Lent 4

Preached: March 30, 2014

The Lord Will Crush the Mighty
Psalm 110:5, 6

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. These verses from Psalm 110 speak to our High Priest, Jesus Christ.

“The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath. He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.” (Psalm 110:5, 6 NIV84).

This is the word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

In the late 19th century, Lord Acton wrote, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” We don’t need to look far to see the evidence of power corrupting, do we? Political scandals regularly cross the headlines. The scandalous lives of many Hollywood stars show the corrupting power of money and fame. How many business leaders climb the corporate ladder pursuing ambition at any cost rather than love for neighbor?

Yet even as we criticize the abuse of power among the mighty of this world, isn’t there a part of us that longs to wield a little more power for ourselves and our own families? We don’t think of dominating others, but we lust for power nonetheless. The power of wealth tempts us to think: “If we had a little bit more money, then we wouldn’t have so many worries. Our future would be more secure.” We feel the power of status, imagining: “If I had a better job, a newer vehicle, a bigger house, or fancier clothes and jewelry, others would respect me more,” or when we get those things: “People can see that I’ve made it in life.” We feel the power of social connections, surmising: “If I do the right person a good turn, it’ll pay off down the road.”

None of these make the headlines as scandals. None of them directly harms anyone else. In fact, many will argue that that’s just the way the world works. That’s the way to make it through life. But all of them betray a lack of trust in God. They pursue what the power of money, status, or friends appear to bring. Where do you turn for strength and hope? To those various avenues of power or to your Lord?

The pursuit of power, money, and fame may not consume you or me as it does many of the mighty in this world. But how much trust in power, money, or influence does it take before we’re not trusting the Lord alone? How condemning that word “alone” is! It convicts each of us of spreading out our trust, as if the Lord might not come through. We have failed to trust him alone.

What comfort that Jesus came to serve and has given his life as a ransom for sinners, even for you and me! He served as the faithful priest who stood between the holy God and us sinners, who have fallen short in our trust. He sacrificed himself to redeem the world—you, me, everyone. That’s the ransom he paid for you. That’s the ransom that frees you from the pursuit of power and frees you from the divine death knell of hell. You are forgiven.

How our new hearts long to trust Jesus alone! You see his great love for you measured in his holy, precious blood. You hear the Good News of sins paid for and your spirit rejoices in Jesus. How we long to trust him alone!

But the fears of this life and the triumphs of the mighty on this earth attack that trust. Nevertheless take heart, dear Christian friend. Your crucified Redeemer is your risen Savior. He is at the right hand of the Lord God. The Father will crush all of his enemies. Yes, the Lord will crush the mighty. So do not fear them, no matter how they rage and storm. The Lord will crush the mighty. Patiently endure for that day is coming. Rest securely for his judgment will be complete.

A. Patiently endure, for that day is coming

In the context of the Psalm 110, these words are addressed to our Savior: “The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath” (Psalm 110:5 NIV84)

The mighty of this world are called kings. Kings were not usurpers or coup d’état leaders. They were the legitimate rulers. How often the legitimate powers of the state work against the Lord and his people?

What a challenge for you and me, dear Christians! We know that the Lord has showered us with many blessings through our government. Look at how we can live in peace and security and carry on our daily business and livelihood. We know that we are to be subject to the governing authority because God himself has placed it over us. We are to obey all the laws that aren’t contrary to God’s commands. And yet we also see many things about our government and country that aren’t right, many things that try to hinder God’s truth.

Look at what the government did to Jesus in his day. He wasn’t a victim of mob violence. Rather it was the legitimate authorities that tried and convicted him. First, the legitimate authority of the Jewish Sanhedrin led by the Annas and Caiaphus. Then they brought him before Pontius Pilate, the legitimate Roman governor. He was executed under the law like a criminal. As he endured such so-called justice for us, did Jesus recall the words of this Psalm for strength? “The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath” (Psalm 110:5 NIV84)

What about us? At this point in history, we can still work for improvements in government, even though no election and no law will truly fix government in this fallen world. But when you face opposition for doing the right thing, especially when that opposition comes from the legitimate powers that be, whether at work, school, or in the community, remember the day is coming when this world will end, the day of God’s wrath. He will crush the mighty who have opposed him and oppressed his people, no matter how powerful or how legitimate their time in power was. That day will come, when God brings this present world to an end.

Until then, dear Christian, patiently endure. When the evil powers of this world appear to be in control, don’t feel that you need to snatch at some sort of power to counter them and keep yourself and loved ones safe. There time will come. And until then, the Lord God is in control. All things are in the hands that nails pierced for you. Human eyes cannot see that now, but the day is coming when all will. Until then, patiently endure. The Lord will crush the mighty.

And as you patiently endure, rest securely for his judgment will be complete.

B. Rest securely, for his judgment will be complete

The Psalm says, “He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth” (Psalm 110:6 NIV84). No one can escape or hide from him. Even if they call out to the mountains, “Fall on us,” and to the hills, “Cover us,” they will not escape his judgment. No amount of wealth can buy him off. No show of power can dissuade him. No network of friends can influence him. The Lord God will judge the nations through the man he appointed, Jesus Christ.

But rest securely in Jesus’ wounds, dear friend. No wealth, power, or influence can bring you there. Only God’s grace, his undeserved kindness, carries you and me into his wounds. He showered his grace on you through the Good News brought to you in Baptism: “You’ve been reborn as a child of the heavenly Father. The blood of the Son has washed you clean. The Holy Spirit has given you new life.” He proclaims his grace to us through the Good News revealed in the Scriptures: “The Lamb of God takes away your sins.” We taste his grace in the Lord’s Supper, as Jesus says, “You are forgiven. Here is my body that was sacrificed for you. Here is my blood that was poured out for you. Rest securely in my wounds.”

No matter what happens in this life, no matter how the nations rage, rest securely in Jesus’ wounds. To the world wounds are weakness, but our Savior’s wounds confess the power of his love. Rest securely in his wounds. There your sins are covered. There real power protects you. There you will stand triumphant at the judgment. And there you are the Lord’s forever, ransomed by his blood to be his very own.

Power tends to corrupt. In fact, even the desire for earthly power corrupts. But what power in Jesus’ wounds! There you are safe. The Lord will shatter the mighty. They cannot stand before him by their power. Although they rage, patiently endure, for that day when they are called to account is coming. Until then patiently endure, for Jesus’ nail-pierced hands hold you. The Lord will shatter the mighty. None will escape. His judgment will be complete. But you, dear Christian, rest securely in Jesus’ wounds. Amen.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313