This chapter prophesies the King of Babylon and the Ammonites making wars on Jerusalem. This was something Israel didn’t think would happen because they had made deals with Babylon and were already captives. They thought Babylon would stick by their word and leave Jerusalem alone and even protect the city. But the Lord would allow Babylon’s false divinations to lead them to destroy Jerusalem and He would remind the King of Jerusalem’s sins against him. (Verses 18-32).
Israel and Jerusalem were so stubborn they refused to give up their false religions, idols, and acceptance of worldly philosophies. The Lord steadfastly told them He wouldn’t put up with it, and unfalteringly disciplined them for this grievous sin. Yet they just as persistently ignored the chastisement. Verse 5 reads,
“And all flesh shall know that I am the Lord. I have drawn my sword from its sheath; it shall not be sheathed again.”
Israel had reached the point, even though they were living in the midst of prophecies coming about they were treating God’s word like a fairy tale. They were barely reacting. The Lord wanted a response. Israel acted like hostile smug teenagers and kept up what they were doing. The Lord would keep doing what He was doing until they responded. And He knew that meant His stubborn children would be brought to their breaking point and beyond. He knows that for many of us, our pride makes it so we must break before we will acknowledge Him. Verse 7 reads,
“And when they say to you, ‘Why do you groan?’ you shall say, ‘Because of the news that it is coming. Every heart will melt, and all hands will be feeble; every spirit will faint, and all knees will be weak as water. Behold, it is coming, and it will be fulfilled,’” declares the Lord God.”
The Lord described the sword He would unsheathe and He told them why He was doing it. Verses 9-13 read,
“Son of man, prophesy and say, Thus says the Lord, say:
“A sword, a sword is sharpened
and also polished,
10 sharpened for slaughter,
polished to flash like lightning!
(Or shall we rejoice? You have despised the rod, my son, with everything of wood.) 11 So the sword is given to be polished, that it may be grasped in the hand. It is sharpened and polished to be given into the hand of the slayer. 12 Cry out and wail, son of man, for it is against my people. It is against all the princes of Israel. They are delivered over to the sword with my people. Strike therefore upon your thigh. 13 For it will not be a testing—what could it do if you despise the rod?” declares the Lord God.”
Israel despised the rod. They discounted God’s discipline. They refused to allow His corrective measures to correct them, instead they cried and whined and turned to wooden statues for help, when the Lord was right there waiting for them to respond to Him. Even though they hated the punishment they chose it over God.
Don’t we do the same thing? God allows circumstances to teach us, guide us, shape us, or otherwise discipline us and we hate them. We cry, but we don’t cry out to the Lord. We whine. We turn everywhere but to Jesus for answers. We look for money to solve the problem instead of depending on God. We read a hundred self-help books instead of the Word of God. We lean on crutches of worldly philosophy instead of God.
God loves us. He allows difficulties, pain, sorrow, and trials for reasons. Rather than hate the pain, loathe the suffering, and spurn the trials we can cling to Jesus and take joy in His deep and perfect love for us. We can be glad that He cares enough to want to transform us. We can allow the Comforter to comfort us as He uses the sword to deftly conform us to the image of Christ. That means not ignoring the trial but experiencing it. Romans 5:3-5 reads,
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Are you in the midst of terrible conditions? Are you suffering? How are you coping? Are you leaning on the Lord? Are you being upheld by the Brethren? Are you rejoicing, praying, thanking and praising? Or are you wallowing in self-pity? Are you looking for answers from self-help books and other idols? Are you seeking help from money? Are you trying to deaden the experience with alcohol, drugs, TV, or work?
I encourage you to rejoice in your suffering, embrace the pain. Cling to Jesus. Let the Holy Spirit have His way with you. Pay attention to and extract all the benefits of the sword you can. Be transformed.
Jesus doesn’t make your life idealistic. He doesn’t take away the pain and brutality of life. In fact, following Jesus can add pain to one’s life. But He does bring us through the suffering to a better end in which we, not our lives are made more ideal, like our Perfect Savior.
Matthew 10:34-39 reads,
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person's enemies will be those of his own household.37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
We can turn to the world to solve our problems. We can love the world more than the Word. If we choose the world over Jesus, we will not be transformed, we will die to the sword along with the world. But if we truly belong to God, we will choose Him. We will choose the sword over the wooden statues and the sword will give us life.
Examine your life and your heart. Have you despised the rod with wood? Have you hated the sword and loved the world? Respond to the Father’s discipline.