Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Pen Is Mightier Than the Sword

As a writer, I love the phrase: “The pen is mightier than the sword.” It both empowers and encourages me. The phrase is taken from a play written by Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839. Entitled Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy, the play contains this speech for the character of Cardinal Richelieu: “True, This! Beneath the rule of men entirely great, the pen is mightier than the sword. Behold the arch-enchanters wand! Itself a nothing! But taking sorcery from the master-hand to paralyse the Cæsars, and to strike the loud earth breathless! Take away the sword. States can be saved without it!”

The power of the written word reflects the very power of words themselves. After all, God spoke the words and the universe was created. From the very beginning of the Bible until its end, its writers chronicle the power of words – for good and for bad. No one seems to understand this concept better than King David who wrote: “His speech was smoother than butter, but his heart was war; His words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.” Psalm 55:21. And, “Who sharpen their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows—bitter words.” Psalm 64:3 (NASB)

Other biblical writers reinforce the power of words in the context of war and judgment. For example, the Apostle Paul wrote: “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…” Ephesians 6:17 (NASB)

And the writer of Hebrews: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Heb. 4:12 (NASB)

And the Apostle John: (from The Message Bible) “Then I saw Heaven open wide—and oh! a white horse and its Rider. The Rider, named Faithful and True, judges and makes war in pure righteousness. His eyes are a blaze of fire, on his head many crowns. He has a Name inscribed that's known only to himself. He is dressed in a robe soaked with blood, and he is addressed as "Word of God." The armies of Heaven, mounted on white horses and dressed in dazzling white linen, follow him. A sharp sword comes out of his mouth so he can subdue the nations, then rule them with a rod of iron. He treads the winepress of the raging wrath of God, the Sovereign-Strong. On his robe and thigh is written, King of kings, Lord of lords.” Rev. 19:11

However, I love the words the Shakespeare penned because they reflect the saving side of words. This is the speech that I love so much. It is the first part of Portia’s speech in Act 4, Scene 1 from “The Merchant of Venice”:
“The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth, as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice bless'd;
It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway,
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice.”

It’s almost as if Shakespeare was interpreting Psalm 123, verse 1 (Message Bible) “I look to you, heaven-dwelling God, look up to you for help. Like servants, alert to their master's commands, like a maiden attending her lady, we're watching and waiting, holding our breath, awaiting your word of mercy. Mercy, God, mercy! We've been kicked around long enough, kicked in the teeth by complacent rich men, kicked when we're down by arrogant brutes.”

Words of mercy and words of power – they all come from the pen of a ready writer – a warrior for God.

1 comment:

  1. Blessed be the LORD, my rock, Who trains my hands for war, And my fingers for battle. Psalm 144:1