Looking around at the state of the world, it is very easy to get worried, depressed, and overwhelmed. The Christian especially can become quite despondent and discouraged witnessing the tsunami of evil, immorality and ungodliness sweeping the planet. It might even seem that the God-haters are winning.
That is why it is important to remind ourselves of some basic biblical truths. So consider afresh with me two very famous passages from the Psalms. Given that we live in an age where love, acceptance and tolerance (all wrongly understood) are all the rage, even in our churches, and where themes like God’s rightful dominion seem to annoy so many, it is worth revisiting them. I refer to these two texts:
“Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field…”
“The Lord says to my lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemiesa footstool for your feet.’”
This talk about God ‘putting people under his feet’ will likely be quite unsettling to so many folks today who believe that God is just a nice chap who would never hurt a fly. And they will insist that these are Old Testament passages anyway so we can just ignore them at will. But these folks are quite wrong of course.
Of interest, these Old Testament passages are among the most often quoted or alluded to verses in the entire New Testament. You will find versions of them in places such as Matthew 22:41-46; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:4-1-44; Acts 2:34-35; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28; Ephesians 1:19-23; Hebrews 1:13; Hebrews 2:5-9; and Hebrews 10:12-14.
So if you think they seem to be all rather harsh and unloving, just recall that they certainly are not confined to the Old Testament. Let me discuss them further. Here I will simply quote the first of these New Testament references, Matthew 22:41-46:
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”?’ If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.
In all three Synoptic gospels Jesus of course applies this text to himself. It certainly speaks quite clearly to his full divinity. But the emphasis I want to make here is that his rule is everlasting and inviolate. Even though it may seem at times that he is not on the throne, he most certainly is. We must never forget that fact.
And soon enough he will return and the whole world will know that he most certainly is King Jesus. And he most certainly will deal with his enemies – with all those who have not yet bowed the knee, and who continue to shake their fists at the living God.
Moreover, Psalm 8 speaks of his dominion. Many Christians are squeamish about that term nowadays. And there can be discussion about how we might understand things like Christian dominion. But God most certainly reigns, and he does have full dominion – even at this very moment.
In this regard, a Lord of the Rings meme making the rounds on the social media is relevant here. Utilising the film version, it is a follow-on from the famous scene in The Two Towers where Theoden, King of Rohan says, “I will not risk open war.” To which Aragorn replies, “Open war is upon you whether you would risk it or not.”
The Christian meme version of this goes as follows:
Theoden: “I will not accept Christ as Lord”
Aragorn: “Christ is Lord, whether you accept Him or not.”
Quite so. Christ IS Lord right now, and one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that he is indeed Lord, as Philippians 2:9-11 so powerfully reminds us: “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Let me further amplify these thoughts by appealing to a few commentators here. Commenting on Psalm 8, Gerald Wilson gives us some insights into the background of this:
One symbolic act in the ancient Near East to indicate superiority over a defeated enemy was for the king to place his foot on the neck of the enemy lying prostrate at his feet. This act of humiliation of the enemy and exaltation of the king graphically displayed who was in control and who was not. Elsewhere the psalms use a similar image of making one’s enemies a “footstool” (Pss. 99:5; 110:1). But here the prostration of the earth under the feet of the divinely elevated human, while a sign of likeness to God and distinction from the rest of creation, is not an indication of human strength, power, and unlimited authority. The earth is placed under human authority by God—not by human power. Any authority exercised by humans over the earth is distinctly limited, derived from God, and ultimately responsible to him.
And in his expository commentary on Philippians, Dennis Johnson nicely brings all these texts and themes together. Speaking about verses 9-11 of chapter two he says:
When God highly exalted his obedient Son in reward for his suffering, he “bestowed on him the name that is above every name.” Initially we might think that this is the personal name Jesus, since Paul goes on to say that every knee will bow “at the name of Jesus.” It is better, however, to understand the “name that is above every name” not as a personal name but as an official title – the title Lord that was conferred on Jesus at the time of his resurrection, signifying his supremacy over all as the glorified God-man. After all, the personal name Jesus was given to the Son at his birth, in anticipation of his mission to save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21). It was through his resurrection and ascension that God made Jesus “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36; see Rom. 10:9). After his resurrection, Jesus declared his universal authority as Lord: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18; see Dan. 7:14). Paul’s affirmation that the Son’s “name” ranks above all others shows that he is referring to Christ’s supremacy over all the powers in the universe. In Ephesians 1:20-21 Paul makes explicit this titular supremacy of the “name” bestowed on Jesus Christ: God “raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” The superior name granted to Christ in his exaltation in the title Lord, as the hymn’s climax shows: “every tongue [will] confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
As Lord, Jesus Christ is the Supreme Emperor of the entire universe, infinitely above the puny Caesars who had the presumption to claim the title lord, though they ruled as empire that, in global and historical perspective, proved small and short-lived. As Lord, the exalted Son outranks the superhuman spiritual forces, gods and demons benign and malevolent, that vied for worshipers’ fear and allegiance in cosmopolitan colonies such as Philippi, where local Macedonian and Greek polytheism absorbed the influences of Asian East and Roman West.
Rome’s imperial dominance long ago succumbed to brutal invaders who showed no deference for the Caesars’ glory and the empire’s administrative, military, and cultural achievements. On the other hand, the living Lord whom Paul served is still extending his reign to the ends of the earth through the gospel of his grace and the power of his Spirit….
His resurrection from the dead turned human history and cosmic history in a new direction, which is leading to the day when every knee will humbly bow and every tongue express devotion to this living Lord. He already bears the name above every name, the title that transcends all titles. This reality demands that you submit to his dominion today.
Praise God for his dominion – it is good news indeed. So name your fave dictator, ruler or elite, be it Xi Jinping, Kim Jong Un, Putin, Zelensky, Trudeau, Macron, Biden, Albanese, Andrews, Gates, Schwab or Soros – to mention but a few that quickly come to mind. They will all soon be no more – and their various kingdoms will soon come to an end as well.
Either they willingly and gladly bow the knee now to the one true sovereign, or they will find themselves underfoot – in more ways than one. I for one love the reality of Christ’s present Lordship, and I greatly look forward to one day soon when he will finally and forever put all his enemies under his feet.
Come quickly Lord Jesus.