The Conquering Priest-King of Psalm 110

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Published on December 04, 2022

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Little boys just want to conquer and fight something. Boys are rambunctious and full of energy. They have the uncanny ability to make anything into an imaginary weapon or a gun: a stick, a pot spoon, their sister’s curling iron.

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My godson, Aaron, will often grab the nearest stick and charge into battle against his poor sister’s garden plants… or sometimes a tree or his older brother, Marcus. Men have an inherent desire to fight a battle, and wage war on an enemy, for conquest, honour, glory and victory – and this is good. It is part of how God designed us. When harnessed well for Christ’s glory, men protect that which is valuable, weak, and helpless and fight for righteousness and justice. Countless battles that led to the freedoms we take for granted in the modern world were won with the blood of young men who charged the enemy. Men want to be warriors.

This Psalm is the story about the Ultimate Warrior (Christ) who wages war to save the damsel (his Bride) and vanquish the Dragon (the Devil). It’s a Psalm that every man should love – because it’s a Psalm about our Warrior Priest-King who leads us in battle. It also gives us another view of Jesus Christ that corrects some of our culture’s unbalanced views of Jesus as just this gentle effeminate shampoo hair commercial model with a lamb on his shoulders giving out affirming fortune cookie sayings. The Christ we encounter in this Psalm is the Christ of Revelation 19 who’s charging on a white stallion tatted up, “King of kings and Lord of lords”, eyes of flaming fire, sporting a robe dipped in the blood of his enemies leading heaven’s armies.

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This is a Christ before whom even the macho-ist of men must bow and the wisest of men will gladly follow into battle.

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Let’s read our text. Hear now, the words of the Living and True God.

Psalm 110

A Psalm of David

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1 The Lord says to my Lord:

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“Sit at my right hand,

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until I make your enemies your footstool.”

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2 The Lord sends forth from Zion

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your mighty scepter.

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Rule in the midst of your enemies!

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3 Your people will offer themselves freely

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on the day of your power,

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in holy garments;

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from the womb of the morning,

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the dew of your youth will be yours.

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4 The Lord has sworn

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and will not change his mind,

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“You are a priest forever

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after the order of Melchizedek.”

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5 The Lord is at your right hand;

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he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.

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6 He will execute judgment among the nations,

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filling them with corpses;

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he will shatter chiefs

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over the wide earth.

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7 He will drink from the brook by the way;

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therefore he will lift up his head.

Context

In the Psalms, the Davidic Covenant where God promises that one of his descendants will sit eternally on his throne is an important theme throughout the collection.

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Psalm 110 is also the most quoted Psalm in the whole NT – quoted or alluded to at least 27 times! It is used by Jesus of himself in Matthew 22:44; quoted in Acts 2 & 7, 1 Corinthians 15; Ephesians 1; Colossians 3; Hebrews 1, 5, 7, 10 & 12 and 1 Peter 3. Therefore, I feel like I’m cheating a bit as I exposit this Psalm because I have an infallible and inspired commentary on this Psalm written by the apostles.

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A Messianic Psalm

Psalm 110 is one of the most unambiguously Messianic Psalms according to the inspired writers of the NT. In this sense, this Psalm is the crescendo and high note in Israel’s hymn book.

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This Psalm has puzzled many Jewish Rabbis – especially at the fact that David’s “lord” is also invited to sit at Yahweh’s Right Hand – a position of Divine power and authority. He also embodies an eternal priesthood (v.4) not derived from Aaron and the levitical priests. Finally, this Priest-King does what only God does and judges the nations and crushes the rulers of the whole earth. How is it that the longed-for Jewish Messiah could fulfill these things?

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Jesus saw this Psalm in reference to himself and challenged the Jewish Pharisees in Matthew 22 who questioned him, “how is it that the Christ is David’s son, yet David calls him Lord?” They could not answer and dared not ask any more questions, because they knew what that meant – the Messiah from David’s lineage was no mere man, but also divine.

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Many of the Psalms are battle hymns or enthronement songs. Often you’ll read prayers for God to accompany His people into battle presenting God as the Divine Warrior. Or in Kingship Psalms, we find prayers for the Israelite king or songs for enthronement ceremonies. This Psalm is both. It is the enthronement of the Ultimate Priest-King who goes to battle.

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This Psalm shows us that the Lord Jesus Christ,

1. Is SEATED – Enthroned at the LORD’s Right Hand – v.1

Here we must establish that part of the difficulty of this Psalm is the usage of the word “Lord” in our English translations. It is translating two separate Hebrew words: Yahweh (God’s revealed name) and Adonai (the more generic term for lord, master, ruler). Some of your English translations will help you by capitalizing LORD when it refers to Yahweh. For clarity in this sermon, I’ll use the terms Yahweh and Adonai to distinguish. So, we can read verse 1 as:

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YAHWEH says to my ADONAI: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”

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God’s Right Hand

This first verse opens off with an oracle the Psalmist, David, narrates. He says that Yahweh says to his Adonai, his lord, “Sit at my right hand”.

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The Right Hand of a king was the highest place of honour. The person sitting at his right hand shared in his rule, power and authority. In the Bible, God’s Right Hand is a symbol of:

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  • Power (Psa. 89:13)
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  • Protection (Psa. 16:8; 63:8)
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  • Presence (Psa. 16:11; 48:10)
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  • Salvation (Psa. 60:5; 20:6; 138:7)
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  • Victory (Psa. 18:35; Isa. 41:10)
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  • The defeat of God’s enemies (Exo. 15:6, 12; Psa. 21:8; 74:11)
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  • His mighty works (Psa. 45:4; 118:15-16; Isa. 48:13)
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  • Judgment (Lam. 2:4)
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All of this is being given to Adonai who is invited to sit at Yahweh’s right hand. Let us now turn to the inspired commentary on this verse.

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The author of Hebrews unambiguously uses this Psalm in reference to Christ and argues that therefore, Jesus Christ is more exalted than even the angels,

“But to which of the angels did God ever say: “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet”?” (Hebrews 1:13)

When was Christ seated at the Right Hand of God?

The logical question is when did this happen?

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There are some who claim that Jesus isn’t Lord as yet and that His Kingdom has not been established. They assert that the Devil is the ruler of this world now, and we won’t see Jesus as Lord until he returns on earth at the end of time. However, this is not what the Bible teaches. Jesus Christ was enthroned as the uncontested Lord at his resurrection and ascension. His Kingdom was established at his first coming, is growing now and will be consummated at His Second Coming.

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Matthew’s Gospel is written to a Jewish audience and focuses on showing how Jesus fulfills the OT prophecies of the Messiah. Jesus’s proclamation at the beginning of his ministry in Matthew 4 was “repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand!” – not far off into the future. In Matthew 12, Jesus says that if he casts out demons by the Spirit, then that means that the Kingdom of God has come upon you! Jesus Christ, through his life, death, resurrection and ascension binds the strong man – Satan – and plunders his kingdom. If Satan was the ruler of this world, he is no more, because, by the end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says that ALL power in heaven AND ON EARTH are his, not Satan’s!

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The apostle Paul in Philippians 2 says that Jesus has been given the Name that is above every other name – the Jews knew that Name could only belong to the One True God. Paul applies this Psalm to Jesus in Ephesians 1:20-22, arguing for Christ’s supremacy when,

“[God] raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church”

The apostle Peter applies this verse to Jesus in his sermon in Acts 2 to show to the Jews gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost that the resurrection of Jesus Christ proves that God has in fact exalted him, declaring:

“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36)

Upon hearing this the Jews were cut to the heart – knowing that they had crucified the risen Lord of glory, they cried out and were called to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins (v. 38). Peter later writes that Jesus has “gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.” (1 Peter 3:22)

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According to the apostles, Christ’s resurrection and ascension are proof that he is enthroned in heaven and reigns over everything now.

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Systematic theologian, Robert Letham explains,

“A victorious king would travel throughout his territory establishing and confirming his rule in every place throughout his domain. So Christ’s realm is universal. He has ascended far above the heavens and now fills all things. He has passed through his territory and has won the authority throughout his realm.”

That’s the Jesus we follow into battle and serve. That’s the Jesus to whom every knee must bow and every tongue confesses as Lord.

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What is he doing now at God’s right hand?

Romans 8:34 tells us that he is interceding for us so that no one can condemn us and Acts 5:31 says that he gives repentance and forgiveness of sins.

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Jesus Christ is LORD

Jesus’s rule is God’s doing and it is not up to us whether Jesus Christ will be Lord. Jesus Christ is Lord! That is the basis and authority behind of our Gospel proclamation. This is why the Gospel is not a suggestion, it is a summons. Because he is Lord, God commands all men everywhere to repent in a hurry! We can fight that lordship and be broken by it – being made his footstool, or submit to it in joyful obedience and become part of His Kingdom troops.

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The Great Prince of Preachers, Charles H. Spurgeon commented that,

“even now he [Christ] is reigning, though all his enemies are not yet subdued… his dominion is in no jeopardy, or otherwise he would not remain quiescent… Therefore there is no cause for alarm whatever may happen in this lower world; the sight of Jesus enthroned in divine glory is the sure guarantee that all things are moving onward towards ultimate victory. Those rebels who now stand high in power shall soon be in the place of contempt, they shall be his footstool.”

Don’t miss this truth, for it is a great comfort to us in times of distress!

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Until his enemies are made a footstool

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary says that,

“To make the enemies a “footstool” is an ancient Near Eastern metaphor for absolute control. Originally the victorious king placed his feet on the neck of his vanquished foe (cf. Jos 10:24; 1 Ki 5:3; Isa 51:23). From this practice arose the idiom of making one’s enemy one’s footstool.”

That Christ’s enemies are made a footstool signifies total dominion and victory.

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There is another important word in this verse: “Until”. Jesus Christ remains seated at God’s Right Hand until His enemies are made a footstool. Dr. Kenneth Gentry notes that this verse,

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“clearly anticipates Christ’s enemies being subjugated by Him. But He does this while sitting at the right hand of God (“sit until”), not in arising, leaving heaven, and returning to the earth at the Second Advent…”

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So, this is being worked out in history. We turn again to the Bible’s inspired commentary: Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:24-26 regarding the outworking of Christ’s resurrection in history that,

“Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

Paul uses this Psalm to say that Christ must continue to reign… until when? Until he has put all his enemies under his feet – the last enemy to be destroyed will be death itself! This means that Christ’s reign extends to the end of history and the apostle says that that is when the end comes – after he has progressively subdued all enemies, then he kills death itself and ushers in the eternal state where death will be no more! Oh what a glorious day that will be!

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But we look around today and it sometimes seems like that’s not happening. The world seems to be getting worse – at least in our time and place. But as Calvin noted,

“​​When we look at what is before our eyes, we cannot but conclude that the Kingdom of Christ is about to fall in ruin. But the promise made in this psalm takes away all our fear, because Christ shall not leave his seat [at the Father’s right hand] until he has prostrated his last enemy to the ground.”

This process happens gradually over time and God’s timeframes are not like ours. We are limited by time, He is timeless and a thousand years is as a day to Him (Psa. 90:4; 2 Pet.3:8). Saint Augustine of Hippo in 5th-century comments that,

“He therefore sits at the right hand of God, till His enemies be placed beneath His feet. This is going on, this is taking place: although it is accomplished by degrees, it is going on without end. For though the heathen rage, will they, taking counsel together against Christ, prevent the fulfilment of these words: “I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession”?”

As Psalm 2 says, though the heathens rage (v. 1-2) against the Lord’s Anointed (lit. Messiah – מָשִׁיחַ) – we must see through the eyes of faith that He who sits in the heavens laughs (v. 4) and will make the nations his inheritance (v. 8).

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2. Wields the SCEPTRE – Ruling Now – v. 2-4

Yahweh sends forth from Zion your (Adonai’s) mighty sceptre. Rule in the midst of your enemies!

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The image of the sceptre is introduced in Jacob’s Messianic prophecy in Genesis 49 that the sceptre shall not depart from Judah, and picked up again in Numbers 24 and Psalm 45.

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The sceptre is a symbol of power – the power of the King. He sends forth the sceptre – His power – out of Zion (the city of God, his people). According to Romans 1:16, the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and it issues forth out of His people, the Church. According to Isaiah 2:3 and 11:4, the rod or sceptre is His Word through which Christ rules. It says that, “out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” (2:3b)

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Christ’s power is in heaven but exercised on earth through His people via His Word.

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In the midst of enemies (v.2b)

This verse also tells us that this Messiah will set up a Kingdom in the very midst of his enemies – even in the hearts of those who were once rebellious against him! His Kingdom is not established by destroying them, but by subduing them so that they become willing servants (as the next verse describes). This is not just destruction, but rather a more difficult task – to make His enemies His friends that they would willingly submit to His authority. Mere human power can crush men, but it takes the power of God to convert them!

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This verse also harkens us to the popular Psalm 23 – he prepares a table for us in the midst of our enemies! You’ve got to be a pretty confident power to rule and set up a picnic in the middle of your enemies! But that’s the kind of King and power Christ holds and is exercising even now! Look around you. Every one of you – myself included. The Bible tells us that we were once rebel sinners, enemies of God, hating Him. Yet through the powerful sceptre of the Gospel, the proclamation of the substitutionary work of Christ to perfectly keep the law on your behalf and die to pay our debt of sin, God transformed our hearts and made us His friends! This is what God is doing today through the Church as He sends forth this mighty sceptre from Zion – His Holy Mountain where His people gathered to worship Him.

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An Army of Priestly Troops (v.3)

The Hebrew in verse 3 is a bit obscure for various grammatical reasons I won’t bore you with. This is why various translations render it differently. The NIV renders it as,

“Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy splendor, your young men will come to you like dew from the morning’s womb.”

This gets to the intended meaning of this verse. The ESV translation attributes youthfulness to the Priest-King of this Psalm. But the Hebrew for “youth” (yalduth) here is a collective noun and in reference to the community of youths – his troops – believers, that is, the Church.

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Hebrew poetry communicates to us in word pictures, and what we’re supposed to see in our imaginations here is a picture of the gleaming beauty of the morning dew on a field of blades of grass. It is a symbol of refreshing. Just as the morning dew arises seemingly out of nowhere, innumerable offspring shall be born to Christ through the sceptre of His Word – a vast and numerous army full of freshness and vigour! The Gospel is the clarion call for this army to assemble and serve their Commanding Officer.

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Professor John Frame writes,

“The Gospel creates new people, who are committed to Christ in every area of their lives. People like these will change the world. They will fill and rule the earth for the glory of Jesus. They will plant churches and establish godly families, and they will also establish hospitals, schools, arts, and sciences. That is what has happened, by God’s grace. And that is what will continue to happen until Jesus comes.”

Notice something else remarkable. This army is arrayed, not just in battle armour, but in holy garments – that’s priestly array. It is a fulfillment of Isaiah 61:6 & Exodus 19:6 where God promises that His people will be a kingdom of priests. 1 Peter 2:9 says of believers in Christ that,

“you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

This means that these troops are also set apart for God’s holy service.

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If you are a Christian, you are part of that royal priesthood in 1 Peter and this priestly army in our text – set apart for his service.

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What does this mean for us as Christians?

2A. WE’RE IN WAR-TIME: In the midst of opposition – v. 2b

Firstly, it means that we are war-time Christians. Christ rules “in the midst of his enemies”. This is not peacetime.

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Look around at our world for a minute and see the effect of sin and the Fall on our societies and people around us. We have schools that teach kids that they evolved from fish and are nothing more than animals, then are surprised when they act accordingly. Our culture has emasculated men telling them that their God-given maleness is “toxic”. Even basic categories of male and female are now confused because as Paul says in Romans 1, the persistence in sinful rebellion leads to futile thinking and a debased mind. Just this past week there was a story of a man who identified as a woman sent to a female prison and impregnated two women there. Atheistic philosophies and Marxist principles dominate and infect our society’s institutions.

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In Canada, through the Liberal government trying to pass Bill 67, they are wanting to teach Critical Race Theory in schools – which is literally racism in reverse but called “anti-racism” just because it’s committed against white people. But the Bible tells us that all prejudice is wrong regardless of skin colour or other identity markers. Many of you know this is going on because you have to go through the Diversity, Inclusion and Equity training at work. We’ve seen a loss of fundamental freedoms and human rights in societies that have drifted away from their Judeo-Christian foundations. Truth is relative in our Postmodern age that rejects God. This is today’s incarnation of that old Serpent’s lie in the Garden questioning, “Did God really say?”

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Yet with all these battles going on around us, we have some Christian men sitting around playing video games and still addicted to porn seeking virtual ‘conquests’ when God has called them to real-world dominion and flourishing. It is appropriate for my little godson, Aaron to fight imaginary battles at his age. But you better bet that if he’s 30 and still fighting imaginary dragons when there are real life dragons to slay, his dad and I are gonna have a serious talk with that boy!

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Robert Letham notes,

“Christ’s redemptive work is portrayed as a progressive subjugation of his enemies until the very last enemy is abolished at his parousia (1 Cor. 15:20-26). During this time, the church destroys opposing arguments and leads every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Cor. 10:1-6). It is more than doubtful that the devil considers the world of human culture to be a “common kingdom.” It is even less likely that Christ, given all authority in heaven and earth, will restrict his lordship to the religious sphere only or consider the world he created and maintains to be a lost cause…

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We are in a war. There is an enemy. That enemy is no gentleman, prepared to play by rules and on a level playing field. When the world around us is relinquished to a supposedly neutral “common kingdom,” that enemy will seize control, and in many ways has done so and is increasingly advancing.”

Every area of life is a field of battle that we, his troops, are charged to take for Christ: education, law, politics, economics, business, arts, entertainment, even your diet! If you think you can be uninvolved and find some “neutral” space to hide out, you can’t! It’s being actively jammed down our throats by the culture all around us these days. We don’t get the luxury of being apathetic according to Christ. This life is war. But this battle is not against flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12) – we’re not warring just against people. Instead, 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us that this battle looks like tearing down arguments and lofty opinions that are against Christ and taking captive every thought and making it obedient to him. This is a war of ideologies and worldviews. Are you equipped for that fight?

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2B. WE’VE FREELY ENLISTED: The Church Militant – v. 3

If you’re a Christian, this means that you’ve freely enlisted into this army of willing troops. You are part of the Church “militant”. Not in the sense of being aggressive and violent, but in the sense that this isn’t peace time in this life – that comes later when we receive our “well done good and faithful servant” to enter into His rest.

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Listen carefully to what I am and am not saying.

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I’m not saying that video games, leisure time and relaxation are bad or sinful. I’m saying that they have a different priority for you if you’re on the battlefield or safe at home during peacetime. You’re not wandering what’s on Disney+ if there are bullets flying by your head! We have a bunch of Christians today who have supposedly taken up the full armour of God to sit on the couch and surf Netflix. The more you wake up to the reality of the spiritual battle around you every day, the more these leisure activities will naturally find their rightful place in your priorities.

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Paul says to Timothy, his young protege,

“what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. [Who are you discipling?] Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” (2 Timothy 2:2-4)

Are you getting entangled in civilian affairs? How well do you know your sword of the Spirit – the Word of God – that you might wield it as a skillful soldier? Have you put on the belt of truth or are your pants falling down?

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Hebrews 12:1-2 says that we are to lay aside every weight and sin as we run the race, looking to Jesus – who is the founder and perfecter of our faith seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

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Note that there are 2 categories of things we need to lay aside. Sins are obvious – we must repent of sin and put it away. But also of “every weight” – everything that is a hindrance to us running the race with endurance!

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What are some weights you need to throw off that is holding you back from running the race and getting in the battle that God has called you to in your specific station in life?

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2C. WE HAVE SALVATION: The Greater Priest – v. 4

Yahweh has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

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Lastly, because Jesus Christ is not just King but also our Great High Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek – we can be confident in our salvation.

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This verse would have stood out to Jews reading it. They knew that the offices of King and Priest could not be mixed or held by any human. God gave a clear separation between the 3 theocratic offices in ancient Israel of Prophet, Priest and King. When King Uzziah tried to wrongfully perform priestly functions, God struck him with leprosy (2 Chron. 26:16-21). How is it that this Adonai can be both a King and Priest with God’s strong approval through an eternal oath He will not repent of?

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This is because only in Jesus Christ can these 3 offices of Prophet, Priest and King come together without corruption. Also, Jesus doesn’t descend from the Aaronic priesthood of Levites – he is instead after the order of Melchizedek. The name “Melchizedek” is a compound Hebrew name – “malki” meaning “my king” and “tsedeq” meaning “righteousness”. He is also identified as the Prince of Salem in Genesis 14, which means “peace”. He was a foreshadow of Jesus Christ who is the King of Righteousness and Prince of Peace. The Levitical priesthood was passed on via birth, but Jesus’s priesthood is given by direct Divine oath hence why he is not limited like the Levitical priests. Lastly, he fulfills the Messianic Branch prophecy from Zechariah 6:13 of the Messiah who would be a Priest-King. Jesus fulfills what the OT priests only foreshadowed.

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But what does a High Priest do?

Our Great High Priest…

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  • Can empathize and helps us in temptation (Heb. 2:18)
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  • Represents us to God (Heb. 5:1)
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  • Enters the Most Holy Place (Heb. 9:24)
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  • Makes one sacrificial atonement for sin (Heb. 10:11-14)
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“And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”

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  • Brings us close to God (Heb. 10:19-22)
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  • Perfects believers (Heb. 10:14)
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  • Intercedes for us continually (Heb. 7:24-25)
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  • Is a steadfast Anchor for our soul (Heb. 6:20)
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Thus, if we have this Priest, we have complete salvation. Hebrews 7 uses this Psalm to argue that because Jesus is a priest forever and offers the perfect sacrifice for His people, this makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant than the old (v. 22).

“Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Heb. 7:25)

If there is anyone’s prayers that the Father will answer, it is those of His beloved Son on behalf of His people! This is why we sing,

Before the throne of God abovenI have a strong and perfect pleanA great High Priest, whose name is LovenWho ever lives and pleads for me…nnWhen Satan tempts me to despair,nAnd tells me of the guilt within,nUpwards i look and see him there,nWho made and end of all my sin…nnOne with Himself I cannot dienMy soul is purchased by His bloodnMy life is hid with Christ on highnWith Christ, my Savior and my God

Oh loved ones, do you have such a Great High Priest? Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts (Heb. 3:15)! Repent and believe in Christ and you’ll find Him to be a Great and Merciful High Priest.

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3. Will SHATTER his enemies – Bringing Judgment – v. 5-7

Adonai is at your (Yahweh’s) 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. (v. 5-6)

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These verses show us our God as the Mighty Warrior from Isaiah 42 and 59. But instead of Yahweh, it is Adonai – Jesus Christ at Yahweh’s right hand who is El-Gibbor – the Mighty One!

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The Hebrew verb for “shatter” here is in the perfect tense. Hebrew’s verbs are not so strictly associated with time as English – past, present and future. And so the qatal form verbs in this section could be translated as a timeless present, or speak of future action – depending on the context. This has a few implications for us as we interpret these verses.

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In verse 5, it could be understood as “he (Jesus) will shatter kings” or “he has shattered kings” on the day of his wrath. Most commentators see it as future – and there is definitely an aspect here of future fulfillment. However, there is a legitimate way to understand this in an “already-but-not-yet” sense. Paul says in Colossians 2, speaking of Christ’s work on the Cross,

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” (Col. 2:13-15)

The Cross was V-Day for Jesus – he won the decisive victory, disarming and triumphing over the rulers and authorities. He took what was an instrument of shame, the Cross, and turned it into his symbol of victory.

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Victory in History

The Roman emperor Diocletian (A.D. 245–313), a great foe of Christianity, struck a medal which bore the inscription: “The name of Christianity being extinguished.” Diocletian erected two monuments in Spain proclaiming:

Diocletian Jovian Maximian Herculeus Caesares Augusti for having extended the Roman Empire in the east and the west and for having extinguished the name of Christians who brought the Republic to ruin…

But Diocletian had not abolished Christianity. On the contrary, at the time Christianity was growing stronger than ever, and eventually, it triumphed over Caesar’s throne.

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William S. Plumer notes,

Of thirty Roman emperors, governors of provinces and others in high office, who distinguished themselves by their zeal and bitterness in persecuting the early Christians, one became speedily deranged after some atrocious cruelty, one was slain by his own son, one became blind, the eyes of one started out of his head, one was drowned, one was strangled, one died in a miserable captivity, one fell dead in a manner that will not bear recital, one died of so loathsome a disease that several of his physicians were put to death because they could not abide the stench that filled his room, two committed suicide, a third attempted it but had to call for help to finish the work, five were assassinated by their own people or servants, five others died the most miserable and excruciating deaths, several of them having an untold complication of diseases, and eight were killed in battle, or after being taken prisoners.

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Among these was Julian the Apostate. In the days of his prosperity he is said to have pointed his dagger to heaven, defying the Son of God whom he commonly called the Galilean. But when he was wounded in battle, he saw that all was over with him, and he gathered up his clotted blood and threw it into the air, exclaiming, “Thou has conquered, O thou Galilean.”

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So has it been throughout history. So will it be to the end.

Verse 6 speaks of Christ’s total conquest of the nations. The imagery is meant to convey the total subduing of all nations brought under judgment and into obedience to Christ – Canada, USA, China, Afghanistan, England, Australia, Germany, Brazil… all of them!

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“He will shatter/crush chiefs” (v. 6b)

The Hebrew word being translated is “rosh” – meaning chief or head – as in “Rosh-Ha-shanah” – the Jewish High or Chief holy day. It is also singular. He will crush the head… the head of what? Genesis 3, in the proto-evangelium, the promise is given that the woman’s seed shall crush the head of the serpent. Here, Christ, the Priest-King is the one who shatters that old Serpant’s head.

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When did Christ crush Satan’s head? At the Cross and Resurrection. And the implications of that the text says will be worked out “over the wide earth” (v.6b).

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Spurgeon commented,

“David was not a believer in the theory that the world will grow worse and worse, and that the dispensations will wind up with general darkness, and idolatry. Earth’s sun is to go down amid tenfold night if some of our prophetic brethren are to be believed. Not so do we expect, but we look for a day when the dwellers in all lands shall learn righteousness, shall trust in the Saviour, shall worship thee alone, O God, “and shall glorify thy name.” The modern notion has greatly damped the zeal of the church for missions, and the sooner it is shown to be unscriptural the better for the cause of God. It neither consorts with prophecy, honours God, nor inspires the church with ardour. Far hence be it driven.”

In the book, How Christianity Changed the World by Alvin J. Schmidt, the author outlines how Jesus Christ has been ruling in the midst of his enemies and making them his footstool in the past 2000 years of history. Christianity brought the elevation of sexual morality in a previously debaucherous pagan culture. The equal value and rights of women, championed by Christians who believed that both male and female were created in God’s image. The growth of charity and compassion, of hospitals and health care – ever noticed how almost every hospital is named “Saint…”? Christianity also transformed education, as Christians were a people of the book – they needed to learn to read and think properly which transformed a previously majority illiterate ancient world. Modern science and the scientific method was born out of a Christian worldview that believed that God was the Creator and Designer of our world, and thus we could expect order and regularity we could study. Science is the study of nature and thinking God’s thoughts after Him. Our modern Western liberties and justice system are also an inheritance from Christendom based on the ethics of the Mosaic law. Christianity – particularly Evangelical Christians advocated for the abolition of slavery famously via the British parliamentarian William Wilburforce which led to the eradication of slavery throughout the British empire to its own great expense and then to the eventual formal elimination of slavery throughout the rest of the world.

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There are so many more examples we can recite – but even in spite of how our little slice of history may look dire and filled with troubles and decline, remember: he rules in the midst of His enemies! Christ is reigning and God is putting all His enemies under His feet progressively. When Paul says in Ephesians 1 and Colossians 1 that Christ is “head over all things being given to the church,” we must conclude that Christ’s intention is the transformation of all things through his people!

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This is his unrelenting goal in history.

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A Drink from a Brook (v.7)

He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head.

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This is what that cryptic verse 7 means.

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Though fatigued with the slaughter of his enemies, yet he will not desist: but, having refreshed himself with water from the nearest stream, will exert his renovated strength in the pursuit of the routed foe.’

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Calvin commented,

“The similitude seems rather to be drawn from the conduct of brave and powerful generals, who, when in hot pursuit of the enemy, do not suffer themselves to be diverted from their purpose by attending to luxuries; but, without kneeling down, are content to quench their thirst by drinking of the stream which they are passing… It therefore appears to me that David figuratively attributes military prowess to Christ, declaring that he would not take time to refresh himself, but would hastily drink of the river which might come in his way. This is designed to strike his enemies with terror, intimating to them the rapid approach of impending destruction.”

This Warrior Priest-King of Psalm 110 will not stop until every enemy has been placed under his feet. The question for us is where do we find ourselves in this Psalm? Have you had a change of allegiance and been transferred from the domain of darkness into citizenship in His Kingdom? Are you with him in the armies of willing troops in active service to their Lord today? Or are you amongst those who will be shattered in his wrath? There is a day of wrath coming, friends. Flee to Christ for refuge and find Him to be a gracious and merciful High Priest today.

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