Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Song of the Sword

“I will overturn, overturn, overturn...until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him” (Ezekiel 21:27 KJV).

The “Song of the Sword” is what theologians commonly title the twenty-first chapter of Ezekiel.  In short, it is a damning prophesy of judgment against God’s people, “whose day has come, whose time of punishment has reached its climax” (Ezekiel 21:25 NIV).  “Take off the turban [priest covering or anointing], remove the crown [king covering or anointing].  It will not be as it was: the lowly [the humble] will be exalted [honored] and the exalted [proud] will be brought low [humiliated].”  Whether that judgment (that begins with the house of God) leads us to victory or to condemnation is entirely dependent on our final response to God’s open rebuke (because internal rebukes failed to change our minds!).  Though we are not destined for wrath, depending on how close we get to the world and its condemnation, we can still experience the licking flames of His hot displeasure.  We can, like righteous Lot, live too close to wickedness; so close, in fact, that we (also like Lot) are “made miserable [vexed sore or tormented] by the unrestrained immorality of unruly people” (2 Peter 2:7 CEB).
T. Austin Sparks, in remarking on this SONG OF THE SWORD said,
“The nation [of Israel; the church] which was chosen of God for a purpose, God’ special purpose: the nation which had been carefully, painstakingly and patiently constituted and disciplined unto that purpose, and then had so lamentably failed, so tragically missed the mark.  Unto that nation the words were addressed: “I will overturn, overturn, overturn...until...”  It was a progressive movement unto Christ’s second coming.
“The reason?  THE LOST DISTINCTIVENESS [emphasis mine] of that nation’s life [salt that is now insipid...salt which has lost its saltiness...now good for nothing but to be trodden underfoot].  They had gone out to the world in illicit and forbidden relationship of a spiritual character, and the world had been let into them in a defiling and corrupting way, resulting in that end which is always and ever an abomination to God—MIXTURE [emphasis mine].”

Here is that SONG OF THE SWORD in new covenant language, 

“For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even as far as the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrows, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And there is no creature hidden before Him, but all things are uncovered and laid bare to the eyes of Him to whom is our reckoning” (Hebrews 4:12-13 BLB).

Indeed, He is our reckoning!  The second coming is upon us!  And that dawning light of His second coming is nothing less than the brightness of His coming to destroy all pretense.  Moreover, that sword proceeding from His mouth separates everything and everyone into their proper and respective categories (tares and wheat and sheep and goats being perhaps the most provocative categories and distinctions made).

Listen to what the apostle Paul said to the early church: “You...remember how I used to talk about a ‘restraining power’ which would operate until the time should come for the emergence of this man [of sin]. Evil is already insidiously at work but its activities are restricted until what I have called the ‘restraining power’ (of God) is removed. When that happens the lawless man will be plainly seen—though the truth of the Lord Jesus spells his doom, and the radiance of the coming of the Lord Jesus will be his utter destruction. The lawless man is produced by the spirit of evil and armed with all the force, wonders and signs that falsehood can devise. To those involved in this dying world he will come with evil’s undiluted power to deceive, for they have refused to love the truth which could have saved them. God sends upon them, therefore, the full force of evil’s delusion, so that they put their faith in an utter fraud and meet the inevitable judgment of all who have refused to believe the truth and who have made evil their play-fellow” (2 Thessalonians 2:5-12 PHILLIPS).
The purpose of the sword, therefore, like the mouth of the prophet, is to hew the unfaithful of His people to pieces (to brokenness)—“I have hewn them in pieces by [the words of] the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth; my judgments [pronounced upon them by the prophets] are like the light that shines forth [obvious to all]” (Hosea 6:5 AMP); not to leave them that way, however, but to impel them to seek the Lord in contrition and humility in order to be healed of their faithlessness.  As the Lord so graciously promised, “I will heal their apostasy and faithlessness; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned away from Israel” Hosea 14:4 AMP).  Other renderings of this verse use the words, “waywardness,” “rebellion” and “backslidings” in place of “apostasy and faithlessness.”  Though God’s people are not destined for wrath, are those that are ultimately characterized as “faithless” really His people?  “Because lawlessness is increased, the love of most people will grow cold.  But the one who endures and bears up [under suffering] to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:12-13 AMP). 

And therefore God sings the SONG OF THE SWORD over His people!  He separates us from our sins—the chaff (sin) from the wheat (the divine nature)—by the bruising agency of threshing, and surgically (by the sword of His word) separates the cancerous ravages of sin from our mortal souls in order to immortalize our souls with Him in righteousness.  It is better to mourn now and rejoice later than to rejoice now and mourn later.
William Ernest Henley, in his poem by the same title—“The Song of the Sword”—said,
“Edged to annihilate,
Hilted with government,
Follow, O, follow me,
Till the waste places
All the grey globe over
Ooze, as the honeycomb
Drips, with the sweetness
Distilled of my strength,
And, teeming in peace
Through the wrath of my coming,
They give back in beauty
The dread and the anguish
They had of me visitant!”

On the verge or edge of annihilation, hilted with law (external government until really governed by the internal rule of the Israel of God), let us follow the word of the Lord (His double-edged sword) to the howling waste-places of empty imagination yet considered by us in the recesses of our souls, to the gray mixture of compromise yet inside us (where we incessantly try to reconcile the irreconcilable—always trying to concoct an acceptable mixture of light and dark).  Ah, when will we learn?  Real peace is achieved only by war!  We want an easier way, but only by way of “the valley of the shadow of death” is the dwelling “in the house of the Lord” arrived at (see Psalm 23).  “Rebuke me not in thine anger [or wrath], neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure” (Psalm 6:1; 38:1 KJV) is our wish, but His desire for us outstrips our wishes for ourselves.

“‘In an outburst of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,’ says the Lord your Redeemer” (Isaiah 54:8 NASB).  It is inherently in the nature of redemption that God must turn His back on us insofar as we identify with Christ in becoming a curse for us on the cross.  But it is merely “an outburst of anger...for a moment” until with Christ we also identify ourselves in His resurrection (wherein “everlasting lovingkindness [and]...compassion” awaits us).  The process, grievous; the results, glorious!

“‘EVEN NOW [emphasis mine],’ says the Lord, ‘Turn and come to me with all your heart [in genuine repentance], with fasting and weeping and mourning [until every barrier is removed and the broken fellowship is restored]; rip your heart to pieces [in sorrow and contrition] and not your garments.’  Now return [in repentance] to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness [faithful to His covenant with His people]; and He relents [His sentence of] evil [when His people genuinely repent].  Who knows whether He will relent [and revoke your sentence], and leave a blessing behind Him, even a grain offering and a drink offering [from the bounty He provides you] for the Lord your God?” (Joel 2:12-14 AMP).

Let us therefore rejoice by singing the SONG OF THE SWORD, not because it doesn’t hurt, but because of the glorious effect it has on our eternal destiny.  As Henley concluded his poem, “The Sword Singing—the voice of the Sword from the heart of the Sword clanging majestical, as from the starry-staired courts of the primal Supremacy, His high, irresistible song,” so let us finish out our hard time of pilgrimage here on earth in rapturous and heavenly joy.  To do so, we must like Paul (who suffered more than most) be unmoved by the bloody intent of the sword that separates us from our sins.  Let us say as Paul said, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy” (Acts 20:24 KJV).