Fatherly Promotion (Psalm 110:1)

Psalm 110 is cited several times in the New Testament. Jesus mentioned it on different occasions and some scholars argue that the letter to the Hebrews is a sermon or exhortation based on the psalm. Peter referred to it in his address to the crowds gathered in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. We cannot tell how much David grasped about the words he was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write, although he would have realised that he was describing a divine Person who would have a throne, an army and a battle culminating in complete victory over his enemies. Christians, because they live in the period after the crucifixion of Jesus and because they have the New Testament as well as the Old Testament and because they have been given the Spirit in greater measure than believers did in Old Testament times, can locate where the details of this psalm fit into the order of events that involved Jesus Christ as described in the New Testament.

David begins his psalm by describing heavenly interaction between two persons called Lord. One of them is said to be Yahweh and the other is said to be Adonai. Both names are used of God in the Old Testament numerous times. Yahweh stresses his uniqueness, his self-existence and his faithfulness to his covenant promises and Adonai points to his supreme sovereignty over all things. Jesus informs us that he is the one addresses as Adonai in this psalm, which means that the one called Yahweh here is God the Father.

David says that the one he calls Adonai is his personal Lord. We might have expected him to say that Yahweh was his Lord and in other passages he does say that is the case. But here he is focussing on the One who is going to receive special honour from the Father and who is going to engage in specific tasks after receiving the place of honour. And the first detail that he mentions about this incredible divine Person is that he is David’s Master.

We can deduce from this statement by David that Old Testament believers had a living faith in a coming Deliverer. They looked forward to his coming because of the many spiritual benefits that he would bring. The statement also indicates that David knew that this future Deliverer already existed and that he already was the One whom David served. David was the ruler of Israel, but he knew that in the kingdom of God he was only a servant of the One who would yet be highly exalted and given the name that is above every name.

Does it matter that we can distinguish between the persons of the Trinity? On an earthly level, does it matter that the members of a family are distinguished from one another? We know that it does with regard to a human family, and it certainly does with regard to the Trinity. The reality is that much spiritual understanding of God’s grace in action is connected to knowing what roles are performed by the persons of the Trinity.

David wrote this psalm in order for it to be sung by God’s people individually and corporately. He was given words by the Holy Spirit that informed them of the great dignity of the coming Ruler. No doubt, he anticipated that they would sing his song with great joy as they celebrated together the amazing Persons who were involved in providing their deliverance from sin. I wonder how many believers down the centuries have sung this psalm with spiritual relish as they considered the spiritual blessings they had received from heaven.

We can see in the invitation that David’s Lord is called to sit beside God the Father. This must mean that in some sense he was not sitting there when he received the invitation. How do we deal with this idea that a divine Person was not on the divine throne because it seems initially to be odd that he should not be there? This is an important question because it raises the issue of what the Son of God did when he became a human at his incarnation.

One answer given to this question is that the Son vacated the Father’s throne. A well-known hymn says this:

He left his Father's throne above
so free, so infinite his grace!),
emptied himself of all but love,
and bled for Adam’s helpless race.

Are these sentiments true? Did Jesus leave his Father’s throne and did he empty himself of all but love? The answer is that he did not empty himself of anything, nor did he cease to be King. The best way to think about what is happening is to remember that the Bible is detailing matters connected to God’s plan of salvation, and among them is the role of Jesus as the Mediator. When he became a man he was required to do something both as God and as God’s representative and as man and man’s representative. Jesus did not cease to be fully God when he became a man, and as the One who became God and man he was involved in a task connected to which were certain promises. The task was to provide salvation and the promises included subsequent glory for him as the One who is both God and man.

Here the Father is fulfilling those promises when he gives this invitation to his Son. Clearly the Son has achieved what was asked of him when he became a man. He has provided salvation for sinners, which he did by his life and death and resurrection. Our minds can go over each of those aspects of his work and see great significance in them. We can say that this divine Person, who is also a man, has gone through incredible changes. They can be summarised in this way as we think of his humanity from five different viewpoints.

Earlier, we mentioned how Jesus was a representative of both the Godhead and of his people. This role required that he become a real man, which commenced when he was conceived in the womb of Mary. He had the various features that mark a human, such as a mind, a heart and a will, and he went through the various stages of growth that humans experience.

Moreover, the role required that he be a righteous man in the sense that he would not sin in any way on any occasion. This had to be the case if he was going to provide a life of righteousness for those who would trust in him.

In addition, he would become a redeeming man who would pay the price for sinners to be taken from the slavery of sin and set free from its power. This he did on the cross when he bore the wrath of his Father – the One speaking to him here in the psalm – and paid the penalty his people were required to pay for their sins.

The fourth detail that was required of him was that he would become a risen man, triumphant over the power of death, which he accomplished on the third day after his death when he emerged in power from the place of death without having seen any physical corruption. On that wonderful morning, he stood beside a tomb, but did so full of resurrection life.

The fifth detail is that he would become a reigning man. The comparison is with Adam who once had ruled under God over the domain given to him by God. Jesus when he ascended became sovereign over the domain given to him by God, which is the universe of time and space. He rules the centuries and the continents, even although both are full of enemies.

In order to have a good impression of this invitation we can go to Luke 24 and read about the disciples watching Jesus ascend and enter into heaven. Then we should move to Revelation 5 and read about him moving from the entrance towards the throne. The consequence on earth was happy disciples and the consequence in heaven is happy angels and happy saints. Earth and heaven combine to rejoice in the incredible reality that Jesus from Bethlehem is now on the throne of God.

Often we ask a person to sit down if we sense that he is tired and needs a rest. This was not why Jesus was asked to sit by the Father. Instead, he sits as a king. This is a coronation occasion, indeed it is the coronation occasion. There have been many extravagant coronations for earthly rulers, but they all together pale into insignificance in comparison to the coronation of Jesus. We know from Revelation 5 about the dignity of the audience – cherubim, hosts of angels, innumerable number of the saints (or as they are called elsewhere the kings of the earth).

We may imagine that the invitation suggests that Jesus is invited to sit on a throne that is beside the Father’s throne. There are not two thrones in heaven, only one. Jesus is there in fulfilment of the promise made to him that he would be exalted if he provided salvation. That we might call stage one. Having been exalted, he is now engaged in stage two of the plan of God for him, which is that he would gather in his people from all over the world.

This verse indicates that the Father and the Son will work together after Jesus is exalted. This co-operation occurs in lots of ways. They co-operate in sending the Holy Spirit to the church and to the world; they co-operate in sending spiritual blessings to believers as Paul indicates in the greetings in his letters when he mentions that grace and peace come from the Father and the Son. And there are other ways as well.

It was usual for someone sitting on a throne to have a footstool on which he could put his feet and before which subjects would bow. Some bowed with love in their hearts for their ruler; others bowed because they had been taken prisoner by him, and their attitude was one of sullen recognition before a greater person. Here the Father states his intention to bring everyone before Jesus and bow down to him on the great Day of Judgement.

How will the God the Father bring this about? He will use his providence to ensure that this goal will be achieved. His providence is his constant control of everything that happens. There are many consequences connected to each detail in his providence, but they are all subservient to this divine intention for Jesus to be honoured by his enemies. The day will come when every creature will confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father. None will manage to be outside this providential destiny. We can already say that it is in their diaries, written with indelible ink by the Father’s hand.

Who are his enemies? We know of only two categories – fallen angels and sinful humans. Fallen angels fight against the authority of Jesus in whatever way they can, but despite their actions they are heading towards this day when they will bow down before Jesus and confess that he is Lord. Sinful humans are those who live sinful lives, and all who do so are the enemies of Jesus because they are opposed to his kingdom, whether or not they are aware of its existence.

Yet among the vast number of sinful humans there is a large group who have refused to accept the offers that Jesus made to them in the gospel about forgiveness and a place in his kingdom. Some of them rejected the offer numerous times. It is serious enough to be an enemy of Jesus without having this additional reason for condemnation by him. What will rejecters of the gospel think when they find themselves at the footstool of Jesus?

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