Ascension Day Sermon on Psalm 47:5-8
Text: God has ascended amid shouts of joy,
the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.
7 For God is the King of all the earth;
sing to him a psalm of praise.
8 God reigns over the nations;
God is seated on his holy throne.
I believe that most people like music, in one form or another. Of course, we will not all like the same type of music. What one person really enjoys; another may not be able to stand. Music can either reflect or even change our moods. Often when we are listening to music, we may sing along with the song. It can be quite embarrassing to be caught singing when you do not realize someone else was there. This evening, as we sang the psalm of the day, Psalm 47, we were encouraged time and again to sing. It is very fitting to join our voices together in song as we celebrate the ascension of Jesus into heaven. Encouraged by the psalmist, we want to SING TO OUR KING. 1. He Has Ascended On High and 2. He Rules Over The Nations.
Before we go any further, I would like to call your attention to a phrase in our text, “Sing to him a psalm of praise.” (Verse 7) The word for “psalm of praise” in the Hebrew is “Maskil.” You probably have seen that word in the titles of the psalms as you read them in the Bible. The word “Maskil” has more to it than a psalm of praise. It actually has the idea of having understanding. It was a song that reinforced some lesson of wisdom. It implies that you have been taught something and this song helps you keep it in mind. In other words, this is not just a nonsense song, but it is one that is sung after you have been taught something. We see from the psalm that, having been taught about our King, we sing with understanding. We know what we’re singing about and why we are singing.
The first reason we sing is “God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets.” (Verse 5) We celebrate the fact that Jesus ascended into heaven. It might seem odd that we celebrate someone leaving. If you remember the disciples’ reaction as Jesus was ascending into heaven, they were looking intently into heaven, hoping for that one last glimpse of Jesus. They kept looking until angels came and told them that Jesus was gone. I’m sure there was at least a little bit of sadness in their hearts as they walked back to Jerusalem. Is there reason to rejoice that Jesus ascended into heaven?
The answer is “Yes.” Why? The first reason that we rejoice, that we sing at Jesus’ ascension is the fact that this shows that Jesus had completed everything necessary for our salvation. The apostle Paul put it this way in Ephesians 4, “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: ‘When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.’ (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)” (Ephesians 4:7-10) Paul reminds us of the obvious – that before you can ascend, you must descend. Jesus came to this earth to accomplish something. That something, of course, was our salvation. We would have been lost forever if Jesus had not descended to this earth. All our sins would have separated us from God for all eternity. Jesus had to descend to the earth to do what we cannot do. He had to be perfect for us. He stepped in and took our place of punishment. He suffered all the wrath of his Father against our sins. If he had not completed the work, he would not have returned to heaven, much less as a conqueror. Paul uses the picture of taking captives. This means that Jesus was victorious. He defeated the devil. We see this, as he descended into hell to show the devil that he had been defeated. He showed that he had defeated death, because death’s power over him was broken, as he rose from the dead.
The fact that he did ascend shows us that he had completed everything his Father wanted him to do. This gives us great comfort, because we never have to wonder if our salvation is in jeopardy or if there is still something that we must do or add to what Jesus has done. Jesus has done it all. We sing to our King at his ascension because it assures us that our salvation is complete. This is a fact that we would never have understood or discovered on our own. This is something that had to be revealed to us. We sing to our King for he has told us so very clearly in his Word what he has done for us. We sing with the understanding that he has given to us in his Word.
We also sing our King’s praises because we know what our King is doing for us as he is there in heaven. Jesus told his disciples one of the reasons he was going back to his Father in John 14:2&3, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” Jesus tells us very clearly what he is doing in heaven. He’s getting our rooms ready for us when we get there, whether it be through the sleep of death or at the end of time. We sing to our King, who has ascended into heaven, because we know that he is in heaven and he has promised us that, one day, we will be with him forever. Then, we will be able to praise him, as he deserves to be praised. Until then, we sing to our King, because he has told us about our eternal home.
The psalmist gives us another reason to sing to our King. We read in verse eight, “God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne.” Our King reigns over the nations. Jesus is in control of all things in the world. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 1:22, “God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church.”
Jesus is in heaven, making all things work out for his people, the Church. This is done on a group level and on an individual level. First, on a group level, Jesus is making sure that all the events of the world are for the good of his Church. This would even include events where we might wonder why he would allow such a thing to happen? Sometimes, we are privileged to see why God allowed certain things to happen. For example, look at the early Christian church, and the persecution they faced. I’m sure that the people of that day may have wondered why God allowed the persecution to happen. Yet, looking back over history, we see that God used the persecution to move the people from Jerusalem to the other parts of the world with the Gospel message. At the time of Dr. Luther, the Turks were threatening the overrun Europe. The Holy Roman Emperor, who did not agree with Dr. Luther’s teachings could not spend all of his time and energy trying to get rid of Luther and his teaching. He had to be concerned with the threat on the eastern edge of his empire.
We have the assurance in our own age. The Lord of the Church still controls the events of the world for the good of his Church. There may be instances when a crisis comes up in a part of the world, where we can go in and spread the Gospel in places where we never imagined that we could. There may even be instances where God tells us, ‘Not here and not now,’ as we share his Word, as well. How comforting it is to know that our ascended Lord still rules the world for the good of his Church.
As I said earlier, this is also true on an individual basis. Jesus not only rules the world for the good of his Church as a whole, but also for each of us as individuals, as well. Paul reminds us in Romans 8:28, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Everything in our lives is there for a purpose. This does not just include the good things or times in our lives. This also refers to the tougher times. How thankful we are to know that we have a loving Savior, who controls all things for our good, as well. There will be times, when we can look back and see how God meant that for a blessing to us. There will also be times when we have to say that we do not know why God allowed this or that thing to come into our lives. Yet, we have the assurance that our loving Savior, who ascended into heaven, has everything “under his control.” This is not something we know, by nature. Yet, Jesus, in his love for us, has revealed it to us in his Word. We sing, though sometimes with tear-stained faces, because we have this understanding from our loving King. He sits on his throne, making all things work out for the good of his Church, the believers.
As you can see, we have every reason to sing. This is not some sort of a nonsense song that we sing. We sing with understanding, knowing what Jesus has done for us. He has done everything necessary for our salvation. The psalmist doesn’t just encourage us to sing once in our verses. He does so five times in these verses. It really doesn’t matter if you have a wonderful singing voice or not. In addition, we do not just sing with our voices. We want our entire lives to praise our King for all that he has done for us. He has ascended into heaven as a conqueror. He rules over all things for our good. Knowing this, then, today and every day, let us sing to our King. Amen.
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