The Warfare of the King (Psalm 45:3-5)

We have noted previously that this Psalm is a prophecy of the reign of Jesus. His reign began when he ascended to heaven and was seated on the divine throne. In the psalm, the psalmist provides descriptions of three features of the reign of Jesus – there is his enthronement, his warfare and his wedding. Last time we looked briefly at his enthronement and observed that he is a unique person (God and man) who will reign joyfully forever. Today, we will consider his warfare.

In describing the warfare of the king in verses 3 to 5, the author uses two images of weaponry – the king is an expert swordsman and an expert archer. The point of this would be to stress the range of his skills. Neither of them is literal, but it would have been common for a king at that time to be well-trained in leading his army and defending his kingdom.

Call to the king
As he begins his description of the reign of King Jesus, which took place at his ascension to heaven, the author mentions how appropriate it is for the king to wear his sword. It contributes to his splendour and majesty. In a sense, he would not look so splendid and majestic if he was not wearing his sword.

At the same time, the author observes that the sword belongs to the king. It is his personal possession. We know that David when he went to fight Goliath was not strong enough to use the sword of Saul. Saul was a big powerful man and at that moment young David could not lift it. The sword that is mentioned here is such that only one with incredible power can use it.

In addition, the sword had to be utilised and the author mentions that when the King does use it, he will discover awesome things and perform awesome deeds. In fact, when he is wearing the sword, all the actions that he does will be awesome.

Fourth, the King is described as riding out in majesty into a hostile environment. Yet he is said to have the victory before he begins the battles. He is fighting from a position of invincibility, which of course means he cannot be defeated.

Fifth, we are told what the King’s cause is and it is a cause with three details: truth, meekness and righteousness. Each of these details has two features – they are ideas and they are practices. In other words, they belong to how people think and to how people behave.

How do these five details relate to King Jesus? To begin with, we need to ask what the sword, and indeed the arrows, represent. The answer to that question is that his weapons represent the gospel. The gospel, in one sense, includes everything to do with the kingdom of God and, in another sense, it refers to the way that sinners are invited into the kingdom. We know that the gospel is summarised in numerous texts such as John 3:16.

The first point that was made was that the wearing of the sword enhanced the beauty of the King. And when we think about the beauty of Jesus we can see how the gospel adds to his attractiveness. Imagine how we would feel if he did not have a sword of grace, but only a sword of judgement. Or if all we could do was observe his perfection from a distance. The sword of the gospel informs us that the king is for us.

Second, we noticed that this sword is unique to the king. And the fact is that the gospel belongs to Jesus as well as being about Jesus. Even when his servants declare it, he is involved in its use. Paul reminded the Ephesians that Jesus had gone to Ephesus and preached the gospel of peace there. Yet he never went physically to Ephesus. Instead he went there with his servants and enable them to convey the gospel to sinners. The outcome was spiritual blessing.

Third, the psalmist said that the king, when he used his sword, would go through all kinds of awesome experiences and actions. And we can think the same about Jesus. What discoveries he made and makes as he gets involved with the gospel and bringing it into the experience of sinners. Think of what he experienced with the three thousand Jews on the Day of Pentecost who had given their approval to his crucifixion, with Paul the persecutor of the church, with Lydia the seeker after truth, with the Philippian jailor who seemed indifferent to his own spiritual destiny.

Fourth, as with the king in the psalm, Jesus fights to win. When he takes up his sword, he does not intend to be defeated, even by the hardest of cases. Humanly speaking, some converts seemed harder to win than others. Yet the gospel message breaks the hardest of sinners and they come to Jesus asking for the forgiveness that he offers freely to them

Fifth, the psalmist mentions the three features of the king’s cause. What does truth, meekness and righteousness describe? They describe the king. These are the features that make him unique. Jesus, as he deals with sinners, wants to give himself to them in order for them to become like him. He already gave himself for them on the cross and that is the basis of the gospel. In addition, he offers those blessings to them as he engages with them battling for their souls. He said that he was the truth in contrast to the false messiahs who declared a hopeless message; that he was meek and lowly in heart in contrast to the proud leaders who imposed impossible burdens on people; and that he loved to obey the law of God from his heart.

There is obviously a kind of prayer here. As far as the psalmist was concerned, he was looking ahead to the day when the King would be exalted. With us, we both look back and look up. We look back with wonder and gratitude to the day of the King’s enthronement. Yet we also look up and ask him to use the sword in the present, to use the sword that has achieved so many incredible victories in the past. And we can also look round and see him using the sword of the gospel in many places throughout the world today.

The campaign of the King is global as well as gracious. The aim of the King is to conquer nations as well as individuals. Of course, Jesus conquers nations by conquering individuals. Since this is his aim, it should give great confidence to us because he fulfils his aims. At the end of the campaign, there will be a number that no one can count in his kingdom and they will have come from all the nations.

The consequence of the call
Having urged the king to put on his sword, the author now describes the outcome. To do so he changes the metaphor from a sword to arrows. In the ancient world, a skilled archer would fire his arrows straight, speedily, sequentially but almost simultaneously, and strongly. Those details picture how Jesus fires arrows connected to the gospel. He aims them straight at their hearts, and when he sends them they come one after the other rapidly into our souls. They come with such power than we sense the sender is very strong. And he can send them to many of his enemies at the same time as he did with the three thousand at Pentecost.

What arrows does he send into the hearts of sinners? The first we can call the arrow of comprehension. By this, I mean he informs sinners of their situations. He shows them where they are, what they are like in his sight, and where they are going in a spiritual sense. They become aware of the truth of their circumstances and they understand that they are in spiritual danger.

The second arrow is that of conviction of sin. With some people, this arrow goes further into their hearts than it does with others. The important detail is not the degree of conviction but the reality of it. I would say that the difference between true and false convictions is that a true conviction leads to a concern that we have sinned against the God of holiness, even when the sins may have seemed to be against someone else.

The third arrow is one that follows close behind that of conviction and it is that of contrition. This arrow shows that the heavenly Archer aims for the heart and not just for the mind. The wounded sinner begins to mourn over his sin and experiences godly sorrow. He makes no attempt to justify it. Instead, his soul, and often his eyes as well, weep with regret that they have sinned against the Lord.

The fourth arrow slays the outlook of self-confidence that many a sinner has even when they are convicted of their sins and weep over them. Often at this stage in the process of conversion the sinner imagines that he should resolve to do better and may even attempt to do so. Soon an arrow comes from the heavenly Archer to deal with this outburst of folly.

The fifth arrow is one of challenge to depend on the salvation that the Archer offers to us. He has already mentioned this in the first one when he fired the arrow of comprehension. Through the process caused by the other arrows the effects of the one of comprehension remains. The Archer does not want his wounded enemy to lose sight of the gospel. And at some stage, the one who is wounded embraces the One who fired the arrows into his heart.

The sixth arrow is one that provides comfort. We may think it strange that an arrow which causes pain should also provide comfort. Yet we must remember that the strength that fires the arrow is the strength of love, sent from the One who is meek and lowly in heart. And he has many comforts to give from his Word as he reminds his people of his great and precious promises.
The arrows of the King are sent personally and they are sent to penetrate our souls. We are not meant to pull them out of our hearts, even when they wound us deeply. If we do that, we will lose the blessings connected to them. They are designed for our spiritual good and when we have them we should deduce that the King is assaulting us with the arrows of the gospel in order to forgive us our sins and to adopt us into his family, to make us members of his Beloved.

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