Ascension

34

The LORD reigns, He is clothed with majesty… The floods lift up their waves.  The LORD on high is mightier than the noise of many waters… (Psalm 93)

The world’s media is focussed on the ascension of Donald Trump, as his competitors for the Republican nomination fall away one by one and a general euphoria accompanies his ascension towards the White House in the USA. The ascension of Hilary Clinton for the Democrats’ nomination likewise attracts much media attention. That one of these immoral, unchristian – indeed antichristian – braggers is likely ascend to the presidency of what was once a country of refuge for many Christians is enough to fill one with despair. The USA’s infatuation with Trump and Clinton could never have occurred without the decline in Christianity and morality reflected in the USA and which is mirrored in other western countries. We live in a world in turmoil – sexual immorality, violence, Islamic terrorism, cultural clashes, catastrophes, the murder of the unborn, persecution in the name of ‘human rights’ – the list goes on.

But let’s not despair, for there is another ascension that took place some 2000 years ago when our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven and was given all authority in heaven and on earth. And this glorious event was foreshadowed by King David many years earlier when God (represented by the ark) ascended to His temple at Jerusalem. We know that when the Israelites saw the ark ascending up the hill to the tabernacle into the temple-city Jerusalem they saw it as representing the LORD coming into His kingdom. They understood thereby that He had established Himself in their midst as king.

That afforded them much comfort, for they too lived in turbulent times. But with the LORD as their King there was no need to fear the turbulence and godless nations threatening them. For this King of Israel was the same King who established the world, says David in Psalm 93. When, on the first day of creation, “the earth was without form and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep” (Gen 1:2) God demonstrated his Kingly glory by taming this wilderness, by bringing beauty and order and light out of that which was formless, void and dark.

This comforted David in a period of great evil. “The floods have lifted up their voices; the floods lift up their waves,” he says. The movements of the peoples around him, the enemies of the Lord, threatened to overwhelm everything. It was enough to bring one to despair. But he saw God coming to His temple and being established there as King and therefore all was well. For this was the same King who had been active on the first day of creation when there was that great void; when there were the wild and untamed seas, the darkness covering all. Being almighty God, clothed with majesty and girded with strength, He transformed it all into a beautifully ordered world that could not be moved. And if God was so powerful as to do that, then He was certainly powerful to save Israel from all its foes.

The psalmist, however, not only looked back to how God demonstrated His power and majesty at creation; he also looked forward. For we read that the Ark of the Covenant, representing God’s presence, was placed in the temple-city Jerusalem. The LORD’s kingship was tied to the temple. And the whole temple service, all the ceremonies and sacrifices, pointed to salvation in Jesus Christ. Indeed it was only on that basis that God could dwell in the midst of His people. He, the holy God, could only be present among them on the basis of Christ’s coming payment for their sins. The whole temple service had a Messianic character.

We know that when Christ fulfilled His task on earth – where Satan and the rulers sought to destroy Him – He ascended to the heavenly Jerusalem. It was the further fulfilment of the ascension of the ark into the temple city Jerusalem. He ascended up on high to the throne of His Father where He was given “a name above every name” and all authority in heaven and on earth.

We also read about this in Revelation 12. The serpent wanted to destroy the Child and, with it, the church. The serpent “spewed water out of his mouth like a flood”. It’s a reminder of Psalm 93: “The floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves.” But the Child had been caught up to God and His throne, above the floods, above the turmoil on earth. From there He rules all creation.

This doesn’t mean that today we can close our eyes to the reality of that turmoil around us. But it also means that we don’t close our eyes to the reality of Christ’s absolute authority. We live in a chaotic world, a world of violence, immorality and oppression wherein Christian values are increasingly devalued and resented. How will we and our children fare in the midst of this restless sea of peoples? “If the foundations are destroyed what can the righteous do?” Well we can, like David, put our trust in God an walk in His ways. Christ has ascended to heaven. “The LORD is in His holy temple, the LORD’s throne is in heaven…” (Ps 11).

Therefore all is well for His children. Christ our Head, who became one of us—the son of man—has ascended up on high and reigns over all creation as Head of His church. He knows our personal and congregational needs, heeds our petitions and presses all of history on to the great day of His return. And He does it for the sake of His people, those whom he loves and has purchased with His precious blood. He is mightier than the turbulent seas and will rain judgement down upon the wicked but looks with favour upon the upright (Psalm 11), upon those who love Him and keep His commandments. The turmoil may increase, but in Him, the ascended LORD and Rock of our salvation, we may continue to trust from day to day.

J Numan

 

Note: References to Psalm 93 are loosely based on a sermon by B Holwerda published in Een Levende Hoop (5: 64-75)