Clap your hands, all you people. Shout to God with a loud, joyful song.
We must fear the LORD, the Most High. He is the great king of the whole earth.
He brings people under our authority and puts nations under our feet.
He chooses our inheritance for us, the pride of Jacob, whom He loved.
God has gone up with a joyful shout. The LORD has gone up with the sound of a ram’s horn.
Make music to praise God. Play music for Him! Make music to praise our king. Play music for Him!
God is the king of the whole earth. Make your best music for Him!
God rules the nations. He sits upon His holy throne.
The influential people from the nations gather together as the people of the God of Abraham. The rulers of the earth belong to God. He rules everything.
Angels appeared to Jesus’ disciples just after Jesus ascended into heaven. They asked, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky?” Do you think the angels were really looking for an answer from the disciples when they asked that question? The question appears to imply that the disciples had no good reason for standing around looking into the sky. Jesus had visibly returned to the right hand of His heavenly Father. Waiting around at the place where they last saw Him was not going to bring Him back. Jesus had told them what they should be doing. They were to wait for the Holy Spirit to be poured out upon them. Then they would become witnesses for Jesus in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
But for a moment let us suppose the angels expected the disciples to answer their question. Why were they standing there looking into the sky – their teacher, their Lord, their Savior, their friend was gone. They were stunned and a bit afraid. “What are we going to do now?” is possibly a question they were asking themselves. “How will we know what to say and where to go as witnesses for Jesus?” “Who is going to lead us now that Jesus is gone?”
I am sure that the disciples could have given all kinds of explanations for the fact that they were standing there looking intently into the sky. But the angels knew what the disciples needed to hear. Jesus had not left them forever. He will return in the same way the disciples saw Him ascend into heaven. On top of that Jesus had promised to prepare a place for them in heaven. He had assured the disciples that when He ascended into heaven He would rule all things for their good and for the growth of His Kingdom.
So, “Why do you stand here looking into the sky? We are not literally doing that. But perhaps we are living our lives as though we were. When it comes to the work Jesus has given us, we may frequently be afraid and confused. As we face the uncertainties of life we may often be looking into the sky wondering where Jesus is and what He is doing about our problems. In relation to our boldness of faith and Christian living, we may feel as helpless as the disciples did when the angels found them staring into the sky.
Today let us focus on the verses of Psalm 47 to let the Holy Spirit remind us of what the ascension means to us. We have no reason to live our lives like deer caught in the headlights. Let us be empowered to live with an ascension attitude that celebrates the great things Christ has accomplished and live with confidence in what Christ continues to do.
The Psalms were used in worship in Old Testament times. Certain Psalms were picked for specific festivals. Whatever the occasion for this Psalm, it makes one thing very clear – God rules all people. There is no nation, ruler, or power greater than His authority. Because of that, God’s people can celebrate what God has done and what He continues to do. This is a message for us in the ascension of Jesus.
Psalm 47 says, Clap your hands, all you people. Shout to God with a loud, joyful song. We must fear the LORD, the Most High. He is the great king of the whole earth. He brings people under our authority and puts nations under our feet. He chooses our inheritance for us, the pride of Jacob, whom He loved. The Psalm calls on everyone in the world to give God praise for the great things He has done. The power and love that God has showed toward the Israelites was to be the reason for such a response from all nations. At no other time in history and never in such a dramatic way had God taken a nation to be His people. But as the Psalm reflects on what God had done for Israel it tells us that the whole world can celebrate.
Starting in Egypt, the Lord had subdued nations for His people. Through the 10 Plagues He broke the will of the Egyptians so that they begged the Jews to leave. That was victory number one for the Lord.
And how could a group of slaves escape one of the greatest military powers of that time – because God fought for His people in the desert and at the Red Sea.
How did that same group of freed slaves conquer the nations that occupied Canaan? Once again it was because of the Lord’s power.
Psalm 47 could have been written about the victories that were won under Joshua or Samson or Gideon. The military successes of King David and his son Solomon would also fit this Psalm.
God did more that just win victories for His people. Because of His love for the Israelites He gave them a bountiful land. Each tribe was given a portion of the Promised Land so that all their physical needs were satisfied. That was an inheritance that God wanted His people to pass on from generation to generation.
When we know some of the history of God’s people, we can understand the attitude of worship and praise expressed in this Psalm. They appreciated what God had done for them in the past. Again and again He had shown them His power and His love. They worshiped Him as the Lord of the nations and the One who gave them the many blessings they enjoyed.
I pray that Jesus’ ascension would produce that same kind of attitude in us. Think about the celebration that took place when Jesus returned from His mission to save the world. We can imagine the angels celebrating the fact that God’s Son was back where He belonged on the throne of God at the Father’s right hand. Jesus’ resurrection proved that He had paid for sin and conquered death. His ascension strengthened the truth that His victories were complete. If Jesus still had work to do for our salvation He would not have returned to Heaven. As we remember Jesus’ ascension may our knowledge of His victories give us the attitude expressed in Psalm 47. Clap your hands, all you people. Shout to God with a loud, joyful song. We must fear the LORD, the Most High. He is the great king of the whole earth. He brings people under our authority and puts nations under our feet. That really does capture an ascension attitude.
We know and believe that Jesus has satisfied our need for forgiveness, He has conquered death for us, and He has sent Satan away with no claim on us. If we are going to look up into the sky like the disciples did at Jesus’ ascension, let it be for the purpose of celebrating what Jesus has accomplished.
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky?” The angels did not let the disciples answer that question. But one thing that might have been going through their minds was what Jesus had said about going to prepare a place for them. As that cloud came and hid Him from their sight, their thoughts may have returned to the night in the upper room when Jesus said, (John 14:2-3) My Father’s house has many rooms. If that were not true, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? If I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again. Then I will bring you into My presence so that you will be where I am. After all that they had seen and heard, there was more to come. Jesus was ascending into Heaven to get everything ready for their arrival. How could that not put joy in their hearts? Once again we are presented with a reason to pause and appreciate what Jesus accomplished. He is preparing a place for each of us in Heaven. There is a space that belongs to you and me in glory. Our eternal inheritance is secure. Heaven is our home. Knowing that and believing that will give us an ascension attitude.
Practically speaking, what does it mean to live with an ascension attitude? It goes beyond knowing that Jesus accomplished everything for our salvation and that He has prepared a place for us in heaven. It also means that we live with confidence in what Jesus continues to do. The ascension Psalm directs us to the ongoing work Jesus does on our behalf. God has gone up with a joyful shout. The LORD has gone up with the sound of a ram’s horn. Make music to praise God. Play music for Him! Make music to praise our king. Play music for Him! God is the king of the whole earth. Make your best music for Him! God rules the nations. He sits upon His holy throne. The influential people from the nations gather together as the people of the God of Abraham. The rulers of the earth belong to God. He rules everything. We have no reason to wring our hands over the evils that our government is allowing or even encouraging. Jesus is in control of those who govern us. And when the powers of this world fight against Jesus and seem to win, we can be confident that they are not. The great King still works history out for the good of His Church.
And what does that mean for us that Jesus is seated on His holy throne? The Bible tells us that He prays for us, intercedes for us, uses His power for our benefit. Hebrews 7:25 That is why He is always able to save those who come to God through Him. He can do this because He always lives and intercedes for them. I John 2:1 says; … if anyone does sin, we have Jesus Christ, who has God’s full approval. He speaks on our behalf when we come into the presence of the Father. Jesus did not ascend into heaven to take a vacation. He is still working all things for our good.
Imagine if you were best friends with a very rich person who told you that if you ever needed anything you should just call him. Or if your brother was the President of our country and he told you to just call if you needed anything. Then suppose someone was trying to unfairly take your home from you. Do you think your friends would not help? Now take those imaginary situations and multiply the idea to the real situation you have under Jesus’ protection. All the resources of heaven and earth are at His disposal. Everything belongs to Jesus. Even the President of our country answers to Jesus. Let those truths give you an ascension attitude as you live with confidence in what Jesus continues to do.
Now back to the question. “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky?” The ascension was not meant to take the wind out the disciples’ sails. It was meant to empower them. They had no reason to hang around like lost children. His victories were complete. His reign over all things fully resumed.
“Members of Angelica Lutheran Church, why do you sit around looking into the sky? If a couple of angels asked us that question, we kind of answers would we come up with. “We are afraid? We want Jesus to come back and show us His power?” “We do not know what to do?” “Everything in the world and everything in our lives seems to be against us. How will we survive?” “We do not know what the future holds. It is scary!” Those may sound like real reasons for standing around looking into the sky wishing Jesus were here. But Jesus’ ascension tells a different story.
If we believe that Jesus rules all things for our good, how come we are standing around looking into the sky? He has promised to be with us always. He assures us that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. We cannot be defeated.
To enable us to live with an ascension attitude let us read Psalm 47 again, thinking of that day that Jesus was taken up into the sky in front of His disciples. Recall His victories for you. Celebrate what He has done. Then leave here today to live with confidence in what He continues to do. May we never again be standing around staring into the sky. Let us live with an ascension attitude, in Jesus’ name. Amen.