Swords are more often than not designated as weapons of war. But in Arthur’s case, the sword determined that he was the rightful heir to the English throne. In Deuteronomy 33:29 the Lord is designated as Israel’s “sword of your majesty”. In those days a soldier came to battle prepared to fight one on one. He carried a shield in one hand to ward off the sword of his opponent and a sword in the other to wield against his foe. But in this passage Moses is not referring to a battle, rather to Israel’s place among the nations. Like Arthur they are destined for greatness and it is the presence of their “Sword” that determines this.
It is helpful to remember that in the larger scheme of things this passage is part of Moses’ final words to the people of Israel. They are poised on the brink of the Promised Land but Moses will not be completing the journey with them. The people have come through a forty year stint in the wilderness where the Lord has shaped and molded them into a nation. As they look toward settlement the future is a question mark. Will they be able to accomplish the task set before them? Moses reminds them that although what night look like an impossible goal has been determined by the Lord Himself and He will help them to accomplish it. Because of their relationship with the Lord, Israel’s destiny is sealed.
There are several key words which illustrate this. First Moses reminds the people that they are “blessed”. This poetic term is used to describe a person or nation which enjoys a relationship with the Lord (Dt. 32:29; Jb. 5:17; Ps. 32:12; 146:5). Secondly, they are a people whom the Lord saved. This verb carries the thought of someone being brought to a safe place after a time of distress or tribulation (Jud. 10:13-14), deliverance from certain death (Ps. 22:21) or rescue from an enemy (Dt. 28:31). The salvation (saving) that Israel has experienced can only come from the Lord (Is. 33:22; Zeph. 3:17), the eternal God Who revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush (Ex. 6:2-3). The frequency of this name in association with God’s redemptive work is no coincidence and it emphasizes its tremendous importance concerning God and His affection for Israel (Lev. 26:45; Ps. 19:14).
Two word pictures illustrate how the Lord will bring about Israel’s glorious destiny even though their beginnings are as humble as Arthur’s. As Israel’s “shield” the Lord is a source of protection. As a shield the Lord “helps” His people. He is their chief source of aid (Dt. 33:7; Ex. 18:4; Ps. 20:2; 33:20; 115:9-11; 121:1-2; 124:8; Is. 30:5; Dan. 11:34). The Lord is also their sword. Along with a bow and arrow, the sword was standard fighting equipment in ancient Israel (Gen. 48:22; Ps. 76:3; Hos. 1:7) but here as in Jer. 47:6, it is used as a symbol of God’s impending judgment against Israel’s enemies. Only God can judge in this way since His majesty is above everything else (Dt. 33:26; Ps. 68:34). The result of these two attributes is that Israel’s enemies will cringe and their high places (places of idol worship which were hated by God as in Ps. 78:58) will be destroyed. There is no doubt that the Lord has determined a glorious outcome for Israel.
At present this seems as unrealistic as skiing in the tropics at the peak of monsoon season. It’s not the first time Christians have doubted that God is still interested in His Covenant People. In the Book of Romans (particularly chapters 10 and 11- see Rom. 11:11-15) the apostle Paul eloquently presents Israel’s current relationship with the Lord and why it is that way. It is important for us to realize two things. First, if God reneges on an eternal promise He made to Israel (Gen. 12:1-3; 17:7) then it is possible He could renege on an eternal promise made to all believers (Heb. 9:15). But that would go completely against His nature (Lev. 19:1; 1 Jn. 1:5). Secondly, the promise made to Abraham, as an eternal covenant, is still in place. Therefore, if we can call ourselves a friend of Israel, then we will be blessed indeed! In the end, God will fulfill His promise made to Israel in Deuteronomy 33:29. I don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to the day when Israel’s destiny is a reality (Is. 62:1-12)!
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
Week of 3/6/2016