“The Ascended Lord Jesus Rules for Our Good”

(Psalm 110 – Ascension – May 13, 2018)

Psalm 110 – The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies! Your people shall be volunteers in the day of Your power; in the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning, You have the dew of Your youth. The LORD has sworn and will not relent, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” The Lord is at Your right hand; He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath. He shall judge among the nations, He shall fill the places with dead bodies, He shall execute the heads of many countries. He shall drink of the brook by the wayside; therefore He shall lift up the head.

Dear Redeemed in the name of our ascended Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ:

The words of Psalm 110 were written by David, the great Old Testament King of Israel. It dates about 1000 years before the incarnation of Christ. Yet as the divinely inspired Word of God, this Psalm prophesied about David’s greater Son. It pictured Jesus seated in His heavenly, glorified state, after His death, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of His Father. In this Psalm we are led to see how “The Ascended Lord Jesus Rules for Our Good.”

David says in verse 1: “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.'” Jesus applied these words of David to Himself in Matthew 22:42-45. He asked the Pharisees: “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” They knew the answer from the Scriptures and replied: “The Son of David.” Jesus asked: “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool” ‘? If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?” No could answer; for Jesus was declaring what they did not want to hear: that Jesus Christ, the Son of David according to human birth, is also David’s Lord as the eternally begotten Son of God. Also in Acts 2:29-35, the apostles applied the words of Psalm 110 to great David’s greater Son, saying: “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” ‘ “ So we learn first that our ascended Savior is more than just a man. He is our Lord God, as He is David’s Lord.

We see this not only in His Name, but also in His position. God the Father says to His Son: “Sit at My right hand.” The right hand of God describes a position of divine power and authority. We hear of this exalted position to which God raised His Son in Ephesians 1:19-23: according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” So our ascended Savior reigns at the right hand of His Father, having been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). As the eternally-begotten Son, He always has shared equal power and authority with His Father according to His divine nature. But now, this is true also according to His human nature. As the God-Man, Jesus rules over all creation and the powers that be. And He does so for the good of His Church, His body.

In his exalted position, the Father has Jesus ruling, as He says: “till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” In ancient custom, a conqueror placed his foot on his vanquished foes as a display of his triumph over them. Our ascended Savior sits in this position, having triumphed over His enemies and ours. Chief of these enemies is Satan, who rebelled against God and was cast out of heaven, together with all the fallen angels (2 Peter 2:4). We meet that archenemy of the Lord when he tempted our first parents in the Garden of Eden. When they fell to Satan’s lies, they also fell in bondage to the enemies of sin and death. But God promised to send the Savior, who would crush the head of Satan and deliver fallen mankind (Genesis 3:15).

In the fullness of time God sent His Son, born of a woman, to conquer Satan’s kingdom and release us from his wicked power and eternal death. On the cross, Jesus bore the curse of fallen mankind. God nailed all our sins His Son, punishing Him with the hell we deserved. And so, having removed all condemnation from us, God released us from the kingdom of Satan. For the evil Accuser’s only hold on us was through sin and guilt. But Colossians 2:13-15 tells us what our Lord did by His cross: “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” Having redeemed us from sin by His once for all sacrifice, Jesus descended into hell to parade His victory over Satan and his kingdom (1 Peter 1:18). Then on the third day, the risen Christ presented Himself alive to declare his victory to mankind. Therefore, since God has justified us in Christ, Satan has no charge against us. Romans 8:34 says: “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”

When it comes to Jesus’ sacrifice and intercession for us, we find fulfillment of the prophecy in verse 4: “The LORD has sworn and will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.'” In Genesis 14:18 Abraham, the forefather of Israel, met Melchizedek, whose name means “King of Righteousness.” He was described as “king of Salem” and “priest of God most high.” Much later, under the law God gave through Moses, Israel’s priests came from the family line of Aaron, of the tribe of Levi; while the kings came from the family of David, of the tribe of Judah. But Melchizedek was a mysterious figure, introduced without any genealogy. And he was both a priest and a king in one. In this, he was a type or picture of Jesus.

In Christ, the two offices of Priest and King are combined forever. As the divine Son of God from eternity, He had no human genealogy. But to win our salvation, He took on our flesh. The King of heaven was born of the kingly family of David, of the tribe of Judah. However, He was not born of the priestly family of Aaron, of the tribe of Levi. Nor was His work like theirs. Hebrews 10:11-14 contrasts the priesthood and sacrifices under the old covenant to that of Christ, saying: “Every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.”

So our ascended Lord Jesus rules for our good, now that His enemies are made His footstool. Already, He has triumphed over Satan and his kingdom for our sake. Already He has taken away our enemy of sin and condemnation, by His death and resurrection. In this world, we still struggle against temptation and sin daily. But by faith, we live in Jesus’ forgiveness and salvation. As our “King of Righteousness” and our great High Priest in heaven, Jesus intercedes at His Father’s right hand, presenting us cleansed by His blood and clothed in His righteousness. As we confess our sins, the Father forgives us for Jesus’ sake. As we bring our troubles and trials of life before our heavenly Father, He hears our prayers in Jesus’ name and answers for our good. As we pray for strength, the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit to strengthen our faith through His Word of promise. And He will keep us in His grace to the very end.

The climax of Jesus’ rule for our good will be seen on the Last Day, when He destroys our enemy of death, once for all. 1 Corinthians 15:26-28 says: The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. ‘For He has put all things under His feet.'” When Jesus comes on the clouds in all His glory, He will raise us up with glorified bodies like His. Our ascended Savior will bring us to the wonderful place He has gone to prepare for us in His Father’s house (John 14:2).

In the meantime, He is powerfully ruling for the good of His Church. This is pictured in the words: “The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies!” In the Old Testament, Zion often described the Temple Mount, where God dwelt among His people. By extension, it can include Jerusalem where King David ruled, having conquered his enemies all around. How much more so it is true with Jesus. He Himself is our New Testament Temple, in whom God became flesh and dwelt among us in His glory (John 1:14; John 2:19-21). As the greater Son of David, Jesus is our everlasting King. Beginning at Jerusalem and extending to the ends of the earth, our heavenly Priest and King rules in the midst of His conquered enemies. Despite the fierce opposition of Satan and his demons, despite the resistance of a sinful world, our ascended Lord continues to extend the scepter of His strength out of Zion. That is, He continues to bring His saving Gospel to sinners everywhere. As Jesus told His apostles and His church just before ascending to heaven in Acts 1:8: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

As our ascended Lord continues to extend His Gospel to the end of the earth, we see the effect, as more and more sinners are brought to saving faith. This is pictured in verse 3: “Your people shall be volunteers in the day of Your power; in the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning, You have the dew of Your youth.” Our ascended Lord is adorned in holy majesty and glory. He remains as fresh as the morning dew forever. As the King of heaven extends His Gospel to the nations, souls are graciously conquered and won for His Kingdom. As dew is found everywhere in the morning, countless believers are added to His kingdom by faith. By His Word and Sacrament ministry, He keeps us fresh in faith unto life everlasting.

The Hebrew word for “volunteers” in this verse may be rendered “free will offerings.” This pictures our life as believers. In the days of Moses, the Israelites brought free will offerings to contribute to the building of the tabernacle (Exodus 35:29). It was in its expression of their faith and thankfulness to Him as their redeemer. How much more, as our ascended Lord graciously rules over us, we are moved to offer our lives as “free will offerings.” 1 Peter 2:5 says: You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” As our ascended Savior presents us “in the beauties of holiness” before His Father, we gladly offer our lives as thank offerings in His service, living for Him who loved us and gave His life for us (Galatians 2:20).

The opposite of faith and eternal life in Christ is unthinkable. Our ascended Lord is a gracious King, but He is also just. This is pictured in verses 5-6: “The Lord is at Your right hand; He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath. He shall judge among the nations, He shall fill the places with dead bodies, He shall execute the heads of many countries.” On the Last Day, the ascended Lord will come on the clouds in all His glory and power, with authority as Judge of all (Mark 13:26; John 5:27). Revelation 19 describes Him as the KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS,” who will destroy all who are opposed to Him, all who belong to Satan’s kingdom. From kings to common people, all who live in impenitence and unbelief will be thrown into the everlasting fire.

But the Psalm ends with a picture of refreshment in the ascended Lord’s Kingdom. Verse 7 says: “He shall drink of the brook by the wayside; therefore He shall lift up the head.” Christ Himself is refreshed after His defeat of all His enemies. During His state of humiliation, He bowed His head to drink the bitter cup of suffering and death for our salvation. Now in His state of exaltation, He lifts up His head in glory. But He did not accomplish all this for His own sake. It was all for you and me. Already in His Kingdom of Grace, we share in His refreshment for our souls. Jesus has brought us by faith to drink deeply of the water of life. In John 4:14 He says: “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” At the Last Day, when He brings us to the place He is preparing for us in His Father’s heavenly house, we shall share in that everlasting refreshment pictured in Revelation 22:1, flowing as a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.”

Therefore, let us take to heart the encouragement of this Psalm. The ascended Lord Jesus rules at the right hand of His Father for our good. This is not some location far away in the universe; but as He promised before His ascension in Matthew 28:20: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” He is with us as our God and as our Brother, understanding our innermost needs. He is with us as our gracious King, richly providing for us and protecting us against our enemies by His almighty power. He is with us as our Great High Priest, interceding for us, working all things together for our good, now and forever.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.