Psalm 110 (part 4)

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Psalm 110 (part 4).
The text for this morning is Ephesisans 4:10 [P] [Ephesians 4:10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.] For context I will read the verses before: [Ephesians 4:8–10 Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.” (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)] The context is: ascension! That is really all the message I want to bring this morning; so, you can now go to sleep for the next 40 minutes. But before you do, let us just say this verse together to imprint it in your mind: [Ephesians 4:10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.] Now, I said that that the context of Ephesians 4:10 is ascension, you know, going up! The verse is talking about Jesus. Now I want you to picture Edmund Hillary at the top of Mount Everest [P] – he cannot ascend! He is at the top of the world! It’s as high as you can go. Here is Jesus! He is God! In heaven! You cannot get any higher! He cannot ascend; unless first He descended! For Jesus to ascend, He first had to descend. That is what Christmas is all about! Christmas is all about God coming into this world as a baby, born in Bethlehem. There was a book, and a separate TV series, that were both called: “The ascent of man”; today I want to talk about [P] “the descent of God”! Christmas is a couple of weeks away; I want to bring a Christmas message. And, this year, I think I am particularly qualified to bring it. You see, 6 months ago this little gift came into the world! [P]. Wonderful blessing that he is, when he was born, he couldn’t do much! Hannah said, “he hasn’t got much of a personality!” I put that picture because Nathaniel is only about one hour old. You have a baby; you realize just how helpless a new-born human is! I mean, a new-born lamb is on its legs in a few minutes; we are six months down the track and are still carrying Nathaniel around! When God created man, He created a fully grown adult male and female; He could have done the same with Jesus. Here He was coming into the world as a man; now, that is some great descent, some huge come-down; but why not come into the world as an adult? I mean, in terms of what Jesus did, it all happened in about 3 years of His adult life. But Jesus came as a baby! Here is God! He is the Creator, [P] the life-giver, He gives all their life and existence, without Him was not anything made that has been made – yet he was dependent upon a peasant girl from the back-blocks of Galilee, probably just a teenager, to bring Him into existence! He is The Provider and sustainer [P] – gives to all, all that they need; yet He was dependent upon Miriam to breast feed Him, provide Him with the nourishment that He needed to survive. He is God, self-existent [P] – He doesn’t need anyone; but here He was utterly dependent, helpless – just a baby. As God He is in supreme control [P] – here is the One who controls all things, yet He cannot even control His own bowels! [P] I find it amazing! Here is God, but He had to have His nappies changed! What humbling is that! He is Almighty [P] has all power, holds the stars in place, upholds the world – yet utterly as a baby He is weak, Miriam or Joseph had to lift Him up, carry Him. As God, He is omniscient, [P] He knows everything – yet He had to learn everything; be taught to walk, talk, read. John calls Him the Word [P] – the Word became flesh but this Word couldn’t communicate verbally. I disagree with that beloved carol, “Away in a manger”: “the little Lord Jesus no crying He makes” – of course He cried! That was the only way He could communicate – the Word was inarticulate! God has dominion [P] – He is Lord over all; yet He submitted to fallible human parents. They were just ordinary simple folk. As parents we lack wisdom, make mistakes, make wrong choices or decisions but: [Luke 2:51 He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them.] The One to whom every knee will bow was subject to the, sometimes unwise, decisions his parents made. What a humbling! What a descent Jesus made to be born as a baby in Bethlehem. After the meeting, go and make Nathaniel smile – as you do think of God taking on that helpless form. Cute maybe, but God over all taking on that helpless form?!! Now I am going to do an unusual thing, well for Paul: I am going to read a poem! My excuse is, that it is a song. It is by Phil Keagey, and it made an impression on me some years ago. I think it captures this humbling, though its focus is on the crucifixion of Jesus, rather than the birth of Jesus: [P]
The Maker of the universe
As Man, for man was made a curse
The claims of Law which He had made
Unto the uttermost He paid
His holy fingers made the bough
Which grew the thorns that crowned His brow
The nails that pierced His hands were mined
In secret places He designed
He made the forest whence there sprung
The tree on which His body hung
He died upon a cross of wood
But made the hill on which it stood [P]
The sky that darkened o’er His head
By Him above the earth was spread
The sun that hid from Him its face
By His decree was poised in space
The spear which spilled His precious blood
Was tempered in the fires of God
The grave in which His form was laid
Was hewn in rocks which He had made
The throne on which He now appears
Was His from everlasting years
But a new glory crowns His brow
And every knee to Him shall bow
The Maker of the universe
It describes God, the Creator the Almighty, humbled to the uttermost; yet at the end speaks of His exaltation. [P] [Ephesians 4:10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens.]. Another poem was written much earlier, on the same topic of the vast descent, the massive humbling in Jesus taking on human form and dying. In verses we know well Paul described this great and vast descent, this massive humbling of God; followed by His exaltation: [Philippians 2:6–11 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. (Yes, a helpless baby) Being found in appearance as a man, (Paul is so staggered by the concept of God taking on human form, that he repeats it!) He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.] Jesus humbled Himself, emptied Himself – He descended. But God highly exalted Him! He who descended, ascended! Hallelujah! Glory to His Name! Paul talks about the purposes which: [Ephesians 1:20–21 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, (not only raised but ascended) far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.] Jesus ascended! But He had the highest position. For Him to ascend, He had first to descend. Having descended, He then ascended. We have three descriptions of this event: the first two are from Luke: After Jesus was raised from the dead He appeared to people over a period of 40 days then: [Luke 24:50–53 And He (that is Jesus) led them (that is His disciples) out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. (carried up, Jesus went up, He ascended, right into heaven itself) And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God.] Luke gives us another account in: [Acts 1:9–11 And after He had said these things, He was lifted up (lifted up, He ascended) while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, (taken up into heaven, ascended into heaven itself) will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”] Mark also briefly describes this event: [P] [Mark 16:19 So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up (up – He ascended) into heaven (ascended right into heaven itself) and sat down at the right hand of God.] Does that sound familiar? It ought to! “Sat down at the right hand of God” is right from Psalm 110:1 [P] [Psalm 110:1 יהוה says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” יהוה says to the Messiah, that is Jesus, “Sit at My right hand” – that is God’s right hand. The early believers saw in Psalm 110:1 a prophecy of Jesus’ ascension! I have been having a look at the use of Psalm 110 in the New Testament. [P] Jesus proved from the first three words (well 6 in English) that the Messiah had to be more than merely the son of David. [P] He was, in fact, God’s Son! God Himself! He was in the beginning with God. Exalted, glorious, in heaven, in the highest place. On top of Everest, if you like. [P] He could go no higher. But last time we saw that Jesus finished His work [P]. And we saw that that work was the Cross. The great descent! You couldn’t go lower! The cursed degrading shameful death of a criminal. If the highest that you can go on land is the top of Everest – and Hillary went there for the glory it would bring – the lowest you can go on earth is down Tautona mine [P] – it is 3.9 Km deep! That’s a big hole! A long way down – and if Hillary ascended for the glory, men descend the mine for the treasure – there is gold down that mine! Jesus descended to earth, bought “the field” with His blood, for the treasure within it. From the lowest depths Jesus ascended back to the highest height [P] – back to His Father’s side, at His right hand. The deepest depth you can go on earth is the bottom of Mariana trench [P] – it is 11 km deep! Further down than Everest is up! Jesus has ascended higher than all else. This is what the early church saw prophesied and depicted in Psalm 110:1. We saw it quoted in the context of ascension in Mark16:19; Peter also quoted it in his first sermon that he spoke on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon those gathered in the upper room. This was a significant time to speak of the ascension, as we will see, for two reasons: 1/ it was the beginning of the church era; 2/ it was when the Holy Spirit was imparted. Peter had been speaking to the Jews about how they had crucified their Messiah, then he said: [Acts 2:32–36 “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. (death and resurrection of the Messiah – the essence of the Gospel. But he went further …) “Therefore, having been exalted (that is to ascend, made high) to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. [P] “For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”’ (yes, Psalm 110:1) “Therefore, let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.”] Peter went beyond the death and resurrection to the ascension of Jesus: “being exalted to the right hand of God” This was the proof that God had made Jesus both Lord and Messiah. Peter did not stop with the Gospel (Jesus’ death and resurrection) he went on to the ascension. For, although Jesus finished His work on the cross, His ministry continued another 40 days – (Acts 1:3) says He was “continuing to proclaim the Kingdom of God”. Jesus’ earthly ministry was not complete until the ascension! The ascension marks the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry and the transition into the church age. [P] That is why, when the disciples were looking for a replacement for Judas, the qualification was that that person, not just be a witness of Jesus’ death and resurrection but: [Acts 1:21–22 “Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us— beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up (that is ascended) from us—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”] – they had to be there from the very beginning, the baptism of John; right to the end, the ascension of Christ. Thus, the Ascension brings to an end the time of Jesus and begins the time of the Church. The ascension was prophesied, not only in Psalm 110 but also in that Psalm that Robin set to music: [Psalm 24:7–10 Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in! Who is the King of glory? יהוה strong and mighty, יהוה mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O gates, and lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in! Who is this King of glory? יהוה of armies, He is the King of glory!] There is the picture of יהוה ascending into heaven itself, into glory having returned victorious in His battle over sin, death and the devil. Daniel portrays Jesus coming before יהוה to sit at His right hand: [Daniel 7:13–14 I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven (remember Jesus ascended in the clouds) one like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days (that is יהוה!) and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed!] Hallelujah! And in a, rather enigmatic but profound, verse in Proverbs it says: [Proverbs 30:4 Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His son’s name? Surely you know!] A clear statement in the Old Testament of God having a Son! Who ascended into heaven. While Stephen is being stoned, he looks up to heaven and sees the enthroned Christ; ascended, at the right hand of God: [Acts 7:55–56 But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”] When Paul is confronted on the Damascus Road, he hears the enthroned Messiah. Jesus, Himself, prophesied that this would take place: [John 6:62 “What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?] He had said: [P] [John 3:13 “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man.] Other people have been raised from the dead; Jesus, the Son of Man, alone has ascended back to heaven. The Son of Man ascended; but before He could ascend, He had to first descend from heaven: [P] [Ephesians 4:10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.]. The fact that Jesus was presented to יהוה and was accepted by Him, given complete dominion by Him; demonstrated and proves that Jesus’ sacrifice is finished and accepted by God. [P] Last time I spoke, I spent some time on the fact that Jesus has finished His work, so I won’t go into it again. But suffice it to say that an implication of Jesus’ ascension is that His work is finished and accepted by His Father. Jesus told His disciples beforehand that He would return to His Father: [John 14:28 “You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, (ascend back to heaven) for the Father is greater than I. John 14:29 “Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe.] When He goes to His Father, then the Holy Spirit comes. [P] Jesus is still here, by His Spirit! [John 14:16–20 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, ….. He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, (Jesus is no longer physically here) but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. “In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.] – in the Person of the Holy Spirit. [John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. John 16:5 “But now I am going to Him who sent Me ….. John 16:7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. John 16:16 “A little while, and you will no longer see Me; (Jesus is leaving, going back to heaven) and again a little while, and you will see Me.” John 16:28 “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.”] ascending back to the Father’s right hand. “Ascending” has special significance in the Hebrew language, for the Jews: it wasn’t just increasing your altitude. You make “aliya” (“going-up”, ascending), when you immigrate to Israel. You ascend to Jerusalem. It was a spiritual ascent, getting nearer to God. When Jesus ascended, He went back to God, His Father, is at His side, right in the presence of יהוה Himself! There, in His presence, He asks His Father who sends the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit could not come until Jesus ascended. When Jesus was here on earth as a man, He could only be in one place at a time. Often, we think: how wonderful to have been on earth when Jesus was here! But Jesus never came to New Zealand! He seldom left Israel. But today, Jesus is in New Zealand! In Christchurch! At Tedder ave! In you! Now, He can be in multiple places, in multiple people, in the Person of His Spirit. That is the significance of Peter speaking of the ascension at Pentecost – the promise of the Father had come because Jesus had ascended, asked the Father and He was sent. Another implication of Jesus ascension is that there is now a human in heaven who can sympathize and intercede for us. [P] Jesus came to earth, was born as a baby, a human being with a human mother. He ascended back to heaven, a human being. There is a man in heaven who intercedes for us! Hallelujah! [1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, ] It is my intention to look at this in more detail later on when Psalm 110 refers to the priesthood of Jesus; so I will just give a couple of references: [Hebrews 2:14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, ….. Hebrews 2:17–18 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.] There is Jesus, a man, in heaven; right beside God, pleading our cause. There is not a God so exalted in His holy heaven that He does not know what it is like to go through what we do. He is a man, who has been through it all! Bless His Name: [Hebrews 4:14–16 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, (He ascended) Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.] Those who take notes may have picked up in an earlier slide that Psalm 110 is quoted in the New Testament a third time to demonstrate the ascension: [P] [Colossians 3:1–4 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, [P] seated at the right hand of God. [P] (there is the quotation from Psalm 110:1) Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. [P] For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. [P] When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.] Galatians 2:20 says “I have been crucified with Christ”; Colossians 3 says “I have been raised with Christ”. It says that He is “above”; high, ascended, at God’s right hand – and that is where I am! “Hidden with Christ in God!” We are IN CHRIST! Watchman Nee used the illustration of a banknote placed in a book. If the book was in a bag, so was the bank note; if the book fell in the river, so did the banknote. Everything that happened to the book happened to the note also, because it was IN the book. We are IN Christ – so everything that happened to Him, happened to us: He died, we died; He rose, we rose; but He ascended, so therefore we also have ascended. Our lives are hidden in Christ with God! [P] Jesus’ ascension means we ascend also. [Ephesians 2:5–6 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,] John Calvin said, “The Lord, by His ascension into heaven, has opened up the access to the heavenly kingdom, which Adam had shut. For having entered it in our flesh, (that is as a human being) as it were in our name, it follows … that we are in a manner seated in heavenly places, not entertaining a mere hope of heaven, but possessing it in our Head Thus Christ’s ascension is an indispensable aspect of NT teaching. It is the basis for recognition of Christ’s exalted status and for the Christian’s confidence and hope. [P] [Ephesians 4:10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.] He who was exalted above all came down to earth as a baby, took on human form; He died, rose again from the dead and ascended on high. And with Him He took brought many sons to glory. Ascended with Him and seated with Him in the heavenly places. At Christmas we remember the baby born in Bethlehem; but now He is ascended, in the highest places let us come before Him with awe and worship and give Him the glory that is His due as the ascended LORD!
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