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Messiah's reign

Series: Psalms Book 5

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on Aug 28, 2011

Psalm 110:1-7

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As we continue to work our way through the fifth book of the Psalms, we have come tonight to Psalm 110, one of the most quoted Psalms in the New Testament. It is referenced at least fourteen times in the New Testament and when it is referenced it is always applied to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In fact, in our study of Luke, we have seen Jesus apply this psalm to Himself as a way of rebuking the unbelief of the scribes. Do you remember when we were studying Luke 20, verses 41 to 44 together, and Jesus asked the scribes if they could answer Him a question since they had been playing “Stump the Preacher” with Him and He had answered all their questions? He came back to them and said, “Can you answer this question? How can David's son be David's Lord?” And He poses them a question from Psalm 110.

Well, tonight we're going to look at this great 110th psalm, and as we do so, I want you to be on the lookout for three great themes. This psalm speaks of the kingship of Christ, the priesthood of Christ, and that He is a warrior on behalf of our people. And the psalm outlines that way. The kingship of Christ is spoken of in the first three verses. The priesthood of Christ is addressed in verse 4 and that Christ is warrior is spoken of in verses 5 to 7. Let's pray before we give our attention to the reading of God's Word.

Heavenly Father, all Scripture is given by inspiration and is profitable for reproof, correction, and training in righteousness that the man and woman of God might be equipped for every good work. And so we know that every word of Scripture is profitable and every word of Scripture is needful and every word of Scripture is Your word. And so we ask that You would cause Your Word, that is both needful and profitable, to profit our souls tonight as we give attention to it. Give us ears to hear. Grant that we would be encouraged and exhorted by Your Word and help us by Your Holy Spirit, in grace, to heed the things which You tell us in Your Word. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

This is the Word of God. Hear it:

“A PSALM OF DAVID.

The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’

The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours. The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.’

The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth. He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head.”

Amen, and thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired, and inerrant Word. May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.

This morning I said that this psalm explains why Jesus’ prayer is more powerful than Satan's sifting and why Jesus will prevail even over that ancient enemy, that personal evil that pre-existed the human race. This psalm lays it out for us very clearly. It is because Jesus is King and Jesus is Priest and Jesus is Warrior. And I want to work through the psalm with you in that very outline tonight and give some time contemplating what this means for you and for me. Now the key to understanding this psalm comes in the heading of the psalm. And you understand that those psalm headings are part of Scripture. This psalm begins with the declaration that it is a psalm of David and then he proceeds to say, “The LORD says to my Lord.” Now in most of your English translations, when you see the word LORD in all capitals or in an initial capital and then small capitals, typically that means that that word LORD has behind it the Hebrew word for the God is Israel, Yahweh, or Jehovah. And so in this first sentence we are being told that “The LORD - the God of Israel, Jehovah, Yahweh - says to my Lord.” Now liberal scholars are absolutely convinced that this psalm is an enthronement psalm and that the speaker in the psalm is someone speaking about David being enthroned as king, so that the speaker is saying that the Lord God says to his Lord, that is David, all these things about him.

But let's remember a couple of things. First of all, the psalm says not, “A Psalm of the Courtier of David,” but “A Psalm of David.” The psalm claims to be a Davidic song so that David is the writer, the singer, and the speaker. Secondly, let's remember that Jesus said that David was the writer, the singer, the speaker of this psalm. Turn with me again to Luke chapter 20 and see what the Lord Jesus Himself says about this psalm. This is after the scribes have questioned Him and He's answered them so admirably that even they have to admit that His answers have been correct and impressive and then He turns the table on them and says, “I have a question for you. How can they say that the Christ is David's son, for David himself says in the book of Psalm, ‘The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool.’’ David thus calls him Lord, so how is he his son?” Now we talked about this when we were working through Luke so I won't repeat it all, but the point is this — in eastern thought, in Hebrew thought, the father is always greater than the son, but here David is talking about Messiah his descendant as being greater than him. And Jesus posing the question to the scribes, “How would you explain that exactly?” One of the things that Jesus is surely pointing to there is the fact that the Messiah is more than human. He is in fact David's Lord. This is a clear testimony to the deity of Christ than Jesus Christ is pointing us to this clear testimony of the deity of Christ. But all I want you to see right now is that Jesus makes it clear that this is David speaking.

Well I loved reading what the wonderful commentator Derek Kidner had to say about this. In response to the liberal arguments that this is a psalm of enthronement, he says, “Well of course it's a psalm of enthronement, but David is the speaker in the psalm of enthronement and he recognizes that there is something bigger going on in his rule in Jerusalem than merely his reign and the reign of his descendants. He is a picture, a foreshadowing, a type of someone greater, someone more important, the real King.” And let me give you a third testimony that I'm not just making this up. I'm not just reading this back to make it fit with Christian theology.

Turn with me to the book of 1 Chronicles to the very end of 1 Chronicles and notice what is said at the end of 1 Chronicles when Solomon succeeds David as the king in Jerusalem. We read these words in 1 Chronicles chapter 29. Look at verse 22. “And they made Solomon, the son of David, king a second time and they anointed him as ruler for the Lord and Zadok as priest. Then, Solomon sat on the throne of the LORD.” Now there's one of those all-caps LORDs. Solomon sat on the throne of the LORD as king instead of David his father. Do you see that David and Solomon understood? They aren't claiming to be sitting on the throne of the universe in the stead of the Lord, but they do understand that the throne they occupy in Israel is a little picture of the Lord's reign and that their reign is a little picture of the Messiahs’ reign, and so it makes perfect sense that David would have begun this psalm of enthronement, perhaps even on the occasion of his own enthronement, meditating on the glory of the enthronement of the Messiah saying, “The LORD says to my Lord.” If we were to literally translate that opening phrase it would be — “Yahweh, or Jehovah, the oracle of Yahweh, or Jehovah, concerning my Lord.” And so David is meditating on the Messiah-King who will rule over His people.

CHRIST THE KING

And so this whole section, verses 1 through 3, meditate on the Messiah reigning at the right-hand of God. Notice what is said. There are two oracles in this psalm, two words of the Lord which David prophetically announces. He sort of serves as the prophet here, interestingly. The kingship and the priesthood of the Messiah are mentioned here but his prophetic office isn't mentioned, but David sort of serves the prophetic role here because he's announcing the oracle of the Lord, the word of the Lord. And what is that word? “Sit at My right hand until I make your enemies a footstool.” This is an announcement of the heavenly session of the Messiah when He sits not to rest but to rule at the right-hand of God. The sitting at the right-hand of God is a picture of the exercise of authority. When Jesus sits at the right-hand, He is exercising rule over the universe. In Christian theology we speak of His resurrection, His ascension, and His session. God raised Him again from the dead on the third day, forty days later He ascended into heaven, and - how do we say it in the Creed? — and sitteth on the right-hand of God the Father Almighty. That sitting on the right-hand is called the heavenly session. It continues to this day as He rules over this world by His word and spirit at the right-hand of God the Father Almighty. And David is drawing attention to that heavenly rule.

Our friend, J.I. Packer, says this about Christ's present role in glory. He says it's commonly referred to as the heavenly session. Session comes from the Latin word “sessio,” which means “to sit.” So when our elders are gathered in a formal meeting, we refer to them as The Session because they are sitting to give leadership to the church. Well, Packer goes on to say that the New Testament pictures Jesus’ heavenly activity as sitting at the right-hand of His Father, not to rest, but to rule. The picture is not of inactivity but of authority. And then he says this - “In Psalm 110, God sets the Messiah at His right-hand as King and Priest, as King to see all His enemies under His feet, and as Priest, to serve God and channel God's grace forever. Though personally, the Messiah may be out fighting, positionally He is always sitting at the Lord's right-hand. In Acts, Hebrews, and Matthew, the picture is applied directly to Jesus Christ who, since the ascension, actively reigns in the mediatorial kingdom of God. Christ rules over all the spheres of authority that exist. He rules over angels and humans. His kingdom, in a direct sense, is the Church, which He heads as His body and governs by His word and spirit.” And he goes on to say this — “Christians take great comfort in knowing that Christ is the Lord of all. They seek in every sphere of life to do His will and to remind themselves and others that all are accountable to Christ as Judge, whether they are governors or governed, husbands or wives, parents or children, employers or employees, all rational beings will finally give an account of themselves to Christ as Judge. Christ's session will continue until all His and our enemies, including death, are brought to nothing. Death, the last enemy, will cease to be when Christ, as His appearing, raises the dead for judgment. Once judgment has been executed, the work of the mediatorial kingdom will be over and Christ will triumphantly deliver the kingdom to the Father.” Now all of this is spoken that clearly here, in Psalm 110. One commentator said that this psalm could almost be called “David's Creed,” and it is so clear in what it affirms about Jesus the Messiah that it's almost a fully Christian creed.

Well, the reign of Jesus as King at the right-hand has two aspects. Notice those aspects in verses 2 and 3. First, “The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies!” In other words, even Jesus’ enemies are going to be forcibly subjugated. They will have to acknowledge His rule. But then look at the second part of it, verse 3. “Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments.” In other words, His people will willingly embrace His kingship. They love His reign. His reign is their freedom; His reign is their joy; His reign is their hope, and He will reign in this way. And so when we hear Paul say the words that “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,” Paul is not saying that there will be a universal salvation so that every last man, woman, and child that ever existed will become a believer and will enjoy heaven forever. He is acknowledging that there will be a universal acknowledgment of the kingship of Jesus by His enemies and by His disciples, that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is in fact the Lord that David said that He was here in Psalm 110.

As Packer so beautifully describes here, “As Jesus reigns, He reigns on behalf of His people so that in His reign all things are brought under His headship.” Do you remember Paul speaking of this in Ephesians and in Colossians? Take a look at Ephesians 1:10 tonight when you get home and it speaks about the Lord bringing all things under the headship of Christ. And when all things are brought under the headship of Jesus Christ, then will be accomplished the purpose for which God sent Him into this world. As Satan had attempted to rest the kingship of God from God's people, from the first in the Garden, so Jesus will reestablish that kingship and He will reign over all as King. And then, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians, He will give that kingship back to God. He will say, “I have now completed all that You appointed that I would do” so that all glory and honor goes to God.

Well, what encouragement do we draw from the heavenly session and the kingship of God? A lot of encouragement. One piece of encouragement I would simply remind you of is this — right now, at the right-hand of God the Father Almighty, there is a human being. Yes, He is fully divine, but He is also fully human forever. Do you understand that your flesh and blood sits at the right-hand of God the Father Almighty? The redemption of Jesus Christ has caused Him in the incarnation to take our flesh to Himself and even now in glory the dust of the earth sits at the right-hand of God the Father Almighty. In all of our weaknesses, in all of our infirmities, with all of our diseases and our bodily travails, it should be an encouragement to know that as part of the redemption in our glorified flesh, we shall see God because His flesh is there at the right-hand. Just as Job could say that in the last day he would take his stand and he would see God because his Redeemer lives, in his own flesh he would see his God, so also this is our hope because Jesus, as Son of God and Son of Man, fully divine and fully human, sits at the right-hand of God. That is a great encouragement to believers. Jesus reigns in our flesh at the right-hand of God.

CHRIST THE PRIEST

But we see here also that Jesus is Priest. In this very brief oracle in verse 4 we read, “The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.’” Now this is fascinating. It's the second oracle, and if it's not impressive enough to have two oracles of God in one little psalm, notice that the second oracle isn't’ just an oracle, it's an oath. God is not only announcing His word, He is swearing an oath and He is swearing the oath to the Messiah. You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” Now, Bible scholars, the only other place in the Old Testament where Melchizedek is mentioned is in Genesis. And then “Boom!” like lightening out of the sky, here in Psalm 110 he appears. In Hebrews, Melchizedek appears over and over and over again as the author of Hebrews applies this psalm and the story of Abraham offering tithes to Melchizedek in Genesis to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now a couple of things about this. First of all, the king in Israel could not be priest. Those lines of authority and rule, of kingship and priesthood were, by the Law of Moses, explicitly to be kept separate. Saul lost his kingship because he attempted to exercise the priesthood. That is why it is so essential that this King and Messiah is said not to be a priest according to the order of Aaron, not to be a priest according to the order of Levi, but He is a priest according to the order of Melchizedek. God has appointed Him to be a Priest, a High Priest of the Most High God like He appointed Melchizedek whose lineage is not given to us and whose descendants are not given to us. He appears as the priest of the Most High God to Abraham and so also Jesus the Messiah is made a Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. And so because His priesthood is like that of Melchizedek, He is able to be both King and Priest.

How is it that Jesus’ prayers can vanquish the sifting of Satan? Because He is the King and He rules over even angels, even fallen angels. He is the King, and because He is our Priest. And what is a priest for but to intercede for us before God. And He does so effectually. He is a priest like no other priest who ever existed is a priest because He is a priest who, though He knows the weakness of our flesh and is sympathetic to us in that, the author of Hebrews says. He did not have to offer offerings for His own sin. He is a perfect Priest and His prayers are effectual. Remember what the author of Hebrews says in Hebrews 5:8? “With loud cries He interceded for us and He was heard because of His piety.” That could not be said of any other human priest. God had to hear that prayer because of His piety. That has never been said of any preacher, never any priest, never any Christian, that God had to hear those prayers because of his piety. But of our Priest, it not only can be said, it has been said and it is irrefutably and unassailably true. And so His prayers can vanquish even the sifting of Satan.

CHRIST THE WARRIOR

But the story's not over yet, is it? He's not just a King, ruling in administrative, bureaucratic government in the halls of glory; He's not just a Priest ever living to intercede; He is a Warrior. Listen to the language that's used in verses 5 to 7. “The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth. He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head.” The picture here is of the Messiah of Jesus as a Warrior for His people. Very often we hear the language that Jesus is building His church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it, and we think that the church is in a defensive posture holding off the assaults of Satan because we hear it in the verb, “prevail.” That word, “prevail,” sounds like hell is on the attack. But listen to what Jesus says again. “The gates of hell will not prevail.” This is not the army of hell unleashed from its gates; it is the gate of a fortress, of a castle. And guess what? Gates and castles don't move. They’re defensive structures. The picture that Jesus is painting is not of hell on the march and His people hold up in Helm's Deep trying to hold off the minions. It's a picture of Jesus and His kingdom on the march and even the gates of hell cannot hold them back. And this is the pursuit of the Lord Jesus the Messiah that's depicted here in this psalm. He is on the march and He will track His enemies down until they no longer can escape His wrath.

You know, Isaiah 63 speaks about this. There's a great Thomas Kelly hymn that depicts Isaiah 63, and it beautifully captures this scene here that's before us. Maybe Bill Moore will teach it to us sometime. I know we've sung it before with the young folks but here's the Thomas Kelly text:

“Who is this that comes from Edom,
All His garments stained with blood;
To the slave proclaiming freedom;
Bringing and bestowing good;
Glorious in the garb He wears,
Glorious in the spoils He bears?

’Tis the Savior, now victorious
Traveling onward in His might;
’Tis the Savior, O how glorious
To His people is the sight!
Jesus now is strong to save,
Mighty to redeem the slave.

Why that blood His raiment staining?
’Tis the blood of many slain;
Of His foes there's none remaining,
None the contest to maintain:
Fallen they are, no more to rise,
All their glory prostrate lies.

This the Savior has effected
By His mighty arm alone;
See the throne for Him erected;
’Tis an everlasting throne:
’Tis the great reward He gains,
Glorious fruit of all His pains.

Mighty Victor, reign forever,
Wear the crown so dearly won;
Never shall thy people, never
Cease to sing what Thou hast done;
Thou hast fought Thy people's foes;
Thou wilt heal Thy people's woes.”

He is on the march; He is after the evil one; He will pursue him until He grabs him and He casts him into the lake of fire. The evil one is no match for the warrior who fights for you. And even the picture at the end of the psalm is glorious. If you realize what's being reminded to us here - in verse 7, “He will drink from the brook by the way.” Do you remember the story that's told at the end of 1 Samuel? I think it's 1 Samuel 30. Do you remember Derek telling us about this? The Amalekites, the Amalekites have crossed David and David has come back after the Amalekites. And he's pursued them striking them down for so far so long that his men are worn out from wiping them out. There are four hundred men with David, two hundred of them are so exhausted that they can't go on. They get to the brook of Besor. David kneels and drinks and calls two hundred of his men who are still fit to go on with him and pursue the Amalekites.

That's the picture of Psalm 110 verse 7. He is pursuing his foes until they are all vanquished. That's your Savior. He will vanquish the ancient evil one. All of his might will not keep him out of the lake of fire and the gates of hell will not be an offensive assault upon the people of God, but they will not be able to keep out this mighty Warrior as He brings His vengeance upon all of those — and don't you love that language that Packer used, “His enemies and ours.” Jesus is that Warrior who comes from Eden stained with the blood of His enemies. He is the Priest who ever lives to intercede, and He is the King who is reigning now and will reign and will come to reign again and rescue us from all our foes.

Let's pray.

Our Lord and our God, just as we are so often unaware of the spiritual forces arrayed against us in the heavenly places, so also we are too often unaware of just how immeasurably and inconquerably great our Savior is. In Him is all we need. In Him is the kingship that we need; in Him is the priesthood that we need; in Him is the mighty warrior that we need. He is everything we need. O Lord, Lord forgive us for looking for our need to be filled and our satisfaction to be satiated in anyone or anything else but Him. Hallelujah! Jesus is all we need. And we are His and He is ours, by grace, through faith. So let us trust and be brave and march with Him. We ask these things in Jesus' name. Amen.

Before we sing in response would you stand and receive the Lord's benediction.

Peace be to the brethren and love with faith through Jesus Christ our Lord until the day break and the shadows flee away. Amen.

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