The Broken Tip of the Sword
“He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”
Isaiah 2:4 (NIV)
Britain celebrates the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth ll this year – 60 years as monarch following the death of her father King George V1. We are privileged to experience this rare and historic event, particularly since the last Diamond Jubilee was in 1897 – it will be a very long time before there is another. Inevitably our attention is drawn to the actual coronation ceremony 59 years ago, resplendent in pomp and ceremony. Indeed the splendour of the spectacle is so great that it can deny us the significance of the symbols used. Specifically, I wish to examine one of the 5 swords used during the coronation. This sword is part of the crown jewels of the United Kingdom and is known as the Sword of Mercy, Edward the Confessor’s Sword. The sword has a blade cut off short and square symbolically broken, indicating thereby the quality of the mercy of the sovereign; according to the mythological history of the sword, its tip was broken off by an angel to prevent a wrongful killing. As well as being included in coronations, this is also the sword the monarch uses when bestowing knighthoods – the sword of mercy. During her coronation Her Majesty presented this sword at the altar to signify a reign of mercy.
In the Bible, and throughout man’s history until the 20th century, the sword was used as a weapon of death and destruction. Varying in weight and subsequent wielded power, it proved lethal in combat. They were merciless instruments of war. With this in mind, this concept of the ‘sword of mercy’ seems paradoxical.
There are many instances of bloody and brutal uses of the sword in the Old Testament – but how does the story end? How does God view swords? Did not His angels wield swords? (1 Chronicles 21:27). God is in charge of all matters and His answer to the might of the sword is found in Hosea 2:18 “In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the creatures that move along the ground. Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety.” This prophecy gives assurance of a time of peace coming and, equally important, a time of mercy.
As Christians God requires us to love mercy and to show it constantly (Micah.6:8). On a daily basis our lives are far removed from the magnificence of a coronation. As citizens of a nation where the sword of mercy plays an integral part of the coronation ceremony and as citizens of a kingdom yet to come, I encourage you to consider the Sword of Mercy and all that it symbolises for us–a time of peace when swords, including the Sword of Mercy, will be beaten into ploughshares; a time when the King of Kings will rule here on earth with divine mercy.
Lord God, we thank you for our monarch – for her dedication to her people and her faith in you. We ask you to continue to bless her with all that she needs to serve. We pray that we will be merciful servants serving you on a daily basis, looking forward to the time of peace and mercy forever.
Study by Irene Wilson