Good Morning. Last week we saw that God has a number of indisputable, yet impossible to understand characteristics. He cannot be produced as an image of any sort. He is timeless. His memory is beyond all imagination, infinite and perfect, his ability to see us, anywhere, anytime is crystal clear. He is the best communicator. He hates evil, He has to punish sin, and cannot be told anything. I noted that the modern church is fast moving towards thinking that they can teach God how Christianity should look in the 21st century, people assume that the Bible can be modernised as God wrote it so long ago, and we dare to tell God that he is wrong. How do these things fit in today's Psalm, that of Psalm 2. Let us read this together, and as we do, consider if anything has changed?
1 'Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,
3 "Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us."
4 He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision.
5 Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, And distress them in His deep displeasure:
6 "Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion."
7 "I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, `You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.
8 Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter's vessel.'"
10 Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth.
11 Serve the LORD with fear, And rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, And you perish in the way, When His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.'
Here we have before us, the first Messianic Psalm. It is a prophetic Psalm that looks forward to the coming of the Lord. However, I want us to see that this is also a Psalm that tells us much about ourselves, and about God, about salvation, about how we receive salvation, and our response to salvation. I trust each of you has a little bit of memory about last week's topic. Using this Psalm I want to specifically highlight a point that will run through today's lesson. As mentioned in my opening, who do we think we are? that we dare question the authority of God, His Word, and His decrees - that is, the way we should live our lives. I add to this a second challenge: How dare we ignore God, and live life as we feel like, when we feel like, practicing our Christianity in whatever way takes our fancy for the moment? Maybe we do not dare to do this at all. I trust that our Christianity is a little more Biblically based. However, we demonstrate the rebellion through our lives, including a feeble effort in living the Christian belief. Is it because we really don't know God as we should? Have we really placed ourselves under His power, and His governance - totally? In the modern world, sin is no longer a word used, mediocrity is a way of life, 'softly softly' we maintain the status quo, not upsetting people with our faith, disturbing them with the truths in God's Word. Yet, we have this Psalm that hits that approach between the eyes. The Psalmist has no qualms at all to tell it how it is, have it published, with God keeping it alive for 3000 years so, we can read it today.
Who wrote the Psalm? If your Bible is like mine, it has nothing above the first verse to tell us. However, interestingly enough if we flip to Acts chapter 4 we can read the following, starting at verse 24: So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: "Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, "who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: `Why did the nations rage, And the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the LORD and against His Christ.' Luke is telling us that David wrote Psalm 2, with parts important enough to be written twice in the Word.
Verse one starts with a question. This is what is called a rhetorical question as it does not provide an answer, and really the answer does not actually matter. It is known beyond a skerrick of doubt that the nations rage and plot vain things. This may have been written 3000 years ago, but look at China today, Russia a few years back, the Arab world, Indonesia and other Islamic nations today. What is one of the latter country's main purposes? To destroy all that is not Islamic, and in particular, all that is Christian and Jewish. The rage is evident in bombs, in the merciless killing of Christians in many of these places. What about our own backyard? Romans 5:10 tells us: 'For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.' Is this not the life of a person plotting vain things? As enemies of God, were we not raging against Him? Maybe we were not yelling and screaming, or having a tantrum, but our lives were against God, we did our best to thwart God, we lived contrary to God's ways before our salvation. Why were we like that? Why is the world like that? Can we answer David's why? Not that it matters, though the answer is quite simple, and we can read one of many verses that tells us all the same things: Colossians - we spent much time in this book, let us not forget any of its verses: 'and you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works': we were wicked, as other verses tell us, we were full of sin - we had no good in us. That is why we raged against God. Our inherent nature, the way we were born is that of a sinful nature. The world does not like that picture and refutes it.
What does this tell us about God? It tells us the negative side, that which is not God's doing: God's is perfect, He has total goodness and righteousness, man who does not have God as part of their life, cannot cope with having God near, so we plot vain things, we rage against God. We seem to believe that we can rage against God. That in itself is a ridiculous thought. Unlike many parents, with raging toddlers, God can deal with us, whenever He wants, to whatever level of judgment He wants, as we will see later in this Psalm, and he will do so justly. Is this why the word vain is used? It's pointless. Our enmity with God is pointless. It changes nothing about Him, and destroys our own souls. Pointless, foolishness, sinful, wicked.
Verse 2 states that 'The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the LORD and against His Anointed,' This is an interesting statement to see in a Messianic prophetic Psalm, and we see the prophecy fulfilled in the New Testament in Luke 23:12: That very day Pilate and Herod became friends with each other, for previously they had been at enmity with each other. This is the great thing about God. He is the perfect teacher. If we are reading his Word, he reminds us as we read through His book, the same thing, in different places, and explains Himself, often by example. Verse 2 prophetically demonstrates what would happen when Jesus was brought to trial. Not only did Pilate and Herod become friends, they also sided with, and followed the instructions of the Jewish leaders; Pilate not even agreeing in his own mind that the punishment the Jews wanted - crucifixion - was at all warranted. Remember, he wanted to release Jesus to them, but they demanded Barabbas. However, the prophecy in the Psalm is not just stopping there. It is happening today, it will happen at the Tribulation, and it was happening as David wrote the Psalms. Leaders around the world for century after century have set themselves against the Lord and the Lord's people. For example, in the so-called Christian nation of America, where more people claim Christianity as their religion that anywhere else in the world, my brother had Good Friday as a public holiday. Was it called Good Friday? No, it reverted back to what much of Easter is based on these days, in terms of rabbits and chocolate eggs - that of a pagan holiday, Spring Festival day. Rulers took counsel together and decided not to call a day Good Friday, as this would give people the impression that the day was in some way Christian! Never offend, they say, apart from Christians.
What was the counsel noted in verse 2 that the rulers took against the God and the Lord Jesus Christ? Verse three says 'Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us'. Hosea 11:4 gives us a contrast: 'I drew them with gentle cords, With bands of love'. Life did not change for God. He is unchangeable. His cords are still cords of love, but we did not want them before we became His. This was in the context of removing the yoke from us, an act of total love. We seem to want to keep the yoke. He tells us that if we want to be yoked, to: 'Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light'. Matthew 11:29-30.These are not bonds, however, when a person has a mind full of sin and enmity towards God, they can only see them as bonds to be broken from.
These verses teach us about our how we must have a relationship with God. Psalm 118 teaches us the following about cords: 'God is the LORD, And He has given us light; Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will praise You; You are my God, I will exalt You.' We have to have a willingness to be not only a sacrifice to God ('I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service' Romans 12:1), but also bind ourselves to the horns of the altar, be bound to God as it were through the sacrifice we bring. Paul tells us in the Romans' verse that this is a reasonable service. When we tell someone that something is reasonable, we are not going over the top, reasonable is just 'acceptable'; what the average person should do - it is what we should just do - nothing less. Are we willing to be bound in that way, or are we like the folks mentioned in our Psalm today, wanting to break away from God, do our own thing, disown God, for if we are bound to God, we cannot do our own thing, we have to accept all He gives to us, be it little or much. That is the God we are talking about, that is what being God centric is about. Being bound, tied to Him. The sweetener in the deal that God provides is that the cords are cords of love, His Love, and that love is the most incredible love of all that makes up for any small sacrifice we may have to make. Being tied means that we give up self, and our own will. We submit totally to the one who has control of the cords, it is our choice, but means so much more, as it is a choice of becoming a slave for God. God expects us to accept this teaching as the way to be and think. The bottom line is that He is God, who are we?
Verses 4 and 5 are the next segment of the Psalm. The first describes our behaviour before we were saved. These verses are tough. But they expand for us more about the character of God. Let us read them again: 'He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, And distress them in His deep displeasure:' This is not the type of laugh we have at a joke. Nothing joyous here. It is a mocking laugh. God uses a laughter we understand to demonstrate His view on our behaviour. In 1926 A minister called Campbell Morgan[i] wrote: 'This derisive laughter of God is the comfort of all those who love righteousness. It is the laughter of the might of holiness; it is the laughter of the strength of love. God does not exult over the sufferings of sinning me. He does hold in derision all the proud boastings and violence of such as seek to prevent His accomplishment of His will.' This sounds like a reasonable explanation. If we take the Biblical stance and test what man has to say about what the Bible says we can note there are two further passages that have the exact same sentiments: Psalm 37:12-13: 'The wicked plots against the just, And gnashes at him with his teeth. The Lord laughs at him, For He sees that his day is coming'. And Psalm 59:6-8: 'At evening they return, They growl like a dog, And go all around the city. Indeed, they belch with their mouth; Swords are in their lips; For they say, "Who hears?" But You, O LORD, shall laugh at them; You shall have all the nations in derision.' This is what was mentioned last week, where many so called Christian churches only preach a God of Love. He is indeed a God of Love, and His Love is just and perfect. However, in His love for righteousness, God must do something about the unrighteous. So, He has given them a choice. The choice against God will be met with laughter of derision. The Psalm 59 example has man saying "who hears?" Here again we can ask the same question already asked, how can we hold God in such poor light that we believe there are places we can talk and He does not hear. God hears all things. That is our God. He is central to all things, he hears all things, and to those who deny this, He will laugh at them.
The next verses talk of God's wrath and the "distress" he will cause. God has a righteous wrath, that is just, that will fall upon all those who reject Him. What other solution does God have? Man has a free will; God has provided two choices, and man makes that choice. God provides every bit of evidence one would ever need as to what the consequences of those choices are. No one can say that God is not fair. He gives examples of exile of His people to try and get them back to His ways. He shows us people being burned up with Holy fire for disobeying His commands, being bitten by snakes, being annihilated by the enemy. In the other choice He also tells us much about what this will bring: all the strength, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, grace that we would ever need. He offers us heaven for eternity, life in the light forever, knowledge, wisdom and power against the evil one.
Peter explains these concepts in his first book (1 Peter 2:4-9) 'For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds) -- then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment''
We see all that is written, and the explanation God gives throughout His book, about why He abhors evil - then we stand back and say, a loving God would not send bad people to Hell for eternity. Why not? Where have we learned the meaning of righteousness if we believe that lie? What is it about God's Word that is hard to understand? It is more around not wanting to understand it. Maybe I am being harsh. However, in my experience, if we follow God, we need to give up self, our wants, desires, our pet sins, those 'white' lies, the pleasures of the world. That is tough stuff. We may be sent by God to a hot, humid, fetid part of Africa. He may expect us to speak of His way to the person next door. We may need to make a stand in the workplace, football club, or even family, when we decide that God comes before the Sunday morning fun being offered, or the Sunday morning footy game. I grew up in a church that never used that name - Sunday. It was always the Lord's Day. Not Biblical, I know, but made us put that one day aside for God; and we had a reminder that time must be set aside for God alone.
God is God. He is absolute sovereign, Almighty God, Lord of Lords, King of Kings, worthy of all praise. If we refuse to become God centric, and stay me-centric, and refuse to accept the perfect solution He offers us, through the offering of His Son as the perfect blood sacrifice for our sins, then why would God not express His wrath on those who make the refusal?
We move on to that of the next section. Again, let us re-read these words starting at verse 6: "Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion." "I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, `You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter's vessel.'"
Note the very first word of thid section of the Psalm. This is the messianic prophecy, where God is telling His people that His King will be placed in Jerusalem. Note the word "Yet". The previous verses tell of the people that have rejected God, the people who have tried to gang up against God, who have the audacity to believe that they can defeat or ignore God. We have seen that God will laugh at them in the context of their own ignorance. We can see that the wrath of God is against them, and that he will distress them for their attitude against Him. Yet, despite all of this, a saviour is coming. A saviour to whom God will give the nations, the very nations that we read about in verse one, those that rage.
Who is it that these verses are talking of? It is God's own King. What is Zion, or Jerusalem? It is God's own Holy hill. We have the privilege of hindsight when we read these verses as we know this is talking of the Lord Jesus Christ. God sent His only begotten Son to die for the sins of the world, and then gives Him the ends of the earth for His possession. We know we sit today, between the 'Yet' and the inheritance being fully given. We know that some of the prophecy has come to pass, the nation of Israel was dashed to pieces like a potter's vessel, after Jesus' death, and they only reclaimed Israel in 1948. However, the nations have yet to be subdued - this is to come. Israel has yet to become God's sovereign nation. Jerusalem is not yet His Holy Hill as such. It is currently desecrated by a Muslim mosque.
The final verses are great ones to conclude with: Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, And rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, And you perish in the way, When His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.' Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him. We need to make a choice. The choice is easy if we understand the character of God, for with understanding with come wisdom, and a desire to serve Him more.
In the meantime, the instructions are here in Psalm 2 have no less meaning in 2012 that they did in 1000 or so BC. Serve the LORD with fear. Again, if we understand the nature of God, how nothing we do, ever, is invisible to Him; nothing we say, ever, is inaudible to Him; no sin is unrecognised, glossing over bad ways are not missed. God knows all, has all wisdom, and His way is perfect. His anger may be raised against us if we continue to disobey him and we are His children, we may perish. That is not a question of losing salvation, that is God removing us, and our salvation is as by fire, singed around the edges, but not completely burned. Verses like 1 Corinthians 11:53 tells us: 'For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.'
We need to be at that point - we need not arrive in heaven totally full of shame, as some will do. Through serving the Lord with fear, rejoicing, with trembling, placing our trust in Him, we may bring to Him gold, silver, and precious stones, not wood, hay, nor stubble. We can make the choice, to know God, and worship Him because He is God, or humanise Him, bring Him to our level, forgetting His Majesty, and suffering the consequence of our vain rage, rebellion, or foolishness.