Psalm 149

Praise the LORD. Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints. Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King. Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with tambourine and harp. For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation.

Let the saints rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds. May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands, to inflict vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron, to carry out the sentence written against them. This is the glory of all his saints. Praise the LORD.

Hallelujah is an un-translated word that comes to us straight from the Hebrew. It means, “Praise the Lord.” The English meaning is used often enough, and has been the central theme of these last Psalms. But the word Hallelujah appears only four times in the New Testament, all of them in Revelation 19 when Babylon lies in smoking ruins and the armies of Heaven are poised to invade and re-capture Planet Earth.

The Lord Himself will lead them, with a sharp sword to strike down the nations. (Rev. 19:15) The fact that John portrays this sword as issuing forth from out of His mouth tells us that it symbolizes His Word. This symbolism originated in Hebrews 4:12, which describes His Word as sharper than a double-edged sword exposing the thoughts and attitudes of man’s heart. In the final battle men will die because of the thoughts and attitudes of their hearts. His Word will slay them.

He won’t bother with making them surrender and then trying to rehabilitate them. He knows that with enough power you can get people to do almost anything. But not even God can make men believe something they refuse to believe.

That’s always been the problem with any system of salvation that depends on behavior. In his book “Man’s Search For Meaning” Viennese psychiatrist Victor Frankl demonstrated what I mean. During his time in the Nazi concentration camps, he observed how he and his fellow inmates could be systematically deprived of every freedom and dignity except one. While their captors could demand and receive absolute obedience in every action, they could not control the thoughts and attitudes of their prisoners’ hearts.

It’s the same with religion. “These people,” the Lord said of His Chosen, “Come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Isaiah 29:13) With one of the most detailed religious systems ever devised, and with power He regularly demonstrated, He could demand and receive outward obedience to His Law, but He couldn’t prevent them from sinning in their minds. Even when their actions were faultless, their hearts were evil. (Jeremiah 17:9)

Of course He knew all of this from the beginning. But He also knew we needed to learn the futility of thinking we can earn our salvation. (That’s the great lesson of the Old Testament.) Then He gave us the greatest gift of love ever. Knowing we can’t help sinning, He prepaid all the penalties we’re racking up by agreeing to die in our place. And that swayed our hearts. It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance after all. (Romans 2:4) Now we try to behave to please Him.  We know that we can never succeed, but that He likes it when we try and blesses us for doing so. And when we fail, His grace is sufficient, and there’s peace between us.  Praise the LORD.