The First Sunday of Advent November 27, 2005
66, 69, 70, 75
The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein. For He has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters. Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, Who seek Your face. Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory.
Dear fellow-redeemed in Christ Jesus, our glorious King:
Fairly predictably, some time after each presidential election, bumper stickers pop up announcing: “Don’t blame me, I voted for ____________ (the last opponent of the current president.”
In our country, one of our cherished rights is the right to not agree with the current leaders. So it is hard for us to appreciate a system where leaders are not elected by vote. It’s hard to think in terms of having no choice in your leader, and no Congress or Supreme Court to balance the power. It is hard for us to appreciate what it would be like to live under a king.
Most of us, in our civic life, would rather not have a king, because we tend to think of kings in very specific ways. These days, the typical monarch is really a figurehead—an image to rally around, but someone who doesn’t have any real power. The other image we have of a king is that of a tyrant. History has shown us a lot more rotten kings than good ones.
But it is good for us to learn a little about what a king is meant to be, if we are to better understand our Lord Jesus Christ—our King. First of all, a king rules by divine right. The subjects acknowledge that their king, or queen, occupies that position as God’s representative, and with God’s authority. Secondly, a king rules with absolute sovereignty—nobody tells him what to do or overrules his will. Thirdly, a true king is regarded as the country’s champion—a deliverer and protector of his subjects.
With those things in mind, we wish to realize that our Lord Jesus is King and with that knowledge: Prepare for The King! I. Prepare for the King of Creation and II. Prepare for the King of Salvation.
The psalm before us was written about a King, by a king. It calls on us to prepare for the King of Creation. He enjoys the largest realm of all, doesn’t He? “The earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein.” [v.1]
This is God’s earth. We are just the inhabitants and stewards. Every ounce of gold man digs from the earth, every blade of grass you mow, every breath of air you take, have all come from God. The life on this earth—both plant and animal—are wonderfully linked together and live in an ever-fluctuating balance. It is delicate, easily disrupted by natural or human disasters; but it is also resilient, with these systems surprisingly capable of adapting to changes and surviving the many ecological disasters that we see.
God is Lord over the earth. He made man to reflect His glory, by being a rational, moral, and spiritual being. He made man able to tend to this world, like Adam tending to the Garden of Eden. God also made mankind able to appreciate who it is that created it all. As Adam and Eve spoke with the Lord God in the cool of the day, so all mankind was made able to know and relate to God, even though God is invisible and too awesome for our little minds to fully comprehend.
One aspect of God’s incomprehensible glory is the fact, revealed in the Scripture but not explained, that the one true God is three persons—each separate from the other, but each one fully God. Thus the true God is the Father; the Son, who was begotten of the Father from eternity; and the Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son. When God created this world all three persons participated in the creation, for instance, when they deliberated among themselves about the creation of mankind: “Let us make man in our image…” (Genesis 1:26)
The earth is the Lord’s—whatever goes on here is His business and His concern. Job realized that nothing was too small to interest God: “His eye sees every precious thing” (Job 28:10).
The earth is the Lord’s and according to this Psalm, the call goes out to prepare for Him to come to this earth in Judgment. But as this is played out in history, we see another marvelous thing: the Son of God came into this earth in human flesh. “He became incarnate and was made man” (Nicene Creed). God governed the histories of nations and individuals until “the fullness of the time had come” (Galatians 4:4) for Him to send His Son into the world. Every thread of life, every tremor of nature, every rise and fall of nations was woven into this tapestry of the promised Savior.
And then, when that Savior finished His work and rose from the dead, He was given majesty and power over all the earth. Jesus is the Lord and King of all creation, as we sometimes sing: “Beautiful Savior, King of Creation” [TLH 657] God has placed upon Jesus the crown of Lordship over the earth.
But is the earth ready for Him? How can you be ready for someone you do not know. How can you prepare for the advent of One you have put out of mind and blocked from the heart? Some will acknowledge a god, but only in the vaguest terms—a Supreme Being. But they do not “…confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh” (1 John 4:2). Others confess no God at all, but claim He doesn’t exist, or that they really don’t care enough to seek Him. That certainly is no preparation. Still others have returned to primitive, pagan religions and are caught up in Satan’s web. They see no Judgment Day and they look for no coming Lord. How can they be prepared?
The God who rules the world is bigger than any of these views of God. The Psalm tells us “Make the gates bigger.” Prepare for Him who is King over the universe!
Only those can truly prepare for the King of Creation, who also know Him as King of salvation and of the Church. David, who started out talking about God’s majesty over the created earth, suddenly shifts attention to Him as King over a very special institution. But as a part of the people Israel, David spoke of this institution in the images of his day: “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place?” [v.3] On the surface, David is talking about Mt. Zion, the city of Jerusalem, and the temple in which God met with His people Israel. It brought to mind images of Israel’s faithful making their way to the house of the Lord. They met Him there under a covenant that was put into effect by sacrifices from which the blood was used to blot out the sins that would offend such a holy God.
No one would dare to approach such a holy place, a place where God met man and received their vows of worship and obedience, if he was ceremonially unclean—guilty of some sin or defilement, or morally corrupt, harboring wicked thoughts in the heart.
David, however, was referring to something more holy and enduring than the temple which was not yet even built on Mt. Zion. He was foreseeing the New Covenant Church—that invisible body of believers who have made a covenant with the Lord as described in Jeremiah; one in which God himself cleanses man from the inside out: “I will write my Law in their minds and write it on their hearts.” (Jeremiah 31:32)
This is our Advent message: God first sent His Son into the world to redeem it. Now, that Son comes again, to judge it. In between redemption and judgment God had created a Church—a gathering, of saints, namely, people who are holy through faith in Jesus, their Savior. The world does not thrill to the sound of the Lord’s coming, but the Church does. The world will not endure the brightness of the Lord’s appearance, but the Church will shine in it. The world’s unbelieving heart cannot open wide enough to receive the Lord, but the Church lives for nothing less than this: to rejoice that Jesus Christ is Lord. We confess it as our whole substance, we proclaim it as our dearest hope: Jesus Christ will come, and we will be joined to Him for eternity.
Open, O Zion—Open your gates. Raise up the lintels and make the gates wider. Jesus, our Lord, is larger than life itself. He is large enough to carry the guilt of the whole world; He is large enough to carry the burdens of your heart. He is our Champion, powerful and willing to defend His holy Church throughout these days. No heart is too small for Him, if it opens by faith to receive Him, and no one who receives him now by faith will ever have reason to regret Him in the future. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.