Thursday, July 7, 2016

Sing a Song of Jesus


Read Psalm 2*

Sermon: “Sing a Song of Jesus”

As I read Psalm 2, I realized that is a ‘Song of Jesus’.  Let us examine it a verse at a time.

1 Why do the nations gather together?  My first thought of Nations coming together made me think of the United Nations.  Here is the opening wording of the UN Charter:

WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

And then I thought of the European Union.  Here is the statement of purpose of that union:

The peoples of Europe, in creating an ever closer union among them, are resolved to share a peaceful future based on common values.

Conscious of its spiritual and moral heritage, the Union is founded on the indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity; it is based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law. It places the individual at the heart of its activities, by establishing the citizenship of the Union and by creating an area of freedom, security and justice.

The Union contributes to the preservation and to the development of these common values while respecting the diversity of the cultures and traditions of the peoples of Europe as well as the national identities of the Member States and the organization of their public authorities at national, regional and local levels; it seeks to promote balanced and sustainable development and ensures free movement of persons, services, goods and capital, and the freedom of establishment.

I didn’t hear anything that sounded even close to “Hear O Israel, our God is one God.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your.”  Did you?  Nothing where these gatherings of nations professed their allegiance to the Living God in the same way Israel did and still does.

Our American Declaration of Independence at least recognizes “the Creator” as it includes the line, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Our rights are not given by Man but by God.  They are unalienable which means that they cannot be taken away by Man.

Why do the nations come together?  The answer is, out of fear, because they don’t trust each other.  They want to establish some form of human protection for themselves. Because they fear a common enemy. They also want to set common goals.

The psalmist wants to know why the nations (that is all the earth) reject God?  Why do they make plans that differ from the plan of God? 

The answer is that any contract, covenant, or agreement that doesn’t take into consideration God’s plan, is a useless plan. God never breaks a covenant. History demonstrates that Man will eventually break every agreement.

Do you remember the story of the tower of Babel from Genesis 11:1-9?  Here the people of earth gathered together to build a tower capable of reaching Heaven. Up until this point in the Bible, the whole world had one language - one common speech for all people. The people of the earth became skilled in construction and decided to build a city with a tower that would reach to heaven. By building the tower they wanted to make a name for themselves and also prevent their city from being scattered.

The story is about Mankind pitting its will against the will of God. And it didn’t turn out well for mankind.  Imagine that!

In the New Testament book of Acts (4:25-28) Luke quotes from this psalm

You said through the Holy Spirit, who spoke through your servant David (our ancestor), ‘Why do the nations act arrogantly? Why do their people devise useless plots?  Kings take their stand.  Rulers make plans together against the Lord and against his Messiah.’

Luke then goes on to point out how the prophecy in this psalm points to Jesus as the Messiah.

“In this city Herod and Pontius Pilate made plans together with non-Jewish people and the people of Israel. They made their plans against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 

Jewish and non-jewish people banding together to try and combat God’s will.  Trying to make plans against “Jesus, whom you anointed.”   Remember that line about Jesus being anointed by God, we’ll get back to it.

The psalmist continues: Kings take their stands.  Rulers make plans together against the Lord and against his Messiah by saying,  “Let’s break apart their chains and shake off their ropes.”

I find it frightening that our own nation is headed toward or is already at that point where we say, “Let’s break apart their (that is God the Father and His Messiah, Jesus) chains and shake off their ropes.”

This is contrary to the teachings of Jesus who said, “Take My yoke upon you.”  The meaning here is to shake off our old yoke of sin and disobedience and be bound together with God because, he said, “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."  Make no mistake, there is work to be done.  We can continue in our own way and our own will, just as the Kings and Rulers of the psalm did.  Or we can be bound together with God and let him do the “heavy lifting.” 

We are to be bound together in Christian love also.  We are commanded, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus didn’t just stop at saying, “Love one another.”  He added this condition, “As I have loved you.”  That is an all encompassing love.  A love that is given freely with no reservations, no conditions, and no strings attached.  We are to love those who love us and those who hate us.  We are commanded to love those like us and those different from us.  I figured out a rule of thumb here: If God created them, we are to love them.  So the only people outside the group I am to love would be … … … 

Being bound together reminds me of the hymn, “Bind us together, Lord.” Bind us together, Lord.  Bind us together with cords that cannot be broken. Bind us together in Love. There is only one God, There is only one King, There is only one Body.

Next the psalm writer gives God’s reaction to Man’s plans.

4 The one enthroned in heaven laughs.  The Lord makes fun of them.

I have to say that this verse took me aback a bit.  Even though I know it is a psalm, a song, a poem and some poetic license is allowed, the idea of God laughing at Man’s vain attempts to go our own way was disturbing to me.  Then I also read Psalm 37:12-13 which says, “The wicked person plots against a righteous one and grits his teeth at him. The Lord laughs at him because he has seen that his time is coming.”  Okay, I guess, if I try to see it through the eyes of God,  I can see the comedic action here.  Do you remember the old silent films with the Keystone Cops?   They were a bunch of misfit cops who ran around getting in each other’s way and creating chaos instead of apprehending the “bad guys”.  Whatever they tried never seemed to work out well for them.  I imagine from God’s point of view, we must seem like that a great deal of the time.

5 Then he speaks to them in his anger.  In his burning anger he terrifies them.

There are plenty of scriptures (mostly Old Testament) that speak about God’s anger toward individuals and nations.  I have a little trouble reconciling what I know of God’s love and God’s mercy with God’s “burning anger.”  Then I found the following posted on the web by an unnamed author.  I found it helpful.  I hope you do also.

“If the Lord is always merciful to everyone, then He can never be angry and vengeful. In God Himself there is "no variation nor shadow of turning." (James 1:17) Yet He appears in a variety of ways according to the spiritual state of the individual. "With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful; with a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless; with the pure You will show Yourself pure; and with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd." (2 Samuel 22:20; Psalm 18:25)

It almost seems as if God's actions towards each of us depend on our actions toward God and others. If you forgive others, He will forgive you; if you do not forgive others, He will not forgive you. (Matthew 6:15; 18:35) If you draw near to God, He will draw near to you. (James 4:8) If you forget Him, He will forget you. (Hosea 4:6) If you forsake Him, He will forsake you. (2 Chronicles 15:2) And apparently, when people act with vengeance, they can expect vengeance from God. (Ezekiel 25:15,16)

It is as if each kind of person looks at God through differently tinted glasses. A person wearing blue glasses will see everything blue. "To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled." (Titus 1:15) A person who is himself vicious and vengeful will tend to see others, including God, as vicious and vengeful. "The children of your people say, `The way of the Lord is not fair.' But it is their way that is not fair!" (Ezekiel 33:17; 18:25)”

In 2 Peter 3:9 it is summed up this way, “The Lord isn’t slow to do what he promised, as some people think. Rather, he is patient for your sake. He doesn’t want to destroy anyone but wants all people to have an opportunity to turn to him and change the way they think and act.”

Verse 6 of our psalm reads “I have installed my own king on Zion, my holy mountain.”  Clearly, the psalmist is declaring that God himself will place a king over Israel.  The prophet Samuel, at God’s command, anointed the first two human kings of Israel.  I said human kings because, remember that until that time, Israel was a theocracy.  It was different from all other earthly nations in that it was ruled by God alone.  The “business” of the nation was overseen by judges chosen by God.  The people begged to become like other nations and have a king.  Here is the story from first Samuel chapter eight.

“Samuel considered it wrong for them to request a king to judge them. So Samuel prayed to the Lord.  The Lord told Samuel, “Listen to everything the people are saying to you. They haven’t rejected you; they’ve rejected me. They’re doing just what they’ve done since I took them out of Egypt—leaving me and serving other gods.  Listen to them now, but be sure to warn them and tell them about the rights of a king.”

Then Samuel told the people who had asked him for a king everything the Lord had said.  Samuel said, “These are the rights of a king:  He will draft your sons, make them serve on his chariots and horses, and make them run ahead of his chariots.  He will appoint them to be his officers over 1,000 or over 50 soldiers, to plow his ground and harvest his crops, and to make weapons and equipment for his chariots.  He will take your daughters and have them make perfumes, cook, and bake.  He will take the best of your fields, vineyards, and olive orchards and give them to his officials.  He will take a tenth of your grain and wine and give it to his aids and officials.  He will take your male and female slaves, your best cattle, and your donkeys for his own use.  He will take a tenth of your flocks.  In addition, you will be his servants.”

That sounds like a pretty fair description of an earthly ruler to me.  However the really important part of this passage is when God tells Samuel, “They haven’t rejected you; they’ve rejected me.”

Now, in verse seven we learn who God will appoint as the new king

I will announce the Lord’s decree.  He said to me: “You are my Son. Today I have become your Father.

Here are some important verses about Christ the King.

Hebrews 1:5-6  “God never said to any of his angels, “You are my Son. Today I have become your Father.”  And God never said to any of his angels, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son.”  When God was about to send his firstborn Son into the world, he said, “All of God’s angels must worship him.”

Luke 1:31-33  God, speaking through his angel, said to Mary, “You will become pregnant, give birth to a son, and name him Jesus. He will be a great man and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.  Your son will be king of Jacob’s people forever, and his kingdom will never end.”

Matthew 3:16-17  “After Jesus was baptized, he immediately came up from the water. Suddenly, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God coming down as a dove to him. Then a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love—my Son with whom I am pleased.”

Jesus had this to say about himself in John 9:35-37, “Jesus heard that the Jews had thrown the man out of the synagogue. So when Jesus found the man, he asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  The man replied, “Sir, tell me who he is so that I can believe in him.”  Jesus told him, “You’ve seen him. He is the person who is now talking with you.”

Jesus was recognized as the new king when he rode into Jerusalem.  John 12:12-13 records it this way, “On the next day the large crowd that had come to the Passover festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.  So they took palm branches and went to meet him. They were shouting, “Hosanna!  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel!”

In verse eight of the psalm God makes this promise to His King, Ask me, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance and the ends of the earth as your own possession.”

Now hear Jesus’ response in John 17:4-24 “On earth I have given you glory by finishing the work you gave me to do.  Now, Father, give me glory in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world existed.

“I made your name known to the people you gave me. They are from this world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me. They did what you told them. Now they know that everything you gave me comes from you, because I gave them the message that you gave me. They have accepted this message, and they know for sure that I came from you. They have believed that you sent me.

“I pray for them. I’m not praying for the world but for those you gave me, because they are yours.  Everything I have is yours, and everything you have is mine. I have been given glory by the people you have given me.  I won’t be in the world much longer, but they are in the world, and I’m coming back to you. Holy Father, keep them safe by the power of your name, the name that you gave me, so that their unity may be like ours.  While I was with them, I kept them safe by the power of your name, the name that you gave me. I watched over them, and none of them, except one person, became lost. So Scripture came true.

“But now, Father, I’m coming back to you. I say these things while I’m still in the world so that they will have the same joy that I have.  I have given them your message. But the world has hated them because they don’t belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world but to protect them from the evil one.  They don’t belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.

“Use the truth to make them holy. Your words are truth.  I have sent them into the world the same way you sent me into the world. 1I’m dedicating myself to this holy work I’m doing for them so that they, too, will use the truth to be holy.

“I’m not praying only for them. I’m also praying for those who will believe in me through their message. I pray that all of these people continue to have unity in the way that you, Father, are in me and I am in you. I pray that they may be united with us so that the world will believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me. I did this so that they are united in the same way we are.  I am in them, and you are in me. So they are completely united. In this way the world knows that you have sent me and that you have loved them in the same way you have loved me.

“Father, I want those you have given to me to be with me, to be where I am. I want them to see my glory, which you gave me because you loved me before the world was made.

9 You will break them (the disobedient nations) with an iron scepter. You will smash them to pieces like pottery.” Our reading from Matthew’s gospel verses 41-43 gives us an insight into verse 9 of the psalm, “Then the king will say to those on his left, ‘Get away from me! God has cursed you! Go into everlasting fire that was prepared for the devil and his angels! 42 I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me nothing to drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me into your homes. I needed clothes, and you didn’t give me anything to wear. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t take care of me.’”

10 Now, you kings, act wisely.  Be warned, you rulers of the earth! For thousands of years before Christ’s earthly incarnation and for thousands of years since, you…we have been warned. We have repeatedly been told that a time will come when God will no longer strive with men. There will be a time of judgement. The book of 2nd Peter eminds us, “God didn’t spare angels who sinned. He threw them into hell, where he has secured them with chains of darkness and is holding them for judgment. God didn’t spare the ancient world either. He brought the flood on the world of ungodly people, but he protected Noah and seven other people. Noah was his messenger who told people about the kind of life that has God’s approval.

Verse 11 tells us to, “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.”

In 1 Corinthians 15: 22b-25 we learn the fate of those who belong to Christ as well as those that do not belong to him. “In Christ all will be made alive.  But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.  Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.  For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.”

The last verse in this psalm reads, “Kiss the Son, or he will become angry and you will die on your way because his anger will burst into flames.  Blessed is everyone who takes refuge in him.”

John 3:36 echoes the last line of the psalm by saying, Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life. Instead, he will see God’s constant anger.”

The choice seems clear to me. I will echo what was said by Joshua in Joshua chapter 24, “Fear the Lord, and serve him with integrity and faithfulness. Get rid of the gods your ancestors served on the other side of the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve only the Lord.  But if you don’t want to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Even if you choose the gods your ancestors served on the other side of the Euphrates or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live, my family and I will still serve the Lord.”

As for me and my family, we will server the Lord.


Psalm 2

1 Why do the nations gather together?  Why do their people devise useless plots?

2  Kings take their stands.  Rulers make plans together against the Lord and against his Messiah by saying,

3  “Let’s break apart their chains and shake off their ropes.”

4 The one enthroned in heaven laughs.  The Lord makes fun of them.

5 Then he speaks to them in his anger.  In his burning anger he terrifies them by saying,

6 “I have installed my own king on Zion, my holy mountain.”

7 I will announce the Lord’s decree.  He said to me: “You are my Son. Today I have become your Father.

8 Ask me, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance and the ends of the earth as your own possession.

9 You will break them with an iron scepter. You will smash them to pieces like pottery.”

10 Now, you kings, act wisely.  Be warned, you rulers of the earth!

11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

12 Kiss the Son, or he will become angry and you will die on your way because his anger will burst into flames.  Blessed is everyone who takes refuge in him.

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