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The Joy Set Before Him

Psalms  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  27:56
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Having washed His disciples’ feet, Jesus and His disciples gathered around the table and with a clear voice, Jesus as the head of the Passover feast began to sing...
Psalm 113:1–3 ESV
Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord! Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and forevermore! From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised!
His disciples now join Him in song...
Psalm 113:4–9 ESV
The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the Lord!
We can be as certain as we possibly can be that this is the hymn Jesus and His disciplines opened their Passover celebration with because this has been the hymn that devout Jews have opened their Passover celebration with for centuries. Traditionally Jews have sung Psalm 113-115 before the meal and Psalm 116-118 after the meal. We know from the gospels that Jesus and His disciples sang hymns that evening and there is no reason to believe they would not have sang these six psalms.
These six psalms are called the Egyptian Hallel. “Egyptian” because they celebrate the Exodus from Egypt and “Hallel” because they are “praise” hymns and hallel is the Hebrew word for “praise.” I have entitled this sermon, The Joy Set Before Him, because I believe these six Psalms, as are all the Psalms, were inspired by Jesus, written primarily about and for Jesus. By God providence these six Psalms were written to encourage Jesus on the night before He was crucified. They encouraged Jesus because they reminded Him of the Joy Set Before Him.
That phrase, “the joy set before him” comes from Hebrews 12:2, which reads:
Hebrews 12:2 ESV
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Psalm 113 encouraged Jesus, because it reminded Him of...

The Joy of the Great Congregation Praising the Lord

This is found in verses 1-3. Here we read that the king is calling the “servants of the Lord” to praise the Lord. I say king, because in the ancient near east it was the duty of the king to lead the people in worship. We see this throughout Israel’s history. Before there were kings in Israel, Moses and Joshua composed songs which they taught to the people and then led them in worship of God by using these songs. In the books of Judges, we find Deborah and Barak doing the same thing. The first act of Saul, when he was anointed by the Holy Spirit, was to lead a group of prophets in song. David of course was the “sweet psalmist of Israel,” but we often forget that Solomon his son also composed psalms and led Israel in worship.
How appropriate it was for Jesus, the Messiah, the King of kings, to lead His disciples in worship at that final Passover. Jesus is still the chief worship leader of the people of God. It is He who leads our worship here today. We of course don’t see Him with our eyes or hear Him with our ears. But by faith it is He who leads all true worship. Did He not say to the Samaritan woman,...
John 4:23–24 ESV
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
So, it is Jesus as King who calls the “servants of the Lord” to praise the Lord.
I call this the Great Congregation for two reasons:
He is calling for praise “this time forth and forevermore.”
He is calling for praise “from the rising of the sun to its setting.”
In other words, this gathering of saints spans the ages, from Adam to the last person who believes in Jesus! Moreover, it is not limited to just one locality, such as Judah, but it gathers saints from across the globe. Jesus gave John a glimpse of this Great Congregation...
Revelation 7:9–10 ESV
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
If there is any doubt as to who this great multitude is, John’s vision continues...
Revelation 7:13–14 ESV
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
This Great Congregation is the blood bought saints of the Lord! How encouraging it must have been for Jesus to have sang Psalm 113 the night before He shed His blood! How encouraging it still is for God’s people to sing these words amidst the trials and tribulations of this world. The dark clouds of this life will depart, and a glorious Day will dawn when we join that mighty chorus of praise. Hallelujah!
This leads us to the middle portion of this Psalm. Let me read those three verses again to refresh your memory, but this time I would like to read from the NIV with translates verse 6 more literally.
Psalm 113:4–6 NIV11
The Lord is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?
Here the psalmist is asking us a question, “who is like the Lord our God?”
This question comes from the song Moses taught the people by the Red Sea.
Exodus 15:11 ESV
“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
These middle three verses of Psalm 113 are about...

The Joy of Delivering the Great Congregation

The two great salvific events in the Bible are the Exodus and the Crucifixion. The Exodus in the great salvific event of the Old Covenant and the Crucifixion is the great salvific event of the New Covenant.
I chose to read from the NIV because it captures more clearly the condescending humility it required of God to deliver His people, first from the bondage Egypt and then from the bondage of sin. From our perspective the miracles of the Exodus were “awesome” and “wondrous,” but from God’s perspective they were “stooping down.” The image of God that Psalm 113 gives us of God is that He is so highly exalted and glorious that the mighty deeds of the Exodus were like a 275-pound NFL linebacker getting on the floor to “wrestle” with his three-year-old son of the living room floor!
Of course, our deliverance from sin demanded a even greater humiliation of the second member of the Trinity. Jesus, the eternal Son of God, had to take on our flesh and blood and die the shameful death of the cross! The apostle Paul reminds us of this when he writes:
Philippians 2:6–8 ESV
who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
On that night before His crucifixion, how the words of Psalm 113 must have given our Lord Jesus encouragement and joy! He remembered how God glorified Himself by humbling Himself in the Exodus. In the same way, He knew He would be most glorified on the Cross.
Who indeed is like the Lord our God, high and exalted above the heavens, who humbles Himself to deliver His people! Hallelujah!
Finally, there is...

The Joy of Exalting the Great Congregation

In the context of verses 4-6, the closing three verses of this Psalm speak of a joy that is almost incomprehensible!
Psalm 113:7–9 ESV
He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the Lord!
First the psalmist speaks of the poor being exalted to royal status, then he speaks of a barren woman become the joyous mother of not just a child, but children! These of course are poetic metaphors of salvation. Sin has cast all humanity into the dust and ash heap. Pronouncing the curse of sin upon Adam, God closes by saying...
Genesis 3:19 ESV
By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Sin and death are the great levelers. You will never see a T.V. series entitled, “The Decomposition of the Rich and Famous” because such a show would remind us that in the end we are all the same. The theme song to the Broadway show and then movie Fame, had a line that went like this, “Fame, I want to live forever.” That is the great lie we want to believe, that fame and fortune will give us immortality, but it is a lie, in the end we all die and turn to dust and ashes, unless the Lord delivers us.
This is the joy and glory of God’s salvation—it takes those who are spiritually poor and makes them rich by exalting them as sons of God!
Do you realize what “going to heaven” really means? It means that we are exulted to that high place were God is!
The second metaphor is that of a barren woman. There are few sorrows more bitter in this life than being childless. I don’t say this lightly or unaware of how much this reminder hurts some who hear it. I say this with empathy, because Scripture makes it clear that we are all fruitless like barren women. That is the power of this metaphor, it moves us from the deepest of sorrow to the greatest of joys. That great joy is what Jesus died for. He died to give all who believe in Him the greatest of joys—His joy!
Twice on that Passover night Jesus spoke of giving His followers His joy.
John 15:11 ESV
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
John 17:13 ESV
But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
This was the joy that was set before Jesus as He endured the cross. This is the joy He and His disciplines sang about in the Upper Room. This is the joy Jesus is offering you today. Hallelujah!
This morning three young people have professed their faith in Jesus Christ. Have you? Right now, eternity hangs in the balance. You don’t know if your will have another day of life. If you died today would you go to dust or to glory? Jesus died to make it possible for you to go to glory. Salvation is a free gift from God. If is received by faith, it is not earned by works. Will you not receive the gift of salvation today?
In a moment we are going to pray. If you haven’t received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, do so as I pray.
Let us pray.
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