Monday, December 12, 2011

PSALM 2 - Who is Really in Charge of this World ?

 This second Psalm is yet another one of these fascinating  Psalms  that provide us with perspective  and  with a  wonderful worldview  for times  such as these when  many are fearful as they consider  what might happen in the future.  Not only that , but for many Christians the constant assault by the world   upon the kingdom of God , and   the mockery by many   of  God and the work of Christ   is  reason  for  that great  question  that occurs at the very beginning of this Psalm : “Why do the nations rage ?” 

General Considerations :
This Psalm was written  nearly three thousand years ago  by David,  the king of Israel. It is is  well known as a “ Messianic Psalm”.   We know this  because this Psalm  is  directly applied to  the  Lord Jesus Christ in  Acts 4: 25,26  . That passage  is  dealing with the early Christian church. She had only just come into being, but she was already persecuted. Two of the leaders -  Peter and John, had been arrested . They had been examined and   condemned - and they had been threatened that  if they persisted in preaching about this Jesus of Nazareth and  if they would continue to spread His message they were told that  they  would be put to death. Then they set free  and they went back to their church   and reported. We are told that the moment that the church heard  this , they prayed , and in that prayer they were   quoting Psalm  2.
Mention of  Christ in relation this Psalm is also made in  Acts  13:33 and   in Hebrews 1 :5.

Outline  of this Psalm :
1.  Vv 1-3 : The opposition against the kingdom of the    Messiah
2. Vv 4-6 : The divine   response  and declaration
3. Vv. 7 -9  :  The  Messiah- Son   proclaims the  decree of the Lord
4. Vv 10 -12 : Advice is given to the kings of the earth to  yield to the Messiah

There is obviously a  historical background to this Psalm. It is not easy  to figure out what  David was alluding to, since there are direct references to a king  who was  greater than David ( as in Psalm 110:1).
The best  answer  to this  intrigue is that  though David was  describing something that  was happening in his own  day,  he was  speaking prophetically  by giving  an accurate description of what was  going to happen when the Lord Jesus Christ  came into this world , and if you like, this is also  a description of things as they are in the world at this very time.  
That is the remarkable thing about the Bible.  An event  spoken of  3000 years ago  has  relevance and application  to our day.  It takes a problem  experienced in  those  past years  and  explains why it is as it is – and  holds out the only hope of an adequate and a real solution.

The opposition against the kingdom of the    Messiah

The Psalm begins with these words:  ( Vv  1-3  ) He  starts with a question:
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together,  against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”
It  really is   MORE than a question. The Psalmist is expressing his  amazement: "Why are  the nations doing this ? “ This is what we must ask ourselves  when we  look  at  the present events  in Libya , Egypt , Yemen  and Syria  and  indeed ,  the whole world .  We ask this question when we see a 10/40 league of countries  mostly opposed to  Christianity! 
We also ask this question when  we take note of the  economic strife, the moral strife,  and the breakdown of law and order.   It  all militates  against the  created  order  of God .  When the nations rage,  they leave behind them a mess – a chaos !  We see it on our Television screens.  Homes , shops, cars are vandalized and burned  and women  are left without husbands and children become orphans. That is not how God designed this world.    
This  is  what  David observes . That  is  what those people were saying,  when they were praying in the early church.
The nations rage … people plot .  This is  the   truth  about the  history of the human race. Mankind is always restless. That is why the Bible in one of its favourite analogies compares the human race to the sea. Isa 57:20 says : “ The wicked are  like the tossing sea ; for it cannot  be quiet  , and its waters toss up mire and dirt .” The great characteristic of the sea is that it is always "restless" - it is always "moving".   
While there are periods when life seems calm - there are many other periods when it is like the raging of the sea. And that is how it was in the time of David! That's how it was at the time before the flood! That is how it was just  before  Israel  was  carried to the captivity in Babylon! That is how it was in the first century before  Christ was born , and  that is how it was  before  AD 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed ! That is  how it was   before the  time of the Reformation. That is how it is today  !  Humanity is a restless  sea – and sometimes humanity is like a  sea that is disturbed by a  hurricane !  Look at the  political hurricane that is presently sweeping through Zimbabwe and Libya  and Yemen and Syria and Greece  – to name but a few !
What is  most serious  is that  this  restless humanity is committed  to  tear apart the  safety   bonds and the safety cords  designed by God  for our respective societies . Hardly anything that the Bible holds as  sacred  is  sacred  in many societies. It is  raged at ; it is plotted against; it is counseled  against; schemes are  made to  break  the bonds and to  throw  away the safety  cords. Think of   life in the womb ; think of   the place of marriage in society; think of   the confusion of the  role of male and female in society ,  think of  the lack  of honesty and integrity in business  and you will see what we are up against.
To back up  this  mindless dismantling of the good order and the boundaries  that the gospel creates , the  enemy  has introduced the use of narcotics  (alcohol and drugs), by  fuelling reckless  materialism,   perverted  sex , killing games (computer games  or  even  ‘paintball’   games)  that numb people’s  respect for life  etc.  

I needn't waste your time, you're all aware of this !  We are  back , yet again,  in one of these epochs described here by David in his Psalm - we are  back in the  "rage age"  .

It is not  as if  the world does not care about  these things .  It does  , but how  does it  care ? What do the nations  do? 
The peoples plot in vain “  -  the kings  - the rulers  -  the wise men  of this world  - the leaders of society - the politicians; the educationalists; the philosophers and all the others that we would care to mention here .  What are they doing? They are devising futile and empty schemes!  Look at the political parties of the world. What are they doing? They  are in search of constant  schemes to cure the many problems of society. They are aware of the problems! But it does not lead to much effective action.  Two world wars in the last century,   and  there is  still no end to all  the conflicts  in this world. The United Nations is plotting and planning, but it is  largely  powerless  because it is  essentially  a humanistic, god- less think tank . The nations  think that politics and education and science  will solve  the grave issues  faced by humanity, but  the world continues  to be  in trouble - morally, politically,industrially, economically, socially and in every other respect. The schemes of men are vain and futile and empty . Every  serious thinker   knows this   and  recognizes  this, whether Christian or not - this is all vanity,   as the  preacher  affirms it in  the book of  Ecclesiastes . 
Shakespeare  is  known  as a great  English  writer and poet  and thinker , but he  was to the best of my knowledge no committed  Christian.  He came to this conclusion as he looked  at life: "Life is a tale told by an idiot. Full of sound and fury - signifying NOTHING!" (from Macbeth Act 5 , scene 5)  )  That was Shakespeare's conclusion.
The  British  parliamentarian and  historian Edward Gibbon ( 1737-1794)   published an impressive compendium  of books entitled  "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire",  more than   two hundred years ago .  He said, "History is little more than the register of the crimes; follies; and misfortunes of mankind."

So called  Western civilization is  at the height of   it's technological progress ,  but it's   seeing  the reversal  of human progress .  I would say that it all began with the French Revolution (1789) and the first  Declaration of  the Human  Rights movement , which  displaced  God   from the center of  our worldview   and  thought processes !  This idea that we can live a happy,  and a good , and a full life without God  is sheer madness! We were not designed to live without  God.

And now the question : What does God think of this ?

He who sits in the heavens  laughs!  The Lord looks down upon  this  mad world  with unutterable derision. God is God!  He knows the end from the beginning . He knows that these attempts of mankind are but folly .  However , this laugh is not a glad laugh. He does not think that this is funny . This is stupid , and stupidity deserves  an answer . Here is the answer :

David gives is to us in the sixth verse of this Psalm: 5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and terrify them in His fury   6 As for me  I  have  set my king upon Zion my holy .”   

What does this refer to ? This is a reference to  the  Messiah,  the crucified  and resurrected Lord   - the one of whom the world in his day said  : "This fellow who says He is the Son of God - let's get rid of Him." And they joined together - they took counsel together - and they condemned Him and they nailed Him to  the cross .  They killed Him. They took down His body. They buried it in a grave. They rolled a stone over it and sealed it. They put soldiers to guard it. They said, "That's the end of Him, we've finished Him!"  But on  the morning of the third day - God raised Him from the dead – I have  set my king on Zion my holy hill
The resurrection is the final proof of the ultimate  power of God. This is the God that the world is defying!
But not only His power, but His WRATH - God's wrath is upon sin.  Verse 5 :  Then shall he speak to them in his wrath…. -  this world  is  under the judgement of God!

But  we can’t end on this note  !  Here is the final word of the Psalmist. He has  shown us what this world is like  and how it reacts . He has shown us God’s reaction  to all this   madness.  And God not  only  laughs at these little ‘peashooters’ that come at Him  , but  He is dealing with them :

1. He is bringing in a  new  era – a  divine king :v 7  God  has given  us Jesus Christ as our King  .  Everything is already in place for His return  ( Matt 25) 
2. He has  planned a new kingdom  vv  8-9  in which there is no place for power brokers and clever men.  The true King of this  world  is the coming Judge who will deal with  corrupt politicians  and leaders.
3. This requires a proper response : (vv  10 -12 )

(i) Kings , rulers of the earth :  be wise ; serve the Lord with fear ; rejoice with trembling. Human leaders  unfortunately think  all too often  that  they are in the place of God  over their nation , when in reality , God has appointed them to leadership to serve  the nation .  Human leadership in whatever capacity  they may be found , must  take not of the fact that  they will have to give an account to Gods for everything that they have said and done .
(ii) Kiss the Son : bow down to Him ; own Him. If you don’t do this, you will   perish !Look to Christ alone. God has provided no other Saviour . Embrace Him . kiss Him , love Him  and you will find that  He is not only willing and able to take away  the just wrath of God toward you by imputing his  righteousness to your account , but you will find  that  He   will love you  for eternity ! 
(iii) Blessed are all who take refuge in Him  :  Here is the gospel  invitation  and proper response .  Oh,  run to Christ  NOW  if you have not  yet done  so .  God will judge the nations . There can be  no doubt about that .  The  graphic  illustrations  we have seen of late of the  Japanese tsunami  are  but a small reminder  of what  God will yet do , when He  shall overthrow  the  ungodly  and the unbelieving . 

Where will you hide on the day of Christ's appearing ?  

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