Plowshares Still Have Blades

This past Sunday, I preached on Micah 4:1-5. If you’d like to hear what I sound like, here’s the audio. What God did with the message on Sunday was a lot better than what I’m able to pull together with my feeble words below.

The main gist of my message was that we need to look at our relationships and every aspect of the world the way a gardener looks at the world instead of the way a warrior looks at the world. Warriors look for battles to fight and people who need to be rebuked and annihilated. Gardeners look for what needs to be healed, loved, and cultivated. That’s not to say that gardeners don’t fight fiercely for their plants. We fight against pests, pollution, rot, and anything that makes our plants any less than perfectly glorious and beautiful. Gardeners can be every bit as fierce as warriors, but their starting point is love and their purpose is to defend what they love rather than destroy what they hate.

But this passage isn’t just about how we need to be more like gardeners. It’s also about how God is our gardener. Thankfully he doesn’t use a sword or a spear on us when we mess up, but he does use a plowshare and pruning hook. And plowshares and pruning hooks have blades. That’s what gets lost when this passage is appropriated as a proof-text for peace (however valid that may be). If God loves us the way a gardener loves, then he will till our soil with a plowshare and trim our branches with a pruning hook. And that hurts! When we’re going through it, all we can feel is the blade; we will not see the glory until much later.

Right now, I’m in a season when all I can feel is the blade. Yesterday was one of the worst days I’ve had in a long time. I am getting pummeled in multiple areas of my life all at the same time: my physical body, my ministry, my kids, my house. It’s fierce enough that I honestly think it’s spiritual warfare. But whether the source is an actual enemy who wants to throw me off or just the infuriating synergy of circumstances sometimes called Murphy’s Law, I have a choice about how to receive the blades that are lacerating my heart right now. Are they just swords and spears that destroy me or can they somehow contribute as plowshares and pruning hooks to the tilling and pruning of my soul?

Maybe it’s some kind of twisted narcissism, but I literally had to listen to my entire sermon twice today, not because I’m an amazing preacher but because I didn’t personally receive the message God shared through me on Sunday. Maybe I’ll need a third time. I’m not able to do much else today.

When I concluded my sermon, I told the congregation that Micah 4 is actually good news. It’s not primarily an exhortation for us to change; it’s a promise that God is going to change us. God will bend our swords and spears into plowshares and pruning hooks. He will make the world into a garden again instead of the plantation we’ve made it. No matter how hard the blades of the world rage against me today, I will one day live in a beautiful garden where my fruit will shine because our gardener’s gifts will be our world’s only reality.

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