Worship and Justice

By Mark D. Roberts

May 31, 2019

May the praise of God be in their mouths
and a double-edged sword in their hands.

Psalm 149:6

Psalm 149:6 is one of many verses in the Psalms that can, at first, startle or even shock us. The psalm begins with a call to praise the Lord and sing to him a new song (Psalm 149:1). Israel is to rejoice in God and praise him with dancing and music (Psalm 149:2-3). Why? Because the Lord “takes delight in his people” and “crowns the humble with victory” (Psalm 149:4). So God’s people are to praise him “and sing for joy on their beds” (Psalm 149:5).

So far, nothing in this psalm seems particularly unsettling. But then we get to verse 6: “May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands.” This sword is given to God’s people so that they might “carry out the sentence written against” the nations and their leaders (Psalm 149:7-9). How are we to understand this unexpected juxtaposition of praise and the sword?

Notice that this psalm does not endorse just any old use of the sword. Rather, it is to execute the justice of God against those who are deserving of divine punishment. This psalm does not authorize violence for selfish gain. Rather, it reminds us of God’s justice against those who have perpetrated injustice.

Of course, God’s justice includes more than punishment of the wicked. It also includes treating people rightly, caring for the poor, and seeking freedom for the oppressed. Remember the call of God through the prophet Micah. What God requires of us is “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Worship in prayer and song must be matched by worship in justice and mercy.

Something to Think About:

When you come upon a verse of Scripture that surprises or unsettles you, what do you do?

How is your worship of God expressed in your daily life?

Is there a connection between how you praise the Lord and how you treat others?

Something to Do:

The next time you have an opportunity to treat someone justly or to act with mercy, offer what you are doing to the Lord as worship.


Gracious God, you are indeed worthy of all praise. You deserve every bit of thanks, glory, and honor that I can offer—and so much more.

Yet I am reminded today that you are praised, not only in my words, but also in my actions, not only in what I sing to you, but also in how I treat my neighbor.

The “sharp sword” in my hand today is not made of metal, but rather of words. May I speak this day in a way that reflects your justice and mercy. May my words be instruments of your peace. All praise be to you, God of glory and justice. Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online
Psalm 149

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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