A World Out of Control
A world out of control
A world out of control?
Are you ever surprised by what you see in the world around you?
I guess I wonder if you’re ever surprised by the animosity towards God and his people that we observe.
We read last week in Psalm 1 about those who love to mock God, and, well, we know all too clearly what that looks like don’t we?, in its various forms.
Whether the aggressive, deliberate fist-shaking rebellion against God, in the form of the blasphemy laws in places like Pakistan, used by many to settle personal scores with the Christian neighbours and have them thrown into prison or worse,
The militant atheists whose stated goal is to undermine people’s faith in God,
Sometimes it’s much more personal, low key, someone who seems to have given no thought to God at all throughout their life, suddenly in the face of some disaster piles up the blame for their misfortune at God’s feet, in a giant heap of bitterness and rage,
Some times it’s very much directed at others, with the great lengths that some people go to to try and silence God’s voice, and those who would speak God’s word.
Now we know that our world is out of step with God, broken and stumbling, so we know that there will be things that aren’t as they’re supposed to be.
But sometimes I’m surprised at the ferociousness of people’s opposition to God.
One classic example of this is the in the abortion debate, and particularly surrounding abortion law reform, like we saw with the Victorian Abortion Law Reform Act passed just over 2 years ago.
All doctors, regardless of conscience, or religion, or ethical position, are required to make referrals to a doctor who will perform an abortion. It’s enshrined in the legislation.
In the debate surrounding those laws and similar laws around the country, Christian doctors who speak up with their understanding of God’s high view of life, are howled down, violently and aggressively dismissed.
The irony is we’re always told abortion is about choice, Except it seems that you only get a choice if you agree with those in power. If you listen to God instead of those who try and shout him down, you’re not given any choice, just compulsion!
And the ultimate irony is that the politicians who voted that law into effect gave themselves a conscience vote on the issue, something those Christian doctors were denied.
How good our country has got, at keeping God at arm’s length, and turning our ears from his Word.
And so we find that Psalm 2, although it’s about 3000 years old, reflects our experience of our world.
It’s a preacher’s delight too, it’s got three sections and an application!
The sermon’s just about all written before me!
Sometimes writing a sermon is a bit like putting together Ikea furniture, after a few hours you’ve got bits spread everywhere and it’s completely unrecognisable!
But not with Psalm 2!
This Psalm is one of a number of Psalms known as the “royal Psalms”, they originally were sung in the royal court of Israel.
They were used to remind people and remind the king of the roles and positions God had established for them.
Specifically, Psalm 2 is a coronation Psalm.
So in a few years when Prince Charles becomes King Charles the 27th or whatever, when they put that purple crown with the really big diamond on his head, Some composer will be commissioned to write a piece of music especially for the occasion. And it will probably be modern and arty, and , we’ll hate it, but,
But that’s the occasion here.
Here’s a song, that talks about a king being established on his throne.
And the Psalm falls into those 4 sections I mentioned earlier, three points plus an application.
Firstly we’ve got rebellion against God in verses 1 to 3
Then God announces that he’s anointed a king, verses 4 to 6.
In 7 to 9 the new king speaks,
And the application from the Psalmist, the author, composer, comes in verses 10 to 12.
In Old Testament Israel, the king was understood to have been given power and authority to reign from God himself.
The king didn’t have power because he had won it,
He didn’t have authority because he had earned it,
In fact the first two kings were picked, from a human perspective, seemingly randomly, by God himself.
God exercises authority over all the world and entrusted some of his rule and power to the king, to lead and govern God’s chosen nation, Israel,
It’s an understanding of the way that God raises up leaders that has carried over into more modern times,
So if you think of the words to God Save the Queen, there’s a recognition that her reign, and her power, and her authority, are allowed and determined by God.
At least that was the original idea!
So when Israel’s neighbours rose up against her,
When their battle plan was to kill the king of Israel, and take his people and land away,
They weren’t just setting themselves up against the king, they were actually opposing God.
They were rejecting God’s anointed leader and in doing so defying God’s authority and established pattern.
God’s , ideal plan , was that all people everywhere, would recognise the authority of this ruler,
They would see that he exercised God’s rule.
They’d acknowledge that when he spoke, he spoke God’s words, and they were worth listening to, because they were God’s words,
But of course, we know, from our own experience of the world, that that’s not how people related to God,
That’s not the attitude people have to the rulers that God establishes.
That’s not how people respond to those who speak God’s Word into the various situations of life.
People, nations, . rulers, turn their backs on God, and even more than that, which is kind of passive, they actively oppose God.
Look at the words that are used in those first three verses to describe people’s opposition to God and his chosen ruler.
They conspire, verse 1, the people plot.
They take their stand , and the rulers gather together, against the Lord and against his anointed one.
I don’t like bad news!
I’ll often turn off the news or stop reading the paper just because I don’t want to keep loading up with bad news!
But there’s an email subscription of very bad news that I keep getting, because I think it’s important for me to keep reading it,
And that is the news updates I get about the persecutions that Christians in other countries are suffering.
It’s never fun reading, but it’s good for us to be reminded of those who, to name the name Jesus, can be a death sentence.
The Indian State of Orissa is one place where this is a major problem.
70,000 Christians have been forced to flee their homes because of the violence intended to stop the Word of God spreading in India.
If you were to round up every single person in church in Adelaide this morning, you wouldn’t even get to 70,000 people, and that’s the number who have lost every physical possession, in one state in India.
Gangs of Hindu extremists backed by the ruling party demolish churches, Christian homes, schools, to stop God’s work.
the nations conspire, the peoples plot,
They take their stand, gathering together, getting their plans for rebellion in order.
But thankfully, we’re not left wondering what the outcome of all this violence and rebellion will be,
The Psalmist tells us right from the very beginning, those people who shake their puny fists at God, they’re not going to win!
All their conspiring, their gathering together, their little huddles, trying to work out, how can we put God out of the picture, look at verse 1, the peoples , plot , in vain!
It’s not going to amount to anything.
I remember a friend telling me once he was trying to put his 3 year old in the bath, but she didn’t want to, she was refusing to have a bath,
Insisting she wasn’t going to have a bath.
And he thought, “you’re a puny, skinny, naked 3 year old, defiantly telling me how it’s going to be! As if I couldn’t just pick you up with one hand and put you in the bath!”
A puny, skinny, naked, 3 year old. The Bible’s a bit more elegant in its description, but that’s the picture!
It might look like people have succeeded in pushing God out of the picture,
Stopping God’s work,
Silencing those who would speak God’s Word,
But this isn’t just the past-time of ancient near-eastern kings, this is the heart of every human being,
Let us throw off God’s rule!
Let’s be in charge of our own lives!
Let’s do things our own way, why should someone else tell us how we should live?
It’s the very heart of the abortion debate I mentioned earlier, “No one is going to tell me what’s right and what I should do.”
Those people you know, who set themselves up against God , will , not , succeed.
People who refuse to acknowledge God’s chosen ruler , will , not triumph.
“let us break their chains, and throw off their fetters, or shackles”
Let’s make our own rules,
Let’s not listen to anyone who tells us we can’t do what we want,
Let’s free ourselves from all restraint.
Do what you wanna do, be what you wanna be, yeah, Thanks Masters Apprentices! They came from Adelaide, they know what we’re like!
We do the things that those opposed to God do, because, none of us are on God’s side by default.
Look at the progression in the way people try and cast off God’s rule, these are the steps to independence we all try and take.
They take their stand,
And they gather together.
But is God worried by this display of defiance?
Does his anointed ruler hurry off to the Continuity of Government bunker somewhere?
Not on your life!
Look at the beginning of the second section, verse 4 and we’ll find out who wins the day.
The one enthroned in heaven laughs.
The Lord scoffs at them.
Not exactly the response of someone quaking in their boots, is it?!
God mocks the self importance of the kings of the earth by announcing the installation of his own king.
And just as the people’s rebellion escalated, we see a similar progression in God’s response to the rebellion.
the one enthroned in heaven , Laughs
He rebukes them, in his anger
And terrifies them, in his wrath.
There’s this development, a picture of God’s progressive response when people reject him.
It’s obvious that God is not at all worried for himself when people oppose him and reject his anointed ruler, he’s not some megalomaniac who needs his ego stroked, he laughs and scoffs.
But the thought of God laughing or scoffing isn’t especially frightening.
But that God , rebukes these people, in his anger,
That he terrifies them in his wrath, that’s , another story.
But for lots of people, there’s not even any room in their understanding of God,
For a God who rebukes,
For a God who gets angry,
Who is terrifying to those who oppose him.
Rejecting God, while it’s often be passed off as an intellectual necessity, or a personal choice, it’s actually the height of arrogance.
I don’t need God,
“I’ve concluded through my vast knowledge and experience , that there’s nothing God could offer me that I can’t get for myself”
That’s what they’re saying.
If God only scoffed and laughed, it would be sad.
The truth is, that arrogance brings on God’s rebuke and God’s wrath.
In giving us this progression of how God responds, it’s almost lke the Psalmist is saying, “Let’s just , observe and see who’s more powerful here,
Yahweh, sitting on the throne in heaven, and , the people down here plotting in vain, observe the imbalance in power!
The Christian life is like a bad TV show, if I’m allowed to say that!
You know when where the camera zooms in on something so random and so out of context, that you know, it’s going to come up later in the show, it’s going to be significant in how the story is resolved.
I remember in one show someone was learning how to lip read and you think, here we go, and sure enough, at the climax, the whole thing is saved, because this person knows how to lipread.
As Christians in the 21st century, we’re not at then end yet, we don’t even know when everything’s going to end, but we already know how it’s going to end, no doubt about it, and we already know which side has the victory!
This isn’t touch and go, neck and neck, could go either way, or any other of those sporting clichés!
The one enthroned in heaven scoffs as people plot their opposition in vain.
Let that reassure you.
Let that shape your prayers, for Christians who suffer in other parts of the world.
The King’s mandate
So let’s turn our attention to the 3rd section, and listen to God’s ruler for a moment.
When we read it through before you may have noticed there’s different people speaking to each other, “I, you, Father, Son”,
But verses 7 to 9 are the words of God’s king,
And unlike the kings in the first section who shake their fists at God, this king actually speaks God’s words, look at it there in verse 7. I will proclaim the decree of the Lord, I will represent God, and so down to verse 9, he’s actually quoting God.
He, being God, said to me, the king, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father.
Now in places like Deuteronomy 1, God is pictured as a father to the nation of Israel. Here that relationship is applied particularly to the leader of the nation. Their king, God’s anointed one, will be God’s Son, God repeated that promise to David in 2 Samuel 7, about David’s descendant who would be king over Israel, I will be his father and he will be my son.
And this one who is God’s Son, has a very special role,
He’s the one who will deal with the rebellion and rejection of God pictured in those opening verses.
Did you see that?
It is through the Son, the king, that God deals with the rebellion of the nations.
So verses 8 and 9 give us this king’s mandate.
Quoting God: I will make the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.
9You will break them with a rod of iron;
you will dash them to pieces like pottery
When I worked in the uni ministry, we were invited to take part in some university celebration, I can’t remember exactly what it was, it seemed that everyone else thought it was about beer, like most celebrations at uni!
But we were invited to run a little stall so we set up a stress-relieving Plate Smashing stall. Someone had gone to every op shop in Adelaide and bought old crockery and we’d line it all up on a bookshelf and people would pay 50 cents to throw a cricket ball and smash the plates. It was very therapeutic, it did wonders for all these stressed out uni students!
It’s probably impossible now because no one would give you public liability insurance for that!
You would throw the ball at the crockery and it just disintegrates into a cloud of dust and a few shards.
Those people who oppose God, who think, I don’t need to turn my ear to what God says, they’re going to be there when the cricket ball meets the plate.
Their destruction will be certain, terrible, complete.
Don’t oppose God’s chosen king.
God’s king will exercise God’s judgment!
It’s through God’s king that God will right the wrongs of the world.
How to apply?
So what do we do with a Psalm like this, obviously referring in the first case to King David or one of his descendants.
Moderately interesting perhaps, but there are no longer any kings ruling the particular patch of ground or those people, so what’s the relevance?
Well listen to these words from the 1st Century AD, from the book of Hebrews, In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4, .
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son;
today I have become your Father”?
The same point is made in chapter 5 of Hebrews and Paul says it in Acts 13 as well, Psalm 2 is not just about some king of Israel,
Psalm 2 is ultimately about Jesus Christ.
The New Testament tells us that more than anyone else , represents God, Jesus represents God. He is God, so of course he can represent God to us!
And more than any earthly king, Jesus is the true leader of God’s people, He’s the eternal king God promised to king David.
Jesus, more than anyone else, is God’s specially chosen leader.
“Messiah” and “Christ”, are the Hebrew and Greek words for “anointed one.” And if Jesus is the anointed one in Psalm 2, that sharpens up our understanding of what some of this rebellion looks like.
The rising up against God’s anointed,
The conspiracy against God’s plans,
Is what happens when people reject Jesus.
When people who refuse to listen to Jesus speak through his Word,
When people who refuse to acknowledge Jesus’ rightful lordship over their lives.
When people say Jesus was just a man,
These are the ones who take their stand, who shake their puny fists at God.
Taking a stand against Jesus is taking a stand against God, he is, God’s chosen king.
So to rebel against Christ is to rebel in vain.
Take Diocletian, the 3rd Century Roman Emperor as an example. He was violently opposed to Jesus and the spread of God’s Word and tried to wipe the name of Christ from the earth. Diocletian erected monuments in his honour that he had inscribed with these words, “Diocletian Caesar Augustus, for having everywhere abolished the superstition of Christ”.
A few years later Dicocletian died, not having achieved what he claimed,
200 years later the Roman Empire itself collapsed.
The so-called “superstition of Christ” has outlived the Roman Empire by about 1600 years, and counting!
He set himself up against God, and against his anointed ruler, but it was all in vain,
His most brutal efforts, were in vain.
The one enthroned in heaven laughs, and sadly for Diocletian, but as justice demands, he’ll end up like broken pottery.
Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry
and you be destroyed in your way,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
Be wise, because when you reject God’s anointed one, you reject God, it’s that simple,
When people tell me that Jesus was just a nice guy who lived 2000 years ago, but doesn’t have any claim on their lives, doesn’t have a message that demands a response, I need to tell them that’s not how God sees it. Some of my friends might not like me telling them that, but I just have to picture that broken pottery and I think that will spur me on.
Don’t take your stand against the Lord’s anointed one, but take refuge in him.
Our entire lives will be summed up by our answer to the question God will put to us on that last day,
It won’t be “how good was your life?”
Or even “were you sincere in what you believed?”,
But “How did you respond to my chosen ruler?”
That decision is greater than all others and its consequences far outweigh all others.
Counsellors who help people struggling with addiction sometimes encourage their patients to kind of fast-forward in their minds, past the present situation or temptation, into the future.
If someone has an alcohol addiction, the counsellor might say, “Don’t think about now, and how much you want that drink, fast forward in your mind to 10 hours from now when that drink, and the next one, . and the next one, and the next one have taken their toll, and you’ve spent all your money, and your friends have left you on the side of the road,
Humans are addicted to sin. We just don’t seem able to get enough! But the same approach applies, we need to help people fast-forward in their minds, and see the inevitable conclusion of a life lived in rejection of God and his chosen king. Rebellion against Jesus will receive its due consequence and penalty.
So Psalm 2 truly deserves its title as a “Royal Psalm”, It is about God’s king.
And it calls us to identify ourselves with either the earthly kings, who face destruction, or God’s chosen king, who offers refuge.
Psalm 2 is also truly a coronation psalm, it points us to Jesus, who in his life and death and resurrection brings in the Kingdom of God.
A new kingdom, a new way of relating to God is established.
Psalm 2 is a warning, a warning to those who think that ignoring Jesus is just like ignoring the charity collector in the street. “I choose not to.
Psalm 2 is also an incentive, it impresses upon us the urgency of clearly communicating Jesus’ role as ruler and judge to those around us. There will be judgment, People will be called to account.
The certainty of these things should spur us on in our endeavours to share the good news of Jesus with our friends and family. Perhaps our evangelistic fervour has lost a bit of its energy, Maybe the reality of Psalm 2 is what’s needed to remind us of the important task entrusted to us in the Great Commission.
And Psalm 2 is also a great encouragement. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. Jesus isn’t a fickle ruler, he’s not a politician swayed by the opinion of the masses.
Those who serve him have no fear that at some point in the future the rules will change and we’ll find he can no longer be trusted.
So friends we shouldn’t be surprised when we see opposition to God and to Jesus. That’s not new, It’s been part of human nature since sin entered the world.
But neither should we be worried. Our refuge is in the Lord’s anointed king, the one who will judge sin and evil.
He’s a king from whom there is no refuge,
But in whom we find our refuge.