Praise and a Sword?

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Let the praises of God be in their mouths, and a sharp sword in their hands.

Psalm 149:6

Psalm 149:6 is one of many verses in the Psalms that can, at first, startle or even shock us. The psalm begins with a call to praise the Lord and sing to him a new song (149:1). Israel is to rejoice in God and praise him with dancing and music (149:2-3). Why? Because the Lord "delights in his people" and "crowns the humble with victory" (149:4). So God's people are to praise him, even "as they lie on their beds" (149:5).

But then we read: "Let the praises of God be in their mouths, and a sharp sword in their hands" (149:6). This sword is given to God's people so that they might "execute the judgment written against" the nations and their leaders (149:7-9). How are we to understand this unexpected juxtaposition of praise and the sword?

Notice that this psalm does not endorse any use of the sword. Rather, it is to execute the justice of God against those who are deserving of divine punishment. This psalm does not endorse violence for selfish gain. Rather, it reminds us of God's justice against those who have perpetrated injustice.

Of course, God's justice includes more than punishment of the wicked. It also includes treating people rightly, caring for the poor, and seeking freedom for the oppressed. Remember the call of God through the prophet Micah. What God requires of us is "to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with [our] God" (6:8). Worship in prayer and song must be matched by worship in justice and kindness.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: When you come upon a verse of Scripture that surprises or unsettles you, what do you do? How is your worship of God expressed in your daily life? Is there a connection between how you praise the Lord and how you treat others?

PRAYER: O Lord, you are indeed worthy of all praise. You deserve every bit of thanks, glory, and honor that I can offer—and so much more.

Yet I am reminded today that you are praised, not only in my words, but also in my actions, not only in what I sing to you, but also in how I treat my neighbor.

The "sharp sword" in my hand is not made of metal, but rather of your truth. May I wield your word with accuracy, insight, and compassion. May I communicate, not only your justice, but also your mercy.

All praise be to you, God of glory and justice. Amen.