Alas, O sword of the LORD, how long until you rest? Return to your sheath; cease and be still!'
I. A PERSONIFICATION OF DIVINE WRATH. "Sword of Jehovah" is an expression that seems to suggest the Philistines as the sneakers: "for though not bad Hebrew, it has a foreign sound, and makes the impression that the speakers attribute the sword raging against them only unwillingly and hesitatingly to Jehovah" (Naegelsbach). God in his true character is still unknown, but conscience witnesses to him as a dimly realized agent of moral recompense. Such language tells:
1. How ceaseless and terrible is the judgment of the heathen world. Ezekiel uses the same figure in relation to the Amorites (Ezekiel 21:30). "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked;" "Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God" (Psalm 139:19); "When they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them," etc. (1 Thessalonians 5:3).
2. Of ignorance and moral distance from God. He is only conceived of as a God of vengeance - an all but impersonal fate.
3. Of the helplessness and superstitious dread of sinners. An imperfect knowledge is eked out and distorted by a diseased imagination. All moral strength seems to have gone out of them.
II. EXPLAINED AND JUSTIFIED AS A DIVINE APPOINTMENT. At first the answer of the prophet appears little other than a repetition of the Philistines' thought; but it is far more.
1. This is not blind fate, but judgment strictly meted out and determined.
2. It declares, in effect, that the wicked cannot be suffered to remain on the earth. They must be subjects of continual and exterminating judgment. There is no escape. Is this so? Yes, so long as they remain impenitent and at a distance from him. Is it contradictory, then, for Zechariah to prophecy the conversion of the Philistines? The rightful end of judgment is mercy. The sinner is driven into the arms of the Divine love. Our helplessness prepares for the reception of his salvation. - M.
I. THE EVILS OF PROTRACTED WAR.
Put up thyself into thy scabbard, rest, and be still.
I. WHENCE IT IS THAT THE SWORD OF WAR MAY BE CALLED THE SWORD OF THE LORD.
1. Because the seasons in which this sword is drawn are governed or appointed by the Lord. The kindling of war, or the settling of peace, are appointed by the providence of that God who ruleth over all the earth. The direction of cabinets, the ambition of princes, of governors, of statesmen, are only the instruments which God employs with a powerful and a holy hand, to execute His will.
2. Because it receives its direction from the Lord. When God gives the commission, when He opens the brazen gates of destruction, no country, no city is secured against the ravages of war; and when His providence forms a wall of protection around a country, no army can prevail, no weapon formed against it can prosper, for the Almighty God Himself is its fortress, its pillar, and its strength.
3. Because the execution done by it is of the Lord. It is a saying of King William, who had himself been in many battles, that "every bullet had its billet"; intimating that it was under God's direction whom to miss and whom to strike.
4. Because God sanctifies and glorifies Himself in its operation. In the management of war, the reputation of kings and statesmen, of generals or soldiers, is considered, but this is only a secondary consideration. The glory of the Lord, whom the Scriptures call a Man of War, is illustrated and made conspicuous in the eyes of the world. The slayer and those who are slain are His creatures and subjects, and the instruments which defend the one and kill the other are His sword.
II. THE REASON WHY ALL GOD'S PEOPLE SO ARDENTLY LONG TO SEE THE SWORD OF WAR SHEATHED AND AT REST.
1. Conviction that the wrath of God bringeth upon man the punishment of the sword, will cause the saints to long earnestly for its being sheathed and at rest.
2. All God's people will earnestly long to see the sword of war in -its scabbard and at rest, when they reflect what multitudes of men are hurried by it into eternity without thought or preparation.
3. God's people earnestly long to see the sword of war sheathed and at rest, when they reflect on the unparalleled distresses and miseries inflicted on those countries which are the seat of war. Gracious persons are deeply affected with the miseries of their fellow-creatures, even though they he enemies.
4. God's people earnestly desire to see the sword of war sheathed and at rest, that Christ's Gospel may be propagated throughout the whole world, and its Divine power and influence felt by all nations.
(James Hay, D. D.)
I. THE SWORD OF THE WARRIOR IS THE SWORD OF THE LORD.
1. The seasons in which the sword is drawn and sheathed are appointed by the Lord. The direction of cabinets, the ambition of princes, and the caprices of statesmen in these affairs, are subordinated by His invisible influence to His own will, without violating the order of second causes, or breaking in upon the freedom of rational agents.
2. The sword of the warrior is put in commission by the Lord.
3. The direction of the sword of the warrior is from the Lord. The seat of war is marked out, and its bounds circumscribed, in the purpose of the will of God; and thither the warrior marches without mistaking his way, whether it he to the shore of Tyrus, the valley of Jehoshaphat, the plains of Blenheim, the heights of Saratoga, or the mountains of Armageddon.
4. The execution done by the sword of the warrior is of the Lord. "A sparrow falleth not to the ground without our heavenly Father," and in the day of battle, no soldier loses his life without His knowledge and predetermination.
5. By the sword of the warrior the Lord sanctifies and magnifies Himself. According to the states of the sufferers wars of conquest and extirpation are corrections and punishments, and whichever of the sides gains or loses the victory, the supremacy of Jehovah over all is main, rained, and the glory of His justice and holiness displayed and magnified. The cause in which the sword is drawn is always sinful on one side, and frequently sinful on both sides. But whatever be the quality of the cause, the views of men, or the issues of the contest, the Lord will not lose His end. He rules in the seat of war, and commands on the day of battle.
II. THE REASONS FOR WHICH MOURNERS IN ZION LONG TO SEE THIS SWORD SHEATHED.
1. Compassion for those who are delivered to the sword, or subjected to the insolence and rage of fierce and lawless men whose tender mercies are cruelty.
2. Knowledge of the consequences of driving men unprepared into eternity.
3. The peace of God, which rules in the hearts of mourners in Zion, inclines and constrains them to cry for the sheathing of the sword of the warrior.
4. Convictions that the wrath of God bringeth upon men the punishment of the sword, dispose mourners in Zion to long for its being put up into the scabbard.
1. War is a tremendous evil.
2. Well might the prophet desire its speedy termination.
II. THE REASON OF ITS CONTINUANCE.
1. War is one of those judgments with which God punishes the sins of men.
2. Till He has effected His purposes by it, no human efforts can bring it to a close.
III. MEANS OF ITS TERMINATION.
1. The intention of God's chastisements is to bring us to repentance.
2. On the attainment of this end He will instantly remove HIS judgments from us.
IV. SOME HINTS RESPECTING THOSE HEAVY JUDGMENTS WHICH GOD HAS DENOUNCED AGAINST SINNERS IN ANOTHER WORLD, AND RESPECTING THE BEST MEANS OF AVERTING THEM FROM OUR SOULS.
(C. Simeon, M. A.).
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