What Child Is This?
Christmas, as the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, is a significance-rich season on the Christian calendar.
Unfortunately, it’s also a time of year where possible distractions from that significance abound. There’s a lot going on. Family outings, gift shopping, credit card balances, school plays, vacation getaways, in-law drama, deep-rooted sadness, loneliness, Christmas cards to mail, food to prepare, and phone calls to make.
We need to be intentional and, using God’s Word, cut through some of that noise, recalibrate our hearts and minds to the amazing truths of the incarnation, and set a God-honouring foundation atop we can build a significance-rich Christmas season.
Consider Psalm 110:
The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of your enemies!” Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy splendor, your young men will come to you like dew from the morning’s womb.
The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”
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. He will drink from a brook along the way, and so he will lift his head high.
Psalm 110 is not only the most quoted psalm, but the most quoted OT passage in the entire NT. And it is explicitly messianic, meaning its author, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was looking ahead in time, predicting realities that would ultimately come to fruition in the Christ, the anointed one of God who would deliver his people from bondage.
The King is coming
In the opening three verses, we read that David predicted the coming of a conquering King. David, the then king of Israel, looked ahead to a time when one greater than himself would sit on his throne.
“The Lord says to my Lord.” In your Bible you can probably notice that the first use of LORD is in small caps while the second in not. That’s because it’s two different Hebrew words being translated. The first is Yahweh, the covenant name of God. The second is Adonai, referring to a superior or master. So, David is eavesdropping on a conversation between the God of Israel and another figure that David, the king of Israel, is referring to as his master.
God says to David’s Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” God is inviting him to the place of highest honour, power, privilege—at the right hand of his heavenly throne. But only for a season. Only until his enemies are dominated. And then what?
“The LORD will extend your mighty sceptre from Zion, saying, ‘Rule in the midst of your enemies!’” This King will then leave Yahweh’s side and reign from Jerusalem over his now-powerless enemies. Verse 3 adds that his armies will serve him with vigour and loyalty and his reign will be characterized by “holy majesty.” To say it another way, when this coming King eventually takes his seat in Jerusalem, the kingdom will be marked by the beauty of his perfection.
And so, in these opening verses David is predicting the coming of a conquering King, currently at the right hand of God, whose reign from Jerusalem will be one of power, scope, and glory.
Jesus is that King
You and I know that, hundreds of years after David wrote Psalm 110, this predicted King made his first appearance. Jesus is that King. We know this because the NT says so in many places. Let me give just a few examples.
Peter says this King is Jesus:
Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’
Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah (Acts 2:29–36).
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way (Eph. 1:18–23).
John describes Jesus’ future reign also:
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:11–16).
While he is currently sitting at the right hand of God, Jesus will one day come to earth and set up his kingdom from which he with reign in holy splendour.
Now, take all that power, authority, and glory and picture it not wrapped in the robes of royalty, but in the cloths of a newborn baby. That’s Christmas!
At Christmas, we worship our King
As Christians, that’s one of the facets of our celebration during this season. That, at Christmas, we worship our King. Like the Wise Men from the east, we come before him to offer gifts worthy of the highest of royalty—a King that is currently sitting at the right hand of God and is preparing to return to reign forever. This season is an opportunity for God’s people to remember to worship our King.
For those of us who are believers, our challenge is to approach this season with renewed worship and with anticipation of Christ’s future reign. When we read the Christmas story again, when we pray as a family and thank God for sending his Son to be born of a virgin, think about who that child was: the now and future King! The one who will come and eventually reign in such a way that there will never again be corrupt leadership, questionable policies, and self-serving leaders. And that was made possible because of the incarnation. So, let’s not only remember the baby wrapped in cloths, but let’s worship our King.
The Priest is coming
As we move on in our text we find it isn’t only a King that’s coming but, in verse 4 we see also that David predicted the coming of an eternal Priest. “The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek’” (Psa. 110:4).
In the Bible, the function of a priest is to represent sinful humanity before a holy God. These individuals were never self-appointed, but always selected by God himself. One of their main duties was to offer sacrifices to God on behalf of the people of God for the forgiveness of sins.
In the OT, the priests were busy. The people, just like today, were very sinful and God, just like today, is very holy. And so many sacrifices were required in order to maintain a relationship with God. And, we still need a priest today.
The OT priests had to be continuously replaced because they kept dying. However, in Psalm 110 we read that Yahweh is telling David’s Lord and the coming King that he will be a priest forever. He will never need replacing. He will eternally represent God’s people before a holy God.
“You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” This is an interesting allusion to Genesis 14 where Abraham meets a man named Melchizedek of whom we know very little.
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand” (Gen. 14:18–20).
Notice here that we’re told that Melchizedek is both the king of Salem and a priest of God Most High. Both King and Priest.
God is saying, in Psalm 110, to this coming King, that he will also serve eternally as a Priest, just like Melchizedek, functioning in both offices simultaneously. David is prophesying that one is coming that will be both King over God’s people and priest for God’s people.
Jesus is that Priest
And that’s Jesus.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. And no one takes this honour on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.
In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” And he says in another place, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 4:14–5:6).
Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being (Heb. 8:1–2).
Jesus is our eternal High Priest, one that will never leave his post, one that has provided the final, sufficient sacrifice for sin, one that has torn down the veil that separates God’s people from the presence of the Almighty. And, because of his perfect work as our High Priest, we can approach the throne of grace with confidence and receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Now, take that pressure of intercession, requirement of sacrifice, and provision of atonement and picture it not in a man of holy stature but in a baby who was laid in a manger.
At Christmas, we celebrate our Priest
In remembering that during this season we celebrate our PRIEST. God so loved the world, wanting us to have access to him, desiring an unrestricted relationship between Creator and creature, he sent his Son. And Jesus left the throne room of God, condescended himself and took on flesh—a helpless baby—so that he could eventually serve eternally and perfect as our advocate before a holy God. At Christmas, we as believers celebrate our Priest.
And we do that by taking advantage of the access we have to the Father’s throne. When we pray as a family, maybe before we dive into that big Christmas meal, may the Spirit of God remind us of the amazing reality that has made that simple fellowship with God possible. We can come before a holy God because of the eternal, perfect work of our Priest who came as a baby.
The Judge is coming
Back in Psalm 110, the author has already predicted this one who is coming will be a King and a Priest, but in the final verses we also find that David predicted the coming of a righteous Judge.
David, speaking now to God about the Messiah, says: 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. He will drink from a brook along the way, and so he will lift his head high (Psa. 110:5–7).
Not exactly a Merry Christmas ending to the psalm, huh?
As sure as David knows that a King/Priest is on his way from God, he knows this same Person will be a Judge and will punish the wicked. He will judge the nations that oppose his righteous, holy rule and the peace he seeks to establish.
The prophet, Micah, speaks of this same coming Judge in unbelievably hope-filled ways:
He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore (4:3).
Jesus is that Judge
Jesus is that Judge. He himself claims this to be true. In John 5:27, Jesus says “[God the Father] has given [Jesus] authority to judge because he is the Son of Man,” i.e., the Messiah, i.e., the one David was predicting in Psalm 110.
Peter also knew Jesus was the righteous Judge: “[Jesus] commanded us [the apostles] to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42).
And then back to John’s Revelation which describes the future work of Jesus:
Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?” (Rev. 6:15–17).
Jesus is the great, perfect, righteous Judge that will come and bring justice—total justice to this world.
At Christmas, we revere our Judge
Yet at Christmas, we’re challenged to take that righteousness, truth, and holiness and picture it not as a lawyer in a fancy courtroom but as an infant outback of a small-town inn. That’s the judge of the world in that manger.
And so, at Christmas we revere our JUDGE. We remember that God sent his Son into the world to provide hope, to bring restoration and justice.
For many in this room, Christmas is not “the most wonderful time of the year.” For many it is a reminder of loss, of loneliness, of pain. This time of year only exasperates a void that hurts deeply. For those of you for whom that is true, cling to this truth: That the Judge is coming to right all wrongs, to make things as they should be, to wipe away every tear, to comfort the hurting. At Christmas, believers are invited to revere our Judge and ache for his return.
As believers there is so much significance in this time of year. Even as we’ve gone through Psalm 110 we’re reminded that we’re invited to worship our King, celebrate our Priest, and revere our Judge. And all of those things were wrapped up in a cute little chubby package as the Word became flesh.
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