2020-11-01 Christ the King

Christ the King
Psalm 2
November 01, 2020

Prayer for Illumination:

O Lord God, give us eyes to see, ears to hear your word and apply it to our hearts. Enable us to hear your Word today. Your word is life. Speak life to us today. This we ask in Christ’s name, amen.

 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.”

       He who sits in the heavens laughs;

the Lord holds them in derision.

       Then he will speak to them in his wrath,

and terrify them in his fury, saying,

       “As for me, I have set my King

on Zion, my holy hill.”

       I will tell of the decree:

         The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;

today I have begotten you.

       Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,

and the ends of the earth your possession.

       You shall break them with a rod of iron

and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

10      Now therefore, O kings, be wise;

be warned, O rulers 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,

for his wrath is quickly kindled.

         Blessed are all who take refuge in him. [1]

The Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.

This coming Tuesday is a big day; it’s Election Day. This election cycle has been particularly ugly. It seems as though that each election cycle gets uglier than the proceeding one. Attack ads start earlier and earlier. And as a result of the election cycle getting uglier and uglier, tensions are high. Tensions are high, left, right, and center. Tensions are high over a whole host of issues; COVID-19 and how to manage it, issues regarding police; issues around race. And one of the issues that has people tense is what will happen Tuesday night.

Maybe you’re tense and worried about Tuesday. Maybe you’re worried that your candidate will lose and the opposing candidate will win who will tear the country apart. Maybe you’re worried that no matter what happens the damage is done and it is irreparable.

I’m here to give you good news. Christ is King. No matter what happens Tuesday night, Christ is still King. Christ reigns today and he will reign tomorrow.

This morning, we’re looking at Psalm 2. The Psalter opens with two psalms that lay out the major themes of the rest of the psalms. O. Palmer Robertson writes that the first two psalms “define the substance of essentially all that will follow throughout the remainder of the Psalms. The first psalm declares the critical character of the law; the second psalm presents the Son appointed by the Lord who will ultimately extend the messianic kingdom to the ends of the earth.”[2] Psalm 1 tells us the beauty of God’s Law. As a later psalmist will write, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). Psalm 2 tells us that the Messiah reigns and his kingdom will extend to the whole earth.

This Psalm has 12 verses broken up into four stanzas of three verses. We’ll look at each stanza in turn.

Human Rebellion

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2The 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.”

The psalmist begins by noting conflict. He says that the nations, the Gentiles, rage, and their peoples plot in vain. Why are they raging? Why are they plotting and what are are the plotting against? They are raging against God and his Messiah. They are plotting against the Sovereign God. And they plot because they don’t want to be under his rule.

The Bible makes very clear from Genesis to Revelation God is the Sovereign King over all creation. In Genesis 1, we see God create the heavens and the earth ex nihilo, out of nothing. We see him form and shape all that is seen and unseen. And crown of jewel of his creation is humanity. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Everyone in the ancient world knew that king and emperors would build statues of themselves and placed throughout their kingdom so that the people would know who the king was. God made an image of himself, male and female. He made a living statue representing him to his creation in mankind. God is the Sovereign Lord. He is the King of the universe.

Even though God is the Sovereign King, humanity has rebelled against him. The Bible makes clear that humanity is in rebellion against God their king. We see that from Genesis 3 onward we have been in rebellion against God. When Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they rebelled against God. They asserted their own lordship over his. And God said that as a result, there would be two groups the seed of serpent and the seed of the woman and that there would be conflict between the two. He said there would be two groups of people, those who rebel and reject God as king, the seed of the serpent; and those who submit to his rule, the seed of the woman.

We see that throughout the Bible. We see it clearly in 1 Sam. 17. The Philistines were encamped in the Valley of Elah ready to fight Israel. And their champion the 9’6 Goliath taunted Israel. When David stepped up to fight the giant, he said that Goliath had defied Lord God. David said that there was a battle between those who submit to the one true God and those who rebel against him.

We see it in Daniel 3 when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to bow to the golden image of Nebuchadnezzar. Because they worshipped the true and living God, they refused to commit idolatry by worshipping the image Nebuchadnezzar. As a result, they were thrown into a fiery furnace.

We see it with Haman in Esther. Haman hated the Jews simply because they were Jews. So he plotted and planned to kill God’s people by having the Persians and all of their conquered people kill all of the Jews.

Humanity does not just reject and rebel against God; humanity also rejects and rebels against his Messiah. We see here the word “Anointed”. The word for “anointed” in Hebrew is mashiyach; it is the word messiah. And in Greek the word for “anointed” is Christ.

The anointed originally referred to David and then to his descendants. David was the anointed King of Israel. We see that in 1 Sam. 15. God anointed David as King over Israel through the prophet Samuel. Samuel anointed, literally messiahed, David with oil. It was a visible indication that he was anointed with the Holy Spirit. Many years later, God made a covenant with David saying that there would always be a descendant of David over Israel.

There was a greater David that King David pointed to. Jesus, his great descendant is God’s Messiah; anointed to redeem God’s people from their sin and rebellion. That’s why he is named Jesus. Jesus means “YHWH saves”.

We see most clearly that humanity has rebelled against God at the cross. The Pharisees and the Sadducees rejected Jesus, God incarnate. The plotted and planned his death. Mark tells us that the Pharisees joined with the Herodians in looking for a way to destroy him (Mark 3:6). They rejected him and his ministry. Eventually they plotted and planned his death by claiming he was planning to overthrow Rome. They rejected the Messiah.

Even today people are still in rebellion against God. Some rebel by attacking Christianity. We see rebellion against God in two ways, an explicit way and an implicit way.

The explicit way is open hostility to the biblical God. Some are openly hostile to the biblical God by outlawing and persecuting God’s people. We see that in places like China, North Korea, India, Afghanistan, Iran, and other places. Some are in open rebellion by engaging in idolatry and rejecting God and the way he has directed us for worshipping him.

The implicit way of rebelling against God is by trying to be so moral in hopes that they can avoid God. Flannery O’Connor in her book “Wise Blood” said, “There was already a deep black wordless conviction in him that the way to avoid Jesus was to avoid sin”. Some people rebel by saying they don’t need a Savior to die in their place because they can merit salvation on their own with their morality. They reject God’s Messiah.  In either case, the nations still rage and the peoples plot against God as they rebel against God. People still rebel against God and reject Christ Jesus.

God’s Response

He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

God sees humanity’s rebellion and he laughs. The kings of the earth who think that they have been so clever in their plotting find out it is all for naught. Their rebellion will not thwart his purposes. In Genesis 11, humanity had settled in the land of Shinar, modern day Iraq. And while they were settled there, they decided to build a city and a tower that reached to the heavens in order to make a name for themselves and so that they wouldn’t fulfill God’s command to fill the whole earth. They had rebelled against God. And God responded by coming down and confusing their languages so that they would spread out and fill the earth. Their rebellion didn’t thwart God’s plans. His plan for humanity to spread out and fill the earth was still accomplished.

God laughs at humanity’s attempts to rebel and overthrow him. He is the Sovereign King. Proverbs 16:33 says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but every decision is from the Lord”. He cannot be overthrown. In fact, all things work for his purposes. The greatest evil ever committed, the crucifixion of Jeus, was God’s own plan and purpose. The crucifixion of Jesus was wicked and terrible. But it was God’s plan from all eternity.

A few weeks ago when we began our class on Covenant Theology, we saw very clearly that from before the foundation of the world God made a covenant with himself. In this covenant, he planned to redeem his Church, all who believe, by sending God the Son to live the perfect life and die the death every believer deserves. We saw that God the Spirit covenanted to apply that redemption to every believer in time by first awakening them to their rebellion and rejection and then by showing them how Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection completely redeems them. This most incredibly wicked and terrible act didn’t thwart God’s plan. It was his plan from the very beginning.

At the cross, we see that God’s plan and purposes are ultimately gracious to those who have rebelled and rejected him. If you think that God saves Christians because we’re better people, then you have fundamentally misunderstood the gospel and failed to see your rebellion against God and rejection of his Messiah. Christians are those who can say that they have rebelled against God by asserting themselves as lord in their sin and have rejected Jesus as Savior by attempting to earn their salvation by their good works. Christians are those who confess they have rebelled and have repented of that rebellion. God does not save believers because they are good. We’re not. God saves believers because he is good. God’s plans cannot be thwarted.

God says that he has set his King on Zion. Zion is another name for Jerusalem. That was where David reigned. He made Jerusalem his capital and all of his descendants reigned from Zion. But it points to a deeper meaning than just David and his descendants ruling from Jerusalem. Zion is where Christ was crucified. It is the place where God laughed at humanity’s rebellion by bringing to fulfillment his plan to redeem his elect through the death and resurrection of his Son.

God’s response to humanity’s rebellion is to laugh. He laughs because his plans cannot be thwarted. And his plans are ultimately gracious for those who believe.

The Son’s Rule

There is a change in the third stanza. The voice shifts. In the first stanza, the voice was of the kings of the nations and the peoples of the earth. In the second stanza, the voice was of God the Father. Here, the voice is of the king; it is the voice of God the Son.

I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

These are words that God the Father has spoken concerning God the Son. And the Son is repeating them. What do they mean? Some have taken verse 7 to refer to the eternal begetting of God the Son by God the Father. God the Father has from all eternity begotten God the Son. But that is not what these verses are referring to. Then what are they referring to?

In Acts 13:33, the Apostle Paul quotes this verse. Paul and Barnabas were on their first missionary journey and they had traveled to Antioch in Pisidia, modern day Turkey. Paul is preaching in the synagogue about the salvation found only in Christ Jesus. He tells them that Jesus was crucified but on the third day God the Father had raised him from the dead. He cites this verse as proof of Jesus’ resurrection and his lordship.

This verse tells us that Jesus is the firstborn of the dead. In 1 Corinthians 15:20, the Apostle Paul writes, “Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep”. Verse 7 speaks about the resurrection of Christ and how it is the beginning, the first fruits of resurrection of all in him.

The flow of this psalm so far is: the nations rage against God; God laughs at their attempts to overthrow him; and God’s response is the resurrection of his Son from the dead. Verse 8 shows us just how extensive his reign is. His reign is over nations and the ends of the earth.

Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. His is on the throne ruling heaven and earth. Caesar may be king in a one sense. But in another sense, in a higher sense, Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the ultimate authority ruling and reigning over every aspect of creation.

Do you know that? Do you know that right now at this very moment, Jesus is reigning and ruling over all of creation? He is. We confess it every time we confess the Apostles’ Creed. We’ll confess this in a few minutes. We’ll confess that Jesus has ascended into heaven and that he is seated at the right hand of God the Father from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

What we are confessing when we recite those lines is that Jesus is currently seated at the right hand of God the Father. We’re confessing that he is on the throne. And being on the throne, he is ruling. He is not an absentee king, like King Richard was in the 12th century. King Richard is most known because he’s in Robin Hood. And though he was king, he didn’t actually reign and rule England; he was off fighting in the crusades. He was an absentee king. Jesus is King now. He is ruling and reigning now. We may not fully see it now but we will one day when all of creation is remade.

Let this good news comfort you. Be comforted knowing that no matter what happens Tuesday with the election, Jesus is King and he is reigning. The nations and peoples might rebel and reject his rule but he still reigns. All things that happen happen because he has ordained them to happen. And things will bring about his glory and be for the good of those who believe.

Do not place your comfort in earthly rulers. Yes vote. Yes you may feel strongly for a candidate or a party. But do not place your hope or your comfort in them. Place your hope in Christ who rules with justly and with grace. Place your hope in Christ who is bringing about the redemption of all things.

There will be a day when Christ returns and his rule and reign is explicit. And on that day he will subdue the nations that opposed him like the potter shatters a pot. The kings of the earth who have opposed God’s rule and his Messiah will be subdued. They seem so powerful currently. But in reality they are as brittle as dried clay.

That’s exactly what the prophet Daniel tells us. In Daniel 2, Nebuchadnezzar has a dream that he didn’t understand. He saw an image where the head and the upper chest were made of gold, the arms made of silver, the middle portion made of bronze, its legs of iron, and its feet a mixture of iron and clay. Then a stone came and broke the image. Daniel tells us that the stone is Christ.

These kingdoms of the earth which seem so powerful and mighty are shattered to pieces by Christ. We’ve seem a glimpse of that in how the pagan kingdoms of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome all fell; they were all temporal. All of them shattered. But the Kingdom of God is everlasting. We will see the kingdoms of the earth fall away and be shattered, no matter how mighty and powerful they currently appear when the Kingdom of God is fully inaugurated when Christ returns.

Submit to the Son

Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers 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, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

The psalm doesn’t end with God’s wrath and judgment over nations. Rather, it ends with a gracious invitation to wisdom. The psalmist invites the kings of nations and the peoples to fear the Lord and submit to the Son.

The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. So the psalmist calls the leaders to be wise and fear the Lord and to submit to his Messiah, Christ Jesus. If you’re a leader in the community, fear the Lord and submit to Christ Jesus in all things. Lead in a way that shows you fear God and submit to Christ in all areas of your life. Lead in a way that helps people fear God and submit to Christ.

For many of us, we are not leaders in the community; we are simply citizens. So we can’t lead in ways that help people fear God and submit to Christ. And that’s ok. As Americans we have the wonderful privilege to vote for our leaders. Let us vote for leaders who will lead in a way that helps us as a nation fear God and submit to Christ. Now, there is not a Christian party. So let us examine the character and the policies of the candidates see which ones will better help people fear God and submit to Christ.

What if a candidate is elected who we fear will not lead in a way that will help people fear God and submit to Christ in all areas of their life? What do we do then? Earlier in this service we read from Romans 13. There the Apostle Paul writes, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”

Let us submit ourselves to the governing authorities because God has ultimately put them in charge. Let us pray for whoever is elected president. Pray that God would give him and his administration wisdom so that they govern well. Pray that they would fear God and lead in a way that reflects his holy law. Submit to whatever laws they make that do not violate God’s law.

Now if you’re thinking, “That’s easy for Paul to say but he wasn’t up against someone as evil as that person. So we shouldn’t honor their laws.” When Paul wrote Romans, the emperor was Nero. No matter how bad you think Joe Bidden is or how bad you think Donald Trump is Nero was infinitely worse. Nero was one of the worst emperors ever. He persecuted Christians, had them thrown before watchful crowds to hungry lions. He had some dipped in wax and burned alive so that they would light the way into Rome. He probably burned Rome down so that he could build a larger palace and he blamed the Christians. This is the emperor that Paul called Christians to submit to because God had instituted him in that role.

Whoever is elected Tuesday to the office of President of the United States of America ultimately has been installed by God. Pray for him and his administration. Submit to every law that does not violate the word of God.

No matter what happens Tuesday, know that Christ is lord. He is reigning over all of creation. Find comfort in that.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 2:1–12). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] O. Palmer Robertson, The Flow of the Psalms (New Jersey; P&R Publishing, 2015), 54.