The sword is an icon of Christian wisdom, work, warfare and worship. When it is double-edged it strikes at the core of human rebellion and resistance and in that configuration it affects all humans who are paying attention. The temptation to bring actual swords into play in religious communities gets boosted by medieval and antiquated practices, and killing people is never far away as religious people fall into the trap of shaping community with government help and the use of weapons of war as the enforcers.
“In vain I have struck your sons; they accepted no chastening. your sword has devoured your prophets like a destroying lion.”Jeremiah 2:30
Look no further than Saul of Tarsus to see how the sword, as used by the people of Judah for silencing the prophets, backfired and ultimately was useless. Political assassinations are particularly apt signs of moral decay. When people reject correction they become homicidal.
Jeremiah was not reporting that the sons of Judah did not receive correction at any time; his intention was to have his reader look at the residual consequences of turning their back to Yahweh. In response to instruction – by prophetic pronouncements – the people took aim at the prophets. The subsequent value of prophets, from the perspective of those in power, was the ready-made scapegoat (1 Kings 18:17-18) and short-lived hero (John 5:35)
Extra sharp edges
Prophets are truly a yesterday phenomenon (Hebrews 1:1-2), and that is exactly why the prophetic leaders of many of the religious movements since the first century are such good examples of poor judgment and rejection of God’s chosen ways. They are in denial about the timelessness of the apostolic witness. Modern Christian movements can find no way to fake a front seat with the material that is the common foundation of faith in Christ: the authoritative texts of both Testaments. Muslims fatally wound themselves by creating alternate versions of Old Testament narratives, and say that “Jesus is a prophet” apart from Jesus’ testimony about himself, as recorded in the Old Testament previews and the testimony of New Testament. I cannot imagine what Arabs in the sixth and seventh centuries were doing with the Hebrew Bible and the Greek New Testament.
“Her prophets are light and treacherous persons: her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law.”Zephaniah 3:4, KJVA
It does not help in the twenty-first century that reckless and treacherous persons are presenting themselves as God’s servants. Zephaniah’s plain and provocative statement of what the prophets were in his world does help us avoid the deceit of our prophets. The co-accused priests are charged with profaning the holy place.
The distractions and smokescreens
The current political realities of the year 2022 are pushing the world towards a “blame the prophet and put his light out” moment. Yeshua’s arrival as Saviour-King ends the need for anyone to rely on a prophet, and builds the confidence of all who come to God for peace and rest in – not a mere spokesman – God himself. Prophetic ministry is with us in the church and fading (1 Corinthians 13:2, 8-12). The saying “a prophet has no honour in his hometown” comes into sharper focus. One thing is certain: the pastor, prophet, and apostle who is ready to leave Yeshua out of the picture will always be welcomed by the crowds. I can see pastors, prophets and apostles will be forced to give account in court and before God for their misdeeds, because many of them are convinced that the secular power, sword included, are not going away. On the other hand let there be clarity about the sword wielded by religious authorities, the sword wielded by governments, and the sword wielded by members of our own faith community or our own households. What religious authorities, the government, and his own household did to Yeshua cannot be far from our gates.