"The Lord is King, and hath put on glorious apparel; the Lord hath put on His apparel, and girded Himself with strength. He hath made the round world so sure, that it cannot be moved. Ever since the world began, hath thy seat been prepared: thou art from everlasting. The floods are risen, O Lord, the floods have lift up their voice; the floods lift up their waves. The waves of the sea are mighty, and rage horribly; but yet the Lord, who dwelleth on high, is mightier. Thy testimonies, O Lord, are very sure: holiness becometh thine house for ever" (Psalm 92).
This Sunday is called Low Sunday. The name likely came about because of a convergence of things: low attendance, low temperatures and probably low offerings! I am sure the name was thought up by pastors. Yet, beyond the liturgical reality is a deeper existential issue. It is the sort of thing we encounter after Christmas or other momentous times in life. What is left after Easter?
I admit I have felt the blues at such times. I suspect each of you have, too. There is the lull in spirit after getting the job that you dreamed of, or the low feeling that comes after attaining a long-held goal. “I got what I wanted for Christmas, so now what?” Or, “Now that Easter has passed, what will we do?” What kind of hope is there between the resurrection and the ascension? What we do between conversion and glorification? How do we stay motivated in our faith now that the glory of conversion seems to lose its luster in living?
The passage that speaks to us on Low Sunday is the reading of the gospel for this day in many lectionaries. John 20:19-23 reminds us there was great fear among the disciples after the resurrection. Indeed, the first Sunday after Resurrection Sunday finds the people of the Way locked down in crisis. Fear had caused them to retreat from the world and huddle like the frightened flock that they were. Into this scene came Jesus. The risen Christ confronted their situation in a way that gave courage and hope. There are lessons for us, as well, as we live on this side of resurrection. I believe Psalm 94, a psalm for the First Sunday after Easter, also is also a powerful companion to the gospel reading.
Dominus Regnavit: A Message for Low Sunday
Dominus Regnavit is a phrase that is taken from the first two words of the Latin Vulgate version of Psalm 93. It translates the opening Hebrew passage in this Psalm: “The Lord is King.” That is a perfect Scripture for Low Sunday. The gospel force of the Old Testament and New Testament is this: The doors of life are now unlocked because the resurrection has made Jesus Christ the King.
How is that so? Psalm 93 brings us from Low Sunday to high hope as it depicts Jesus Christ, the Lord who is King.
I. Jesus Christ Gives Us Hope in His Wear (i.e., in His New Resurrection Body)
“The Lord is King. He has put on splendid apparel and girded Himself with strength” (v. 1). Indeed, the vision of the covenant God of Israel assuming the royal robes of authority are perfectly suited to lift our Low Sunday ho-hum minds to the magnificence of Christ the reigning Sovereign. Do we not have the hermeneutical license to make such a declaration? Yes, for Christ Himself applied the Old Testament passages to Himself, even as St. Stephen did, as Paul did, as Peter did. I have no hesitation in taking this psalm written hundreds of years before Jesus was born and applying its kingly adornment to Christ. Jesus told us all of Scripture speaks of Him (Luke 24:44), and our Lord specifically noted the Psalms. He is arrayed in glory. What does this mean, and what does it mean to us?
The opening passages of Psalm 93 speak to the assumption of the certain regal prerogatives. The Lord (i.e., the covenant name of God) has put on splendid apparel. Now, how is it Almighty God has initiated a glorious reordering of His estate? Wasn’t He always God and glorious in His attire? Of course He is that way. Yet, as the Second Person of the Triune God came to mankind, He left His royal prerogatives beyond. In His resurrection, He put on glory in a new way. Indeed, as Christ came to the locked doors on that first Sunday after Easter, the doors were shut and locked. Yet the amazing truth is that Christ walked through the door to stand among the fearful flock. He had put on new clothes, splendid apparel, indeed. The perishable, to quote St. Paul, had put on imperishable. The corruptible flesh of man had been renewed to incorruptible. This is not just good news. This is the beginning of a cosmic reconstitution of all things.
When I married Mae, I honestly can say she was beautiful before she put on my ring. Ah, but I tell you that there was a transformation in that woman! After we were married, she seemed to radiate joy and new life! I wanted to announce to the world, “This is my wife!” The sight of her made me, also, a new man and I tell you: I have never gotten over her.
Christ, too, as this earthly king of Psalm 93, has put on His splendid apparel, the royal robes of incorruptibility. A man who was dead is now alive! He walks forth through the locked doors of our lives and announces, “Peace be with you.” Our response is, “I have seen the Lord, and I can never get over Him.”
There is another feature of Dominus Regnavit, the Lord is King, that we must embrace: Christ gives us hope not only in His wear, His new resurrection body, but also…
Jesus Christ Gives Us Hope in His World (His Creation)
“He has made the whole world so sure that it cannot be moved…(v. 2) and “the waters have lifted up, O Lord, the waters lifted up their voice; the waters have lifted up their pounding waves (v. 4). “Mightier than the sound of many waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea, mightier is the Lord who dwells on high” (v. 5).
The text, also, says that from the beginning of the world God’s throne has been established (v. 3) and the glory of the Lord reigning through His creation causes the psalmist to break out into spontaneous doxology, “You are from everlasting.”
The meaning of this Scripture is fully realized in Christ our Lord. Jesus’ ministry began with His creation in awe of Him, as a star obediently guided Gentiles to His manger-throne-room. In His earthly ministry, the wind and the waves obeyed Him. At His crucifixion, Christ’s creation reacted to the Creator being crucified by the Created and turned dark at noon and trembled from within the bowels of the earth. At His glorious resurrection, creation received a sign of hope: Because Christ is raised from the dead, then the world, long held under the dominion of sin and its wretched consequences, is now liberated and moving with undeterred certainty to its own resurrection.
I used to know an old man who told the weather by the activity of his blue-tick hound dog. He would say that when the old dog stirred from his perennial place on the floor and looked out the window, you could mark it down and get your umbrella: It was going to rain!
Now we may have our doubts about global warming, but I have no doubt about blue tick hounds predicting the weather! The message is this:
Jesus Christ is glorious as Dominus Regnavit in His world. For the world (His creation) is pointing just like that old blue tick hound that there is a new world on its way. What effect does this truth have on us on Low Sunday (or any day of our lives)? Only that this is not all there is. As Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004) remarked, “A true opium for the people is a belief in nothingness after death.” Christ the resurrected King of the universe has given us hope that the world, including our world, our dreams, our lives, our intuitive longing for eternity, is headed for total redemption. A new world is now on its way. The trees of the fields clap their hands, and the sound of the great waters breaking against the shore raise their voices, “The Lord is King. A new heaven and a new earth has been inaugurated with the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. And everything has changed.”
Finally, there is a feature of Dominus Regnavit that is remarkable in Psalm 93:6: “Your testimonies are sure, and holiness adorns Your house, O Lord, forever and ever more.”
Jesus Christ Gives Us Hope in His Word (His Scripture)
The psalmist grounds all that he has said in the very Word of the Lord. He is King in His radiant wear, resurrection, world and all of creation because of His Word.
God spoke creation into being with His Word. God announced redemption would come and proclaimed resurrection by His Word. Christ was raised from the dead by the Word of the Lord. His Word is our ultimate proof of it all.
The Westminster Confession of Faith, that monumental first among greats in historic confessions of the Christian faith, is brilliant not only in its content, so richly biblical, but in its arrangement of the truths, so faithfully scriptural. For it begins, unlike other good confessions, not with God and His existence, but with Scripture and its foundation. Upon the testimony of God is erected a knowledge of God. It is through His revelation that we can come to believe. This Word, according to John, was from the very beginning. The Word was and the Word is Christ. The effect? Holiness—radiant glory and celestial beauty—adorns the Church, the very house of God.
We do not often think of the importance of a word. Yet by a word a man and woman become husband wife. A family is born on the earth by the confession of the words, “I do.” Baptismal waters flow over the little head of a child and humble, awe-struck parents’ vow, “We will.” The Lord said, “This is My Son in whom I am well-pleased.” He spoke in His Word: “For you will not abandon My soul to Sheol, or let Your Holy One see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:10-11).
By that fixed Word of the Almighty, our Lord Jesus Christ was bound to be raised from the dead. This same Word spoke to us to say, “For in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:21). We, therefore, appeal to you to believe in this Christ according to this Word, the Holy Bible. Our apologetic is grounded in the inerrant and infallible Word of the living God, and we appeal not to your reason or to logic, for the syllogisms of man have been obliterated by the wisdom of God.
Thus, we have hope.
We have high hope on Low Sunday because Jesus is King. He is the Dominus Regnavit of Psalm 93. Christ gives us hope because He has a new wear, His resurrection body; He has inaugurated a new Word, the new heavens and the new earth; and He rules by His irrefutable Word, which seals our hope with eternal certainty.
The Gospel of John records that Christ transformed the lives of His disciples as they were behind the locked doors of fear. It says He walked through the locked door, spoke peace to them, and showed them His wounded hands and side. The Bible says, “the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.”
Where are you living today, oh disciple of Christ? What is your locked door? By the power of His Word and His Spirit receive the risen Lord Jesus into your life now. Be born again. Be delivered from the anxieties of this world. See His hands and side. Listen to His Word, “Peace be with you.”
Dominus Regnavit. This changes everything.