Lesson Text: Psalm 110:1-4; Acts 2:22-24, 29-32
Background Scripture: Psalm 110:1-7; Acts 2:22-36
Devotional Reading: Psalm 16:7-11
1 The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
2 The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.
3 Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.
4 The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
Acts 2:22-24, 29-32
22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:
23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:
24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.
29 Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.
30 Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;
31 He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.
32 This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.
To recognize Jesus’ resurrection as the central message of the Christian faith.
To know that Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of God’s victory and the assurance of God’s final victory!
To know that according to God’s divine power, He has given you everything you need for a godly life! (See 2 Peter 1:3-11).
The Season's Turning Point
For sports fans there is nothing like a championship season for the home team. After such a season, fans may ask themselves, "When was it clear that we had a championship team? What was the turning point in the season?" The faithful may recall different moments when their team came from behind to win against a tough opponent, a key player overcame an injury, or a coach proved the naysayers wrong.
As the people of God look at history, they can ask a similar question: "When was it clearest that God would be victorious?" There are the various "big games" in biblical history: the great flood, the exodus, etc. But the resurrection of Jesus must be considered the ultimate turning point.
The events that led up to that event had moved Jesus' followers from hope to despair. By word and deed, Jesus had appeared to be the great king whom God had promised. But those expectations were dashed when Jesus was arrested and crucified. But His resurrection changed everything, bringing eternal victory to what seemed to be yet another defeat. There could be no greater historical turning point. God's plan had prevailed.
Today we will study two texts that show us Jesus' resurrection to be that definitive turning point. Our texts come from the Psalms (Israel's collection of inspired worship songs) and Acts (the New Testament's history of the first-century church). Though centuries apart, these books reflect similar circumstances: they both address God's people as they lived in what seems to be insignificance, even defeat.
Reading the Psalms and the rest of the Old Testament, we do well to remember that Israel was a small nation with little political or military power in comparison with, at various times, the great powers of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, and Persia. Yet Israel claimed that its God was the only true God, the ruler over all. How could the true God be worshipped only by the people of a small nation—and not even worshipped consistently by them—while the great powers honored other gods? If Israel's God were the true God, would Israel not be much more powerful than it was?
The answers to such questions can take many forms, but two ideas seem to be at the heart of the matter. First, Israel's God deliberately takes the side of the weak and seemingly insignificant; victory through human weakness means that humans cannot take the credit. Second, Israel's God declared that He was not finished. God promised to retake His world for himself, to make it fully His again, by reversing the effects of human rebellion against Him.
The situation of the first-century church bore similarities to that of Old Testament Israel: Christians were few in number and weak in the eyes of the world. Furthermore, Christians worshipped a man whom the Romans had tortured to death as a criminal. How could such a group have believed itself to be the people of the true God? Today's texts help us answer these questions of both Old Testament Israel, which awaited the fulfillment of God's promise, and of the first-century church, which declared that God had initiated the fulfillment of His greatest promise.
Times: Approximately 1004 B.C.; A.D. 30
Places: Jerusalem, Jerusalem
Victory Promised / God’s Decree (Psalm 110:1-4)
1. Who wrote Psalm 110, and of whom was the psalmist speaking? (Psalm 110:1-4)
Jesus and Peter both stated that David wrote this psalm (Matthew 22:43; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42; Acts 2:33-35), and, since David was a prophet, he wrote it about the Messiah (Acts 2:30; 2 Sam. 23:2). He certainly did not write about any of his own descendants, for no Jewish king was ever a priest, let alone a priest forever (Psalm 110:4; 2 Chron. 26:16-23). Also, no Jewish king ever conquered many countries (Psalm 110:6). The psalm is quoted or alluded to in the New Testament more than any other psalm, verse 1 at least twenty-five times and verse 4 another five times. Ten of these quotations or allusions are in the book of Hebrews alone. Jesus used verse 1 to prove His deity and silence the Pharisees (Matt. 22:41-46) and also to answer the high priest during His trial (Matt. 26:64).
God (through David) is indeed speaking of Israel’s king, and that king is ultimately revealed to be the Christ. God’s words to Him are an invitation to share the Father’s kingly authority. To sit at God’s right hand is to share His throne, the symbol of that authority. The psalm thus declares that Israel's promised king is to rule by God’s appointment and power.
The phrase “until I make thine enemies thy footstool” (Psalm 110:1) acknowledges that the world will not be in submission to God’s appointed king for a while. But God will defeat the king's enemies. They will end up bowing before the king’s feet as if those enemies were a footstool. Israel’s God is the true power, and the present situation is temporary. God’s enemies seem to prevail only until He acts to bring them into submission to himself and His king.
What Do You Think?
Which area of life in the world seems least in submission to God? Why? How should Christians act and react with regard to this rebellion?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
The entertainment industry | A country that persecutes Christians | Governmental policy
2. What three promises did God the Father make?
When the Son was exalted and enthroned at His ascension, the Father made three promises to him, that He would defeat His enemies (v. 1), extend His kingdom (v. 2), and give Him a victorious army (v. 3). Note that in verses 1-3, the key phrase is “I” will “make," the Father speaking to the Son, but in verses 5-7, the key phrase is ‘he shall,’ the psalmist speaking about the Son.
This army is also remarkable in three ways: it is made up of willing volunteers; they are dressed in holy garments like priests (Rev. 19:14); and they are a great multitude, like the dew that falls in the early morning (2 Sam. 23:4). Just as the dawn gives birth to the sparkling dew, so the Lord will "give birth" to this vast holy army. The book of Revelation indicates that there will be great battles fought in the end times (see 14:14-20; 16:12-16; 19:11-21; 20:7-10) and that Jesus Christ will defeat the enemy.
3. In what way did God declare the king to be a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek? Who was Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4)?
God's commitment to the king is permanent. The psalmist presents this as an oath, with God declaring the king to be a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. We learn from Genesis 14:17-20 that Melchizedek, who predated Aaron by centuries, was a king and priest of Salem (the settlement that became Jerusalem) and also a priest of God during the time of Abraham.
However, Israel's law and history forbid its king to act as priest (compare 2 Chronicles 26:16-18). Although Israelite kings are, in a sense, the nation's leaders in worship, the priestly offices themselves are held by others—those of the tribe of Levi. Jesus while on earth could not minister as a priest because He was from the tribe of Judah and not from Levi. Therefore, the verse before us looks forward to something different, to a time when the promised king will also serve as the great high priest. As Hebrews 5:5-10 and 7:1-22 make clear, Jesus is this ultimate King-Priest.
In Jesus Christ, David has a throne forever (2 Sam. 7:13, 16, 25, 29; Luke 1:30-33) and a priest forever, and all who have trusted Christ share in those blessings. Jesus Christ is our glorified King-Priest in heaven, interceding for us (Rom. 8:34). His throne is a throne of grace to which we may come at any time to find the help we need (Heb. 4:14-16).
Peter’s Sermon / Victory Achieved (Acts 2:22-24, 29-32)
Acts 2 recounts the events of the Day of Pentecost, especially Peter's speech. On that day, the Holy Spirit is poured out on the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem, and the Spirit's presence is miraculously demonstrated as the disciples begin speaking in other languages.
People wonder what they are witnessing. Peter informs them that God's promise to pour out His Spirit on His people is being fulfilled. But why is God doing that now, with these seemingly insignificant people? After quoting the prophet Joel, Peter proceeds to explain the meaning and significance of what is happening.
4. How did Peter explain God’s role in Jesus’ death (Acts 2:22-24)?
Peter summarizes what the crowd already knows about Jesus: that He had been an exceptional worker of miracles (compare John 3:2). Those deeds, Peter elaborates, could have been done only by one having God’s approval. But what about Jesus’ death? Did that not prove something different about Him, that He had been abandoned by God and defeated by His enemies?
Peter explained that Jesus’ death was no accident, and it was not the result of God’s disfavor on Him. Rather, it was the fulfillment of God’s deliberate plan (compare Acts 4:28), what God had intended to bring about even before He created the world. It was the Father’s sovereign and predetermined plan for His Son to be taken into custody by the religious and civil authorities. The apostle referred to these individuals as “wicked” (Acts 2:23), for they were guilty of a gross injustice, namely, the Messiah’s crucifixion. Despite this tragic event, the Father raised the Son from the dead and in this way released Him from the horrors of death. It was not possible for Jesus to be held in death’s grip; God’s promise was simply too great for that to happen (v. 24).
What Do You Think?
When have you seen evil intent result in ultimate good and glory to God? How did this help you grow in your faith?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Involving you personally | Involving your church | Other
5. What point did Peter bring out in comparing David with Jesus (Acts 2:29-30)?
Peter expands his comparison of David with Jesus, beginning with the simple, known fact that David died and remains both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day (see 1 Kings 2:10). However, the same cannot be said for Jesus! God's promise to protect David was a real promise, but what God planned to do for the promised son of David, the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, was to be even greater. God planned for Jesus to be raised from the dead to sit on David's throne, therefore saying a definitive, final No! to the grave and decay. David spoke for all the faithful, but he spoke better than anyone realized concerning the promised king to come (compare Psalm 132:11).
6. How did Peter reveal God’s fulfillment (Acts 2:31-32)?
So in Jesus' resurrection, David's hope in God is now fulfilled in an unprecedented way. All the faithful can share David's confidence that God does not abandon them to the grave. Jesus—God's Christ, the promised king—has been delivered from death with an immediacy and finality that surpasses anything that God had done before. God has amazed and surprised His people by raising Jesus from the tomb to appear fully and triumphantly alive to His followers. His life or soul was not abandoned to the state of death. His flesh did not decay, but was restored to perfect life. Paul will later affirm that David's body indeed decayed after his death, but not so the body of Jesus (Acts 13:34-37).
Peter's argument carries an important implication. In Jesus' resurrection, God demonstrates that He most assuredly acts to protect and preserve. If God has done this for Jesus, then surely He will do the same for all His people. Jesus' resurrection serves as the guarantee that God will also raise us up. Death will have the final word for none of God's people. God's victory, begun in Jesus, will come to completion when God raises all His people at the end of the age (Daniel 12:2; Acts 23:6; Romans 6:5; 1 Corinthians 15; etc.).
The reason Peter expects his audience to believe verse 31 of Acts 2 is that he and others have seen the resurrected Jesus. They know that Jesus' tomb is empty. He is no longer dead and buried, but alive and active. Jesus' enemies cannot produce the body of a dead Jesus to refute this. The Holy Spirit took Peter's message and used it to convict the hearts of the listeners (v. 37). “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (v. 41)
POINTS TO PONDER
1. God remains faithful to His promises! (Psalm 10:1-4)
2. Jesus is alive and reigning! (Acts 2:22-24)
3. Jesus resurrection means that God has the power to raise us as well! And He will! (Acts 2:29-32; John 3:16)
The Christian hope of the resurrection gives meaning to every life. Because our King-Priest lives, the lost can be saved when they put their faith in Him!
Father, we take heart knowing that Christ has overcome our greatest enemy, death. Give us the confidence that we are secure as Your people no matter what. In Jesus' name, amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
Look forward to Jesus!