We all understand that God is loving, merciful, and kind. Plenty of preachers regularly say this. It’s nice. It makes for a good sermon. You could easily buy a book on the subject, since it is the most compelling attribute of God, and indeed the attribute that believers must emulate. This world cannot get enough of love and mercy, and rightfully so. We crave it, and the love of God is an endless well we can draw from daily.
But another captivating illustration of Christ appears in the reading today, one that should bring about reverent fear for people across all creeds and cultures.
Metal gear: solid
Even though guns are the weapon of choice — at least in this country — a sword still gets my attention. When a buddy unsheathes a special sword they ordered online, even a small one, I hold my breath a little and take a step back. “How quickly a well-sharpened blade can cut right to the bone or severely lacerate the flesh!” I think to myself, not in those terms specifically, but a healthy reverence for the weapon wells up. Perhaps the level of fear differs between others, but there’s still a bit of apprehension when a blade is drawn. And it should!
The apparition of a blade on the battlefield brings about even greater fear, because it represents the possibility of death, and, on a symbolic level, judgment. One would do what they could to defend themselves, attack the enemy, and avoid death by all means.
Imagine if the wielder were the Son of God Himself, however, and He were to stand on the opposite side. The likelihood of survival would be none.
The “sword out of the mouth” illustration is clearly a symbol, but its ability to destroy is not.
Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.
I know I’m not blazing new territory or anything, so forgive my redundancy. This sword, clearly the Word of God, must be held in reverence, for it cuts deep.
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
In the same breath, John relates that the sword from the mouth of the Lord will smite the nations. This weapon is not brandished to show off to His buddies; the intention of the unsheathed blade is to make war and cut down the adversary. It is meant to intimidate, cut, divide, and judge.
Wielder of fortune
Before getting too upset about this alarming attribute of Christ, there are two things you need to remember:
Is the Bible just a book you carry with you to church once a week, or just a religious tome that bears limited historical and ethical bearing on society? For the believer, this should never be, of course; we should have the thing with us at all times, hanging at our belt, and we should know how to use it should a day come that we would need to handle it in battle.
To the unbeliever, however, it might be time to consider what side you’re on. One day, the Lord will stand on the opposite end of the battlefield, sword unsheathed, and no firepower or artillery will be able to oust Him, for mere words from His mouth will be capable of leveling entire nations. And those, my friends, are fightin’ words.
On a present and applicable level to the believer, revere the Word. We cannot continue to have a flippant perspective on the Bible. It must be held in high regard, superseding your personal opinion of God, your personal moral standards, and it must influence your daily decisions. This is not just a book that people read and go along with because that’s what church folks do. This is the Word of the Lord! It would seem useful to know this stuff.
Before and after
Recognize that the believers and elders in the beginning of chapter 19 are busy worshiping the Lord. Perhaps they know of the impending victory, but their priority is exalting Jesus. It must be so for us — we cannot wait around for something to happen and expect to be prepared to fight. Do not stand idle. Know your weapon; know your Word!
Also recognize who wins at the end of the chapter. Inevitably, the Faithful and True guy on the white horse with the sword jutting out of His mouth is overwhelmingly victorious. Jesus and His army stand behind the Word of God; His opposition stands before it. Which side of the Word do you stand?