Sunday, 30 July 2017

The King on the Throne (Psalm 45:6-8)

These verses are quoted in Hebrews 1 as descriptive of Jesus and his kingdom. The psalmist uses the example of a royal event to illustrate the exaltation of Jesus, and we need to work out what some of his allusions are pointing towards. I want us to observe six details about his enthronement.

In verse 2, the psalmist mentions that the king is a man, the best of men. Now in verse 6 he says that the king is God. So here we are introduced to an incredible mystery, that the predicted king would be both God and man. It is important that we maintain this distinction when we think of Jesus. Since his incarnation, he has been God and man and will be so forever.

Recently, I was in Germany and went to Wittenberg, a place that was crucial for the German Reformation because of the individuals who taught there. One of them was a man called Philip Melanchthon and he said, when he was dying, that he was looking forward to understanding more of what it means for Jesus to be both fully God and fully man.

Paul gives his response to who Jesus is when he says in 1 Timothy 3;16, ‘Great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifest in the flesh.’ If a human also became an ant, it would be incredible condescension to attach such a small creature to a person with a human mind, and human emotions, and human choices. Yet such a change is nothing in comparison to God becoming a man, the eternal also becoming active in time, the omniscient also learning details, the omnipotent also becoming dependent, and the omnipresent also being confined to one place. When he became a man, he did not cease to be God in any way.

The same verse in the psalm says that the throne on which he sits is eternal. When we think of the Son of God seated on God’s throne, we need to distinguish between what he possesses as the eternal Son and what he receives as the Mediator, the one who is both God and man. As the eternal Son, he always is on the throne of God with the Father and the Spirit. That reign is way beyond our ability to imagine. That is not the reign that is being described here. Instead, what we have here is what he received as the Mediator.

The role of Mediator is connected to the providing of salvation for sinners. A mediator is a person who represents two parties, and Jesus because he is man represents both God and man. He did that when he came to earth, he did that when he was on the cross, and does this now that he is on the throne. As the mediator, he has at heart the best interests of God and man. That is how he will reign, and will do so endlessly.

The kingship of Jesus has different stages. There is the stage that is currently happening, and which will last until the second coming. Then there will be the stage during which the final judgement will take place. After that, there will be the stage connected to life in the new heavens and new earth. The great detail of each stage is that Jesus reigns.

Every government has its policies, which they usually announce before a General Election and then forget about them. We are told in the psalm what the policy of the kingdom of Jesus is – righteousness, and it is announced at the beginning of his reign. The rule of righteousness will mark every stage of his kingdom. In every place and during each second of his reign, he will engage in righteousness. Therefore, we need to ask what righteousness is.

Righteousness can be defined as obedience to the law of God. This is what Jesus as king is engaged in bringing about. Another way that the Bible describes our relationship with God today is that of a new covenant. Regarding that covenant, we are told that it involves the law of God being written on our hearts and minds. We can easily work out where we are regarding our service of the king by asking what our response is to the law of God. The question to ask is, ‘Do I think about it with my mind and do I love it with my heart?’

Unlike many earthly politicians, Jesus preaches what he practises, and unlike all earthly politicians he does so perfectly. During his years on earth, the psalmist says that Jesus loved righteousness (the author is looking back, as it were, when he says this about the Messiah). The law of God was in his heart and he loved to speak about it and to obey it fully and perfectly. Today we watch politicians more concerned about their image, which is a mark of a shallow society. In the kingdom of Jesus, we have a ruler of substance who does not depend on meaningless opinion polls to give him a boost. Because Jesus is like this within, in his heart, we can be confident what his actions will be – he will always promote righteousness.

Above we mentioned three stages in his reign and we can see how in each of them he honours the law of God. In the kingdom of grace, he brings his subjects to love and obey it; on the Day of Judgement, he will judge people for what they did with his law written on their hearts by nature; and in the eternal world, he will rule a world where everyone keeps it perfectly.

It was customary to anoint a king with special oil at his coronation. Jesus, when he ascended to heaven and took his place on God’s throne was given a special anointing. Who anointed him? We can see from verse 7 that he was anointed by God and from elsewhere in the Bible we know that he was anointed by the Father.

With what was Jesus anointed? He was anointed with something that his people have, but of which he has more. The blessing that he was given by God was that of gladness. It is the case that there are several references in the Bible to Jesus and the joy of heaven. For example, the writer of Hebrews says that Jesus endured the cross because of the joy that was set before him (Heb. 13:2). The psalmist, in Psalm 16, when describing the resurrection of Jesus, mentions that in heaven there is fullness of joy. When believers enter heaven, they are said to enter into the joy of their Lord. It must be a lot of joy if the number that no one can count can all enter into it.

So the king is marked by possessing great joy. Where does this joy come from him? The provider of joy in the hearts of God’s people is the Holy Spirit. And the Father gave to Jesus the Holy Spirit at the coronation. Here the Spirit is likened to copious oil that flows down the garments of the king. Jesus reigns through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of people, whether those already in the church, or those who will yet join it.

The joyful atmosphere is influenced by music coming from players of instruments. Maybe the picture is of dwellers in palaces surrounding the main palace join in the celebration by playing their instruments. The king hears the joyful sound and it makes him glad. So we have a second source of joy for the king.

We should note what the palaces are covered with – something very rare and valuable. They are made of ivory. A piece of ivory is valuable, so who can tell the worth of a palace made of it? The lesson is that the host provided nothing but the best for those who came to share in the celebrations connected to the coronation.

All this is a divinely-inspired picture or illustration of what occurred when Jesus was crowned. Is it too much to say that those in the ivory palaces who were expressing their joy at this occasion depict the believers who had already reached heaven and who had the incredible privilege of being there when the coronation took place. After all, such do have the best in accommodation and their skills at bringing joy to God have been greatly enhanced since they went there. The music that they play has not been heard on earth.

It would be good for us if by faith we could hear the sounds from the ivory palaces. And it would be good as well to have the aspiration to go there at the close of our lives and participate in the sound.

The final point I would mention is to observe the way the psalmist stresses the prominence of the king. One way in which this was done in the past was by the importance of the women who made up the royal court. Their presence pointed to the power the king had over the countries from which they came. In addition, the attire of the queen signified the greatness of the king. This could be a reference to the Queen Mother if the author is basing his song on one of the weddings of Solomon. The point is that the dignitaries from home and abroad acknowledged his lordship. And in this we have a picture of the complete prominence of the King of kings.

In this psalm we have a wonderful picture of the enthronement of King Jesus. We have seen who he is (God and man); we have seen the nature of his kingdom (a righteous one); we have seen the joy that permeates his kingdom because he rules; we have been reminded of the praise that marks the ivory palaces; and we have realised that he is prominent above all others. How do we respond?

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