When I was growing up I loved the story of Robin Hood — I had an oversized green t-shirt that I would wear, with a brown belt around my waist, as I would take my bow & arrows out into the field. Now, we know that Robin Hood was a legend, but like our books of historical fiction today, it was based on some historical facts: that King Richard the Lionhearted had gone off to the Crusades and had been held prisoner on the way back, and his evil brother John took over as king in his absence. Historians tells us that John was very cruel and oppressive, and the people of England longed for the return of their beloved King Richard the Lionheart, which he finally did. The legend of Robin Hood was supposedly set during that “interim” time while the people were suffering under John, and waiting for the return of their King.
Those of us who are alive today are very much like the people of England under the reign of King John. We are living in a world that is oppressive and cruel and sinful in many ways — and we are waiting for our King, King Jesus, to come back to Earth and set us free. Just HOW we wait for Him is vital, as we see in Psalm 110 today:
I. The Victorious King
:1 “The LORD says to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”
Now, who is talking here? The little “subscript” underneath Psalm 110 (which IS part of the inspired scripture) says it is a “Psalm of David.” That is important. It tells us that King David the one who wrote Psalm 110. And so it is King David who says: “The Lord (or literally, with “LORD” in all caps in the Old Testament, it means the Hebrew here is YHWH) says to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make Your enemies a footstool for your feet.’” The immediate question becomes: Who is this that David is speaking about?
In fact, as many of you know, Jesus used this very verse to confound the Jewish religious leaders in Matthew 22. These leaders had been asking Jesus questions and trying to trap Him — and He answered them all with amazing wisdom. And then He turned the tables on them, and He asked THEM a question. He said: “What do you think of the Christ, whose son is He?” And they said, rightly, that He is the Son of David. The Old Testament makes that clear, that the Messiah would be a descendant of David. But then Jesus asked them in :43, “Then how does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying (and here He quotes Psalm 110:1) ‘the Lord said to my Lord, “sit at My right hand until I put Your enemies beneath Your feet”’? Jesus asked them in :45, “If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his son?” And the Bible says that no one was able to answer Him. He totally confounded them with that question regarding this verse.
Well how COULD it be, that David would call his “son,” his descendant, “Lord”? You can’t understand that, unless you know who Jesus is.
— Jesus was indeed “the Son of David”: the Book of Matthew tracks His genealogy, and says He was “the son of David, the son of Abraham.” So He was indeed descended from David.
— But here’s the part they didn’t get: even though He was a descendant, or son, of David’s, He was also David’s LORD because Jesus was not merely a man, but He was also GOD in the flesh. When the angel spoke to Mary in Luke 1:35, he said: “the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.” THAT is why David addressed him Him as “Lord,” because even though He was His descendant in the flesh, He was also His Lord & God who was clothed in that human flesh. So here we see some important doctrine about Jesus spelled out: that He was 100% man (a descendant of David in the flesh) but He was also 100% GOD, whom David would call “Lord.”
And so what did God say to David’s Lord? Verse 1 says He said to Him: “Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” Maybe you have heard that expression before, or heard it quoted in the Bible, or sung in a song — but what does it mean, when it says “your enemies will be a footstool for Your feet”?
“Making your enemies a footstool for your feet” is an expression which pictures total victory. It comes from the ancient Middle Eastern practice, of when a king defeated an enemy, he would have them come and bow down before him, and he would literally put his feet on their neck, as a sign of total humiliation for the enemy, and of total victory for the king.
We have a picture of some ancient art which is currently in the British Museum in London. This shows the ancient Assyrian King, Tiglath Pilezer (who is actually mentioned in the Bible) and Tiglath Pilezer has just defeated an enemy, and as you can see there, he has his foot right on his neck.
He is basically using his enemy there as an “ottoman,” or a footrest. It is a picture of total victory for the king, and total humiliation for his enemy.
So God is saying to Jesus here, this is how all of Your enemies are going to be. Jesus, you totally obeyed Me in everything; “You are My Beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.” You did My will and not Your own. You endured death on the cross, You bore the sins of the world in Your body; You have risen from the dead — now come and ascend on high, and “sit at My right hand until I make all Your enemies a footstool for Your feet” — in other words, come and wait with Me in heaven until every enemy of Yours is totally defeated and humiliated, and You are totally exalted.
It is just like Philippians 2 says:
“Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Jesus is our Victorious King: every enemy will be put under His feet. Everyone who serves Him will glory in Him as their magnificent King — and everyone who has opposed Him will be absolutely humiliated. He is our Victorious King!
II. The Interim Time
Now, someone may say, “Well, that sounds good and all — but that’s not really the world I see right now.” For Jesus to have supposedly “won the victory,” it sure looks messed up out there right now! I mean, look at our world — especially this spring of 2020:
— We’re just beginning to come out from under the COVID-19 shutdown; over 100,000 people have reportedly been killed by this virus, in the United States alone. And evidently, cases are continuing to increase.
— But for the past couple of weeks, COVID-19 lost the headlines to racial unrest, as brutality and injustice and man’s inhumanity to man has taken front stage.
— That’s not to mention abortion — still killing almost a million babies in their mother’s wombs every year in America
— And Cancer, which will take 600,000 lives every year in America alone: that’s SIX COVID-19 crises deaths put together, every year.
— And that’s not to speak of of the myriad of personal problems people face; marriages and families suffering and being destroyed.
— Christians in many places in the world are being imprisoned, and even put to death for their faith — like my pastor friend Sanjay in India that I mentioned Wednesday: last week two of his associates were killed by Hindu extremists and hacked to pieces.
With all this going on, it sure doesn’t “look” like everything is subjected under Jesus’ feet!
If you’ve ever thought something like that, don’t worry; that is a legitimate question. And actually, the New Testament basically addresses that very same question: After Hebrews 1 and 2 opens that book by talking about the superiority and the glory of Christ, and concludes by saying in 2:8 “You have put all things in subjection under His feet.” Then :9 interrupts, as it were, and says, “But now we do not yet see all things subjected to Him.” What’s going on with that? Why don’t we see all things subjected to Him?
The answer is to look at a key word here in Psalm 110:1, the word “until.” God tells Jesus here to sit at His right hand and wait “until” He makes His enemies a footstool for His feet. “Until” means that there is an interim time that is taking place between the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus to the right hand of the Father, “until” all of His enemies are subjected underneath His feet.
So we are living right now in this “interim” time; in this “until” time; waiting for Jesus to return and set all things right, and put all His enemies underneath His feet. It is striking, if you look at the New Testament, how many times it uses the word “until.” Jesus is waiting in Heaven “until” all things are subjected to Him. We are to persevere in our faith and wait “until” He returns. All creation is groaning “until” the restoration. There is a lot of “until” in the New Testament.
But it is our Christian hope that the end of those “untils” WILL happen. We don’t see it right now; but we believe it WILL happen. That’s what faith IS. Faith is not believing because we SEE it right now; faith is believing because God has promised it. So even when we DON’T see it, because God said it, we believe with all our hearts that it WILL happen.
It’s like the old Christmas hymn:
“I heard the bells on Christmas Day, their old familiar carols play, and mild and sweet, the words repeat of peace on earth, good will to men.”
But then the author wrote a verse that isn’t included in a lot of our hymnals:
“Then from each black, accursed mouth, the cannon thundered in the South, And with the sound The carols drowned Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Why would he write that? As many of you know, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote this hymn, in 1863, at the peak of the Civil War, a war that pitted North against South, brother against brother, friend against friend. It was the bloodiest war in American history, as strategy and tactics hadn’t caught up with the technology of the new rifles and cannon, and lines of men would just stand there and blow each other to bits. Bruce Catton tells the story of how after one battle, it appeared that the field was alive, because so many wounded and dying men were slowly moving all over the field. Over 600,000 men were killed in that war, and millions more suffered. Whole swaths of our country’s homes, businesses and farms were burned to the ground and devastated.
So it was with this horrific Civil War on his mind in 1863 that Longfellow would write what WOULD be a familiar verse to many of us:
“Then in despair I bowed my head; there is no peace on earth, I said. For hate is strong, and and mocks the song of ‘peace on earth, good will to men’.”
Like many of us, Longfellow was saying, I’m looking around in our world, and I am not seeing “peace on earth;” I’m not seeing “all things put in subjection under His feet.”
But then the song concludes:
“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men.”
Longfellow was saying, THIS is our Christian faith: that YES we see a lot of “messed up” things in our world right now. Those things are a result of man’s sin. We have brought so much upon ourselves and brought a curse on our world by disobeying God’s word. But that is also why Jesus came to die on the cross, so that whoever would turn from their sin and give their life to Him will be saved out of this world, and be brought to heaven to live with Him. And one day, Jesus will return, and establish a new Heaven, and a new Earth, and restore the “Paradise Lost” by our sin. That is our Christian faith.
Yes, things are “messed up” in our world right now — and Jesus prophesied about the end times and He said it is going to get even WORSE before He returns. We shouldn’t be surprised to hear of sickness, and death, and suffering. We shouldn’t expect this world to be a “Paradise” right now. It is not. This is not yet the end. God’s full plan has not unfolded yet. We are living in the “interim;” we are living in a “parenthesis”; we are living in the “until” time. Jesus is waiting right now at the Father’s right hand, “until” the Gospel is preached to all the world, and “until” everyone who will receive it will be saved. And THEN, Jesus said, the end will come.
But right now, we have to realize that we are in the “until” time. We are waiting:
— “until” the last days are over
— “until” the return of the Lord
— “until” He takes us up to be with Him
— “until” He brings us to His glorious Kingdom
— “until” every enemy is put under His feet,
— and “until” every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!
“UNTIL”! We are waiting right now … UNTIL!
III. The Willing Servants
So what do we do during this interim, “until” time? Just sit around and wait “until”? NO! That is exactly what we are NOT to do! As servants of our Heavenly King, we are to be busy about His Kingdom business.
This is why I love :3 here, which says to the Messiah, Jesus: “Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power.” Now, you may notice that different Bible versions translate this verse just a bit differently, but they all convey the same basic idea.
The Hebrew here is literally “ameca” (“your people”) are a “nedabah,” (“freewill offering”). “Your people are a freewill offering.”
A freewill offering is an Old Testament offering that they weren’t “required” to give at a certain time, like many of the other offerings were. It wasn’t a tithe, that you were required to give, or a offering for uncleanness, that was mandatory on certain occasions. The “freewill offering” was entirely voluntary. You just gave a freewill offering whenever your heart moved you. In fact Exodus 35:29 says that “everyone whose heart moved them” brought the freewill offering to the Lord.
So here in Psalm 110, it says that the Messiah’s people will be a “freewill offering” for our king. We will surrender our lives to Him, and serve Him freely, voluntarily, because He is our glorious, victorious King. Like Romans 12:1 says, because of the the great mercies He’s shown us, by dying on the cross for us, we will offer ourselves “a living and holy sacrifice” to Him. But we are doing it voluntarily. We are VOLUNTEERING to give ourselves, our lives, our bodies, our time, our service, as a “freewill” sacrifice for our King and His kingdom. We are voluntarily giving ourselves.
Years ago when I was a young pastor, I read a story about a church that passed the offering plate one Sunday morning, and when the ushers counted up what was given, they found that someone had put a scrap of paper in the plate, on which they had written the words, “I give myself.”
“I give myself.” That is what we are to be doing as the people of God, while we are waiting for our King. We are to give ourselves. We are to volunteer freely to do the Lord’s business. We aren’t serving God because anyone is “making” us do it; we aren’t doing it for any other person: for the pastor, or for other people — if we’re doing it for them, we’ll soon get frustrated and we’ll be tempted to quit. But we need to remember we are “volunteering freely;” we are giving ourselves for our KING.
In fact, one of the THE greatest signs that God working is in a church, is when His people are willing to serve.
This week I immediately think of what happened with our outreach to Country Village. Deb Peterson told me it could cost hundreds to a thousand dollars or more to provide a meal for about 100 employees there — it’s a BIG assignment. I said, “Well, this is an outreach, and thank God we have the money; we’ll spend whatever we need to.” She said, “Ok, well let’s just see how much we can get from contributions, and then we’ll buy whatever we need.” Now, this was a whole PILE of stuff we needed: pounds and pounds of meat, lasagne noodles, green beans, cookies — and ALL of it was raised in about TWENTY FOUR HOURS!
THAT is what this is talking about: When God is working; His people step up and serve. It is the sign of place where God is working. (And conversely, one of the WORST signs of a dying church, is when people are NOT willing to serve. Because as Psalm 110 says here: when God is working, “His people volunteer freely in the day of His power.”
What about you? What are you doing in this interim time, while we are waiting for our King? Are you “volunteering freely” for your King — or are you just “hunkering down” and waiting for the end? Jesus said His servants are to be about His business until He returns.
I often think of the verse in Matthew 24:45-46, which Jesus shared after He spoke about the end times. He said: “Who then is the faithful and sensible servant whom his master put in charge of his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his Master finds so doing when He comes.” As a pastor, I want to be found doing what God has called me to do — giving His household their spiritual food — when He comes. One day perhaps I’ll retire from “full time ministry,” and going in to the office every day. But I don’t ever plan to “retire” from sharing God’s word. I want to be found serving my Master, by giving His spiritual food to His servants, when He comes.
I just read about John Quincy Adams, who served a term as President of the United States, but like his father John, he was defeated for his second term. Everyone thought his life of public service was over — retired Presidents just didn’t go back and run for anything else. But John Quincy Adams had such a spirit of public service, that he offered to go back to Congress as a Representative from Massachusetts — a “demotion” in the eyes of many. But he just wanted to serve. And serve he did: he was elected NINE times to the House of Representatives, and served for 18 years, until one day, at the age of 80, he collapsed on the floor of the House where he had served all those years, and soon passed away. He served faithfully until the end.
THAT is what we are supposed to do during this “interim” time: we are to be faithfully serving our King, until He returns. Are you doing that?
— Maybe you would say that you have not really been serving God in any meaningful way, but today God is calling you to rise up and serve Him in His church because He is your King.
— Or maybe He’s calling you to remain faithful in what you are doing right now. Listen, I know, ministry can be discouraging; but don’t quit. Be determined that you are going to be found faithfully serving Him when He returns. Remember what Jesus said: ‘Blessed is that slave, whom His Master finds so doing when He comes.’
In 1940 the German “blitzkrieg” overran France, and they became the captives of the German Third Reich. It would be almost 5 years “until” most of them would be freed from their enemy. During that interim time, there were basically two kinds of responses to the German captivity:
— there were the “Vichy French,” who basically went along with the Germans and served them.
—and then there were the “Free French,” who went underground and fought the Germans tooth and nail, with everything they had, until the Allies came and set them free.
ALL of the French people were waiting “until” they were delivered from the Germans. But there were two entirely different ways of waiting: give in and cooperate with the enemy; or continue to serve until freedom returned.
That picture of “Vichy France” is very much like our world today. Our world right now is in an “interim” time. We are waiting “until.” Things are NOT how they are going to be one day. Right now in many places in our world, it seems like Satan’s powers have the upper hand.
So what do we do? Just like the French in World War II, we are waiting to be delivered. But also just like them, we can have one of two responses:
— we can either “go along” with the world and compromise with the enemy
— or like the “Free French,” we can FIGHT, for God’s Kingdom!
God says, My people will “volunteer freely” in the day of My power. They will serve Me, even when “we do not yet see” Christ enthroned. But we will “volunteer freely”:
— “UNTIL” He comes;
— “until” all things are subjected under His feet,
— and “until” every knee bows, and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord!
THAT is how we want to be found “waiting for our King”!