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Volume 13, Issue 4: Thema

The Word of God is a Hammer

THE WORD IS A HAMMER

The Word of God is a hammer, Jeremiah says, that breaks a rock in pieces. The Word is not a flattering carress. The Scripture is no Judas kiss. The textures of God's revelation to sinful man are not smooth and silken vanities.
Isaiah the prophet spoke to the proud and arrogant of his day, and ironically enough he used the figure of a collapsing wall or tower. He prophesied a time of great slaughter, and a day when towers fall (Is. 30:25). He said that judgment, when it comes, comes suddenly, with the only warning being an ominous bulge in a high wall. And after the calamity, the pieces are tiny and useless (vv. 13-14).
But of interest to us is the reason for the judgment. These were children who would not hear the law of God (v. 9). They did not want the seers to see (v. 10). They rejected honest prophesy, and said, speak to us smooth things, tell us some more lies. Get the Holy One of Israel out of our sight. And so the Holy One speaks His terrible judgment (v. 12). Is this not exactly what we are demanding—prophesy smooth things? Do we not shout down as unpatriotic anyone who raises these issues? The timing is bad, we say. Fine—when should the desert prophet have come? When the DOW was pushing 11,000? I remember—we were all ears back then. In this regard, even Marvin Olasky has written that Falwell's "timing was bad." But when does unrepentant America think the time would be good? When will we as a nation be prepared for the truth?
Paul spoke of the same problem, and this horrible sin surrounds us today on every side. Christians today will not endure sound doctrine, but heap up teachers for themselves (2 Tim. 4:3-4). They don't want to hear it in good times, and they don't want to hear it in bad. But in times like these, the true people of God will want the Word of God entire, all of it, with nothing sandpapered or varnished to flatter us.
Carnal America is baffled at the very concept. Why would God ever want to judge us? Not surprisingly, the Scripture gives answers. We have become accustomed to our festering boils and sores, and have even started to think of some of them fondly. We even boast in some of them, and have dubbed them marks of health—we, after all, are a pluralistic society! Good for us! Think of a man afflicted with the plague, and the more the pluralistic pox appears on his skin, the more he thinks he is winning some kind of beauty contest.
If we want to see ourselves rightly, the best place to begin our consideration of the Word in this matter is with an extended passage from that Word. And this is written in part for those American Christians who have stood for some of the truth, but who are still schizophrenic about it. They have been involved in pro-life work for years, and yet they thoughtlessly hang out the red, white, and blue in the aftermath of this attack. They do not yet understand that the colors represent something else now. We need to hang out the flag, but draped in black.
O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongs—
O God, to whom vengeance belongs, shine forth!
Rise up, O Judge of the earth;
Render punishment to the proud.
Lord, how long will the wicked,
How long will the wicked triumph?
They utter speech, and speak insolent things;
All the workers of iniquity boast in themselves.
They break in pieces Your people, O Lord,
And afflict Your heritage.
They slay the widow and the stranger.
And murder the fatherless.
Yet they say, "The Lord does not see.
Nor does the God of Jacob understand."
Understand, you senseless among the people;
And you fools, when will you be wise?
He who planted the ear, shall He not hear?
He who formed the eye, shall He not see?
He who instructs the nations, shall He not correct,
He who teaches man knowledge?
The Lord knows the thoughts of man.
That they are futile.
Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O Lord,
And teach out of Your law,
That you may give him rest from the days of adversity,
Until the pit is dug for the wicked.
For the Lord will not cast off His people,
Nor will He forsake His inheritance.
But judgement will return to righteousness,
And all the upright in heart will follow it.
Who will rise up for me against the evildoers?
Who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?
Unless the Lord had been my help,
My soul would soon have settled in silence.
If I say, "My foot slips,"
Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up.
In the multitude of my anxieties within me,
Your comforts delight my soul.
Shall the throne of iniquity, which devises evil by law, have fellowship with You?
They gather together against the life of the righteous, and condemn innocent blood.
But the Lord has been my defense,
And my God the rock of my refuge.
He has brought on them their own iniquity,
And shall cut them off in their own wickedness;
The Lord our God shall cut them off (Ps. 94).
Scripture points to the vast difference between a sinner who occupies a throne, on the one hand, and a throne established in iniquity on the other. No earthly throne was ever occupied by someone who was not a sinner, and there has never been a time when our nation didn't have someone on the throne directing some things which were inconsistent with the law of God. We are all sinners, magistrates included. Christians are therefore not to demand perfection of their civil rulers. We do not demand perfection of rulers in the household—husbands and fathers. We do not demand an absolute perfection of the elders of the Church, nor should we. Therefore we must not start our discussion of civil repentance by expecting perfection from our civil rulers. Such perfectionism in the American church has been a big part of our problem.
But the psalm above is not describing hypocrisy or certain inconsistencies. Scripture does not hesitate to label a man a good king, who served God, but who nevertheless did not remove the high places.
By contrast, the throne of iniquity is that which devises evil by law, naming evil things as righteous and damning the righteous as evil. Now in modern America, we go far beyond minor scriptural inconsistencies. Our problem is that we devise evil by law. We have seen the institutionalization of evil, and we have seen it through, going far beyond the mere personal sin of rulers. Rather, we have a political system which extends and mandates a particular kind of secularist autonomy. This secularist autonomy is not just another "political ideology," it is a great and tyrannical idol.
When we look at the history of civil and political life, we quickly discover that we have always had scoundrels. We have always had people in power who were hypocritical, or treacherous, or did not keep their word. What does that mean? It means they were sinners in the same way that we are.
But what we have today in our culture, and the reason for the judgment falling upon us, is not just the commission of evil, but the institutionalization of that evil. We have come to say that good is bad, up is down, black is white, and consequently calamity threatens and falls (Is. 5:20). Isaiah pronounces woe upon us, and we are in no position to substitute a blessing instead.
God says in this psalm, "Shall the throne of iniquity which devises evil by law have fellowship with You?" It goes on to say: "They gather together against the life of the righteous and condemn innocent blood." Lawless thrones are always bloodthirsty thrones, and their thirst is consistently for the blood of the righteous and innocent. In the aftermath of this disaster, Planned Parenthood of New York offered free abortions from September 18-22 for those women who were "displaced" or who were otherwise in need because of the "World Trade Center tragedy." This was made financially possible by the US taxpayer, and authorized by our representatives, who devise evil by putrid law.
"It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness, for a throne is established by righteousness" (Prov. 16:12). Notice that it doesn't say it would be nice if a throne had some righteousness around it, or that it would certainly make things a little more convenient for the godly if thrones were established in righteousness. It says that a throne is established through righteousness. When men gather and devise evil by law and when men reverse the natural order of goodness, what they have done is undercut their own moral legitimacy. They have said, "We do not want to rule according to God's law, God's way, or God's Word." And so God responds by saying that such a rebellious throne will be unmade because thrones are established through righteousness. What happens when the throne of iniquity devises evil by law? God has no fellowship with it. He cuts them off.
In the light of this, consider a few striking sins that are rampant in our culture and which explain why the pleasure of God does not rest upon us. This does not mean that our military response to the terrorists will be unsuccessful. It well may be. I pray that it will be successful. God may use our unbelief to judge their unbelief just as He has used theirs on us. But as we take action against them we are doing so as one group of idolators fighting another group of the same. How can we say this?
The vast majority of the pro-life forces in America do not understand the nature of abortion. As said earlier, they do not see it as a judgment in its own right. Consider this: For over twenty-five years, since Roe v. Wade, we have maintained publicly, as a nation, as a culture, through the legislation of our elected representatives, that the dismemberment of an innocent child in the womb is morally legitimate. We have allowed it as a good thing to do, a righteous thing for us to protect. It is prochoice to be able to do this. We have established this by law.
Muslim fanatics murder innocents, and so they deserve judgment from God. But our difference with them is not over the question of innocent blood, it is over size. Murder American-style is like a perverse ride at Disneyland: you have to be under a certain height before others can exercise their freedom to choose. Muslim Fanatics want to kill people minding their own business at a desk in a tower. We want to do it to kids minding their own business in the womb.
The current lie is that to oppose this sort of thing is to be hostile to women. Further, it is not just that one group of people in our society have said this and another group in our society have contradicted it—we the people, as a people, have said—through our civil representatives—that it is right and proper and good to chop up a little baby. We are upside down. We are backwards. We are demonic. Our people are evil. We are evil in Washington; we are evil in every state capitol; we deserve to be overthrown. We have established and defended this iniquity by law. The Bible says that murder is a great evil, but we have felt free to play around with the definitions more than just a little. Many have hastened to say that this is no judgment, it cannot be a judgment. But let's ask one other question: If it were a judgment, would there be anything unjust in it?
We also try to defend ourselves against the anger of God by saying that we have been politically involved in the fight against abortion. And some of us have, but not with a biblical wisdom. The confusion cited earlier is at the heart of it. In the 2000 presidential elections, Christians who determined that they were not going to vote for George W. Bush were told that they were being irresponsible on the abortion question. They were told that 3 or 4 Supreme Court appointments were at stake, and that to vote for someone other than Mr. Bush was irresponsible. But the calamity of Roe happened in 1973. Roe was upheld by that same Supreme Court in 1993, twenty bloody years later. Roe was upheld, but this time, eight of the nine justices were Republican appointments. As the old blues song put it, we ought to watch what we're doing.
In Numbers 35 we learn what happens when a murder is committed. It is no private affair. God says, "You shall not commit murder" (Ex. 20:13). "So you shall not pollute the land where you are; for blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it. Therefore, do not defile the land which you inhabit, in the midst of which I dwell; for I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel" (Num 35:33-34).
The Bible tells us, in the plainest possible words, not only that we should not commit murder, but that when we do, blood defiles the land. This is not just talking about a criminal who takes a life of another, although of course that is part of it. In our context, we are talking about our throne of iniquity which has established this iniquity by law, this evil by law. We know that this murder has defiled our land. We also know, consequently, that we are under the judgment of God, for He will not dwell among us for blessing in a land defiled in this way. Our nine Supreme Court justices are being transformed into Tolkien's Nazgul. Our public policy on this question can only be described as ghoulish and sick.
We cannot exempt ourselves as we would like to do by saying, "But we are Americans. We get a special pass; we are favored by God." We are not favored by God. We are like every other nation among the nations of men. When we honor God, He honors us. When we disobey God, when we defy Him, when we establish evil by law, He will throw us down. He will overthrow our people because He is angry with us. Many Christian activists for traditional causes need to wake up to the very ugly truth that under the current management God hates America. God is not mocked. Men will always reap what they sow. In the aftermath of this disaster, I cannot drive down the street without seeing the Taco Time reader board saying, "God bless America." Arby's chimes in with the same, and it is all very cozy, and patriotic. What would happen if they put up something like, "Repent—flee from the wrath to come." We couldn't have that because, you see, repentance is sectarian.
Now the Bible tells us very plainly in a number of places that the unborn child is an individual. This is something believing Christians know. We know that unborn children are individuals. Unborn children are among us—they are part of our congregations. We rejoice in these children; we welcome them when they arrive, and we want to continue to welcome them into our congregations.
But in our nation, we no longer welcome them as they arrive. In our nation, we have declared, through our established representatives, that it is not reproachable to burn them to death with salt, thereby torturing them to death. And when any nation says it is morally legitimate to do this thing, and that it is harsh, critical, uncaring, and mean-spirited to oppose it, and has maintained this position for a quarter of a century, as we have done, then the governors of that nation have lost all moral legitimacy. When they cry out to God for deliverance from terrorists (those bad men who kill innocent people), God laughs at them. Fools and blind! Such a nation has demonstrated its full intent to establish evil through law. Why should a holy God help us keep our abortion mills running?
Another place where we establish iniquity by law is in the question of sodomy exalted. Christians cannot simply say, "This is too much! This is one step too far!" No—this is the next logical step in our rebellion, and the rebellion itself goes back centuries. We cannot simply stop and say that we are not going to take that next step down. There is a certain logic to progressive unbelief, and the only way to refute that logic is through repentance, and not through digging in our heels.
Our filthy condition is therefore revealed in the push for homosexual "marriages." And these perverse unions are already established and honored throughout the corporate world. But we must always remember what God did to Sodom, and why He did it. He did it because He said this kind of behavior was an abomination before Him.
Our culture defies God in virtually everything that it does, and we want to have an exemption from the consequences because we have various self-justifying categories in our minds. The view that "God is not mocked" is another one of those troublesome sectarian beliefs. But C.S. Lewis called it right in his book The Abolition of Man: "We laugh at honor, and then are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate, and bid the gelding be fruitful. We chop down the tree and then we look for fruit. We luxuriate in our sensate culture, bathe in various forms of titillation, and then are surprised at our lack of chastity."
Another practice of ours inviting judgment is our false neutrality. Pretended neutrality is the central lie of our government school system. And the central lie takes this form: "We are not going to say whether or not the triune God exists. We are not going to say whether Islam or atheism or the Christian faith is true. We are not going to teach against your religion; we are not going to teach for your religion. We are going to be neutral."
This wickedness is propagated in our government school systems—which systems are propped up, incidentally, by the continued enrollment of children of believers. If all believers in this country took their children by the hand and led them out of these officially agnostic institutions, the whole educational structure would collapse. In the aftermath of this disaster, we shall see how many Christian parents are repentant. Government schooling would be destroyed if we were repentant, and it would all be done by next week. Christians are the ones keeping it all together—subsidizing godlessness with their own children.
This lie of neutrality says that the living God is, at best, irrelevant. In other words, we are not going to say whether He lives or not, whether He is the living God or not. We will just content ourselves with saying that if He exists, that existence does not matter in the classroom. This is more than just a lie, it is an abomination.
We have also exhibited our compromise with pretended neutrality in how we handle our law. The reason our fathers gave us a written constitution was because they had a biblical view of the world. They knew how deceitful the hearts of men could be. So we have a written constitution because of these very biblical doubts about the nature of man. But we have come to inherit a written constitution which our leaders and judges now say is a living document—which is to say that it can be interpreted by activist judges as though it were not written. If we have the right to assemble, that means we do not necessarily have the right to assemble. If we have the right to keep and bear arms, that does not necessarily mean we have the right to keep and bear arms. It all depends. If the Constitution says a power not expressly given to the federal government is reserved for the states or the people, it doesn't really mean anything. That was then, this is now.
The issue for us as Christians is not whether the Tenth Amendment or the First Amendment or the Second Amendment were a good idea when they were first approved. The issue is what they say. But we are still pretending that words are infinitely flexible, and that is what makes us a nation of liars.
How can you say, "We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us." Look, the false pen of the scribe certainly works falsehood. The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken. Behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord; so what wisdom do they have? (Jer 8:89)
Our scribes—our lawyers and politicians—write falsehood with their pens and with their word processors and their court decisions. They make it up, twist it, wrangle it, mangle it, and then offer it back to us. We, being good little Christians, say, "Well, they are the established authorities—Romans 13—and we have to honor what they do." But they are not the only established authorities. The Constitution is the established authority along with those who are given to administer it. We have to understand that a lying interpretation of a legitimate authority is not itself a legitimate authority. If our governors reject the Word of the Lord, which they have done, what wisdom can they have?
What reason do they have to be faithful to their earthly obligation to be faithful to the Constitution, when they have already rejected their spiritual obligation to God? If they have already twisted the words of God, why should we expect them to respect the words of James Madison?
We cannot pray for wisdom for our Supreme Court unless we are consciously praying that they return to the Scriptures as the source of that wisdom. In other words, we need to give up our compromised commitments to a pluralistic culture. This phrase "pluralistic culture" represents nothing more than the cultural outworking of polytheism. And this is why we saw the outworking of this pluralism in a worship service at the National Pantheon.
Christians have a moral obligation to cease their support of this polytheistic establishment. We need to disciple this nation just as the Lord required in the Great Commission. As long as God is kind enough to permit it to remain a nation, our responsibility is to call America in its national capacity to bow down before the Lord Jesus Christ. This will not happen through establishing co-ministry contacts with rabbis and imams.
Can we imagine any Christian saying that he did not want his nation to bow down to the Lord Jesus Christ? We are so muddled and confused, so far departed from the Word of God, that we actually have Christians saying that it would be a bad thing for us to come in repentance to Christ. How far have we wandered off the path when brothers can say, "I think the Christian faith is true, but I do not think our nation should be Christian," and not be laughed out of the room? Of course, I cannot say this without many secularists thinking that what I am calling for is a conservative Christian version of "jihad," and they scare themselves with images of religious-right ayatollahs. But among other things what I am actually calling for is repentance over a good portion of the activities of the religious right.
We either serve God or we serve the devil. We must either serve truth or serve lies. There is no third option, no tertium quid. There is no neutrality, anywhere. No such category exists. Neutrality is simply the camouflaged cover that has been provided for the current lies. We either serve the truth or we do not; we either honor God or we do not. We either submit to Him or we do not.
So here are the questions: does our executive branch, does our legislative branch, does our judicial branch, do our local governments, do our state governments honor and serve the Lord Jesus Christ or not? The answer is very simple. They have not for quite a long time, and have made it a point of honor that they do not. We should then ask another question. Since they have refused to serve Him, why should God bless them? Why would God say anything like the following? "I know you think I am irrelevant, and that I am not God at all, and that My word is not the source of all truth, but I am going to pour out all My blessings anyway. Just keep on killing those babies, keep on marrying homosexuals to one another, keep on crafting lies and call them court decisions. Just keep doing that and I will keep blessing you with personal peace and prosperity. I will keep your standard of living going up, and I will really make the stock market go up. This is because you all are just fine folks—Americans after all. I am kind and benevolent to those who hate Me; I am the God who clears the guilty. And whenever I, even I, the Holy One, see Old Glory, I get kind of choked up. Sure, why not. God bless America." What kind of god would speak this way? Clearly not the God of the Bible. We must come to understand that our covenantal cultural hatred of truth means that we do not have what Scripture would identify as a secure established authority.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but the last sin mentioned here which invites judgment is our false morality—our bogus moral crusades. What happens when a land dishonors God and begins dismembering little children? What happens when we practice sexual perversion? Mankind is created imago Dei, despite our wickedness, and we cannot forget that we bear this image. As image bearers we therefore carry with us an inescapable sense of morality.
This means that if we will not have morality defined by the Word of God, then we must invent our own morality. We will invent our own standards of righteousness. With this in mind, look at our secular culture—although we have no fixed morality, we are still not lacking for moral crusades. We are not lacking for people who have a deepseated moral indignation towards whatever particular pseudo-evil they have picked that must bear the brunt of their crusade. If we will not learn our morality from the law of God, we will find ourselves inventing our own list of things to be indignant about.
This is why we now find tobacco, sexism, wine, beer, and the history of Western Europe, to be very offensive. We are outraged at tobacco; we are outraged at wine and beer; we are outraged at the Bible's teaching on authority and submission in marriage; and we are outraged at the heritage of Christendom. We are muddled and confused because we have been trading at the world's oldest continuously-running swapmeet. "All too well you reject the commandment of God that you may keep your tradition" (Mark 7:9). A woman, six-months pregnant, can dismember her unborn child without reproach, but if that same woman keeps the baby and risks a low birth-weight by lighting up a cigarette, she is shunned as a pariah.
We have a long American tradition of restricting things we don't like—a deep prohibitionist streak. But these rules we invent are nothing but the traditions of men. Because we want our own traditions and selfdefined morality, we must therefore reject the commandments of God.
Because of all these things (and many more), our nation is not under the blessing of God. God is not firmly establishing the rule and authority of our magistrates, because they, unrepentant, persist in crafting iniquity by law. So the Church of Jesus Christ can only lawfully say one thing in response.
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! (Isaiah 5:20-21)
Woe to those who say that up is down and down is up, woe to those who twist and pervert everything. Woe to those who tell so many lies that a man cannot even keep it all straight anymore. Woe to those who multiply outrages, one after another, and euphemistically call it "spin."
How can we cut through this? How are we going to find our way? How are we to get oriented again? The Church of God must not say that it is possible to get oriented apart from submission to the Word of God. We cannot get oriented until we are willing to say, "A curse from heaven rests upon everyone who twists what is right and wrong." When we say that it is morally acceptable to chop a little one up into littler pieces, we cannot be surprised when God's curse falls on our nation. This is not something which might happen in the future if we don't repent. It is happening now.
But in the midst of this we must be careful where we place the blame. It is far too easy to begin throwing accusations and imprecatory prayers at them. We must never attempt to blame a nebulous and undefined them. Our leaders are certainly rebelling against God, but they are the symptom of the problem, not the cause. We are the problem. We are represented by these people, and we are represented well.
And so the complacent Christian church needs to repent instead of counting stock options like Hezekiah, saying there will be peace and safety in my time. The recent events show that this is not true, but even if it were true, the response is still ungodly.
We believers are as much a part of the problem as anyone else. This is where Jerry Falwell's now retracted comments fell short. He blamed all those secularists out there. But the real problem is in the Church. We have forgotten the central duty of the Church, which is worship, and the central sin of the Church is the corruption of worship. We are the problem. When the worship service at the National Pantheon was going on, Jerry Falwell was one of the assembled congregants. As he put it, "On Friday, September 14th, President Bush invited me to join him, his family and administration and 3,000 others to the National Cathedral for a special Day of Prayer and Remembrance, where we asked God for His comfort, protection and wisdom." Note this— "where we asked God . . ." And how did we ask Him? By reading from the Koran, praying to the God of Mohammed, having a rabbi read the Scriptures, and having the good lady bishop build the biggest tent of them all.
A professing Christian is far more likely to support the polytheistic worship we offer than an atheist from the ACLU will. The professing Christian may see it as a step in the right direction— "at least we are becoming a little more religious!" As though that were a good thing. There is only one way out from under the judgment that we and our current rulers have brought upon us—thorough-going repentance. There is only one way out for our rulers—thorough-going repentance. Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people (Prov 14:34). God is chastising us with these rulers. God is afflicting us with these rulers. And God is afflicting us with the Christian leaders we have. God is judging us with terrorists. We are getting it all. Sin is always a reproach; this sin is a reproach to us. We deserve what we are getting, and need to get it good and hard.
But we cannot repent for them; we can only repent for ourselves. And as part of this repentance, the first thing we have to consider is the state of the Church. How do we expect the civil magistrate to conduct its affairs according to the Word of God when it comes to babies and truth and sodomy, when the Church on this continent overwhelmingly refuses to conduct her affairs according to the Word of God?
The contemporary church refuses to believe the doctrines of the gospel, refuses to conduct its worship services according to the directions of Scripture, refuses to establish government in the Church according to the Scripture, and refuses to understand sanctification the way the Bible says we are to understand it. The Church overwhelmingly and consistently refuses to do what the Bible says she must do. If we can't run our own families and our own churches biblically, what makes us think we would do any better holding the reins of a nation?
Be assured that when the Church does not obey God, nobody else will obey God. If the Church is not reformed, nothing else will be reformed. If the Church does not learn repentance and obedience, particularly in worship, no one else will.
Only a few other things remain to be said.

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