actually praying, not studying or even meditating when that question popped into my mind the other day. Maybe I was remembering the movie “Thor” that my daughter and I saw some months ago, I’m not sure what started this train of thought.

Along with that casual question, certain scenarios began to run through my mind. Hammering an enemy until he’s defeated, for instance. I gave the word a bit more mental focus and envisioned some physical, mental, emotional and spiritual definitions and uses of a hammer.

Nouns: tool, equipment, instrument, appliance, weapon; sign or symbol of position, power or authority.

Verb: to strike a surface with force; attack, beat physically or verbally; win, defeat an opponent or enemy; stress a point in a discussion or argument; repeat in different viewpoints, with different examples; work out an agreement about an issue.

Tool types: claw hammer, sledgehammer, jackhammer, ballpeen hammer; hammer and tongs (blacksmith’s tools); large and small, hammers come in many varieties, shapes and sizes.

hammer&tongsUsed by: a blacksmith, builder, carpenter, construction worker, roofer, metalworker, mechanic, handyman, businessman, housewife, student, inventor, engineer, decorator, attorney, judge, auctioneer, diplomat, mountain climber, explorer, hunter, seaman, camper, intercessor, evangelist, counselor, mentor, teacher, mediator. Who doesn’t own a hammer?

In addition to the practical uses of the tool such as hammering nails, the word appears in many metaphorical phrases: to hammer out a point; hammer out an agreement; hammer the desk to call for order, such as with a judge’s gavel; hammer away, i.e. keep arguing the same point; hammer out disagreements; fall of the hammer, meaning the end of an event such as an auction, trial, or lawsuit; put the hammer down, meaning to press all the way down on the accelerator to go maximum speed; bring the hammer down, to fire a handgun. (See http://www.word-detective.com/2009/11/bring-the-hammer-down/)

When I was doubtful whether the word hammer appeared in the Bible, the Lord whispered to me, “Don’t be so sure…” So, I looked the word up in Strong’s Concordance. It’s only in a few places, all in the Old Testament. Two basic words in the original language are translated hammer – maqqebeth, a tool used for striking a surface; and halmuwth, a tool used to perforate or make holes.

Judges 4:21 and 5:26 describe Heber’s wife Jael using a workman’s hammer and a tent spike to kill Sisera, driving the spike through his skull into the ground as he slept. Gruesome but fascinating account.

I Kings 6:7 says “And the house (i.e. Temple), when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building.”

jackhammerOne verse sort of leaped off the page at me: “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (Jer. 23:29)

I like that one. I visualize the Hammer of God as a weapon – like a spiritual jackhammer provided for us to use against any enemy, problem, difficulty, or opposition we might face.

Wilderness training

The New Testament has lots of military words and phrases, although they aren’t obvious in most English translations. Thinking about that fact, I started meditating on the way most of us think about “wilderness experiences.” Negative, bad, depressing, to-be-avoided, painful, stressful, faith-stealing, etc., etc.

Soldiers go through weeks and months of necessary training, some of it in wilderness areas. Like it or not, we’re soldiers ourselves.

What is a wilderness? Webster’s dictionary defines it primarily as a place that is uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings. Not that it is suitable for cultivation or habitation and no-one chose to do it — wilderness is a region that is not really suitable for cultivating crops or building cities and towns. The New Testament Greek word for wilderness means “solitude,” and is used in a variety of applications. I like that.

What is missing in a wilderness? Distractions. Normal food and shelter, companionship, duties and responsibilities. Ordinary occupations and opportunities.

What is present? Raw materials. Rocks and boulders, dust and grit, scrub brush, scorpions and snakes, blazing sun, deep shadows. Solitude. Challenges. Ingenuity. Inventiveness. Extraordinary occupations and opportunities.

For their lack of faith, the children of Israel had to wander around in a wilderness for forty years. Why not make them wander around in civilized territory? They could have pitched their tents on the shores of the Jordan, shopped at the local village markets and traded with other travelers. Forty years would have still gone by, the old folks would still die off, and by then they would have learned their lesson, right? Apparently not.

Jesus grew up in a civilized world, albeit under Roman occupation. He along with many others went down to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. He received the Holy Spirit, was identified and commended by God, and thus was prepared to preach… or was he?

Matthew 4:1 says, “Then was Jesus led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted (tested) by the devil.” He was there 40 days and 40 nights, fasting that entire time. He was removed from the daily distractions of carpentry, customers, brothers and sisters and neighbors, even the normal synagogue attendance as an adult Jewish man.

There were no disciples yet. No shops or stores in the wilderness, no bread bakeries. No tents or blankets or extra garments. He had to fashion whatever shelter he needed from whatever materials were available. Mark tells us that wild beasts were there too. Scavengers and hunters, they may have thought Jesus would make a nice snack.

And of course the enemy was there, in whatever form he was using at the time. Only after the devil did his best or worst to detour Jesus from his called path, did the angels come to minister to Jesus. Perhaps they brought him some breakfast, who knows.

What exactly happened in the wilderness? We’re only told about the end of that time, after Jesus had fasted for 40 days and 40 nights and was hungry. A great deal must have happened before that, however. Training. Preparation.

Luke tells us in 4:14, “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee; and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.” Jesus was already well known in Galilee, but this time something was different. He was different.

Our trouble with wilderness may arise from the fact that we don’t see it as a training ground, a time and place of solitude where our spiritual ears can be tuned up, our thinking and meditating processes exercised, and our faith can grow strong and muscular.

Wilderness and solitude without the distractions of other voices means you have to discern between the voice of your own needs and wants, the voice of the tempter, and the voice of the Holy Spirit. You have to hone your decision-making ability, your ability to choose the right voice to believe and obey. If you’re in the wilderness and a voice tells you a hungry mountain lion is just over that hill, don’t go that way, you’d better know for sure whose voice is speaking.

Jesus said many times that he only did what he saw the Father do or tell him to do. This 40 days in the wilderness surely wasn’t an exception.

High house payments, sky-rocketing cost of gasoline, economic turn-downs and job layoffs, family squabbles, health problems — all of those things can be devastating distractions to hearing and obeying the voice of the Lord. But they themselves are not the wilderness.

I think our attitude toward wilderness needs an adjustment. Sometimes we need a day apart down at a local park or camped out in our bedroom, alone with our Bible and the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we need a bit of voluntary wilderness to restore our spiritual perspective, learn how to discern between confusing voices, exercise and strengthen our faith.

(Reprinted from May 2008)

Perfected in His presence

businessman-walking-down-the-street-with-jesus-at-his-side“What are you like, Father? What do you like?” I asked in bedtime prayer one night. A list of words started scrolling through my mind, like watching an overhead projector. Occasionally the list paused on a particular word, accompanied with more explanation about it. It was an amazing answer to my question. “There’s more,” I realized as I began to fall asleep.

A few days later I started writing down what I remembered of the list, looking up scripture references as well as definitions from the original language. Even more amazing. Now and then another one comes to mind. I add it to the list.

This morning, thinking about one particular “I am” description spoken by God himself, I looked for it in Strong’s Concordance. Here’s what I found.

“And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I [am] the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.” (Gen. 17:1 KJV). Key words include:

  • Lord – Jehovah: the existing one
  • Appeared – ra’ah: become seen, present oneself, be visible, cause to see, cause to look intently at; to look at each other face to face
  • Almighty – Shaddai: almighty, most powerful
  • God – el: supreme being
  • Walk – halaq: come and go, move, live, die; manner of life (i.e. exist)
  • Before me – paniym: in the face of, in the presence of
  • Be thou perfect – tamiym: complete, whole, entire, healthful, sound, unimpaired, having integrity, entirely in accord with truth and fact

Wow. Live every moment in the presence of God = be whole. Complete, healthy, unimpaired in body, soul and spirit.

Some seem to think “walk before me” means I go first, God follows along behind. I just show my prayer list and plans to the Lord, then no matter what I do He’ll okay it. Whether or not the Lord inspired it, instigated it, assigned it, directed it, commanded it or not, He will bless it. I don’t think so.

“Before me” here means “in my face, in my presence.” Face to face, in the present-tense presence of Almighty God. I follow him, not the other way around. In the process, I am made complete and completely whole, healthy and sound, having integrity and entirely in accord with truth and fact. Made able to do whatever He wants to do in and with me, whenever and wherever He wants it done.

Jesus said, “Be ye perfect” (Matt. 5:48). This is how I can do that. Invite, welcome, and cooperate with the Holy Spirit. Listen to him. Learn from him. Do what he says. If I don’t understand something? He will explain it in words appropriate to me, illustrate it, give examples. Show and tell. He’ll do the perfecting. That is so reassuring! It’s still amazing, too.

There are lots of other words on that list to study and meditate on.  Did you know that God sings? And dances?