5/28/2016 May 5, 2016 Ascension of Our Lord Revised from 5/13/2010
“On His Holy Throne” Psalm 47
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I Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy! 2 For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth. 3 He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet. 4 He chose our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah 5 God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet. 6 Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! 7 For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! 8 God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne. 9 The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted! Psalms 47:1-9 (ESV)
The historical occasion of Psalm 47 is this – a victory over Judah’s enemies, which we read in 2 Chronicles 20. Judah’s neighbors had allied against her – the Moabites, the Ammonites, and others – a great multitude. King Jehoshaphat was afraid and proclaimed a fast throughout Judah. Jehoshaphat set his face to seek the LORD. He prayed, “O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.”
God’s Spirit came upon a Levite named Jahaziel to speak God’s Word. “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow go down against them…you will not need to fight this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf.” This is an echo of God’s Word to Israel at the Red Sea as they saw Pharaoh’s chariots racing behind them: “fear not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD which He will work for you this day.”
In the case of Judah and Jehoshaphat, God caused the enemies to destroy one another. Psalm 47 is a celebration by God’s people that YHWH had won victory for them. The central verse, the key idea: “God has gone up with a shout, YHWH with the sound of a trumpet.” The shout was the people’s shout of victory and the sound of the trumpet – the ram’s horn – was also a signal announcing victory.
For God to go up, to ascend, means He had previously come down. In both 2 Chronicles and Psalm 47 God had come down or showed His presence in fighting for His people. He destroyed their enemies. Therefore they praise Him and He ascends to His throne of glory. The result is not just relief for Judah, but the victory is intended so that people all over the world will know YHWH and trust Him.
This Psalm we are able to see with New Testament eyes. We see its final fulfillment as a song about Jesus. He came down to fight the battle for us. He fought the enemies that crowd against us: death and the devil, the sinful world, and our sinful nature.
All we need do is “fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of YHWH.” But how often do we think we must be in control of our lives. We have to do it all. We must have it our own way. It is hard for us to realize this battle is beyond us. Yet our Lord Jesus has done all the fighting for us. He battled our sinful nature as He perfectly obeyed all the Commandments for us. He warred against the sinful world. He did not give in to its pressures and patiently endured all the suffering it heaped upon Him. He defeated the power of death and the devil by dying with our sins and rising from the tomb with new life. Jesus has done all the fighting for us, and then He went up – ascended to His throne of glory to reign with His Father in heaven.
In speaking of the victory for Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah, one writer said God came down and was on His throne of justice as He defeated the enemies. Then God ascended to His heavenly throne of mercy – as the ark of the covenant – the earthly mercy seat – was carried back to its place in the Temple.
I’m not sure I fully understand that writer’s separation of the throne of justice from the throne of mercy and the throne of glory. If we think in terms of Christ Jesus, His justice and mercy and glory are always combined: from His heavenly throne – coming down to the manger – to the cross – to the open tomb – and back to His heavenly throne. In each of these places – these thrones – He was working His justice to pay the price of our sins, His mercy to achieve our salvation, and His glory in being LORD of all.
Do you know the change, the difference from when He left heaven’s throne to when He returned to it? He left heaven’s throne as true God – He returned as true God AND true Man, our Brother. He left heaven’s throne as spirit – He returns as spirit AND body, a body marked with the evidence of His sacrifice – the prints of the nails and the spear – now eternal evidence of His love for you and me.
But just like the events celebrated in Psalm 47, He came down to save His people and He ascends amid a celebration of victory. One day, the Last Day of this old world and the first Day of the new heaven and new earth, His holy throne will come down to be among us forever.
Until that day, He comes down to us in His Word and His Sacrament – His true body and true blood – to share His victory with us. And once again we sing praise for His victory – because it is now our victory over sin, death, and the power of the devil.
5 God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet. 6 Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! 7 For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! 8 God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.