If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword;
he has bent and readied his bow;
he has prepared for him his deadly weapons,
making his arrows fiery shafts. (Psalm 7:12-13 ESV)
Why would anyone want to invite the wrath of God upon themselves? Why would anyone willfully rebel against Him? This is exactly what both angels and people have done. God commands people to repent of their sin and rebellion against Him. God will establish the righteous after He tests their minds and hearts (Psalm 7:9 ESV). God commands people turn away from that which tempts and trains them to rebel, and turn toward Him.
God demands repentance. God never asks people to repent. To repent is to turn, to come or go back, to lead away from one thing and toward another, to be restored. God makes repentance possible when He delivers over Jesus’ life as a means of righteously fulfilling the requirements of His law for those created in His image. God’s eternal compassion is on full display on the cross. “Turn,
O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love” (Psalm 6:4 ESV). His enemies turn away from Him, ashamed by what they have done. “All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment” (Psalm 6:10 ESV). Either they turn to God at His command, or they turn away from God at His judgment.
God will not simply turn rebellious people away from His presence. He will fight and war against them. David uses words of war to describe God’s assault on those who actively rebel against Him and His authority. He will sharpen His sword, bend and make ready His bow, using arrows that are fiery shafts. God creates and implements new instruments of death, designed to kill, not maim. Those who are steadfast in their assaults and attacks will feel God’s full wrath.
Joshua faced the pre-incarnate Christ as he surveyed Jericho before the fall of the city. Joshua encountered a man standing with a drawn sword.
When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?”
And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.”
And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” (Joshua 5:13-14 ESV)
Jesus, the Commander of the Lord’s Army, does not take sides between two warring factions of people. He stands for God against all sin. His mission, while living as a man, was to command people repent of their sin and turn toward God. Speaking about people who died by accident or by the hand of a despotic leader, Jesus tells those who are following Him, they must repent or they will also die a spiritual death. In Luke 13 He uses the same phrase twice. “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5 ESV). Repentance is not an option. Repentance is commanded and obedience is expected.
The world carries superstitious opinions about God, believing the God of the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures, is a God of wrath, while Jesus, the God of the New Testament, is a God of love, peace and forgiveness. Scripture is filled with God’s compassion toward His people and wrath toward His enemies. Jesus did not come to bring peace to everyone. He came to separate those who are His from those who hate Him and rebel against Him. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34 ESV). Those who follow Jesus must pick up their cross, which is His cross, and be willing to die to this world to live for God. Those who hate Jesus will persecute those who walk with Him. Since they cannot persecute and murder God they will do what they can to those who are God’s. Even members of a family will fight against each other. “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:38-39 ESV). Those who follow Christ must completely abandon themselves to Him. Obedience is expected and carries no merit before God. Disobedience brings God’s wrath.
War terminology is used in this Psalm because we are engaged in war. Those who hate God, His enemies, want to destroy all God has created and subvert all God’s purposes for His creation. The Deceiver does not care about winning, knowing he has already lost the war. Those people who fight against God think they can win. Their view of God is superstitious and unreasonable. God fights for Himself, not for us. Yet, we receive the benefit of His compassion and mercy, freely given though our time in this world.