Word Wednesday – “The Most Important Word in the Universe”!

The above title is in quotation marks because it is a title of a chapter in the book we are going through in this season of reflecting on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Chapter 20 of Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross (Nancy Guthrie, ed.; Crossway, 2009) is taken from a message given by Ray Ortlund, Jr. based on Romans 3:23-25 and is a perfect complement to our Wednesday word feature.

PropitiationWhat is that word that is “the most important word in the universe”? Read on (and look to your left), as I quote from this chapter:

The English language has about eight hundred thousand words. Most of us get by with around two thousand words. That means that about 788,000 words are sitting on the shelves, just waiting to be dusted off and used. The top ten most frequently used English words ‘are’ (I think this is a typo -cjt), ‘the,’ ‘of,’ and,’ ‘to,’ ‘a,’ ‘in,’ ‘that,’ ‘is,’ ‘I,’ and ‘it’ – but not ‘propitiation.’

When was the last time you used that word? When was the last time you used it? We don’t hear it on the radio or television, because we’ve lost the vocabulary of God. But it’s the most important word in the universe. We need to recover not only the Word of God but the words of God. His words define relevance.

The word ‘propitiation’ comes from the Latin propitio, meaning ‘to render favorable, to appease, to conciliate.’ To propitiate God means to appease his anger. Propitiation is all about God’s wrath.

…God presented Christ Jesus as a propitiation by his blood (see Rom.3:24-35). Do you see the beauty in that? In human religions, it’s the worshiper who placates the offended deity with rituals and sacrifices and bribes. But in the gospel, it’s God himself who provides the offering. At the cross of Christ, God put something forward. He declared something to the whole world. He presented, he displayed, the clearest statement about himself he has ever made. What was he saying? Two things.

One, he detests our evil with all the intensity of the divine personality. If you want to know what your sin deserves from God, don’t look within yourself, don’t look at your own emotions. Look at that man on the cross – tormented, gasping, bleeding. Take a long thoughtful look. God was presenting something to you there. God was saying something about his perfect emotions toward your sin. He was displaying his wrath.

Two – here is the other thing God was presenting at the cross – the God you have offended doesn’t demand your blood; he gives his own in Christ Jesus. …He has opened the way. He took the initiative. How could it be otherwise? We can’t avert the wrath of God. We’re the problem, not the answer. We’re helpless before God. But ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son…’ (John 3:16). At the cross, his love satisfied his wrath… (pp.115-17).

Now, I trust, you understand why pastor Ortlund called this word the most important in the universe. Wouldn’t you agree? Shall we make it part of our regular vocabulary?

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross (7)

“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Matt. 27:46 (and Psalm 22:1)

There is no answer. God did not deliver Jesus from the cross. The only answers he received were silence and darkness, the silence of being forsaken by God and the darkness of God’s judgment descending upon the earth.

Jesus did not just feel forsaken, he was forsaken. It was not just that Jesus experienced passing sensations of alienation and rejection on the cross. It was more than that. The question Jesus shouted out from the cross pointed back to an actual experience, to an objective state of affairs, to something that had already happened to him: ‘Why have you forsaken me?’ Jesus Christ could tell when his intimacy with God the Father was interrupted. When that happened, he knew that he had been forsaken.

Why did it happen? Why did God the Father forsake the Son on the cross? We cannot comprehend it. We cannot explain it. The great theologian Martin Luther said, ‘God forsaken by God, who can understand that?’ If even Jesus himself could not fully understand it, then we cannot understand it either.

But we can at least say this: it had something to do with what Jesus was doing on the cross. What Jesus was doing on the cross was bearing sin, carrying sin, wearing sin. Jesus was taking the sins of the world upon his shoulders. It was as if God had taken a giant bucket and scooped up all the sins of his people – all the jealousy and the anger and the lying, all the rebellion and the stealing and the incest, all the hypocrisy and the envy and the swearing – and dumped them all out on Jesus Christ. ‘The LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all’ (Isa.53:6. ‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us…’ (2 Cor.5:21).

…If you want to know what God really thinks about sin and what he intends to do about it, look at Jesus rejected on the cross and listen to Jesus forsaken on the cross. That is what sin deserves: the wrath and curse of God. That is what sinners deserve: to be put to death and damned for their sins.

…The forsaking of the Son of God on the cross is a fearful thing, but it is good news for sinners who repent. It is good news because it means that when you meet Jesus Christ at the cross you are meeting someone who has experienced the full measure of the tragedy of human existence. Out of his own experience of physical suffering and spiritual rejection Jesus not only sympathizes with your pain, he empathizes with it.

The forsaking of the Son of God on the cross is also good news because it means that God’s children will never be forsaken. Jesus was God-forsaken so that you might not be forsaken (pp.86-88).

JesusKeepMeNear-NGuthriePhilip G. Ryken, “God-Forsaken”, in Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, ed. by Nancy Guthrie; Crossway, 2009.

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross (6)

As we were coming home from our evening service at Faith PRC (Jenison, MI) last night, I said to my wife: “We are so blessed to have the preaching we do in our church and churches!” What a day of being fed by and of feasting on the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ! Our souls were filled with the good news of Christ crucified for sinners such as ourselves!

In the morning we attended a special family baptism event at Georgetown PRC in Hudsonville, MI and were richly fed by pastor Carl Haak’s message on Mary of Bethany’s act of anointing Jesus’ head (Mark 14:1-11). He is doing a series on significant events that took place during the days of the Passion week of Jesus, this sermon being the one for Wednesday, and titled “A Memorial Left Behind”. You will be able to find this sermon and others in the series at this link to Georgetown PRC’s Sermonaudio page.

Last night we were favored to have Rev.James Slopsema from our First PRC of Grand Rapids as our guest preacher. He is doing a series on the seven (7) cross words of Jesus and he preached on the middle one for us: “Forsaken by God”. It was another wonderful message, which brought us to the dust in the knowledge of our sin and lifted us up in the knowledge of what our Savior did for us on Calvary. You may find this message on Faith PRC’s website.

JesusKeepMeNear-NGuthrieWith these gospel messages in our hearts – and many more that you have heard, I am sure – we also hear again today from the book Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross (ed. by Nancy Guthrie; Crossway, 2009). I plan to post something each day this week from this wonderful devotional. Today’s quote is from a piece by the Anglican J.C. (John Charles) Ryle. Titled “The Sufferings of Christ” and based on Matthew 27:27-44, it is taken from his familiar Expository Thoughts on the Gospels. May his thoughts also serve to humble us as well as lift us up through the knowledge of our deliverance from sin.

But we must not be content with a vague general belief that Christ’s sufferings on the cross were vicarious. We are intended to see this truth in every part of his passion. We may follow him all through, from the bar of Pilate to the minute of his death, and see him at every step as our mighty substitute, our representative, our head, our surety, our proxy – the divine friend who undertook to stand in our place and, by the priceless merit of his sufferings, to purchase our redemption. Was he flogged? It was done so that ‘by his wounds we are healed’ (Isa. 53:5). Was he condemned, though innocent? It was done so that we might be acquitted, though guilty. Did he wear a crown of thorns? It was done so that we might wear the crown of glory.  Was he stripped of his clothes? It was done so that we might be clothed in everlasting righteousness. Was he mocked and reviled? It was done so that we might be honored and blessed. Was he reckoned a criminal,a nd counted among those who have done wrong? It was done so that we might be reckoned innocent, and declared free from all sin. Was he declared unable to save himself? It was so that he might be able to save others to the uttermost. Did he die at last, and that the most painful and disgraceful death? It was done so that we might live forevermore, and be exalted to the highest glory.

Let us ponder these things well: they are worth remembering. The very key to peace is a right apprehension of the vicarious sufferings of Christ (pp.58-59)

Why Theological Study Is for Everyone – Jared Wilson

Why Theological Study Is for Everyone by Jared Wilson | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

April-TT-2014For part of my Sunday reading I did get in the next featured article on this month’s theme (“The Great Commission”). That is pastor Roland Barnes’ article titled “All Authority in Heaven and on Earth”, which treats the authority the church has to go and bring the gospel to the nations. The authority is Christ’s, for all power (authority) is given Him in his state of glorification (Matt.28:18-20).

The article which I reference today, however, is another one – the one by pastor Jared Wilson linked above. Writing under the rubric “Heart Aflame”, he wrote this great article on why every believer ought to be a theologian. No doubt he is picking up a theme R.C. Sproul, Sr. loves to trumpet – and about which he has just written an entire book (Everyone’s a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology, Reformation Trust, 2014. I have received it for review, so look for notes on this to come.)!

Wilson gives three (3) main reasons why every Christian must be interested in and pursuing the study of theology. I encourage you to read all of his article; below I give you his final reason for being a theologian. It ties in rather well with our primary activity yesterday and in all of life – worship.

Third, the study of God authenticates and fuels worship. True Christians are not those who believe in some vague God nor trust in vague spiritual platitudes. True Christians are those who believe in the triune God of the holy Scriptures and have placed their trust by the real Spirit in the real Savior—Jesus—as proclaimed in the specific words of the historical gospel.

Knowing the right information about God is just one way we authenticate our Christianity. Intentionally or consistently err in the vital facts about God, and you jeopardize the veracity of your claim truly to know God. This is why we must pursue theological robustness not just in our pastor’s preaching but in our church’s music and in our church’s prayers, both corporate and private.

But theological study goes deeper than simply authenticating our worship as true and godly—it also fuels this worship. We must remember what Jesus explained to the Samaritan woman at the well:

True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23–24)

We are changed deeply in heart and, therefore, our behavior when we seek deeply after the things of God with our brains. The Bible says so: “Do not be conformed to this world,” Paul writes. “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). The transformation begins with a renewing of our minds. As John Piper has said, “The theological mind exists to throw logs into the furnace of our affections for Christ.”

Purposeful theological study of God, as an expression of love for God, cannot help but deepen our love for God. The more we read, study, meditate on, and prayerfully apply the word of God, the more we will find ourselves in awe of Him. Like a great ship on the horizon, the closer we get, the larger He looms.

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross (5)

JesusKeepMeNear-NGuthrieOver the past few Sundays leading up to Good Friday and Easter (April 18 and 20 this year) we are doing a series of meditations centered on the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. During this special season of reflection on the passion and victory of our Savior we are using as our source the little book  Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter, a wonderful collection of sermons and writings edited by Nancy Guthrie (Crossway, 2009).

On this Palm Sunday we consider the meditation found in the sixth chapter of this book. It is taken from The Passion of Christ and the Purpose of Life by Adrian Rogers, and titled “The Silence of the Lamb”, based on Matthew 26:59-63 along with Isaiah 53:7. We quote from the end of this meditation:

Over and over again the Bible records the silence of God’s Lamb in the presence of His accusers (Matthew 26:62,63; Mark 14:60,61, etc.). This is amazing, especially since the witnesses that were hurling charges against Jesus were giving false testimony (Matthew 26:59-61). When we read these Scriptures, we wonder why Jesus did not say something to vindicate Himself. After all, our natural tendency is to justify ourselves even when we are guilty—and how much more so when we are innocent and are being falsely accused.

Why was the dear Saviour so silent? I believe we find at least part of the answer in the great prophecy of Isaiah 53: “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet he opened not His mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:5-7).

Going on to verse 10, we read: ‘Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thouh shalt make his soul an offeriong for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.’ The apostle Paul put it this way; ‘For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him’ (2 Cor.5:21).

The Bible teaches us that when Jesus Christ took our sin, he took all of the punishment that goes with that sin. A part of that punishment is shame. Had Jesus defended himself and protested his innocence, he would have suffered no shame, and that would have left us guilty.

Jesus could not prove himself innocent and then die in our place the shameful death that we deserve. Thank God that Jesus was willing to be counted a sinner before God, that we might be counted as righteous before God!

Jesus held back any words that would have relieved him from the shame and blame of sin. He was not a sinner, but He fully took the sinner’s place.

And here’s another thought to consider. If Jesus had risen up in His own defense during His trials, I believe that He would have been so powerful and irrefutable in making His defense that no governor, high priest, or other legal authority on earth could have stood against Him! In other words, if Jesus had taken up His own defense with the intention of refuting His accusers and proving His innocence, He would have won! But we would have lost, and we would be lost for all eternity.

They accused Jesus of blasphemy, lying, sedition, and many other things, but the Savior answered not a word. This is the amazing silence of the Lamb (pp.52-53).

The Power of Words (6) – F.Buechner

Room-Called-Remember-150x150Today on our “word” day we return to the thoughts of Presbyterian minister and writer Frederick Buechner on the power of words. These thoughts are taken from his essay “The Speaking and Writing of Words”, found in his larger collection published under the title A Room Called Remember (Harper & Row, 1984).

We pick up where we left off last time, as Buechner is describing the power of words for evil as well as for good, for death as well as for life, something also God revealed in the garden to our first parents, and something we must keep in mind in our own use of language.

But if the possibility of evil is the greatest danger that our ability to use words involves us in, it is by no means the only one. Like any other symbol, a word not only stands for something else but has in it also some of the power of the thing it stands for. To put into words our anger, our love, our forgiveness, our desire, is, even if we were never to act upon our words, to affect powerfully both the lives of the ones we are addressing and our own lives. We cannot hear the name of the one we love named without our hearts quickening or the name of the thing we dread without our hearts sinking.

Words are dangerous because for better or worse they are so powerful, and yet at the same time they are dangerous because they are so weak. They are weak in the sense that, for all their power, they can never say all that there is to say about anything, and the danger is that we are perpetually inclined to forget that.

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Honey for the Hearts of Readers (All Ages!)

I have often seen but never read the books of Gladys Hunt on books and reading: Honey for a Child’s HeartHoney for a Teen’s Heart, and Honey for a Woman’s Heart, all published by Zondervan. But in my last few weeks of book hunting in local Thrift stores I have come across the first and last mentioned titles. Last night I started reading my nice, “new” hardcover copy (c.1969, this is the tenth printing already – 1976) of Honey for a Child’s Heart, and now I wish I had read this long ago!

As an aside, it says something to me that there is no title Honey for a Man’s Heart. Perhaps this is because the very title would turn men off to reading! But we could remedy this with a more manly title, something like Exercise for a Man’s Soul or Food for a Man’s Mind.) I hope it is not because Hunt or other authors who want to encourage us to read have given up on men. As I have noted here, Tony Reinke’s book Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books (Crossway, 2011) is a great book for encouraging men (and all others!) to read.

honey-for-a-childs-heart-coverBut, to return to Hunt, I also learned that she was a fellow Grand Rapidian (Grand Rapids, MI) and that she and her husband Keith were involved for many years with InterVarsity Fellowship (a Christian ministry to university students; specifically, Cedar Campus, IVF”s Great Lakes training and retreat Center). An internet search on her reveals that she passed away in 2010 at the age of 83. From that IVF note on her passing, I also learned that she had her own reading blog, with the same title as her book: “Honey for a Child’s Heart”.

Last night I read the first chapter of Honey for a Child’s Heart (with the great subtitle, The Imaginative Use of Books in Family Life), and it alone is worth the price of the book. In this chapter she sets the stage for making specific recommendations for reading to and by children. “Bequest of Wings” (taken from a line in a poem of Emily Dickinson) is her philosophy of reading – a Christian philosophy – and it is packed with good thoughts (much as the first section of Reinke’s book contains a theology of reading)!

Today I am going to start quoting from this chapter, hoping to encourage you to obtain this book (There are plenty of inexpensive copies available on the internet.) – whether you are a parent of young children or teens, or whether you are a grandparent. It will inspire you to be a better reader yourself, as well as to be a better reader to your children and grandchildren, so that they, in turn, will become good (and better!) readers also. Read on and be inspired!

After pulling a quote from A.A.Milne’s Winnie the Pooh and mentioning how young children were introduced to the world of Eeyore, Pooh, Piglet, Owl and Christopher Robin, Hunt writes this:

That is what a book does. It introduces us to people and places we wouldn’t ordinarily know. A good book is a magic gateway into a wider world of wonder, of beauty, of delight and adventure. Books are experiences that make us grow, that add something to our inner stature.

Children and books go together in a special way. I can’t imagine any pleasure greater than bringing to the uncluttered, supple mind of a child the delight of knowing God and the many rich things He has given us to enjoy. This is every parent’s privilege, and books are his keenest tools. Children don’t stumble onto good books by themselves; they must be introduced to the wonder of words put together in such a way they they spin out pure joy and magic.

…Children are the freest and most imaginative of creatures. They love the fun of words and have a spectacular ability to learn. We must respect their eagerness and competence by introducing them to good books. I am frankly excited by the potential of books to build a whole, healthy, spiritually alert child who has the capacity to enjoy God and be useful to Him (pp.14-18).

And then follows the quote from Emily Dickinson on the magical power of books, which I leave with you (p.18):

He ate and drank the precious words,
His spirit grew robust,
He knew no more that he was poor,
Or that his frame was dust.
He danced along the dingy ways
And this bequest of wings
Was but a book. What liberty
A loosened spirit brings!

Turns out most engaged library users are also biggest tech users | I Love Libraries

Turns out most engaged library users are also biggest tech users | I Love Libraries.

I found this little news item about a recent Pew Center report to be quite enlightening and encouraging. And, based on my very limited experience, I would have to say that I have found the same to be true – those who are already book-lovers and readers are also those who use all the modern means available to access more reading material and read even more.

I certainly would apply this to myself, and I don’t think I am such a “rare bird” :) . I often find that looking for a certain title for the Seminary library or browsing a Thrift store for books drives me to look for the digital version too (If it’s free or cheaper – that’s the Dutchman in me!). And the opposite is also true: browsing through lists of digital titles drives me to look for the print version, if the title is valuable and the library doesn’t have it. And that’s just one example of how the relationship works in my life.

What would you say about these findings? What’s true in your own life? Using modern technology to read more and use libraries less? Or using today’s digital tools to use and appreciate even more your library and its resources? I hope the latter :)

It wouldn’t be a leap to theorize that the expanding role technology plays in American lives would lead to the demise of public libraries. After all, so many other industries, including the one that’s bringing you this article, continue to struggle in the digital age.

When it comes to libraries, though, that theory would be wrong. A new study from the Pew Research Center found that more than two-thirds of Americans are actively engag

ed with public libraries. The report examines the relationship Americans have with their libraries and technology. Dusty, worn books versus sleek new computers, tablets or smartphones may seem like unlikely companions, but it’s really all about information.

“A key theme in these survey findings is that many people see acquiring information as a highly social process in which trusted helpers matter,” Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project and a main author of the report said. “One of the main resources that people tap when they have questions is the networks of expertise. Even some of the most self-sufficient information consumers in our sample find that libraries and librarians can be part of their networks when they have problems to solve or decisions to make.”

The study also found that Americans who are more engaged in their communities are also more engaged at their libraries. But what was surprising, according to the researchers, is that the most highly engaged library users tended to be the biggest technology users.

The History of Psalm-Singing in the Church (1) – Rev.B.Huizinga

SB-Psalm Issue-April 1-2014_Page_1As I noted here previously, the April 1 issue of The Standard Bearer is a special issue devoted to the subject of psalm-singing. Included in this issue are two articles on the history of psalm-singing in the church – one more general (Rev.B.Huizinga’s on the history in the church generally) and one more specific (Rev.K.Koole’s on the history in the PRC).

It is the former one by Rev.Brian Huizinga (pastor of Hope PRC, Redlands, CA) that I would like to start referencing today. “Through Endless Ages Sound His Praise”: The History of Psalm-Singing in the Church” was part of my Sunday reading yesterday, and I found his article to be not only informative but also inspiring. And I hope by quoting from it, it will also be the same for you.

Today I quote from the opening paragraphs, which set the stage for what is to follow.

What among men has endured as many ages under the sun as the psalms…the psalms sung…the psalms sung in corporate worship?  Precious little.  Psalmody has seen Solomon’s temple used and burned, doleful children of the covenant marched to Babylon and jubilantly returning, the Son of God incarnate humiliated and exalted, Rome risen and fallen, the mighty wave of the gospel of salvation sweeping through the Mediterranean world, into Europe, over the seas to America, and now to the ends of the earth, always with the bitter death of apostasy following in its wake.  Over the past three thousand years much has come and much has gone.  Psalmody has seen it all.  Psalmody remains.  Psalmody is rare.  Psalmody is not popular.  But psalmody remains.  Because Jesus Christ defends and preserves His church to the end, psalmody will certainly remain to the end.  None may doubt that psalmody will see the antichristian world-kingdom and then Christ Himself—the one of whom the psalms spoke, and that by His own testimony (Luke 24:44)—appear in splendid majesty arrayed more glorious than the sun.  Through endless ages the church sounds Jehovah’s praise—with psalms.

 

The Old Testament Age

The Old Testament church sang the psalms, one of them perhaps already in the wilderness on the way to Canaan (Psalm 90, written by Moses), most in Solomon’s temple (those written mostly by David), and others thereafter.  So much was psalm-singing a part of Israel’s life and worship that when the Jews were deported by Nebuchadnezzar as captives into Babylon in 586 B.C., they were identified as psalm-singers.  As they sat weeping by the river, their proud captors taunted:  “Come sing us one of Zion’s songs.”  Even the ungodly knew what took place in Zion.  Israel sang the psalms.  Would to God Babylon of today would have reason to know and say the same.

If you would like to receive this issue, or become a regular subscriber to this fine Reformed magazine, contact the RFPA at the link given above.

April “Tabletalk”: The Great Commission

The Great Ordinary Commission by Burk Parsons | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

April-TT-2014April has arrived, and so has the new issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ monthly devotional magazine. Last week I continued using the daily devotionals (on Romans – now chap.5), and yesterday I dove into the main articles.

This month’s feature is missions, under the large heading “The Great Commission”. Editor Burk Parsons introduces this theme with the above-linked article. And, as he points out, this so-called “great commission” is actually the ordinary calling of the church – to go into the world and make disciples, beginning at home.

Here is part of his introduction; you will find the full article at the link above.

The Great Commission is a call to the church to be the church and to do the work of the church by making disciples of all nations. And we must remember that Jesus never called it “the Great Commission.” It is indeed a great commission, but it is a beautifully ordinary commission that we have the great privilege of fulfilling in part as we gather together with every tribe, tongue, and nation to worship with our families every Lord’s Day. Then we partake of and bear witness to the ordinary means of grace in the building up of the church in the preaching of the Word, growing as disciples and learning from the Scriptures to observe all that Jesus commanded. Then we enjoy the communion of the saints in communion with God in prayer, observe baptism in the name of our triune God, and partake regularly of the Supper that our Lord provides at His table. This is the extraordinarily great and greatly ordinary work of the church as we go, send, and make disciple-making disciples of all nations, just as we see the early church being faithful to the fullness of the Great Commission (Acts 2:42–47).

The first main feature article on this theme is “The Great Commission in the Old Testament”, an intriguing article by Dr.L.Michael Morales. He ties God’s call to Israel to be a blessing to the nations to the so-called “cultural mandate”, to the covenant with Abraham, and to king David, showing that from the beginning God’s purpose was to redeem the world, i.e., to save His people and restore the whole creation under its glorious Priest-King, Jesus Christ. I think you will find his thoughts interesting and thought-provoking.

Here is a portion of what he writes:

It is important to understand that only as the anointed king did David receive the promise to rule and subdue the nations. David’s commission was to spread the will and reign of God over the earth—his “enemies” were not merely political or personal, but the enemies of God, kings who had set themselves against the Lord and His anointed. In reality, however, the goal of subduing Israel would prove quite enough. Worse still, it was Israel’s kings themselves who led God’s sheep astray into perverse rebellion and heinous idolatry. The exile was inevitable.

Yet, remarkably, within the context of Israel’s apostasy, God promised to raise up a Davidic Servant who would not only lead the tribes of Jacob through a new exodus but who would also be given “as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isa. 49:6). This same Servant, we go on to read, would suffer God’s judgment in bearing the sins of many, that as an exalted priest he might “sprinkle many nations” (Isa. 52:13–53:12; see 1 Peter 1:1–2). Having atoned for the sins of his people, this coming Messiah—the last Adam, the seed of Abraham, the true Israel, the greater David, the Suffering Servant, the Son of God—would ascend on high to reign from the heavenly Mount Zion, from the right hand of God the Father.

 

Matthew 28, then, is but the embrace of the inheritance promised in Psalm 2. Yet this kingship is in the service of a priestly office, to usher us into God’s presence through the veil of torn flesh and shed blood. Through His outpoured Spirit, Jesus reigns to subdue and summon all creation to the adoration of His Father (1 Cor. 15:24–28), subduing us day by day ever more deeply that we might learn how to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

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