Online Text Sermon - Christ the Conquerer, Psalm 45 vv.3-5
|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||Christ the Conquerer|
|Text||Psalm 45 vv.3-5 |
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"Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty. And in thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things. Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king's enemies; where-by the people fall under thee" (Psalm 45, 3-5).
It is very clear that the Psalm here is telling us about a great man. That must be obvious from such language as this: "O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty" (text). So, whoever it is that is referred to here is clearly a person of great rank and high standing. Therefore, our first enquiry must be to establish who it is that is referred to here.
Our minds might begin to think of king David who was one of the greatest kings who ever lived in Israel. He crushed all his enemies on every side. However we are forbidden to think in those terms when we look further down the Psalm: "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever" (Psalm 45, 6). Clearly, whoever this is it is not David nor is it Solomon, Hezekiah, Josiah or any of the great kings of the Old Testament period. Such language can only refer to one Person and that, of course, is our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It is the God-Man therefore, the Saviour of the world, the Messiah, who is being spoken of in these words.
The next question that faces us is who the second personage is referred to in this Psalm. For instance, we are told: "Kings' daughters were among thy honourable women: upon thy right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir" (Psalm 45, 9). 'The queen' is now the subject of our enquiry - Who is she? Further reference is made to her: "The king's daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold" (Psalm 45, 13). Having seen that Christ is this heroic Person referred to in the beginning of the Psalm, there is only one possibility as to His queen; it must be the true Church, which is His bride. It must be - not a particular church - but the sum total of all believers, both of the Old and New Testament.
Then there comes a third question: What is the climax of this Psalm? It is very evident that there is a sort of movement in the thought. We are first of all introduced to Christ then His bride, 'the queen'. The climax is to be seen here for instance: "She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework: the virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee. With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought: they shall enter into the king's palace" (Psalm 45, 14-15). The reference therefore is to marriage. In the course of time - or better, at the end of time - there is to be a marriage between Jesus Christ and all true believers who form His mystical body here upon earth. The climax of all world history and all the events of that history is to be a wedding between Christ and His bride. Our Lord in His parables similarly gives indication of this future wedding day. In His parables remember He speaks about a king making a great wedding for His Son and inviting guests; well, it is the same picture precisely which is to be found here. History will not come to its end by some cosmic accident or anti-climax like a squib sputtering out or a candle guttering in its socket. No, the history of the world is a history which is moving towards a great and wonderful climax, and that is the wedding day of the blessed Jesus and His people who are blessed in Him and who love Him. It is significant therefore that the very title of this Psalm talks about itself as being A Song of loves. It is not merely love at a human level but love between believers here below and their exalted glorified Saviour Who is above. They are not yet married; they are engaged to be married: they are betrothed. He has put the engagement ring upon our finger but not yet the wedding ring. We look forward to that day. We cry in our hearts: "Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22, 20).
All that then is established clearly from the words of the Psalm. What, though, is so remarkable in v.3 is this reference to Christ's sword. You notice the following: "Gird thy sword" (Psalm 45, 3); "ride prosperously" (Psalm 45, 4); "Thine arrows" (Psalm 45, 5). I draw attention to what looks like an unexpected note in this Psalm, a note of war and of battle. This is not the wedding day being described in anticipation. Before the wedding there is the fighting; before the love match in marriage there is a war going on. So, what we have here in my text is Christ at war, Christ going forth conquering and to conquer. Turn to the book of Revelation 19 where we have exactly the same picture set before us and it clarifies our understanding of this very Psalm: "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war" (Revelation 19, 11). You see how similar the language is. "His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew but he himself. And he was clothed with vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS" (Revelation 19, 12-16). There cannot be any doubt that the language of these words in Revelation 19 was intentionally made to correspond with the language of the text in Psalm 45: the same Christ, the same names, the same warfare, the same battle, the same weapons and the same intention of conquering His enemies.
This is the picture that I look at. Not today, the wedding or the marriage, but today the battle because the battle comes first and the wedding comes afterwards. I might be forgiven for the sake of young people here, giving an illustration. Boys and girls it is a picture rather like this. A young man is in love with his sweetheart and he gives her an engagement ring. He tells her that he is going to war - going abroad for some years on the battle field and that, if God spares him, when he returns he will make her his bride. He gives her a kiss and a ring for his pledge and promise. She looks forward to his coming back. So the Christian is today, He has given us His pledge and promise that He will marry us when He comes back at the end. We shall be with Him as His bride and people throughout the endless ages of eternity to come. But that's not yet! At this present hour Christ is at war and it is the warfare then that I am going to consider just a little with you today.
1. WHAT IS THIS WAR
2. WHAT ARE THE WEAPONS OF WAR
3. WHAT WILL BE THE OUTCOME OF THIS WAR IN THE END OF TIME
By looking at these three points which I believe are relating closely to our text, we shall understand something of what this text here is referring to when it says, "Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty. And in thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness" (text).
1. WHAT IS THIS WAR
What is this war in which Jesus Christ our Lord is presently engaged? It is a war in which He is the great Leader. This picture of Christ does not reveal Him to be a mere soldier; He is not one of a massive multitude like Himself, nor does it show Him to be a Lieutenant bearing a certain amount of special responsibility, nor is even merely a General here. The picture we have here of Christ is of the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces of Heaven and Earth: God's army here below upon earth - the church militant, the church with a war on her hands. Our Lord is fighting against the things which are in opposition to God. He is to "ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness" (text). He is therefore making war against everything which is the opposite of those three great words; He is making war against lies and pride and unrighteousness in this world. Our Lord's warfare is a warfare on behalf of truth - the truth of Almighty God - on behalf of righteousness; the righteousness which is the very foundation of God's throne and Being, and on behalf of humility, meekness and lowliness of heart, which are defied and contradicted by the spirit of this present world. There we have the picture set before us of Christ's warfare.
Why then should Christ go to war against these things? He does so because something has entered into the world in which we live which is profoundly serious - and we refer to that as 'sin'. Sin has entered this universe. It did not do so at the Creation because when God had finished the Creation He referred to it as being "good" (Genesis 1, 25). There was no sin at the beginning. There was no unrighteousness, no lies and no pride in the beginning. The first to sin against God, as the Bible tells us, was the devil - Satan; he did so through pride. We are not informed about all the details but we know that somehow in heaven this great angel called Satan rebelled against God his Maker - perhaps he resented God being over him. Whatever it was, we may not in this life fully know, but he made war against God and was cast out of heaven with his fellow angels. They were cast down out of heaven where they had no longer a right to belong because they were unfit to be in the presence of God or in heaven where nothing dwells that defiles (Revelation 21, 27).
As the Bible tells us early on in the first chapters, hardly had the devil himself sinned than he made war against God by seducing our first mother, Eve, into sin, and our first father, Adam, also. Sin first entered into heaven and then entered into earth and it has defiled everything - there are even spots upon the sun: hurricanes, tornados, storms, accidents, tragedies, and disasters. All of these things have followed in the wake of the entrance of sin into this world. We were told on the radio yesterday of the tragic accident at Potter's Bar, north of London, when a train crashed. That was caused probably by bolts not being in their proper places at the points when the train was passing over it. We would refer to that as an accident. But, my friends, there would be no accidents in this world, of any kind, if sin had not entered. All would be smooth, easy and perfect were it not that sin had entered in and therefore judgement and death have followed in the wake.
Somebody may ask why Jesus Christ has to wage war against sin. The answer is because of what sin is. Sin is any want of conformity unto or transgression of the Law of God. Sin is all together more serious than men and woman suppose. Sin is the very opposite of God. Sin is defiance of God and sin, if it could, would destroy, overthrow, kill, annihilate and liquidate His very throne and abolish His powers as God. Of course, sin cannot do these things but it would if it could and so serious a matter is sin that God will not leave it alone but He will go on dealing with it all through human history. He does so through the Person especially of His own glorious Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. A part of His great commission of saving the world is also at the same time dealing with sin in the world: "the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3, 8,) and that is what He is doing. He has a twin ministry, the principal part of which is saving a people out of this world, but at the same time He has a collateral ministry which is to overthrow, destroy and abolish: to bring to nothing all those who commit sin because, as I say, sin is the very contradiction of God. Sin cannot be left undealt with.
If you want an illustration of this you have to think of what has been happening recently in Afghanistan. Certain terrorist organisations seemingly, we have been informed, have had there headquarters there. They have had massive deposits of armaments and weapons. We were told a little about the destruction of these only a few hours ago: enormous quantities of ammunition to do harm. For all anyone could know they would never stop until they had destroyed the tower of London, Buckingham Palace, the Whitehouse in America and who knows what else; that is the nature of sin - it goes on and on and on and on. It was the same in the II World War. There was a man called Adolph Hitler in Nazi Germany - a ruthless dictator as all encyclopaedias would admit. He amassed weapons - tanks, guns, bombs, and military aircraft - and then he started his invasion in the adjoining countries of Holland, France, Poland, southern parts of Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. There was no stopping him; he was going to go on and on. He had a plan first of all to conquer Europe and then to conquer Africa, Asia, Australasia and last of all, what was hardest of all, to conquer America. He was going to establish his kingdom, the Third Reich - the German word for a kingdom - which he thought would last for a thousand years. In fact it lasted about six years.
When our government in this country realised that Hitler was going from country to country picking them off one-by-one they knew it was only a matter of time before he would cross the English Channel and start to annexe England, Wales, Scotland etc. to himself so they had to act. Sin knows no bounds. Sin has a stomach which is never satisfied; it will go on devouring and devouring until there is nothing left. That is why our nation had to stay to Hitler "Stop, or else we attack you!" And we did. Thank God, in the end, with great help from America and other countries, we were able to stop this man otherwise he would have gone on. That is the nature of sin and because sin is never satisfied therefore Jesus Christ goes forth riding upon his white horse conquering and to conquer and He will go on until he has finally dealt with sin. Sin, in the end of history, will be cast out of the universe; it will have no place in heaven or upon earth; it will be entirely confined to the prison house of hell-fire and nowhere else will it be.
So, my dearly beloved friends, that is why the holy Jesus, who is principally the Saviour of the world, is also the warrior sent by God to overthrow, defeat and bring to nothing, SIN. If you are a true Christian today you will be mightily thankful that the progress of sin is not left to governments to control or to organisations or charities, but it is in the hands of the God-Man Himself; He is going forth every day dealing with sin and with sinners. He will continue to war against sin until it is no more - thank God.
2. WHAT ARE THE WEAPONS OF WAR
We are told in my text of the weapons of war that the Lord Jesus Christ has. Let me show you these weapons: "Gird thy sword upon thy thigh" (Psalm 45, 3). Young people know that a thigh is this upper part of the leg. You wear your belt and a scabbard and you put your sword in the scabbard. He has, therefore, a sword. He also has arrows (Psalm 45, 5), which imply he must carry a bow. These weapons would be of very little use to us today because we don't need bows, arrows and swords very much any more. But we do recognise that these weapons were the weapons used at that time in history. There were no guns at the time when this Psalm was written. This is a picture of the weapons that Christ is using in His warfare. Of course, they are not literal bows and arrows, or literal swords and spears, but they are a metaphor - an illustration, an analogy, a parable if you like - of the spiritual energies of Christ. His sword is said in Revelation to come forth out of His mouth which is another way of saying that He is able to put people to death simply by his own Word. He has but to say the Word and men drop at His feet dead. He can dispel all enemies, quell all foes and crush all opponents, and He does so by His own inherent powers, given to Him by God and His because He is the God-Man.
There are two weapons mentioned here. First, there is the sword, and second, the arrows.
a) THE ARROWS
Let me take the arrows first. These arrows are used by Christ in love: the arrows of love; and that is not an altogether strange concept. We are familiar with the ancient Greek and Roman idea that there is a little creature called Cupid. Cupid is said to have a bow and arrow and when he sends his shaft into your heart then you fall in love. That is a very familiar idea. I suggest these arrows are the arrows of Christ's love. They are not used by Him to destroy men but to bring them to Himself, to subdue them to His grace, love and power as the Saviour. I mention five such arrows briefly.
The first one is the arrow of conviction. This is the arrow that Christ takes out from His quiver and uses in order to awaken men, women and children to their present position in this life - to make them realise that they are lost and undone, to make them see how greatly they need the mercy of God. The arrow of conviction awakens their mind. We are all dead in sin and stupidly asleep and incapable of recognising our position in this life - and as we often say in the open air and have to repeat here - people are so dead in their sins they don't ask themselves the most simple questions. They don't ask where they have come from or why they are here or where are they going! People don't stop to ask these questions they are so busy playing golf, football and watching DVDs etc. They are not asking, "Who put me here in this world?" "Why did He put me here?" "Where shall I be after death?" These are the obvious questions. These are the crying questions and yet the great philosophers will scarcely busy themselves for one hour to face them. What Jesus Christ does with the arrow of conviction is He brings people suddenly to realise that they need to ask these questions. Life, they see, is altogether empty without an explanation to these things.
The second arrow I call the arrow of compunction. This arrow is used by Christ to deepen the wound. It is a sort of strengthening of the conviction to the point where it becomes intolerable. Every true Christian, more or less, knows the true meaning of this. If there was a day in our experience, certainly in mine and I believe in yours also, in which Jesus Christ wounded us to this extent: that we cried out to Him for mercy. I was reading on the plane flying back from America a few days ago, about the great revival that occurred in 1907 in Korea. A wonderful revival occurred in Korea in that year. The Holy Spirit was just poured upon the church of Pyongyang - the capital of the north. It was literally true that people in the church were throwing themselves down on the floor and were crying out to God, confessing their sins, all at the same time under an amazing sense of this compunction. They were deeply, deeply wounded at the realisation they were unfit to stand before God and unfit for heaven. A great work began in that year in that way. That is how Christ brings us to an end of our own righteousness and to an end of our own wisdom. It happened to the apostle Paul - "I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died" (Romans 7, 9) - the arrow of compunction.
Thirdly, I speak about the arrow of regeneration. When He has wounded His people to the point that they are broken-hearted and crying out for mercy, then comes this refreshing, renewing grace of God in their lives - "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3, 3).
The fourth arrow is the arrow of love and reassurance. Christ does not wound in order to hurt; He wounds in order to save; He wounds in order to show us His love. However He must needs wound us first because we are so stupid and besotted with folly and the things of this life. Until we are thoroughly awakened and aroused we will not appreciate what His love is. We don't even begin to think of why He died for us on the Cross. We don't see the value of His blood or the preciousness of His death and resurrection until we are thoroughly broken down to a recognition of our need of His mercy. That is how it was on the day of Pentecost - they cried out, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2, 37). But Christ doesn't leave us there; He brings us with His arrow of love to feel the unspeakable kindness and philanthropy of God. He makes us appreciate through teaching us in His Word of the meaning of His death, a death for us: a death to pardon sin, a death whereby we are brought to God; an atonement whereby we should be reconciled to God - peace with our Maker. This is the arrow of love - the love of God poured upon our hearts.
When we have served God for a little in this life - the fifth arrow I mention briefly is the arrow of euthanasia: He puts His people to sleep. It is what we call death in ordinary talk but the death of a Christian, of course, is not death but sleep. The Bible says that those who die in the Lord are not truly dead but are alive unto Him; their soul is now in glory, their body goes into the grave and is buried for so many years until the end of time when they come back in the Glory. Our Lord, when He sees that His people are tired out and exhausted and weary of this life, sends the arrow of euthanasia into their heart and He lays them, as it were, in an anesthetised condition. They are asleep for a time; they are asleep in Jesus. Their soul rests in the Glory and they are content in Him.
That is a record of His dealings with His people - the arrows. No wonder this is called a song of love. All through the world and all through history our Lord has been using His arrows. Countless thousands upon thousands upon millions of arrows have been shot into the hearts of His own dear people and they are brought out of darkness into His marvellous light and to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering. When people are brought to love Christ they are ready to die for Him - nothing matters but Christ and Him crucified: they glory in the Cross.
b) THE SWORD
Secondly He has a SWORD. What then is this sword in verse three? This sword is described as being "a sharp sword" (Revelation 19, 15) and "a great sword" (Revelation 6, 4). It is not simply a little sword for cutting string; it is a great sword. It is like a two-handed sword such as was used by Robert the Bruce in warfare to wield terrible destruction upon his foes and to cut them in pieces, to smite of their heads, to break them and to shatter them like a potter's vessel (which is a word used in Scripture - Psalm 2, 9). This sword then is not taken out by Christ in love like the arrows: this is to kill, wound, destroy and overthrow; not only individuals, but nations, when they become apostate. In Revelation 2 in connection with the church at Pergamos, it is said that this sword is the sword whereby He smites even churches that become apostate. He will kill churches that turn away from the Gospel; He will spew them out of His mouth. He will have nothing to do with lukewarm, dead Christianity. What! - dead Christians when He gave His life for us? What! - Christians living for the world and for pleasure when He gave His everything for us - the God-man Himself? So He warns us in His Word that we are to be full of life, zeal and kindness to one another. We are to put first the kingdom of God and to seek first the things that belong to Him otherwise He will kill nations. I have no doubt that is why the I and the II Word Wars occurred between Germany and Britain. I do not hesitate to believe myself that it was a judgement upon Germany for turning away from the Bible to their Higher Criticisms - so called. The judgement upon England and Scotland for following in the wake of Germany was to make them enemies to one another. He killed them both. Fifty-five million people died in the II Word War alone - a terrible judgement upon these nations. We ought to have known better. We ought to have trembled at the Word of God. But no, man became so clever in the nineteenth century that he thought he was evolving into 'super man'. He thought that the ancient ways of the past were out of date. So we began to climb high until our heads began to touch the very stars and Christ said, "Die!" He raised up His power against the nations, and Britain and Europe which became so authoritarian and proud in that time were cut down and the pride of man's heart was made to die.
Today what is Germany and what is Britain compared with what they used to be? Other nations are rising up as we sit down. The more nations turn away from God and His Gospel, the more they will sink into nothingness - till they become a little fishing island as they were long ago. That which makes nations great is the Gospel. When Christ is honoured in nations then He will bless them; when they fight against the truth, He will stamp upon them and they will return to the dust as they were. So, His weapons of war, my friends, are adequate; He doesn't need any other weapons. The weapons of His love will bring all His people home to Him; and the weapons of His judgement will crush every last enemy until even death itself shall be subjected to Him and the devil cast into the lake of fire and brimstone that burns with fire for ever and ever.
3. WHAT WILL BE THE OUTCOME OF THIS WAR IN THE END OF TIME
That brings me, thirdly and very briefly, to speak now of the progress of this war unto the end.
It is very clear that Christ therefore is now doing two things at the same time; He has a twin or a joint mission. He is at one and the same time bringing home to Himself all those whom His Father gave Him out of all the nations - Jew and Gentile. He will go on doing that. With His arrows He will convict men and women throughout the world until the very last one of those for whom He died is saved and brought home to glorify His blood. At the very same time He is humbling and crushing the wicked, overthrowing the powers of hell, dealing with sin day and daily until sin itself shall be cast out of the universe. There shall then emerge a new heaven and a new earth wherein sin shall have no being but righteousness, meekness and truth shall conquer all the universe. Every redeemed sinner who goes to glory will be filled with a love of truth, filled with a love of righteousness, filled with the spirit of meekness. Like the angels in glory, when we see the face of God, we shall veil our eyes before His majesty and glory.
Then, dearest friends, when that is done and the Judgement Day is over - a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness, and the Wedding Day; He yearns for the Wedding Day just as His people do. For this reason the Bible ends on this very note: "Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22, 20).
That leaves the question which you and I must face: How will He deal with us, with His arrows of love or with His sword of death? Everything depends on one thing and that is do we believe in this Christ? Do we recognise Him as the King of kings and Lord of lords? Do we bow the knee to Him and trust Him above all? There is the question to which this mighty statement of truth brings you and me, and the whole world in the end. As we close our meditation on this portion of Scripture, we who believe in Him may have the highest comfort of reassurance that the kingdoms of this world will become, most certainly, the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ and He shall reign for ever and ever. Amen.
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