“The Superior Sonship of the Son” (Hebrews 1:5-14)
Listen to the Sermon:
When you have your Bibles opened to Hebrews 1:5-14, you may notice that the layout of these verses is slightly different than what comes before this text and what follows this text. Typically, whenever an Old Testament passage or several Old Testament passages are cited in the New Testament which happens all the time. The ESV, along with other English translations, tends to indent the text to draw attention to the facts that the Old Testament here is being cited and you may notice just looking at this text that the entirety of our passage this morning is indented.
Hebrews 1:5-14 contains what we call a katina, or a chain of Old Testament citations. This passage is in fact comprised of seven Old Testament citations which the author of Hebrews links together in a chain in order to powerfully communicate one overarching message. That is that the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, is superior to the angels. He surpasses the angels in every imaginable sense. So, the audience is exhorted, as are we, to look to the Son of God, Jesus Christ, above everything and anyone else. We might be tempted to look for our hope and for our salvation in this world.
So, with that brief orientation to our text in mind, hear now the word of the Lord from Hebrews 1:5-14.
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”? 6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” 7 Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.” 8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” 10 And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11 they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, 12 like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.” 13 And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make
your enemies a footstool for your feet”? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve
for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” Hebrews 1:5-14, ESV
Friends this is the word of the Lord. Well earlier this week I was reflecting on a conversation that I had many years ago with a college student about Jesus Christ. At the time I was fresh out of college myself, I just started a new job my first job out of college working on staff with a college ministry. One evening in the university parking lot I got talking with a friend of a friend about Jesus. The conversation started out one in one area and eventually led to a conversation about the gospel of Jesus Christ and about the person of Jesus Christ.
Now to give you some background, this student that I was speaking with didn’t grow up in the church at all. He didn’t know anything really about the gospel, but he was still interested to hear what Christians believe in a fundamental way about Jesus and about the gospel. Now I don’t remember everything that was said in the course of our conversation, but I do remember at one point he was taken aback when I mentioned to him that while we as Christians believe that Jesus the Son of God is God, very God of very God, as the Nicaean creed says.
Now I can remember after mentioning that he paused there was this confused look on his face, kind of waiting to see what comes next as the wheels, you could see, were kind of spinning in his head. Then finally he asked somewhat puzzled, “but if he’s God’s son, the Son of God, how can he also be God? As we discussed that question further it was clear that his confusion lay in what we mean as Christians when we proclaim that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. As a consequence of that misunderstanding, he assumed that Jesus must have been a really special human being, but really nothing more.
First, he thought that Jesus was someone who was created, and after all that’s what we assume when we refer to someone as someone else’s son. There was a time when I came into existence as my father’s son and there was a time when my son Alistair came into existence as my son. So too this understanding of human relations was in this college student’s mind abstracted into how he viewed the Son of God. He thought the Son was a created someone who then lived an exemplary life. Then, for some reason he couldn’t quite figure out, died on a cross.
We could understand how confusion like that could easily emerge, especially if you didn’t grow up in the church and you weren’t exposed to what the Bible has to say about Jesus and what it means for him to be the Son of God. Ye at the same time this misunderstanding of Jesus isn’t exceptional because it’s always been a temptation down through the ages, and I would imagine it always will be a temptation until Christ comes again, to undervalue and under appraise the biblical confession of who Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is.
Nearly 1700 years ago this happened in a big way when a church leader at the time named Arius made the claim, “there was a time when the Son was not.” Arius claimed, perhaps like some of our neighbors today assume, that the Son of God was a created being. According to Arius and those who followed his teaching, the Son of God may have been the highest of created beings, but he thought the Son of God was created.
Now this position was alarming, and still is, given what the Bible clearly teaches about the Son’s divinity, about his pre-existence, all of which the church up to that point had clearly taught. So, this issue that Arius raised was taken up in 325 A.D. at the council of Nicaea. Arius’s position at the Council of Nicaea was eventually declared to be what it is, a misunderstanding to put it generously, of who the Son of God Jesus Christ is.
Arius’ position at the council was declared to be heretical, that is contrary to what the Bible teaches, about Jesus. When we confess the Nicaean Creed in our congregation, as we often do before the Lord’s supper, well we’re confessing the biblical response of the council to Arius’s teaching. We confess for instance that Jesus Christ is God of God, light of light, very God a very God. Begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father. Yet even 1700 years after the Council of Nicaea, misunderstandings of who Jesus Christ the Son of God is still persists today.
Certain faith traditions claim, like Arius did, that Jesus was simply a great prophet or the greatest of God’s created beings. I’m aware of one of our members who’s actively engaged in evangelistic conversations with people from one of these other faith traditions. Some atheistic scholars who are out there have claimed that Christ’s exalted nature as Son of God was simply the invention of the early church. In popular culture Jesus is often perceived as little more than a meek and mild human figure who gave us some good principles to live by, but not the eternal Son of God who took on human flesh in history, lived a perfect and a sinless life, died a death to atone for the sins of God’s people past, present, and future, and was raised to the right hand of God the Father in power and glory, where he rules and defends his church even today.
Brothers and sisters, there have always been attempts in every age to undervalue or under appraise who Jesus Christ the Son of God is. Yet when we understand the passage before us this morning, we don’t have the option of thinking of Jesus as anything less than the eternal Son of God, equal with the Father in power and in glory. Who always was, who always is, and who always will be, and who therefore demands and deserves our utmost trust? The Jesus we meet in our passage this morning is the Son of God who is the superior sovereign.
That’s our big idea this morning, The Son of God is the superior sovereign.
Now to review, you may remember that what three weeks ago when we studied the first four verses of Hebrews chapter one, we saw in that text that Jesus is the perfect prophet, priest, and king. The three special offices that God appointed for his church in the Old Testament were prophet, priest, and king and all of these three offices come together and coalesce in Jesus Christ who’s the perfect realization of each one of those offices.
In the passage before us, verses 5-14, through the use of seven Old Testament citations our author highlights Jesus’s unique and exalted kingship. That is that Jesus is the unique and exalted superior sovereign. The word sovereign and king, I’m basically using interchangeably but you know sovereign has more alliteration with my big idea, so that’s why I’m going with sovereign rather than king, but it’s the same idea and you get where I’m going.
Now as Americans we don’t tend to think very highly of kings. In fact, we fought a war to get rid of a king, and even today when we think of kings or queens, we tend to think of ceremonial figures who tourists go to visit to reminisce about a bygone era. Jesus Christ runs as a king unlike any other king, any other king at present, any other king in the past, or any other king who God raised up to lead his Old Testament church. In particular we’re going to see in our text that Jesus Christ is the sovereign and divine king whose reign is simply better.
So, four points we’re going to look at as we dive into this text.
1. The Son Possesses an Unparalleled Reign
2. The Son Possesses a Worshiped Reign
3. The Son Possesses a Divine Reign
4. The Son Possesses an Exalted Reign
Yes, there are four points this morning not three, and but I promise that all of them with the exception of the first point are relatively brief. So, that’s where we’re going this morning.
The Son Possesses an Unparalleled Reign
So, first, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, possesses an unparalleled reign. So, let’s return to the question that I raised in an introduction, that is what do the Scriptures mean when they claim, as they do quite often that Jesus Christ is the Son or more fully the Son of God? What are the Scriptures getting at when they make that claim?
Well first there is a clear association in the Scriptures between Jesus’s sonship, that is his being Son of God, and his divinity. In other words when we consider and ask ourselves what it means for Jesus to be the Son of God, well we should rightly think about how Jesus Christ is divine. We should think about how he shares the same attributes as God the Father, and we’ll get into that a little bit later in our text. We should think about how he’s equal with the Father in power and in glory. Also, about how he didn’t come into existence when he became incarnate and took on human flesh but has eternally existed from the Father and throughout the New Testament.
This title Son of God that we encounter, as it’s applied to Jesus, often points in this direction. It points to his eternal generation, his divine status from the Father. Let me give you a few examples.
First example is when Jesus, in Matthew 14:33, walks on water, as he does in all the synoptics gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke. We read when the disciples see this and they see how Jesus has such command over the wind and the seas, first of all they worshiped him, which you know you don’t worship as an Orthodox Jew somebody who you don’t think is God. That’s the first issue. Then they declare, “truly you are the Son of God.” Now clearly Jesus’s disciples in that text recognize that Jesus shares the authority that God alone possesses and when they call him the Son of God in that context, they’re clearly recognizing he’s his eternal and his pre-existent sonship.
Similarly, in John’s gospel, and this would be John chapter 5, we read an account where Jesus’ opponents are furious with Jesus simply because he said, “God my father”, and he implicitly referred to himself as the Son. We read in John 5:18 quote
18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only
was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
John 5:18, ESV
You see they understood that for Jesus to be called the Son or the Son of God implied his divinity, implied his pre-existence, implied that he was equal with the Father in all power and glory. If you recall we saw this same understanding of Jesus’s sonship in the opening verses of in Hebrews 1:2. We learned that through the Son, God created the world. In Hebrews 1:3 we read that the Son is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature. In the same verse we read that the Son with the Father upholds the universe by the word of his power. God’s works of providence in that case were applied to the Son. Therefore, for Jesus to be the Son or the Son of God very much points to his divinity to his pre-existence, to his being equal with God in every way.
Yet there’s also another sense that we encounter in the Scriptures when we read that Jesus is the Son of God. Let me explain, understand that throughout the Old Testament scriptures we discover this title of Son or Son of God or sometimes actually plural, when applied to the angels Sons of God, is applied broadly to various other figures that we meet in the Old Testament. Adam for example, is called Son of God, Luke’s gospel actually calls him Son of God. Israel collectively is referred to as God’s son on a number of occasions, by virtue of being the chosen people, Isaiah 11:1 mentions that. The Davidic king, that is the king who sat on David’s throne in Jerusalem beginning with David and ruled over the nation of Israel, is often referred to in the Old Testament as being God’s son.
Now in none of those applications is it implied or thought that these various other figures, whether it be angels or Adam or Israel or David, are divine like Jesus is divine. Not in the slightest, instead sonship terminology in that sense is used in order to draw attention to the special covenantal relationship that God entered into with all of these other figures. This is important background when trying to fill out a fuller picture, not only in light of the New Testament but also in particular in light of this Scripture when we read that Jesus is the Son of God.
While in one important sense Jesus is the divine Son. He has always been the Son of God and no one who has ever lived could be or would be the Son of God in the sense that Jesus is. In another sense Jesus’s sonship takes on another dimension when in his incarnate ministry, that is in his 33 years that he lived on earth, he fulfilled everything that Adam, Israel, David, and the Davidic kings who followed should have been but failed to be.
Reformed theologian Michael Horton, to whom I’m indebted to some of these observations, summarizes matters like this, “Jesus Christ is the Son of God in two senses. First as the eternally generated word of the Father, in other words he’s a pre-existent, he’s the divine Son of God. In another sense as the true image bearer the faithful son of Adam and the loyal firstborn son that Israel was intended to be.”
So, Jesus’s sonship then ultimately points in two directions, when we confess that Jesus is the Son of God we’re saying, whether we realize it or not, two things that we need to hold up equally. First, we’re claiming that Jesus is divine, that he’s the second person of the Godhead. Secondly, we’re also saying that he’s the perfect fulfillment and embodiment of everything that Adam, Israel, and David should have been but failed to be and to live up to through their disobedience and sin. While they were disobedient Jesus Christ was obedient and therefore became the better Adam, the better David, and the true realization of everything that Israel should have been.
So, why do I labor to tell you all this stuff about the Son of God? Well because this is important background to help us understand what’s going on in verse 5 in our passage. Again, in Hebrews 1:5 we read,
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”?
Hebrews 1:5, ESV
In this verse, and your Bibles might have it split up this way, there’s actually two passages Old Testament passages that are being cited here. If you a have a Bible with footnotes it might draw attention to these two passages, but if not they are Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14. If we were to go back into the Old Testament and explore the context of those passages, we would see that both are immediately applied to the Davidic king, that is the king in Jerusalem who reigned and ruled and all the kings that descended from David ever since him.
For example, in 2 Samuel 7, which is the very first passage that we have cited in verse 5 where it says, “I will be to him a father and he shall be to me a son”, this is 2 Samuel 7. In 2 Samuel 7 we read a story where King David, who’s ruling and reigning in Jerusalem during that time, he expresses a desire one night in prayer he wants to build a house for God.
You see up to this point in Israel’s history God dwelled symbolically in the tabernacle, which was this mobile tent that they carried around ever since the book of Exodus. David’s sitting in this palace, you can imagine with firm walls and enjoying the luxuries of being the king of Israel, and he says something’s not right here because while I’m in this this grand palace while God’s still in a movable tent.
So, he expresses a desire that he wants to build God a temple a permanent structure in Jerusalem, but when God hears this desire and responds the next day, he responds to David through the prophet Nathan and instructs David not right now. You’re not going to build me a house right now, your son’s going to do. Right now, instead I’m going to issue a promise to you David and here’s the promise, I’m going to build you a house.
Now this is kind of an interplay on the word house here, because God’s not saying I’m going to build you another physical structure, in fact he’s saying I’m going to build for you David a dynasty. God promises David in 2 Samuel 7:12-14 that he would raise up for David a son, one who would build a house in God’s name, who would rule with righteousness over God’s people. To this son God says I’m going to be to him a father and he shall be to me a son.
Now at one level this promise that’s issued in 2 Samuel 7:14 is immediately applied to King Solomon, that’s David’s biological son. On another level, none of the Davidic kings who followed after David and after Solomon, nor David nor Solomon themselves, ever really fit perfectly this promise.
You see in Israel’s history that followed no king who ruled in Jerusalem, no son ruled with a heart that was wholly set on God alone or with the perfect righteousness that God required of his king. None were obedient as they should have been. None were perfectly righteous sons in the sense that God required of his king.
When we turn to the New Testament and we hear it announced, as we so often do, that Jesus is the Son, the Son of God and the Son of David, we have to hear that announcement in the context of this story of Adam, Israel, and the Davidic kings. You see Jesus throughout the New Testament is presented as the perfect Adam, the better David, and the one who sums up everything Israel should have been. When Jesus died, was raised, and exalted to the right hand of the Father in history, well he attained at that point a sonship for us and for our salvation as the new and better David that was manifest for all to see.
This is what the Apostle Paul gets at in another text, Romans 1:3-4, where Paul tells us
3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, Romans 1:3-4, ESV
As one author David Truck puts it, “What Adam, Israel, and David failed to do, namely, to prove their sonship, Jesus has done and marvelously. His resurrection proves to be his coronation.”
This is what this word today, and Jesus’ begetting in verse 5 probably is a reference to. It’s a reference to Christ’s coronation. When once he was exalted in power having accomplished everything that David and Israel failed to do, it was declared to the world that this Jesus Christ was a better king and a better son than David or any Davidic king could have been, better than Adam, better than David.
He was the better son and through his sonship as the Messiah, well friends, we have the privilege of entering into God’s kingdom as his sons, as his adopted sons. Brothers and sisters, one of the remarkable privileges we have as an offshoot of Christ’s sonship, both his divine sonship and his Davidic sonship if you will, is that through Jesus Christ we are graciously brought into an adoptive relationship with the Godhead as sons.
Christ, the eternal Son of God, was declared to be the Son with power through his resurrection. Through the work of this Son, we have been given the privileged status, through grace alone by faith alone, of being called sons of God. As sons we have access to this Heavenly Father through Christ. As sons we have belonging within a new family, within the family of God. Just as an inheritance was often bestowed in the ancient world upon the firstborn son, in the family as sons of God we have an unfading, undefiled, and imperishable inheritance. As Peter puts it in 1 Peter, an inheritance kept in heaven for us by virtue of our adoption through the firstborn son, Jesus Christ.
Now that’s a lot but let me pause on that to give one specific exhortation. That is if you don’t know this Jesus Christ the Son of God, if you don’t trust this exalted and glorified Christ as he’s freely offered to us in the gospel, or if the Christ that you know is the Christ of popular culture, that that meek and mild Jesus who taught us some good wholesome principles to live by and then died a sad and gruesome death and that was about it, the Jesus who’s declared to be the Son of God in power in the Scriptures confront you this morning.
This is the Son friends who possesses an unparalleled reign. He possesses an unparalleled reign in comparison to the angels, and unparalleled reign in comparison to Adam, to Israel, and to the Davidic kings, and an unparalleled reign in comparison to anything or anyone else to whom we might place our trust in in this world. Place not your trust in princes, as the psalmist says, but place your trust in God and his son Jesus Christ our Lord because he is the better king. So that’s our first point, understandably a little bit longer.
The Son Possesses a Worshiped Reign
The second thing we see in this passage about the Son’s better reign, the fact that he’s a better sovereign, is that he also possesses a worshiped reign. In the early church this was probably around 110 A.D. or so when the church was in its infancy, a Roman governor of the day known as Pliny the Younger wrote a letter to the emperor of Rome, who at the time was Emperor Trajan. Pliny writes this letter to Rome and specifically to emperor Trajan in order to offer an account of how he had been dealing with Christians in his region. Christians in this day were persecuted pretty severely under Trajan, and Pliny was a local governor who was responsible for quite a lot of persecution.
So one day he writes this letter to Emperor Trajan to ask Trajan, “am I doing things right here? Is there anything else that I need to bear in mind as I persecute and kill Christians, anything else you would have me do differently?” Pliny’s letter, if we would read it in full, is a window into some of the horrible persecution that took place in the early church.
In particular there’s one place in this letter where Pliny tells Trajan what happens, or what he has learned happens when Christians meet as we do to worship God. Pliny had apparently tortured two Christian women and he learned through torturing them what Christians do when they meet together. Pliny tells Trajan quote, “they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsibly a hymn to Christ as to a God, and to bind themselves by oath not to some crime but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so.”
Now that’s about it, there’s not a lot we learn from that letter about worship in the early church through Pliny’s letter alone, but there’s one thing in there if you heard it that’s abundantly clear even to a pagan persecutor like Pliny. That is the church worshiped Jesus and in doing so they simply took their cue from the Scriptures.
Look with me at our text once again in verse 6 where we read,
6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” Hebrews 1:6, ESV
This is the third Old Testament citation in our text that comes out of Deuteronomy 32:43, where in that text the angels of God who are gathered around in the heavenly places, around the throne of God, stand in worship of the Lord. Moses, in that text in Deuteronomy 32, says let the angels of God worship the Lord. Now in Hebrews, though the angels are still the subject, they are now called upon by the Lord himself to worship the Son.
Now in our English translations there are times when commands often called an imperative sometimes get translated more along the lines of an invitation. That’s what we kind of have here in the ESV, where the text says, “let all God’s angels worship him”. Make no mistake about it friends, in the Greek this isn’t an invitation, this is a command. It’s a command from God the Father to the angels to worship God the Son.
God the Father calls upon the angels to worship his Son and we know from elsewhere in Scripture that God does not share his glory with another. That tells us just who this Son is who receives worship from the angels and who receives our worship too. He is again very God of very God, not one who was created and therefore he is the king that we too like the angels are commanded to worship with the Father and the Spirit. The Son is to be worshiped and glorified and we have the privilege every Lord’s day, every time we enter into this assembly, to do just that. To join with the angels, if you will, as they stand around the throne of God in the heavenly places and obey the Father’s command to worship the Son with the angels.
Friends we too worship. We worship Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and it’s our unique privilege to fellowship with the angels in doing so as we gather with them spiritually to bless the Lord God in three persons, the blessed trinity. This command to worship the Son as we’re commanded, as the angels are commanded, didn’t make it clear enough about the kind of king Jesus Christ the Son of God is. Well when we get to the next part of our passage the author pulls no punches when it comes to what he attributes to the Son of God.
The Son Possesses a Divine Reign
So, this leads to the third point where we see that the Son also possesses a divine reign. So, he possesses an unparalleled reign, a worship reign, and now we see that he possesses a divine reign. Again, if it wasn’t clear enough that the king we worship, the king who the Scriptures refer to as the Son of God in two important senses, is also the divine king, well when we skip down to verses 10 through 12, we hear an unambiguous confession of Jesus’s divine reign. In verses 10 through 12 our author cites Psalm 102:25-27 and we read in this text,
10 And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11 they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, 12 like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.” Hebrews 1:10-12, ESV
Now bear in mind again that this is God the Father speaking to God the Son. It’s as if we the church get to hear overhear this conversation happening in the heavenly places between God the Father and God the Son. Kids imagine like my daughter so often does, standing around the corner and secretly listening in while your parents have a conversation. That’s not a perfect illustration, but you get the point. Like a child overhears their parents secretly, we get to overhear the Father speak to the Son.
In the course of that conversation we learn that to the Son belongs attributes such as immutability, that is just as God the Father doesn’t change nor grow old or fade like a garment of clothing, neither does God’s Son. I think we can all attest that we change all the time. Our faith waxes and wanes, our emotions can be quite unpredictable, we grow old only to find more aches and pains, I don’t know this, but I’m told this, and perhaps we even slow down a little bit mentally in the process.
The king we worship, the king who rules and defends us, does not change. Now typically when we think of someone not changing or remaining the same we don’t always view that as a virtue do we? After all we know what it’s like to deal with people who are stuck in their ways not a very positive attribute that we attribute to people. Yet with the Father and the Son who are already perfect in righteousness, in goodness, in justice, in holiness, in truth, and in mercy, well friends we want a God who is stuck in his ways. We need an unchangeable God because he already bears the perfections of his attributes in all of his works. We want a God who will not renege on his promises, a mediator who won’t vacillate in his love towards his people or grow cold towards us.
In Jesus Christ, well we have such a king, we have a king who does not change. Similarly, we also learn in our passage that just as God the Father is eternal, so too is God the Son. Just as the Father has no end, so too the Father says of his Son in verse 12, “and your years will have no end.”
Now the Son may have taken on a flesh in time, and he most certainly did, but in terms of his divine nature there was never a time when the Son was not. Nor will there ever be a time in the future when the Son is not. In fact, theologians make note that when we speak about God’s eternality, that is God being the eternal one, well we have to understand in that that God stands above time, he’s not subject to the wear and tear of time like we are. In fact, he sees everything that’s happened past, everything that’s happening present, and everything that will happen in the future as an eternal now for God, it happens at once from his perspective.
Yet what remains remarkable and at the same time quite humbling is that the Son of God became subject to the realities of time for our salvation. Theologian Mark Jones writes, “the eternal Son of God in need of nothing, knowing all things, possessing all things, entered time so that we might have eternal life.”
He willingly subjected himself to the realities of time in order to give us the gift of eternal life. The one in whom the fullness of deity dwells bodily, as Paul says in Colossians 2, stepped into human history to be our king. Having accomplished his work on our behalf, as the better Son, the better David, the one with two natures, divine nature and human nature, he now reigns in heaven as our exalted king.
The Son Possesses an Exalted Reign
This gets us to the fourth point fourth the Son possesses an exalted reign. So, the final Old Testament citation we come to and this is in verse 13 comes out of Psalm 110. This isn’t the first time that we’ve seen this Psalm alluded to in Hebrews, and neither will it be the last time we hear this Psalm in Hebrews. In fact, Psalm 110 is quoted or alluded to a total of 12 times, by my count, just in Hebrews alone. That’s leaving aside all the other times and places in the New Testament Psalm 110 is cited and applied to Jesus.
We learn through this citation, this final citation of Psalm 110 as its applied to Jesus, in the words of Richard Philips, “where Christ went when he departed this earth in glory and what he’s doing right now.”
So when Christ accomplished his work as the better David, the better son, and he was exalted and raised to the right hand of God the Father on high, what is he doing right now? Well I said it before, and I think I’ll say it again that this image of a king seated upon a throne as Christ is envisioned doing in Psalm 110 is somewhat lost on us, I think given our contemporary setting.
After all, when we think of a king who’s seated upon a throne, perhaps we think of a spoiled and privileged individual lounging in the luxuries of a palace and enjoying the good life while his subjects till the field outside the castle walls. I suppose some of us are tilling the fields right now and we’re thankful for that, but all that being said well that’s not the kind of king that we want in America at least. We want a leader who rolls up his or her sleeves and gets to work, right? We want a leader who’s busy moving from solving one problem to the next. We want a leader who doesn’t stand aloof from his people, but who walks among his people and kisses babies. We don’t want a ruler who stands aloof from us do we?
Well don’t mistake this metaphor in this use of Psalm 110 as if it’s communicating that the Son, who’s our exalted king, is seated far off in a distant place doing virtually nothing. No, not in the slightest. Rather first this text assumes that the Son sits down because he’s already accomplished something big, unlike our leaders who are always moving from one problem to the next to solve and there’s no shortage of problems to be solved. The Son of God sits down because he already completely accomplished everything that needed to be accomplished for us and for our salvation.
In the words of Hebrews 1:3, “he made purification for sins and after making purification for sins then he sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high.” In the words of the gospels when Jesus cries out on the cross it’s finished, his work is finished for our salvation and that’s why he sits down.
When the Son proved to be, in his human nature, the obedient and better Adam, that the second Adam who loved righteousness and hated wickedness, he entered into the heavenly temple through his very own blood and he sat down as the victorious king. The victorious king who’s already conquered on our behalf. Far from remaining aloof from you and me, when he ascended on high, he sent his Spirit, the Spirit of the risen and ascended Christ, to dwell among his church.
Friends we have a God who we can commune with, a God who through his Spirit lifts us as it were into the heavenly places where Christ is seated to commune with the Father in the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
What is the Son engaged in doing right now? Well as our exalted king he possesses all power and authority over his church as he rules and defends us. As verse 14 tells us, he even sends his angels as ministering spirits for our behalf. This metaphor of a Son seated then, far from connoting laziness or inaction, indicates just the opposite, it indicates his authority, his power.
The fact that he sits on a throne with a scepter to rule his kingdom and in his exaltation also lies a promise, a promise that we read in the second part of Psalm 110, a promise that eventually all of Christ’s enemies, that is every kingdom that sets itself up against the Lord and his anointed, all sin and death, and even the devil himself, will one day be a footstool for his feet. Brothers and sisters there are a king who rules a kingdom he possesses and by God’s grace we have been made sons of this king and this Lord and also citizens of this kingdom.
This is not a kingdom without enemies, in fact it’s a kingdom that in the present age suffers from a barrage of forces that can sometimes terrify us. The forces that would seek to render the church irrelevant, forces that would seek to break down the walls of this kingdom and carry her citizens, you and me, into captivity. Yet our security and our hope, we continue to come back to this time and time again, lies in the one who is seated upon the throne.
John Calvin writes, “the promise that Christ shall never be thrust from his seat takes away from us every fear, for he will lay prostrate his enemies.” As we’ve seen throughout this text the one who is seated upon the throne removes every fear from us, every fear that this kingdom could potentially be destroyed, and every thought that this kingdom will not eventually be visible to the world as the glorious and triumphant kingdom at the end of the age.
Brothers and sisters because of the one who is seated upon his throne, we can rest assured that the kingdoms of this world will not endure, but the kingdom of the Lord and of his Christ most certainly will.
So what should we take away from this text? Well I want to leave you with just one short application point today, that is recalibrate what you think of the Son and how you speak of the Son. Recalibrate what you think of the Son and how you speak of the Son.
Now maybe you’re with us this morning like this college student that I had the pleasure of speaking with so many years ago and have always thought of Jesus as this meek and mild human figure and nothing more. You think of him as someone who lived a good life, gave us some good principles to live by, and then for some reason you can’t quite figure out died.
Well if that’s you I hope that you see how this text radically subverts that mold of Jesus, but more than that I also hope that this text convinces you that this Jesus is the one and the only one who is worthy of receiving all of our trust. Jesus, who has the right to call the shots in our own lives both in terms of what we believe and how we live and act. Jesus, who all of us should rightly with the Father and the Spirit worship and glorify.
This is a Jesus who should be honored in all of our thoughts, words, and works. Far from invoking his name as a curse this is a Jesus who our speech should honor. Far from treating Jesus as a wax nose, as so often happens in our culture where we twist and turn without any biblical support to make Jesus a supporter of any conviction that we have on any number of issues, this is a Jesus who we must let shape all of our thoughts and all of our convictions by his word. This Jesus is the divine sovereign and nothing less, who reigns in the heavenly places and who demands, as her citizens, that we trust and worship him.
Friends if Jesus was only a man one who lived a decent moral life and that’s about it, well we’re in a dark and perilous position aren’t we now? Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:17 that if Christ has not been raised, you know your faith is futile and you’re still in your sins. So too, if Christ is just a man then he is, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, either a liar, or a lunatic, but he is not Lord. Then we are a hopeless multitude to even be here this morning because we remain in our sins and there’s nothing left for us.
Thanks be to God none of that’s the case. No, he is the Son of God, a mediator who is both God in flesh and the true and better Adam. He is our all-sufficient divine savior who has secured for us an adoption into the family of God as God’s sons.
Is that the Jesus you believe in this morning? Is that the Jesus to whom you are entrusting your very souls?
Let me pray. Heavenly Father, we thank you for showing us in this text the Son, in all of his majesty and all of his excellencies. We pray Lord that you would continue to shape our minds and hearts according to your word, that we would view you and appraise you Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as nothing less than what you are declared to be in your word. We pray that you would shape us our thoughts by it and you would also shape our beliefs by it as well. Would we not only see the Son as the divine and exalted savior of sinners and see that it’s just a proposition to believe, though of course we should do that, but also something that we actually lay claim to in our own lives. We pray Lord that you would shape us by your word, shape every thought and action that we have of you by it. We pray all this in Christ’s name. Amen.