And David built there an altar unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called upon the LORD; and he answered him from heaven by fire upon the altar of burnt offering.
And the LORD commanded the angel; and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof.
At that time when David saw that the LORD had answered him in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite, then he sacrificed there. For the tabernacle of the LORD, which Moses made in the wilderness, and the altar of the burnt offering, were at that season in the high place at Gibeon.
But David could not go before it to inquire of God: for he was afraid because of the sword of the angel of the LORD.
1 Chronicles 21:26-30
Behold again the sharp, two-edged sword of God Almighty unleashed in judgment! King David was the subject of many of the Lord’s mercies, and yet in numbering the nation of Israel, he stretched God’s longsuffering to its limits. Let us not be deceived into ignoring the omnipotence (all-powerfulness) and holiness with which God is judge of all.
For the LORD is our judge, Isaiah 33:22
We take our first caution that the Lord indeed has a sword. We have known Him to wield a rod and staff with which to comfort us. We have rejoiced to see Him as the protector of the church with the seven stars in His hand. We have received our freedom from Him who holds the keys of hell and of death as trophies of his suffering. But should man shun His guidance, or run from His safekeeping, or neglect His great salvation: there is a sword.
Notice secondly the speed at which it travels. In 1 Chronicles 21:12, God condemns the nation in one of three punishments: three YEARS of dearth of food, three MONTHS of destruction of his foes, or three DAYS of devouring of the fierceness of this sword. The choice? David chose wisely in taking his punishment presently and quickly. The cost? Seventy thousand men died in only three days!
In two strokes in Scripture understand the deadliness of the sword. In 2 Kings 19:35, the angel of the Lord rescues Hezekiah from Sennacherib’s siege. One hundred eighty-five thousand men of Israel’s enemies fall under the sword in one night. On this occasion, seventy thousand men are slain in less than three days. Over a quarter of a million dead in two strokes. Less than that was the death toll for the only two atomic bombs dropped in war-time on this earth, whose horrific deaths killed a high estimate of two hundred twenty-six thousand men, women, and children between Hiroshima and Nagasaki– thirty thousand less than the Sword of the Lord!
Understand then the reach of this sword’s effectiveness. Deuteronomy 32:41-42 state: “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…. My sword shall devour flesh; and that with the blood of the slain and of the captives, from the beginning of revengers upon the enemy.”
It is not a reach only of breadth and width, measured by speed and distance. This sword is eternal, as are its judgments. When Nathan the prophet confronted David after his infamous dealings with Uriah the Hittite (2 Samuel 11-12), David’s punishment began, as he himself declared it: “He shall restore the lamb FOURFOLD.” (2 Samuel 12:6) The sword stretched to four of David’s sons: Bathsheba’s baby, Amnon, Absalom, and Adonijah; it fulfilled the prophecy.
However coldly just and vengeful this powerful Sword may be, consider as King David did when he saw the hand that wielded it. “And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let me fall now into the hand of the LORD; for very great are his mercies: but let me not fall into the hand of man.” (1 Chronicles 21:13) The weapon is employed not at the soldier’s will, but at his captain’s. It is not the angel that orders its use, else we should fear spirits and demons for their power; it is JEHOVAH’s Sword, and if it be His, then it is JESUS’ Sword, and if it be His- then I can rest in His mercies as much as I should fear His wrath.
Ever since Eden, where Jehovah placed “a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:24) man has trembled at the thought of falling into the hands of the living God. Fiery vengeance is no less than what sin and rebellion and blasphemy deserve, is it not? The blade seeks to restore the equilibrium lost at the Fall, and it exists so long as there is evil in the world. Human measurements underestimate the magnitude of transgression against God, and thus we underestimate the cost of pardon. But He who commands the sword more than atoned when one dark day alone He balanced the scale of justice.
O Christ, what burdens bowed Thy head!
Our load was laid on Thee;
Thou stoodest in the sinner’s stead,
Didst bear all ill for me.
A Victim led, Thy blood was shed;
Now there’s no load for me.
Jehovah lifted up His rod;
O Christ, it fell on Thee!
Thou wast sore stricken of Thy God;
There’s not one stroke for me.
Thy tears, Thy blood, beneath it flowed;
Thy bruising healeth me
Jehovah bade His sword awake;
O Christ, it woke ’gainst Thee!
Thy blood the flaming blade must slake;
Thine heart its sheath must be;
All for my sake, my peace to make;
Now sleeps that sword for me!