Sword of the Lord,
"O thou sword of the Lord, how long will it be ere thou be quiet? Put up thyself into thy scabbard, and be still How can it be quiet, seeing the Lord has given it a charge?" (Jer. 47.6).
Jeremiah of the 6th century BC was a politician as well as a prophet (thus giving the lie to the modern cynical assertion that there are no honest politicians!) His able grasp of the contemporary political arena of his day was on a par with his understanding as a prophet of the ways of God. In both fields he was clear sighted, outspoken and fearless. Both king and priests stood in awe of his forthright denunciations and warnings of troubles and disasters soon to come. Divine judgment was about to fall upon the nation in consequence of its violation of the principles of truth and justice. The priests were heedless of the paganism of the people; the king and his advisers relied on worldly wisdom in their dealings with hostile nations, repudiating the counsels of the Lord. Caught between the two contending military powers, Babylon and Egypt, both priests and king were oblivious to the danger that threatened. They scorned the advice and admonitions of the only honest politician, Jeremiah the prophet, the one who perceived plainly what must be the inevitable end of their course.
So Jeremiah became the sword of the Lord, the man appointed both to pronounce judgment upon the guilty nation and to witness its execution. No better man could be found; he was ready and fitted both by knowledge and desire. He said of himself "his word was as a burning fire shut up within my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay". He saw clearly the relation of personal faith and the worship of God to the trend of political events in Israel. He saw clearly his country's destiny in terms of the purpose of God. He knew that Israel would one day become a light to the nations but not until it had become a cleansed instrument in the hand of God. He knew too that it was at this present time corrupt and apostate and no fitting instrument for the Lord's work. He knew that judgment must surely come, judgment swift and relentless, and that only after the judgment had done its work could there be a blessing. But the blessing would come, for blessing always follows judgment for those who are rightly exercised by it.
So Jeremiah was a scourge to the godless of his own nation as well as a denouncer of other nations. Israelite or Gentile were all the same to him. Injustice, oppression, apostasy from God, he denounced wherever it was found, and fearlessly proclaimed the dire consequences that would result.
His fellows feared him and hated him, conspired against him and sought to destroy him, but always he stood erect in their midst, denouncing them in the name of God. He was to that generation the apostle of judgment; the Sword of the Lord.
The Sword of the Lord at any time in history is His instrument at that time for driving home His message, for executing his judgments, for separating the evil from the good. Particularly is it his agency for proclaiming to the particular generation the significance of the times in which that generation lives. "You can discern the face of the sky" said Jesus to the orthodox religious of His day "but you cannot discern the signs of the times". And in consequence it had to be said of them, sadly but firmly "the kingdom of God is taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof". In preChristian times Israel was the Sword of the Lord when they were loyal to him and to the Covenant. This was their battle cry when they followed Gideon to the rout of Midian. "The Sword of the Lord and Gideon". At the fervour of that shout and that confidence the enemy panicked and fled. But when Israel relapsed into faithlessness the role was changed and Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, in turn became the Sword of the Lord and God's executors of judgment upon Israel. "Ho, Assyrian, the rod of mine anger" He said, referring to Sennacherib, (Isa. 10.5) "and the staff in his hand, my indignation, I will send him against a hypocritical nation, against the people of my wrath". And so they suffered, both in the days of Hezekiah and the days of Jesus, because of their unbelief and heedlessness.
In Christian times the Church in the flesh is the Sword of the Lord, to declare and lay down in the ears of all men the standards of God's righteousness and to pronounce in no uncertain voice the certainty of Divine judgment when those standards are violated. It is to make known with all possible emphasis the full scope of the Divine purpose for human happiness and the reason and place in that purpose of the present reign of sin and death. After that comes the Messianic Age of righteousness when all men, dead and living, will stand before the Lord Jesus to be brought to a full knowledge of Him and, if they will, be fully reconciled to God and thus ushered into everlasting life. And when, as in our own time, the evidences come thick and fast that the change of the dispensation is upon us, that the world is nearing its end to be replaced by that promised Age of blessing, the Sword of the Lord must be drawn, aware of the significance of the times, proclaiming with the confidence of certain knowledge and the enthusiasm begotten of the inward vision, the Baptist cry "The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand".
Today, we are the Sword of the Lord. We are to this generation what Jeremiah was to his. But is the sword blunt? Has it lost its keenness? Three generations ago it was wielded to good effect and many heard the message of the Kingdom and rejoiced. The world has changed, and there is more unbelief and indifference.
"How can it be still" cries the prophet "seeing the Lord hath given it a charge?" If, with us, His Word truly is as a burning fire, shut up within our bones, how can the sword be still? How can we desist from the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom to a world that is so much nearer its end, so much more in process of disintegration. When Jesus told his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation He also said that this gospel of the kingdom would be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations and then would the end come. He stipulated no time limit. The preaching was go to on until the end had come. Even then it will not stop, for with the advent of the Kingdom of Christ upon earth the preaching will be immeasurably amplified and extended to reach everyone and the challenge of Christ be faced by all.
Christians live to make nonChristians into Christians, and Christians into better Christians. One does not make real Christians by offering them pie in the sky all the time. Christianity is not just a matter of having a pleasant time sitting round a camp-fire and singing a few songs together. There was a church in a London suburb with a large placard outside inviting the reader to come in for "pleasant Christian fellowship". That church is not there anymore. Not far away, there was a Salvation Army Hall full of wholly devoted and sacrificing Christians continually going out to preach their conception of the faith with drum and trumpet. It is still there and they still do it. The weakness of some witnessing is the tendency to stress the good time that is coming, ignoring the bad time now present. Its easy to tell people how good and happy they will be in the future Age and overlook how bad and miserable they are now. Do we tell them how the desert will bloom and blossom as the rose then, without admitting how increasingly polluted the earth is becoming now? There are two aspects to our message; one is blessing and the other is judgment. It is because the world of man is as it is that judgment must come. After that will come the blessing. John the Baptist started by calling his hearers a generation of vipers, and exhorted them to repentance if they would avoid the wrath to come. Not every modern herald could do that and get away with it. We live in a more prosaic age but we can at least tell people that the time has come for the axe to be laid at the root of the tree and all that is bad
and corrupt must be destroyed before the new age can be built. We have to tell men how far short they have come from that which they could be and then how they can, if they will, attain what could be, through Christ. In this modern world of ours, money mad and pleasure hungry, living only for the present, and heedless as well as ignorant of the finer things in life, those who need the message do not understand the language. Sin, death, the Fall, redemption, eternal salvation are like a foreign language to them. Speak of Jesus and his death on the cross and some do not even know who Jesus was. "Back to the Bible and to God" has no appeal to people who have never had the Bible. Paul had a better chance with the pagans. They did at least worship some gods even though false ones; today's pagans worship no gods at all. The Greeks and the Romans did in the main believe that there would be a heavenly life with the gods for the righteous. Modern man believes in no heaven at all and only one hell ‑ the hell he has created for himself upon this earth. And that is where we have to start.
It is this separation of evil from good in our own time and lives that we have to face. Zechariah saw the position in his vision of the flying roll (Zech. 5). It was a giant roll of parchment or goatskin, thirty feet long by twenty across, written inside and out with the Divine law, rolling over the ground and entering into every house to destroy the evil in that house by stating the laws of right doing bringing these things to the notice of every individual in the house and challenging them to renounce the evil and embrace the good.
"When God arises to judgment, to save all the meek of the earth, surely the wrath of man shall praise thee" (Psa. 76. 9 ). "He comes to judge the earth with righteousness and the people with equity" (Psalm 98). Does that sound like a 'dreadful day of wrath'? That is the message we should be proclaiming in whatever fashion we individually can proclaim ‑ judgement then blessing. Evil turned into good. Godlessness turned into godliness. Death turned into life. The tunnel may be dark and long but at the end there is the sunlight.
This is the message. Mankind will be redeemed and the world cleansed by the removal of evil. The way is open for all men by virtue of the death of Christ on the Cross, Christ who "gave himself a Ransom for All" and by that one act nullified the power of death over the human race introduced by the sin of their first parents. So they return, all the generations, back to the beginning, in the power of that Ransom. But sin has yet to be removed; as the man dies, so does he rise again. The Millennial Age is appointed for that removal, the reign of Christ over the earth and all the multitudes for whom He died, teaching, encouraging, converting, reconciling "whosoever will" until at the last the final traces of evil will have been removed.
(This is an abridged article reprinted from 20 years ago)