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How Can the Sword of the Lord Be Quiet?

Jeremiah 47 “The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah the prophet against the Philistines, before that Pharaoh smote Gaza. 2 Thus saith the LORD; Behold, waters rise up out of the north, and shall be an overflowing flood, and shall overflow the land, and all that is therein; the city, and them that dwell therein: then the men shall cry, and all the inhabitants of the land shall howl. 3 At the noise of the stamping of the hoofs of his strong horses, at the rushing of his chariots, and at the rumbling of his wheels, the fathers shall not look back to their children for feebleness of hands; 4 Because of the day that cometh to spoil all the Philistines, and to cut off from Tyrus and Zidon every helper that remaineth: for the LORD will spoil the Philistines, the remnant of the country of Caphtor. 5 Baldness is come upon Gaza; Ashkelon is cut off with the remnant of their valley: how long wilt thou cut thyself? 6 O thou sword of the LORD, how long will it be ere thou be quiet? put up thyself into thy scabbard, rest, and be still. 7 How can it be quiet, seeing the LORD hath given it a charge against Ashkelon, and against the sea shore? there hath he appointed it.”

Judgment on Philistia (Jer. 47:1–7)

The Philistines were the perennial enemies of Israel. We remember them as the people who put Samson’s eyes out and who sent Goliath against the armies of Israel. The Philistines were wealthy merchant marines, ruling the Mediterranean Sea commercially, and acquired a reputation as one of the most successful sea traders in the ancient world. God brought devastating judgment upon them because of their idolatry and their continuous warring against Israel.

In this prophecy, Jeremiah describes the Babylonian army as it flooded over the land as a rising river (47:2). The invasion of the dreaded Babylonians was so intense that it would cause parents to flee for their lives and leave their children behind (v. 3; see 49:11). The entire nation would resemble mourners at a funeral (47:5).

Jeremiah was astonished at the judgment of the sword. He asked the Lord when He would return the terrible sword of His judgment to its scabbard. (v. 6). But the sword of judgment would remain unsheathed until God had finished his work of judgment. His rhetorical question sharply outlines the divine fury. “How can it be quiet, seeing that the Lord hath given it a charge against Askelon?”

This is not the first time we learn of the sword of the Lord.

In Deuteronomy 42:39, we read, “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. 40 For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever. 41 If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me.

Also, in Ezekiel 21:3-5, the Bible says, “And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 2 Son of man, set thy face toward Jerusalem, and drop thy word toward the holy places, and prophesy against the land of Israel, 3 And say to the land of Israel, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I am against thee, and will draw forth my sword out of his sheath, and will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked. 4 Seeing then that I will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked, therefore shall my sword go forth out of his sheath against all flesh from the south to the north: 5 That all flesh may know that I the LORD have drawn forth my sword out of his sheath: it shall not return any more.”

This is not a message we like. This is not a side of God that gives us any comfort or pleasure. But, as I have often told you from this pulpit, I am commissioned to declare the whole counsel of God. If I omit the portions of the Bible that cause us discomfort, then I have done you a disservice.

Psalm 76:7 says, “Thou, even thou, art to be feared: and who may stand in thy sight when once thou art angry? 8 Thou didst cause judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth feared, and was still, 9 When God arose to judgment, to save all the meek of the earth. Selah. 10 Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain. 11 Vow, and pay unto the LORD your God: let all that be round about him bring presents unto him that ought to be feared. 12 He shall cut off the spirit of princes: he is terrible to the kings of the earth.”

It is the Lord who sent judgment upon Pharaoh in Egypt.

It is the Lord who rained down fire on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

It is the Lord who opened up the earth and swallowed up the rebellious Korah and company.

The Lord is called a Man of War.

And yet, many people claim that these are Old Testament references and that God’s mercy now restricts his judgment.

I take you to the New Testament.

Galatians 6:7-8Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

In the book of Romans, we read, “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. 2 But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. 3 And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? 4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? 5 But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; 6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds:”

These scriptures, and many others, make it clear that a righteous God will execute judgment against an unrighteous people. We live in serious denial if we neglect this side of the Almighty.

It does not matter if preaching this way is politically incorrect.

If I would be held culpable for ignoring the obvious signs that someone was having a heart attack or a stroke, why should it be any different for my spiritual responsibilities?

I want to tell you that I fear for this nation.

  • A young man commits suicide on the internet, egged on by viewers.
  • A mad crowd of shoppers trample a Wal-Mart employee to death.
  • Corruption infiltrates the highest echelons of government and finance and throws the entire world into a financial crisis that will probably cause more pain and devastation to more people than we have known in the last two generations.
  • Planned Parenthood hands out discount certificates for abortions in time for the holidays.
  • The passage of Prop 8 in California that upheld marriage as between a man and a woman has met with such a firestorm of resistance and protest that we may see widespread rioting and destruction.

These are just a few situations that cause me to fear for America. It is as though we have climbed up on top of our highest mountain and shaken our fist in the face of God. The expulsion of God from our official society is almost complete.

Why should we not expect the judgments of God on this country?

How can the sword of the Lord be quiet?

A number of years ago, a preacher named Leonard Ravenhill preached a sermon entitled, Sodom Had No Bible, and made the point that God judged the two cities of the plains for their sin even though they had no Bible from which to learn of God’s righteousness. But this nation was founded upon the Bible. This nation has had millions of Bibles printed and distributed, quoted and read, preached and taught, lauded and displayed. There is no excuse for America’s ignorance of God’s Word. How can God not judge this nation when he judged Sodom?

In fact, Jesus himself posed such a question.

In Matthew 10:5, the Bible says said, “These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: 6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. 8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. 9 Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, 10 Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat. 11 And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, enquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. 12 And when ye come into an house, salute it. 13 And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. 15 Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.

In other words, it would have been better to have perished in the fires of Sodom and Gomorrah than to reject the Word of God. How can the sword of the Lord be quiet?

In the Battle Hymn of the Republic, written by Julia Ward Howe nearly a century and a half ago, we read these lyrics:


Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! Be jubilant, my feet;
Our God is marching on.

I do not know what the terrible swift sword of God’s judgment will look like.

Will it look like an economic depression?

Will it look like terrorist attacks breaking out all over the land?

Will it look like a civil war?

Will it look like the outbreak of a plague that microbiologists warn us about?

Will it look like the total breakdown of social order in this society?

Will it look like a nuclear warhead detonation?

Nobody knows.

One of the most worrisome aspects of the current financial crisis is that the experts have no clue about what to do. In fact, the Secretary of the Treasury came out and basically said that their original strategy in spending the 700 billion dollars was wrong. How can we make a $700 billion mistake? Do not look to these people to keep America away from the judgments of God.

We may not be able to stop the general trends of our world today.

I am here to tell you, however, that you have a personal responsibility toward God. Each person will have a personal reckoning day with his or her maker.

The Bible teaches us about seven different judgments:

  • The Judgment of the Cross.
  • The present Judgment of the Saints.
  • The Judgment of the Angels.
  • The Judgment of the Nations.
  • The Judgment of the Nation of Israel.
  • The Judgment Seat of Christ.
  • The Great White Throne Judgment.

Here is what the Bible tells us about the last judgment:

Revelation 20:11 “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Great: Awesome, vast, dwarfs anything anyone has ever seen before.

White: Alabaster like appearance stands in stark contrast to the sinfulness of the men and women who stand before it. Judged by the setting before a word is said.

Throne: Kings sit on thrones. Those in authority, those who hold the destiny of others in their hands sit on thrones. There is no appeal from the ruling of this bench. No further courtroom is available. This throne represents the finality of the ages.

Him that sat on it. This is the King of Kings. This is the Judge of all the Earth. This is God manifest in the flesh. This judge was not always in the role of judge. While you had a window of opportunity in this life to repent and serve him, he was your savior. He was your healer, your deliverer, your provider, your helper. Once he ascends this throne, however, all of those roles cease. He is now your judge.

The books were opened. One book is the Bible. The book I’m preaching out of today. This is not optional. This is not a suggested outline for your life. This is not just one among many books. This is the way, the truth and the life. The Bible says that this is the Word and the Word was God.

The other book is a book of records. A book that contains all the details of all the lives who have ever lived. Nothing has escaped him. Not a word of protest can be raised because each person will know that the truth has finally caught up with them.

But the picture I have just described for you is still a picture of the future. We have not yet entered into that prophetic time as of this point.

My message to you today is this. “Today is the day of salvation. Now is the accepted time.” I have holding out the invitation for someone to say yes today. If you have to be frightened about tomorrow so that you will make the right decision today, so be it.

Jude 22 says, “And of some have compassion, making a difference: 23 And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. 24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, 25 To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever.  Amen.”

Come today.

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