Scripture Focus: Joel 3.9-11
9 Proclaim this among the nations:
Prepare for war!
Rouse the warriors!
Let all the fighting men draw near and attack.
10 Beat your plowshares into swords
and your pruning hooks into spears.
Let the weakling say,
“I am strong!”
11 Come quickly, all you nations from every side,
and assemble there.
Reflection: Unprecedented Peace
By John Tillman
“Beat your plowshares into swords.” is part of a challenge God issues to the nations and it sounds like the taunts of brash pro-wrestlers.
“Gather all your best warriors. You are all weak, compared to me! But for the moment, fool yourself and say ‘I’m strong.” Grab that plowshare. Make a sword out of it. Grab a metal chair and take your best shot. Weaponize everything. You want a fight? Come and get it..” — based on Joel 3.9-13
Sinful nations need few excuses to turn resources of cultivation into resources of destruction. Rather than plant and grow, they prefer to slash and burn and kill. With this sarcastic taunt, God turns them over to their sin.
If there is one area in which humanity can be relied upon to spare no expense, it is war. Many nations, not just those of crackpot dictators, allow their populations to suffer or even starve in order to spend more on war. Even peaceful countries which go to war, lose any shyness about deficits. Going all in on war is the default setting.
This is also true in wars of rhetoric. We see this in our culture’s online dialogue. In desperation, every scrap of information is weaponized and our debt to truth is defaulted. We keep beating on conspiracies until we mistake them for a sword of truth.
One group which suffers when leaders dive anxiously into war is soldiers. Most veterans see their service as an honor and spend the majority of their time securing the peace. But honorable soldiers often die in service of dishonorable leadership.
“Beat your plowshares into swords” is not a call for God’s people to answer. This is why Isaiah and Micah both reverse Joel’s warlike taunt, making it a promise of peace, highlighting God’s incredible mercy and redemption. (Joel 3.10; Isaiah 2.4; Micah 4.3) God will put an end to war.
This reversal is only possible because of Jesus. Without Jesus, we are at war and enemies with God. (Job 19.11; Psalm 68.21; Romans 5.10; Philippians 3.18; Colossians 1.21) Christ not only makes peace with us but makes us agents of peace. (Philippians 4.2-7) This unprecedented peace beyond all understanding, helps us intercede in conflict to make peace.
War is so entrenched in our culture. Violence so widely lauded as a solution. Christians can shine in darkness by clinging to our identity as people of peace.
May we beat our swords into plowshares.
May we make tools of destruction into implements of cultivation.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm
Rescue me from the hurtful sword and deliver me from the hand of foreign peoples,
Whose mouths speak deceitfully and whose right hand is raised in falsehood… — Psalm 144.11.12
– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle
Joel 3 (Listen – 3:20)
Psalm 143 (Listen – 1:34)
Read more about Unexpected Contents of God’s Cup of Wrath
God punishes us, more often than not, by handing us the bottle of our bad choices and letting us drink up.
Read more about Transcendent Peace and Rest
This is a spiritual rest that can exist in the midst of strenuous activity. It is transcendent rest, that is unassailable by physical suffering.