1Praise the Lord!
Sing to the Lord a new song,
And His praise in the congregation of the godly ones.
2 Let Israel be glad in his Maker;
Let the sons of Zion rejoice in their King.
3 Let them praise His name with dancing;
Let them sing praises to Him with timbrel and lyre.
4 For the Lord takes pleasure in His people;
He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation.
5 Let the godly ones exult in glory;
Let them sing for joy on their beds.
6 Let the high praises of God be in their mouth,
And a two-edged sword in their hand,
7 To execute vengeance on the nations
And punishment on the peoples,
8 To bind their kings with chains
And their nobles with fetters of iron,
9 To execute on them the judgment written;
This is an honor for all His godly ones.
Praise the Lord!
This is an interesting psalm, especially the last half, when it speaks of a sword executing vengeance on the nations, and it being an honor to execute judgment! If you read this on the surface, you can see where a radical extremist could believe he was serving God by killing other people. But we know from all of scripture that this cannot be a correct interpretation. Yes, there were times in the history of Israel when God commanded the armies of Israel to destroy other nations. But this was only after He had extended grace to the ungodly nations, giving them time to repent and they had continued to reject.
Genesis 15:16 – Then in the fourth generation they [Abraham’s descendants] will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.
We know that God is just and righteous, and He alone has the right to judge people.
In order to understand the second half, let’s think about this psalm as a whole. What can we learn about praise, and its effects, not only on us, but on those around us (believers and non-believers).
Who praises God?
* the one who recognizes God as His Maker (v. 2)
* the one who recognizes God as His King (v. 2)
* the afflicted ones who have received salvation (v. 4)
* the godly ones (v. 1,5)
How do we praise God?
* with song (v. 1,3,5)
* with other believers (v. 1)
* with dancing (v. 3)
* with instruments (v. 3)
* by exulting in His glory (v. 5)
* with joy (v. 5)
* with exalting (high) praise in our mouth and a two-edged sword in our hand (v. 6)
Why do we praise God?
* because it is an honor (v. 9)
* because it brings joy and gladness (v. 2,5)
* because it brings pleasure to God (v. 4)
* because it exposes coming judgment for the ungodly (v. 6-9)
Praise is an honor in that God takes pleasure in worship that is truly God-centered and pure (v. 4). Praise is a response to salvation – only those who have experienced salvation truly praise God for who He is and what He’s done for us spiritually. Others can praise Him for physical blessings, and even answered prayer, but the heart of the redeemed should be able to offer pure worship. It matters, because God does not like it when our lips praise Him, but our hearts are far from Him.
Mark 7:6 – And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”
So…how do we understand the instructions to carry a sword, and for it to be an honor to execute judgment? How does the execution of judgment and vengeance relate to praise?
Praise can be a weapon as we sing of the redemption, glory, exaltation, justice, holiness and power of our God. When we worship God, turning our attention to Him, it reveals the unholiness and unrighteousness of the ungodly. When Christ is lifted up, our sin is exposed. The result of sin is judgment. So, even by our holy lives of worship, by living in a way that shows the world we are redeemed, we expose the judgment coming to those who reject Jesus.
What is our sword?
New Testament scriptures give us a different picture of a sword. We do not have a physical land to capture, or physical enemies to defeat. But we do have spiritual ones, and so God has given the New Testament church (believers living after the death and resurrection of Christ) spiritual weapons. In particular, we are taught that the Word of God is our sword.
Hebrews 4:12 – For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.
How does praise in our mouth and a sword in our hand work together?
Nehemiah gives us a great picture of this! The people were called to do a great task – rebuilding the wall. Yet the unrighteous and ungodly enemies were a distraction, by mocking and threatening them. How did they respond?
Nehemiah 4:17 – Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon.
They kept doing what God had called them to do, but protected themselves at the same time, with a sword. This is how we are to live. We are to live our lives in a way that brings praise to God and at the same time protect ourselves with the Word of God – trust it, speak it, sing it, live by it, obey it. Our mouths should be full of praise to God, and our actions should be lined up with the Word of God. If we are threatened or mocked, we speak God’s Word in love and truth. As we speak and live God’s Word, we will naturally go on the “offense” against unrighteousness, as we share the gospel in love and truth. God’s Word is our weapon, but for the purpose of bringing light and truth into people’s lives, not to cut them down. If people reject it, we don’t take it personally, but realize that in the end, God is the One who will repay, who has revenge on the wicked.
What do you think it means to let the high praises of God be in your mouth, and a two-edge sword in your hand?