Worship and Public Policy (6)
Let the saints be joyful in glory;
Let them sing aloud on their beds.
Letthe high praises of God bein their mouth,
And a two-edged sword in their hand,
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 written judgment—
This honor have all His saints.
Praise the LORD! Psalm 149.5-9
People with a mission
Some people struggle with psalms like this because they employ military terminology. “All that war and killing was for the Old Testament economy,” they opine. “We don’t take up such tactics to do the Lord’s bidding in this age of grace.”
And, certainly, there’s truth to that statement. But just because the Church doesn’t bear the sword of military conflict doesn’t mean we’re not involved in serious warfare, and that we haven’t been given a more powerful Sword than even the mightiest military systems on earth.
We have, and we are called and sent to wield the Sword of the Spirit in spiritual battle against spiritual forces of wickedness for the souls of men, the redemption of the world, and the honor and glory of God. We are a people on a mission. We will be more consistent and effective in our mission when we follow how God Himself presents that mission rather than how we like to conceive it. And God chooses the language of warfare to prepare us through worship to wield the weapons of our warfare in every area of life, including the arena of public policy.
Aspects of our warfare
Let’s take the four key words in our text and see if we can apply them to our lives as believers in today’s world. I think we’ll see that each of these termsmust find us fulfilling our duties in the arena of public policy in one or more of the ways we discussed in our previous installment.
The first term is vengeance. We wield the Sword of the Spirit to execute vengeance against our enemies.
Is this not what Jesus did during His temptation in the wilderness? Three times the devil sought to gain the heavenly throne by subjugating our King to his wiles. And three times Jesus wielded the Sword of the Spirit to repel and defeat him.
Every day the devil tries to throw Jesus off the throne of our lives by strewing our paths with temptations. And every day we must wield the Sword of the Spirit against his usurping ambitions, executing vengeanceagainst him by keeping him in his place and staying the course of obedience and sanctification. Should we not be equally concerned to banish his presence from the halls of government and the arena of public policy?
The next term is punishments. In Biblical Law, punishment involves taking measures to restore justice to a situation where justice has been compromised. Should we wield the Word of God in the name of justice? Should we be concerned that all the various kinds of justice, in all the different areas of life, should be maintained in order to work God’s good and perfect will for all people?
How can we not?
The Lord commands His people to seek justice at all times, and when justice has been compromised, then we bring the Word of God to bear in an effort to correct injustice and restore the shalom of God (Deut. 16.20).
Next, we are to wield the Word of God in order to bind civil magistrates so that they cannot act in certain ways. God claims that He had “bound” His people with “cords of kindness” and “bands of love” (Hos. 11.4). He was referring His holy and righteous and good Law, which, as the people of Israel obeyed His Law, would guide them in the ways of wisdom and love, and make them the envy of the surrounding nations (Deut. 4.5-8). Christians today seem to want to have nothing to do with the Law of God, so it’s not surprising that our nation’s political leaders feel free to make laws of all sorts which are directly contrary to God’s teaching. Like the rulers in Psalm 2, political leaders today do not want to be restrained by the Law of God. Yet it is our duty as Christians to help them see the wisdom, kindness, and love of God in His Word, and to work for laws and public policies that reflect the good, just, and righteous character of the God we worship.
Finally, judgment. We are called to wield the Sword of the Spirit for judgment, which is simply to explain to people what God thinks and what His Word teaches concerning every area of human life and interest, including public policy.
Are our services of worship and our daily worship of the King and Ruler of the universe preparing us for such a high and holy calling?
The surprising power of God’s Word
In Isaiah 2 and Micah 4 a prophecy occurs of such importance that both men felt they needed to record it, for their time and ours. This prophecy presents a picture of the nations and peoples of the world streaming up to the house of the Lord to learn more of Him and His ways.
What is causing multitudes to flow into the house of the Lord? And why is this happening?
Because, the prophets tell us, the people of God are going forth from the house of the Lord, wielding the Sword of God’s Law in all the ways we have outlined here, bringing truth, grace, wisdom, and peace to the nations of the world.
When our worship equips us to wield God’s Word in these ways, then the worship of God will spread into every area of life, richly adorning us with His salvation and affecting all the people around us for the honor and glory of our Creator and King.
For reflection or discussion
1. God’s Word speaks to all aspects of life. Should we expect it to speak to matters of public policy? Such as?
2. Our text says that bearing the Sword into the public policy arena is an “honor” for “all His saints.” How are you carrying out this honorable calling?
3. What makes worship the perfect place to begin fitting us to serve the Lord in the public square?
Next steps – Preparation: Reflect on the four ways Christians are commissioned to wield the Sword of the Spirit. How well prepared, and how adept are you in each of these areas?
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.