A Psalm, a Sword, and the Word

Oh Christian, what is your answer, both to your own heart with all its pressing need, and to an accusing and hostile world?  God’s Word is your answer…God’s gospel (good news) Word is your answer.

Look at how Psalm 149 makes this so beautifully apparent.  There are two distinct halves to this Psalm, bracketed by the phrase: Praise the Lord (Note: For those interested in such things, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the original Hebrew makes Psalm 149 chiastic in structure.  I haven’t tried to work this one out for myself yet).

Here’s the first half (vs. 1-6a, ESV):

Praise the Lord!

 Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly!

Let Israel be glad in his Maker, let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!

Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!

For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation. 

Let the godly exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds.

Let the high praises of God be in their throats…

 

And then the second half (vs. 6b-9):

…and two-edged swords in their hands,

to execute vengeance on the nations and punishments on the peoples,

to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron,

to execute on them the judgment written!

This is honor for all his godly ones.

Praise the Lord!

Now, what cues us to the fact that God’s Word lies underneath these two halves?  Well, in part it’s the phrase “two-edged swords.”  What two-edged sword do all the people of God wield, regardless of culture, time, place, gender, age, vocation, or any other factor?  Answer: The Word of God.  Consider these three passages:

  1. Hebrews 4:12 (ESV) – “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

 

  1. Ephesians 6:17 (ESV) – “…and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…”

 

  1. Revelation 19:11, 13, 15 (ESV) [speaking of Jesus] – Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war…He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God…From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron.

In Hebrews, Ephesians, and Revelation, Scripture images God’s Word as a sword, even a sharp and two-edged sword.  This word searches every heart (Hebrews), it is part of the Christian’s battle gear for life (Ephesians), and it proceeds ultimately from the mouth of Jesus himself (Revelation).

Back now to Psalm 149: In the first half of Psalm 149, Christians are people acted upon by the double-edged sword, by the Word of God.  It is God’s Word that releases our heart to the sort of praise enjoined on us by the Psalmist; God’s Word that informs our praise by telling us who God is and how he works; God’s Word that gives language and content to our praise.  The sword we wield is one by which we are first pierced ourselves – pierced for life!

In the second half of Psalm 149, it is God’s gospel Word that becomes the Christian’s testimony to the world.  For some, this testimony will be life-giving unto salvation.  Our great hope and joy is that when we speak his Word, God saves.  When we speak, he makes sinners into “first-half-of-Psalm-149” worshippers.  For others, this testimony will one day become the sword that proceeds from Jesus’ mouth and slays them on the day of judgment (Revelation 19:15-16).  It is this latter function of judgment that appears most starkly in Psalm 149:6b-9.  Our present testimony of the Gospel is the opening statement of God’s judgment pronouncement on unrepentant sin and sinners.  No wonder Paul can say this to the Corinthians: “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” (2 Corinthians 2:15-16a).

With Paul we can wonder, “Who is sufficient for these things?” and with Psalm 149 we can say, “Praise the Lord!” (2 Corinthians 2:16, Psalm 149:9b).

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