The Sword of ProtectionNovember 24, 2013 - 5:00 am
“Let His faithful people rejoice in this honour
and sing for joy on their beds.
May the praise of God be in their mouths
and a double-edged sword in their hands”—Psalm 149:5–6
Have you ever had a close call while driving and feel that God saved you at the last second? Have you ever been lost and felt God guide you to where you needed to be? God is always sending us help and guidance from above, but sometimes those moments are more noticeable than others. Sometimes, it is painfully obvious how much we are dependent upon God’s divine protection.
Psalm 149 invites us to praise God for all the help He gives us. We are encouraged to praise the Lord with dance, song, and musical instruments. But then the psalmist makes this strange request: “Let His faithful people . . . sing for joy on their beds.” Why does the psalmist want us to sing for joy in our beds of all places?
And then, the psalmist writes that words of praise should be in the mouths of the faithful and “a double-edged sword in their hands.” What is this double-edged sword, what is it for, and what does it have to do with words of praise?
The Sages provide us with some insight into these puzzling questions.
In the Jewish tradition, we say a special prayer every night before we go to bed, called the shema. The familiar words are from Deuteronomy 6:4–9 and it begins, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” In this prayer, we express our love and commitment to God and sing His praises. According to the Sages, the words of this prayer are what the psalmist is referring to as “words of praise . . . in the mouths of the faithful.” These are the words that the faithful would “sing for joy on their beds.”
But what about the double-edged sword? The Sages explain that when we express our love to God, He returns that love by giving us “double protection.” We receive the blessings of both physical and spiritual protection from all harm. We receive extra guidance, care, and shelter from above.
Wouldn’t we all like to enjoy those blessings? Here’s how we can. The words of the shema tell us to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength. The Sages explain that this means that we have to be willing to give up our most valuable things, including our time and money, for God’s purposes. When you love someone, you’d move mountains for them, right? As we express our love for God wholeheartedly, we will experience His boundless love for us, too.