You have heard it said…but I have said to you…
• • •
It was one of those small epiphanies that sometimes come in church. It happened to me last Sunday.
The congregation was reading Psalm 149 responsively. I love this final group of psalms in the Book of Psalms, sometimes called, “The Hallelujah Psalms,” for their repeated calls to give praise to Yahweh the King. But something hit me funny this time.
The end of Psalm 149 goes like this:
6 Let the high praises of God be in their throats
and two-edged swords in their hands,
7 to execute vengeance on the nations
and punishment on the peoples,
8 to bind their kings with fetters
and their nobles with chains of iron,
9 to execute on them the judgment decreed.
And then, this phrase:
This is glory for all his faithful ones.
What is “glory” for God’s people?
According to Psalm 149, it is rendering judgment and punishment on enemy nations with the sword.
Surely that’s not right.
Surely the glorious triumphant prospect that lies before the saints of God does not consist in seeing their enemies slaughtered and conquered.
Didn’t Jesus change this? Didn’t he say that we had once heard (in scripture) that we were to hate our enemies (and thus imagine this kind of triumph)? Didn’t Jesus go on to say that this was not his approach? Did he not instruct us to love our enemies instead? Didn’t he speak directly against passages like this and say that they do not represent God’s true way of dealing with enemies?
Is not the glory of God’s people to love their enemies rather than to conquer and kill? Is not the glory of God’s people to lay down their lives so that even their enemies might live?
We live in a day when the Psalm 149 crowd seems to be drowning out the message of the Sermon on the Mount. For them, Christian glory lies in making the enemy squirm, in exercising power over the enemy, in triumphing with might, in winning by conquest.
I have a Savior who begs to differ.
Even though it comes from a passage in the Bible read in church on Sunday morning.