In this sermon today I’m attempting three things: 1) to conclude our mini-series in Psalm 45; 2) to prepare us for the fellowship and remembrance of the Lord’s Supper; 3) to be brief.
In the first sermon launched by Psalm 45, we discussed the great, good thing that marital love is. And last week we set Psalm 45 in the context of the whole Bible. We said that the marriage of the King of Israel that Psalm 45 celebrates is a thing in itself, but also points to the Great Uniting of the Ultimate King of Israel and…well, everything.
Yes, Jesus, the Son of David, the last and eternal King of Israel, is the One to whom this psalm ultimately points. We know this to be the case because the writer of Hebrews quotes from Psalm 45 in setting out the superiority of Jesus. This psalm refers to Jesus when it says your throne is forever and ever.
While the Old Testament saints were told that the reign of the house of David would continue forever, it’s not until the New Testament that we learn that it will continue because Jesus, the descendant of David, has been raised up into an everlasting life.
Allow me to reiterate: Psalm 45 is a royal psalm and a wedding psalm that was most likely hauled out every time a royal son of David was married. It describes the bride and groom – whoever they were that time – in stylized, that is, idealistic, hyperbolic, visionary language. But it always pointed to a coming son of David, King of Israel who in His Person and deeds would fully fill out this description of the King.
(And thus the Church can rightly apply to herself the charge to the bride.)
After laying out that principle of interpretation, I’d like to quickly spend time looking at a couple of lines in Psalm 45 that summarize what the king of Israel was supposed to be all about…what Jesus the Son of David is all about. Psalm 45, 4a:
In your majesty ride out victoriously
for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness
Our Lord Jesus Christ rides out victoriously – He is not a victim but a victor! The victory is not still in front of Him to be secured… but in back of Him – to ride out victoriously in your majesty is to parade what has already been accomplished.
And the cause He campaigned for is the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness.
Those three words summarize what King Jesus fought for, what He lived and died for: truth, meekness, righteousness.
If we’re to understand King Jesus these three words help us crack the code of what Jesus was all about.
His cause is truth.
What this means most basically is that Jesus Himself did not lie or employ any type of falsehood. And there are a lot of types of falsehood: Flattery. Over-emphasizing something at the cost of something else that also needs attention. Under-emphasizing. Suggestingsomething to be there that actually isn’t there. Pretending to be someone He’s not. Omitting. Concealing. Distorting reality. Posturing. Feigned sincerity or feigned interest. Cover-up.
No, Jesus told the truth and nothing but the truth. He rides out in the cause of truth. In one of his letters Peter – the one who spent three years in his company – said “no deceit was found in Him.” An amazing testimony, really.
But more than that. He Himself is the Truth, that is, the center of what God is actually doing in the world.
There are a lot of false reports out there about what is real, what is true. For instance: this planet emerged from some random, impersonal process. Everything is evolving, is in a state of flux, and nothing is fixed – (including so-called “facts” of biology). There’s nothing special about man; like everything else he’s a clump of atoms that have clustered together accidentally. The planet is in danger of being destroyed by the activity of man or chaos. Religion is a made-up construction that some people need as a crutch. All religions are basically the same. Whoever it was in this collection we call the “Old Testament” that spoke for a made-up God and said that there’s such things as sin and atonement for sins and forgiveness and restoration of a person and the world has been proven to be untrue. Whatever covenants God was said to have entered into with certain persons that were supposed to eventually solve the problems of the world has all been shown to be irrelevant.
All these and a million more untruths about the fundamental nature of reality. But – here’s the point – we know they are untrue because of Jesus. Not simply because He said they weren’t true but because He Himself is the truth of what God has done, is doing, and will do in the world.
He is the Personal Creator and it’s His fingerprints that are all over the creation. What He has done cannot be undone – the pillars of the earth stand fast because He made them sturdy by His steadying word.
All of the nations, the whole planet, the entire cosmos He stands to inherit: nothing will keep Him from them.
The truth of who God is is reflected in Jesus. The truth of what God has set out to do is fulfilled in Jesus. In Jesus Himself the apostles came to learn that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.
From Jesus we don’t simply learn the truth about atonement and restoration – salvation. But Jesus Himself, that Man, that embodied God, becomes salvation in His life and death and Resurrection.
So, Jesus doesn’t simply “ride out victoriously” to tell the truth; He Himself is the truth. By which I mean: He creates true reality, maintains it by His powerful word. He stands over and judges reality according to its adherence to His intentions, and restores it by reconciling it to God through His broken body and shed blood.
Jesus said, “I am…Truth.”
Jesus’ cause is truth…and meekness.
By some accident of language, “meekness” sounds like “weakness” and has come to be understood as “weakness.” But this can’t be – just look at the surrounding lines of this poem – arrows in the hearts of the king’s enemies, sword strapped to thigh, right hand doing awesome deeds.
Meekness isn’t weakness. And neither is meekness simply a kind of personality. Some people aren’t confrontational, they’d prefer not to speak up, they enjoy staying at home or taking quiet walks along the beach. They’re meek, right? Not necessarily.
What is meekness? Meekness is a submissive, eager looking to God and waiting on Him to do what He promised. It’s a decision to look to God and wait for Him to act.
Meekness is one way of living. But there are a lot of other ways of being in this world! You can live by outrage, blaming Trump or those soft liberals or your parents or your boss.
But under the inspiration of the Spirit of King Jesus, James told us to be slow to anger and receive with meekness the implanted word which is able to save your souls.
Yes, instead of irritability, defensiveness, writing people off, grumbling, embitterment, woundedness, outbursts, the spirit of vengeance – one could choose meekness, that is, to focus on the Word, the Word that was implanted in him when he received the Gospel, the word of salvation. Looking to the Word of God and the God of the Word.
Meekness. Meekness strains to look beyond the immediate. Instead of making life all about me – my comfort, my feelings, my agenda, my family, my being taken seriously, my ranking – meekness is like that Zora Hurston book: “Their Eyes Were Looking to God.” Meekness is wary of self and looking to take directions from God.
God, from that Word of salvation implanted in my heart, I know there are big things in play, much bigger than I. You have made promises into this world, for the world. Jesus Christ is at the center of them. Just as He – even He! – was meek, who only did what His Father told Him, may I be meek: May Jesus increase and I decrease.
King Jesus rides out in the cause of Truth – reality that has Him and salvation through Him at the center. King Jesus rides out in the cause of Meekness – a way of being in the world that instead of looking anywhere else, especially to one’s desires and rights, looks to God and waits on Him to unfold His salvation – both in the big picture of the cosmos and the small picture of my life.
And Jesus rides out in the cause of righteousness.
What is righteousness? Living/ existing according to the truth of one’s nature. And what is the truth of one’s nature? It’s the same thing as the intention of the Creator. Trees have their treeness in that God intended them to be trees. Rivers have their riverness according to the design of God. A righteous tree is that which lives up to its treeness, that is, lives up to the intention for which God made it.
King Jesus goes out in the cause of righteousness – in support of the universe being as His Father intended. And because sin has entered the world through man, and sin is a corrupter so that by it, things “miss the mark” of what they were made for, King Jesus goes out not just in support of righteousness but in order to make things right.
Yes, riding out in the cause of “righteousness” includes the idea of in the cause of “putting things to right.”
How did King Jesus put things right? How did God solve the problem of sin through Him? Is Jesus like a housecleaner who came with a “sin vacuum” that sucks up all the transgressions and crookedness of thought and feeling and action that together rendered us as sinful?
No, the problem with the “sin vacuum” concept that so many utopias trade on is that it ignores two realities: 1) our crookedness and transgression – our sinfulness – had become so entangled in our humanity that you couldn’t separate the person from the sin. That’s what is meant by the phrase “total depravity.”
And also, 2) even if our sin could have been sucked away from us, we would still bear the guilt for that sin. We aren’t just sinners; we’re culpable before God for our sin. Legally culpable before the Judge of the Universe. Humans have not just a corruption problem but a legal problem.
So Jesus came not with a sin vacuum. He came with a body of bone and capillaries and flesh. And at Calvary, though He was a Man of truth, a True Man, a meek Man who always looked to God, the righteous Man, the Man God intended when He came up with the idea of humanity – at Calvary the punishment for our guilt was laid on Jesus. And in His bone and brain and capillaries and skin and mind and soul and spirit and heart, the judicial anger of God against sin was poured out – completely down to the dregs.
There is no more judicial anger, condemnation for guilt, after Jesus’ death, His substitutionarydeath. Sin was truly eradicated, not through a “sin vacuum” but by a Perfect Man taking to Himself the punishment for all men’s sins. He did this not with a cleansing tool, but “by Himself.” This being “making total purification for sins.”
Three days later God raised the once and final King of Israel out of the realm of the dead. The corpse that was placed into the tomb is the body that three days later walked out of the tomb.
Well, sort of. It was a body recognizable but also sometimes not recognizable. It was a body that walked through doorways but also that sometimes just appeared in the room. It was “same old” Jesus but also Jesus in a body renewed on its way to being glorified, that had passed beyond death and corruption. Importantly for our point, it was a human body as it was intended to be. Righteous.
And just as the death of Jesus was a substitutionary death for sinners, so the Resurrection of Jesus was a representative resurrection for those who “died” with Jesus. We are in faith united to Him, baptized into both his death and resurrection.
But more than that: His resurrection is called a “firstfruit.” By the same principle of Resurrection, the Man who walked out of the tomb in a body that had passed beyond disease and corruption was the first of many who will follow.
Paul says at the end of Romans 4, when God raised Jesus from the dead we are justified, put to right, rescued from the realm of corruption and guilt that the first Adam had taken us into. In His Resurrection, we are a new person, a new man or woman, a new creation, renewed by the same Spirit of King Jesus. By the resurrection, we have come, in principle, into the humanity that God intended when He made man. Righteous.
But we’re also waiting: we await the final Resurrection when that which is true of our spirits by faith, will be true of our whole selves, bodies included, in fact.
This is what our King, King Jesus, has accomplished. He rides forth victoriously in the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness. By His own submission to His Father, in His body He has made me, the broken man, whole. Really.
And that brings us to the Table of our Lord, where we remember the concreteness of all this. We’re not minds. We’re not saved by thoughts. We’re saved by Jesus, through His body being broken and His blood shed. The physicality of the bread and wine are for us to remember that He appeared and this happened to Him in space and time.
We come to this table knowing that we’ve failed, deeply, in being a human being. This failure to be true human beings, to look to God for direction, to be the creation we’re supposed to be, shows up in our marriages, in our parenting, in our work, in our desires of body and mind.
We don’t have an answer for this either: our resolve to turn a corner, to be really sorry, that it wasn’t totally our fault – it all rings hollow and cheap.
And it doesn’t work for us, after this sermon, to say that we’ll be all about truth, meekness, and righteousness. We’re a string of broken promises.
We have nothing, except for this: we believe in Jesus Christ. In saying that we’re not claiming to be a Christian, or a Baptist or a conservative. We’re not claiming that a certain theology of salvation or justification saves us.
Rather, we take that Man, Jesus! We receive Him, receive Him into ourselves. As it were, we eat His flesh and drink His blood. He is ours. We are His. We’re with Him. We’re in Him! That’s our hope. No, He’s our hope and our salvation! That King who rides out in the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness.
Brothers and sisters, this is the table of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because it is His table, we extend an invitation to every Christian believer, regardless of church membership or affiliation, to join us in this sacred remembrance of the Lord’s death for us and for our salvation.
If the Jesus of Scripture is the One you receive as your Savior, then we would be delighted to celebrate this Communion Meal with you.