In Times of Warfare
by Charles R. Swindoll
Psalm 149 is not only a call to praise the Lord in times of blessing, and encouragement to praise Him in times of suffering, it's also a call to arms.
Praise the Lord in Times of Warfare
Let the high praises of God be in their mouth,
And a two-edged sword in their hand,
To execute vengeance on the nations
And punishment on the peoples,
To bind their kings with chains
And their nobles with fetters of iron,
To execute on them the judgment written;
This is an honor for all His godly ones.
Praise the LORD! (149:6–9)
In verse 6, the people of God were told, in effect, "While you're singing praises, keep your sword ready!" This may be a word picture drawn from the days of Nehemiah, where the Jews rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem sang praise as they worked and maintained battle-readiness against marauders. The visual picture is a worker with a mason's trowel in one hand and a sword in the other. In other words, "Don't drop your defenses, don't become disheartened, and don't give up! Victory is inevitable for those who remain faithful."
In practical terms, the message is, "Stay faithful to the Word of God—the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17), the two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12)." Sickness and suffering have a tendency to weaken our faith if we fail to feed our thoughts with God's Word. Praise, like a fragrant blossom, wilts quickly. The sufferer is encouraged to hold fast to the sword of truth—good counsel. This is one of the reasons a visit with those who are ill should include sharing a portion of the living Book, the Bible. It helps the sufferer keep a firm grip on the two-edged sword.
Psalm 149:7–9 are the most difficult in the song to understand. It is important for us to interpret this psalm historically, with the believing Jew in mind. You see, the enemies of Israel were enemies of God, so Israel was trained to be a militant, aggressive force against wrong (and they still are!). Once they were given the land of Canaan, they were never permitted by God to conquer other lands, only to defend their own.
The land given to Abraham and his Hebrew descendants was considered holy ground, the territory owned by the kingdom of God. Therefore, invaders were subject to God's judgment. Consequently, He used Israel to "execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples" who desecrated the kingdom of God. This work of judgment was actually "written" (verse 9) in such passages as Deuteronomy 32:41–43, Joel 3, and Zechariah 14.
Practically, however, verses 7–9 exhort the Christian today to stand and fight against Satan and all his hosts of demons. Our warfare is not in the realm of the seen, but the unseen; not in the tangible realm of guns and bombs, but the spiritual realm of Satan's deception and sin's temptation. This is precisely what 2 Corinthians 10:3–5 is saying:
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
So then, let us be just as aggressive and militant against our spiritual foe as Israel was against its national foes. After all, "this is an honor for all His godly ones" (149:9). To think that God would even allow us to be a part of His combat unit is an honor, indeed! May He be praised for equipping us for battle, empowering us for the fight, and encouraging us with the absolute promise of victory. Praiseless times are often times of demonic warfare, but the victory is ours!
Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Living the Psalms: Encouragement for the Daily Grind (Brentwood, Tenn.: Worthy Publishing, a division of Worthy Media, Inc., 2012). Copyright © 2013 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved. Used by permission.