Theme: Ruling in the Midst of Enemies
This week’s lessons teach us about the most quoted psalm in the New Testament.
Scripture: Psalm 110:1-3
Yesterday we noted the visions that the first martyr, Stephen, and the apostle John had of Jesus. These visions are very different from the sentimental views people sometimes hold of Jesus today. We would do well to recover this proper understanding of Jesus’ heavenly splendor—of who Jesus is and where he is now. For if we did, we would worship him better and with greater reverence. Walter Chantry says,
Anyone who has caught a glimpse of the heavenly splendor and sovereign might of Christ would do well to imitate the saints of ages past. It is only appropriate to worship him with deep reverence. You may pour out great love in recognition of your personal relationship with him. He is your Lord. You are his and he is yours. However, you are not pals. He is Lord and Master. You are servant and disciple. He is infinitely above you in the scale of being. His throne holds sway over you for your present life and for assigning your eternal reward. A king is to be honored, confessed, obeyed and worshiped.1
Indeed, adds Chantry, “Such humble gestures of adoration and the response required in the gospel. ‘If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved’ (Rom. 10:9).”2
Sitting signifies rest from Jesus’ atoning work, as we will see in the next study, but it does not mean complete inactivity. A king rules from his throne, sitting upon it, and that is what Jesus is doing now. He is ruling from his throne in order to extend his kingdom throughout the whole world through the witness of his followers. That is what the second section of this psalm is about (vv. 2, 3). It tells how Jesus directs his witness “from Zion,” ruling “in the midst of [his] enemies.”
We need to look at two phases in this stanza particularly.
1. “In the midst of your enemies.” If this were about a mere earthly king, it would never speak of ruling “in the midst of” enemies. That is not how earthly kings rule. They make boundaries, defend and extend their frontiers, confront, fight, and overpower enemies. Here is a king who rules in the midst of his enemies. This can only mean that his is a spiritual rule that infiltrates the hostile powers of this world in a nearly invisible fashion. Moreover, it is a rule that he exerts indirectly, as it were, not by coming in power himself (though he will also do that in judgment at the end of time), but through his people, the church.
This verse meant a great deal to Martin Luther because of the nature of his battles at the time of the Reformation. At one point, when he was sick, he praised the psalm, saying, “If I were well, I would endeavor to make a commentary on it.” Luther did get well and in time did write a commentary on Psalm 110 that ran to 120 pages. In it he said, “We must live in the midst of Christ’s enemies…However, it is not the meaning of this verse that we physically resist our enemies, which is part of the thinking of the anabaptists and other rebels. In his kingdom Christ has nothing to do with secular power and government. Nor are we Christians able to defeat and subdue the devil and the world by means of physical power or weapons.”3 No, said Luther. We are to fight for Christ by suffering, by faith, and by the preaching of God’s Word.
1Walter J. Chantry, Praises for the King of Kings (Edinburgh and Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1991), p. 59.
2Ibid., pp. 59, 60.
3Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 13, “Selected Psalms II,” ed. Jaroslav Pelikan (Saint Louis: Concordia, 1956), p. 279. The entire discussion of this verse is on pp. 264-284; that of the entire psalm on pp. 228-348.
How does the image of Jesus as Lord negate the image of Jesus as your pal?
What does Jesus’ sitting signify? What is he doing now? Where is he?
Contrast the surroundings of an earthly king with our heavenly king. How do we know that verses 2, 3 are not about an earthly ruler?
Key Point: He is ruling from his throne in order to extend his kingdom throughout the whole world through the witness of his followers.
Reflection: What can you change in order to worship God with greater reverence?