This Lord’s Day is Ascension Sunday, the day we commemorate the exaltation of Jesus Christ at the right hand of the Ancient of Days, the day upon which He was given universal and complete authority over all nations, kings, rule and authority. Our Lord’s name is the name which is above every name, and His is the name when spoken that causes every knee to bow, and every tongue to confess, that He is Lord of heaven and earth. And, as we cannot emphasize too much, this is not an invisible spiritual truth. It is simply, undividedly, true.
“It came to pass also in the twelfth year, in the fifteenth day of the month, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, wail for the multitude of Egypt, and cast them down, even her, and the daughters of the famous nations, unto the nether parts of the earth, with them that go down into the pit. Whom dost thou pass in beauty? go down, and be thou laid with the uncircumcised. They shall fall in the midst of them that are slain by the sword: she is delivered to the sword: draw her and all her multitudes. The strong among the mighty shall speak to him out of the midst of hell with them that help him: they are gone down, they lie uncircumcised, slain by the sword” (Eze 32:17-21).
Summary of the Text
One of the visions that Ezekiel was given was that of a parliament of kings, assmbled in the nether regions of Sheol. The prophet was speaking of nations which had had their time of glory under the sun, but which, inevitably, descended to the empty governance of shades and shadows. In Augustine’s trenchant phrase, among the nations of men, the dead are replaced by the dying, and however splendid an empire might be for the moment, there is no future for any nation outside of Christ. Below the earth is nothing but wisps of lost glory, and above ground archeologists might be able to find the remnants of Ozymandian ruin.
Contrast this with what we celebrate on this day of Ascension. The Lord Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, and He must reign until He has made His enemies a footstool. Of the increase of His government there will be no end. Unbelieving kings descend to nothing. The faithful king has ascended, and He shall reign for ever and ever.
Statement of the Evil
When President Obama was first elected to the presidency, I decided that at some point something was going to have to be said, and the only question was when and how. The clearest and most obvious time for this, it seems, is in the time before our new president’s first nomination to the Supreme Court. That time is now, and Ascension Sunday is an appropriate time to set the law of God and the laws of men side by side in order to have a look at them.
The claims of Jesus Christ are inescapably political, and nothing whatever can be done to alter or change that. It is unfaithfulness even to think about trying to alter that. But Jesus Christ must not be invoked in a partisan way, which is quite different. These are words that are being declared by a Christian minister, and not by a Republican operative. In the first place, I am not a Republican, and, secondly, if I were, it would remain my duty as a minister to point out that Justice Souter, who is being replaced, was a Republican appointment to the High Court. We need to remember that many of the justices whose robes are soaked with the blood of the innocents were Republican appointees.
Recognition of an Oddity
Now it may seem odd to preach to someone who is not present. But there are three reasons for preaching such a message anyway. First, this is a message that all Americans need to hear because we elected you as our president. You are a representative civil head, and there is no way to address you without addressing the nation. All of us need to hear this. Second, we need to return to the time when kings were aware of the pulpit. Mary of Scots did not attend church services where Knox preached, but they were the kind of sermons she would hear about. The Church is not called to be a lobbying agency, so if we have something lawful and necessary to say to you as the magistrate, it should be said here. And the third point is related. Ecclesiastes tells us that even a little bird can get a message to a king (Ecc. 10:20). True, that is in the context of urging us to watch carefully what we say, and so every word of this message is both measured and weighed. And while a righteousness king might find out what ungodly say about him, it is also true that an unrighteous ruler might in this way be confronted with the plain teaching of the Word of God.
The Requirement of Heaven
Mr. President, your past record, your campaign promises, your political affiliations, your supporters, your political philosophy, and your record since the election, all consistently indicate that your appointment to the Supreme Court will be a pro-abortion nominee, one who favors the continued recognition of a ghoulish “right” to slaughter the unborn. Your rhetoric, as displayed recently at Notre Dame, hypocritically aspires to transcend this debate, but your record and actions indicate otherwise. You are radically down to earth in your support of unrestricted abortion rights. This means that you will, or you have, nominated a pro-abortion judge to this vacancy. And so we come to the central point of this message, declared by a minister of Jesus Christ, speaking in His name and on His behalf. You may not do this. And if by the time this message is preached, you have already placed such a name in nomination, you are commanded by the Lord Jesus to repent and withdraw that name. The one to whom you answer forbids what you are doing.
You said in the campaign that you did not have “a litmus test” for your nominees, but it is important for you to know and recognize that the Lord Jesus does have a litmus test for judges. He requires them to hate injustice and to judge righteously (Dt. 1:16), to defend the fatherless (Is. 1:23; Jer. 5:28), and to keep the land from being soaked with the blood of innocents (Hos. 6:6-8; Ps. 10:18).
Only Sheep and Goats
The kings in our text discovered what it was to sink away from the presence of the Lord. Faithful kings bring their honor and glory into the New Jerusalem, but those who descend into the pit are tumbling from a great height, a height which they refused to understand. Josef Stalin once dismissively asked how many divisions the pope had, but this betrays a radical confusion about the nature of Christ’s rule. It is kings who hide in the rocks of the mountains (Rev. 6:15). God is the one who sent an angel to summon the birds of the air so that they might gorge themselves on the flesh of kings (Rev. 19:18). When you finally come to stand before Him, the one who is a true King, there will be no presidents or parliaments, no Congresses and no courts. There will only be sheep and goats.