UNDERSTAND the SIGNIFICANCE of the ‘SWORD OF THE LORD’: "O you sword of the Lord, How long until you are quiet? Put yourself up into your scabbard, rest and be still! How can it be quiet, seeing the Lord has given it a charge against Ashkelon and against the seashore? There He has appointed it." (Jer. 47:6-7)
As the Book of Jeremiah begins to draw to a close, the Lord God Almighty pronounces judgment on nine nations (see chapters 46–51): the Egyptians (46:1-28), the Philistines (47:1-7), the Moabites (48:1-47), the Ammonites (49:1-6), the Edomites (49:7-22), the Damascenes (49:23-27), the Kedarites (49:28-33), the Elamites (49:34-39), and the Babylonians (chapters 50 & 51). All these nine kingdoms existed during the time of Jeremiah, and each of these kingdoms had contributed to the downfall of the Israelites in their own ways.
The one common feature among all these nine nations was that all of them were serving idols. While God preserved and brought the Israelites back as a nation due to His covenant with their patriarchs, He allowed all these nine nations to fall by the wayside. When God was ready to judge the Jewish remnant, He was also keen to punish these heathen nations who were enemies of Israel, both politically and spiritually. So, God used the Egyptians to defeat the Philistines, and thereafter, God used the Babylonians to destroy both the Philistines (47:1-7) and the Moabites (48:1-47). In fact, the Babylonian army would be like a rising river (47:2) and a sword in the hands of the Lord (47:6).
The coastal city of Ashkelon (47:5) was one of five principal cities of the Philistines, who were long-time enemies of the Israelites (see Judg. 13:1), and its inhabitants came under the “sword of the Lord” as predicted by Jeremiah (47:6–7). As the visible manifestation of the “sword of the Lord”, Nebuchadnezzar’s troops pushed south along the coast. History tells us that when King Aga of Ashkelon offered resistance, the Babylonians quickly captured and ransacked the city in 604 A.D. Though destroyed by the Babylonians, Ashkelon was to be occupied by survivors of the Babylonian captivity, according to a prophecy of Zephaniah.
We should thus understand the significance of the “sword of the Lord” (first mentioned in Judges 7:20) as the symbol of God’s divine judgment (see 12:12; 46:10, 14, 16; Ezek. 21:1-17). God’s sword of judgment would not rest till it had attacked Ashkelon and the seacoast and had destroyed them. Why did God’s judgment come so severely against all these heathen nations? The primary reason was that every single one of these heathen nations had turned away from their Creator to worship and serve false gods. Every one of them was guilty, and God’s holy nature required judgment on their sin. Even as God had called Judah to repent of its sins throughout the years of Jeremiah’s ministry, so He had called the nations to turn to Him and be saved. Tragically, they had refused God’s gracious offer, and now they faced His wrath!
However, God’s judgment is redemptive in its purpose as well. God is not willing that anyone should perish (2 Pet. 3:9), and repentance is always available as an alternative to wrath, right to the very end. Today, the “sword of the Lord” refers to the Word of God that speaks to us every day through different means, and shows us the way how to get right with God. If we reject the “sword of the Lord” and the gospel message that it holds for us today, let us always remember that the very same “sword of the Lord” will strike us as the means of God’s divine righteous judgment one day in the future!