What Jesus' Authority says about God's Character

Okay, friends. This post is going to get a little heady with theology. But please stick with me. Sometimes the Psalms push us in that direction, and when they do, I think it's worth taking up the challenge. One of the things I love about the Bible is the way it encourages us to dig under the surface.

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What Jesus' authority says about God's character

The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet." -Psalms ‭110‬:‭1‬

This first verse of Psalm 110 is quoted several times in the New Testament. It is given as evidence of a Messiah with the authority of God, because the Lord (Yahweh) is talking to an individual who is Lord (Adonai) over David, the author of the Psalm. (See Matthew 22:44 and Acts 2:34)

But to me, there is another question embedded in the verse besides Jesus' identity: Jesus' character.

If Jesus had the authority to make His enemies a footstool under His feet, what did He choose to do with that power? 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Jesus regularly ate and spent time with tax collectors and prostitutes, people some might have thought to be enemies of a Holy God. Even as Christ attacked groups like the Pharisees, it is always about what they are doing (abusing their power and misleading the people), not about who they were. Even while hanging on the cross, Jesus famously asked His Father to forgive those who had put Him there, for they did not know what they were doing.

Over and over again, we see that Jesus' response to hate was love and His reaction to persecution was forgiveness. 

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Too often, presentations of "the Gospel" message have set up a scenario of a strict and holy Father, whose anger and judgment against humanity needs to be appeased. It is His loving son that offers to sacrifice Himself so that we might be spared. 

Though there may be some bits of truth in that, it cannot be a fair representation of God's character. One place we see that is in the many Old Testament stories of a God who gives unmerited favor, love, and forgiveness just as He does in the New.

Another place we see that is in Christ Himself. The Bible tells us "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation" and "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being" (Heb 1:3). 

If Christ is the image of God, that means anything we can say about Christ's character must also be true of God's character.  

Which means God cannot be a distant and judgmental presence, but an intimate and forgiving Lover of every soul on earth. Including enemies.

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I wonder if part of the problem is that God and humans define enemies differently. We often think about enemies as people, boxing those around us into categories of those who are for us and those who are against us, and positioning ourselves accordingly.

Perhaps God thinks about enemies not as people themselves, but as the diseases that have infected us. The abuse, hurts, misunderstandings, difficult histories, and pride that have negatively affected the way we treat our fellow humans.

Perhaps it is those diseases that have become a footstool for Christ, for in His love, that is what He was able to squash.  For God has always been, and will always be, in the process of redeeming us.

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“Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, "Love your enemies." It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies. (from "Loving Your Enemies")”  - Martin Luther King, Jr


This post is part of my Psalms Journey series. I have been a bit sporadic with that series in the last weeks and months, but I am trying to get back on track. After all, I have made it to Psalm 110! This is no time to give up :)

#PsalmsJourney is a series reflecting on the Psalms one at a time, in order. Learn more about it on my Psalms Journey page. If you'd like to join me, put a link to your own post in the comments.

Lord, Become for Me a Rocky Summit of Refuge

At first glance, a lot of the Psalms don’t apply to my life right now. So many Psalms are about a person who is in trouble. Someone is depressed, or being overtaken by enemies, or running away from trouble, and crying out to the Lord in search of rescue and relief.

My life? It doesn’t reflect this kind of anguish. Sure, there have been some difficult transitions in the last few months. But nothing close to persecution or seemingly insurmountable barriers reflected in many verses of the Psalms.

These differences might tempt me to pass over Psalm 31 and move on to Psalm 32. After all, I wouldn’t say, “my strength fails because of my affliction” (Psalm 31:10) or “I am the utter contempt of my neighbors” (Psalm 31:11) or “I am forgotten as though I were dead” (Psalm 31:12).

But then I look at what David is doing with those feelings. And there, I see a lesson I need to learn.

David looks to God to be his refuge.

When I need refuge, I often don’t run to God first. I seek protection against how people might perceive me by running towards clothes and make up. I retreat from the quiet boredom of loneliness by running towards social media. I shelter myself from self-doubt by running towards achievement at work.

I shelter and protect myself in all sorts of places besides the arms of my God.

Psalm 31 convicts me when it begins with the cry,

“In you, Lord, I have taken refuge” – Psalm 31:1

And expands on that with

“Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.” – Psalm 31:2

In Hebrew, “be my rock of refuge” is literally, “become for me a rocky summit of refuge.”

That language reminds me of when I travelled to Machu Picchu. I cannot imagine the number of people who died building that rocky city on the top of a mountain. But the people thought it was worth the effort. Because there, at the top of the mountain, they were protected. The rocks provided them shelter from storms that might brew overhead. The mountaintop provided them the safety of the high place, a view of their enemies as they approached.

I wonder what it would look like if I ran to God as my rock of refuge. Not just when the big trials came, but all the time. What if I lived there, in God’s rocky city at the top of the hill.

Perhaps if my identity took refuge in who I am as God’s child, then I could see the enemy of comparison as it made its way on the path to my heart.

Perhaps if my longings found their shelter in God, then I could be protected from the effect of consumerism as it rained down its stuff into my life.

Perhaps if I ran to God as the refuge of my soul, then I could live with a sense of security and peace greater than what I feel now. And then maybe when the bigger enemies do come, and I feel the anguish of this Psalm, my journey to find refuge in the hands of God would only be an arm's length away.

Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. – Psalm 31:3-5, 24

What could it look like for you if you made God your rock of refuge?

Walk through the Psalms is a series reflecting on the beautiful and timeless poetry found in the middle of the Bible. It is an intentional study of God’s Word, grounded in the belief that God gave us the Bible so we could meditate on it, whether that takes us through inspiring or frustrating territory.