Jesus the King (Psalm 110:2-3)

Sometimes we can find ourselves in a place where something is happening and not be aware of its significance. Maybe someone is travelling somewhere and people are waiting for his arrival and we don’t get the connection because no one has told us about it. Did anyone see Jesus and his disciples walk to Bethany before he ascended? Did he gaze on the home of Martha and Mary for one last time? Perhaps that is where the disciples thought they were going? In contrast, up in heaven they were waiting for his arrival and looking forward to what would happen afterwards.

I read a sermon this afternoon on the ascension of Jesus by a nineteenth century preacher called Edward Griffin. Among other things, Griffin mentioned four things that took place when Jesus ascended. ‘There for the first time the inhabitants of heaven beheld a created nature on the throne of the universe.’ That comment is similar to the one by Rabbi Duncan about the dust of the earth on the throne of God. Of course, when Griffin is referring to a ‘created nature’, he means the human nature of Jesus and not his eternal divine nature.

Griffin also said that ‘There for the first time did the God-man-Mediator appear visibly as King of Zion and King of the whole creation.’ Moreover, he also said that ‘The glory to which is human nature was now advanced, consisted, not only in the dignity of being united with his divinity in the government of the universe, but in the outward splendour with which it was arrayed.’ The fourth comment by Griffin was that Jesus ‘In the most public manner he received the government of the whole universe, that he might manage all things in heaven, earth, and hell for the good of his people.’

I wonder what the listeners made of that sermon at the time they heard of it. Some would have rejoiced that Jesus was so exalted, but would now say that their grasp of its significance was very small. Others may have laughed at such strange assertions, but if they remained mockers they are not laughing now because they have discovered that what Griffin said is true.

Is it important for us to understand the glory that the ascended Jesus has? After all, we cannot see him at the moment. Yet John Owen, when commentating on its importance, wrote that ‘The darkness of our faith herein is the cause of all our disconsolations, and most of our weaknesses in obedience.’ If that is the case, then we should try and know as much about it as possible.

Have we ever been to a place that initially is ideal and then we realise that the experience would have been better if someone important was there. Perhaps a husband visits the Grand Canyon without his wife and realises he would have enjoyed it more if she had been there. Heaven was a beautiful place before Jesus ascended, but it is more beautiful now that he has. If we could ask Moses and Elijah, they would say it is. Before he ascended, the beautiful human nature of Jesus was not in heaven. But it is now.

This psalm by David about the exaltation of Jesus after his ascension highlights three ways in which he functions as the Mediator, the one selected by the Father to be the one who can represent both God and man. David describes three ways in which Jesus will do so. He will function as a King, as a Priest and as a Judge. We will think about his role as King and we will see that David refers to his rule, his subjects and his appearance.

The King’s rule (v. 2)
Jesus has been invited to by his Father to sit on the throne. What more can be said about this position of power? In verse 2, David mentions three features of this reign. First, he mentions where the throne is located and that place is Zion. The composer of this song reigned in the earthly Zion, but that is not the place that is referred to here. Instead the Zion from which Jesus reigns is the heavenly Zion, as we are reminded of in Hebrews 12 when the writer says there that believers have come to Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem. This statement of the psalm informs us that some Old Testament references to Zion, especially prophetic ones, have no connection to the earthly Jerusalem.

The second detail that is mentioned is that Jesus has a mighty sceptre. A sceptre was the instrument that revealed the authority and power of a king. For example, if a person wanted an audience with a king, he would know that he had so by the positioning of the sceptre. What is the sceptre that King Jesus utilises in order for favour to be shown? The answer is the gospel of grace. In it we are informed of the sceptre of mercy that Jesus holds out to people and through which he rules.

Where does Jesus hold out this sceptre? David tells us that this gracious rule occurs in the midst of his opponents. This means that Jesus, although he is highly exalted, draws very near to those who are opposed to his rule and offers to them a gracious pardon of all their acts of rebellion against him. He can make this offer to them because of his work of atonement on the cross. His message to them focuses on what he did on the cross and on the spiritual and other benefits that can be theirs if they repent of their sins and trust in him.

The reference to the rule of Jesus is translated as an imperative. Who, we can ask, is making this statement. One possibility is that the speaker is God the Father and another possibility is that it is David expressing his longing for the days when the Messiah would indeed engage in this wonderful reign marked by mercy and grace.

The King’s subjects (v. 3a)
In his description of the subjects of the King, David says three things about them. First, he mentions their response to the offer of mercy connected to the sceptre described in the previous verse. Each of them offers himself freely. We should observe that this expression of dedication comes after they have become his people. So from a gospel point of view we should interpret this as describing the response of those who have tasted that the Lord is gracious. They have discovered that they can be forgiven, and because they have been pardoned they respond with gratitude and devote themselves to his service. The only compulsion in this service is the compulsion of love.

The second detail concerning the people of the King is when they will engage in this act of service. David says that it will take place on ‘the day of your power’. Often, this phrase is regarded as pointing to a literal day when the King pardons a lot of people, say, in a revival. While that occasion could be described as ‘a day of his power’, it is not the same as ‘the day of his power’. The day of his power is a way of describing the time when he will rule in mercy, which is another way of describing the length of his reign alongside the Father. During the entirety of his reign, there will be believers who will submit gladly to his rule.

Thirdly, we are told that the people who serve the King are all dressed in the same attire – ‘holy garments.’ In other words, they are saints, those set apart to God because they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The point of the psalmist in referring to garments is that he is highlighting what onlookers can see about the Lord’s people. They are marked by holiness.

What is meant by holiness in the life of believers? The description concerns the quality of their way of life. Often the word ‘holiness’ is regarded as the opposite of sinfulness, but merely saying that does not say what holiness is. As far as believers are concerned holiness is Christlikeness. This idea is explained in several ways in the Bible, but one clear way occurs in Galatians 5 when Paul contrasts the fruit of the Spirit with the works of the flesh. A holy person is someone who has the fruit of the Spirit flowing out of his heart and revealing itself in attitudes and actions that are expressions of Christlikeness.

It has often been pointed out that the description of the Lord’s people devoting themselves to his service resembles that of an army. The imagery of an army tells us that they obey orders, that they serve together, and that they fight the same opponents. What combines those three features of obedience, serving and fighting? It is spreading the gospel. This is what the King wants his people to do, he wants them to do so together, and he wants them to take the gospel to those who, in a spiritual sense, are his and their opponents. Of course, this engagement is one that flows from love and is always an expression of love.

The appearance of the King (v. 3b)
David again uses the illustration of a day but this time he is not referring to the length of the Saviour’s reign but to the length of time in which he will have a beautiful appearance. Of course, in a sense, they are equal in length, although the Saviour will continue to have this amazing appearance after the time of mercy is over and the new heavens and new earth will be in existence. And when that time comes, his people will be like him because they shall see him as he is.

What does David mean by the womb of the morning? He must be referring to where the morning comes from. Where does each morning come from? They all come from the previous night. Similarly, Jesus came out of a dark night when the morning of his day commenced. The night was his experience on the cross and in the tomb. It was a dark night when he became sin on behalf of his people and paid the penalty for their sins. When he died, his soul was separated from his body and he experienced what death means, even although he was not subject to corruption. Yet he did not remain in that night, but came forth in the morning from that womb.

There is another possible meaning for womb of the morning. The womb is the place where life comes from and the psalmist could be saying that the day which commenced with the Saviour’s rule will be one that is full of life and that throughout it many will be born into his kingdom. This suggested meaning is on the opposite side of the experience of the dark night. The latter looks back to the night before the morning and the former looks ahead to the brightness of the day. I see no reason why both meanings cannot be included.

What will Jesus look like on the dawn of this incredible day when his power will be experienced? He will be young, and the idea is that he will have this form of youth forever. On the day of his resurrection he appeared with a new kind of life that means he does not age, nor can he die. He has immortality. Jesus does not look older even although he has been in heaven for almost two thousand years. And he will not age in the world to come. He is the perfect man.

David was guided by the Spirit to liken the youthfulness of the Messiah to the dew. Dew is refreshing and perhaps the idea here is that the King is the source of spiritual refreshment for his army. After all, it is the case that soldiers often need refreshment. The Christian army is often under attack from powerful spiritual opponents and needs constant spiritual refreshment.

Dew in the Bible is a picture of the work of the Spirit. Jesus had the Spirit without measure and it is through him that the Spirit comes to each of his people. The Holy Spirit is called at times the Spirit of Jesus, indicating that he works in us similar to how he was present with the King, bringing strength and comfort.

The fact is, we have the best King, which means that we are blessed indeed.

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