This week I finished a tremendous book, Eric Metaxas’ biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It tells the story of a gifted young man who grew up in Germany in the early 1900’s, and who went into the ministry, becoming a noted pastor & theologian. What is striking to read is how Bonhoeffer watched the Germany that he knew, change before his very eyes into something totally unrecognizable from it had been. And what is sobering is that as I read those pages, I kept thinking: “This same thing is what is happening in our country today!” I have heard many people say that they feel like the America we have known is slipping — or has already slipped — away.
How do we respond in such times? Panic? Fear? Anger? As always, God’s word should be our guide as disciples of Jesus Christ. When the recent Supreme Court decision was announced, legalizing same-sex marriage, I began searching God’s word for a Biblical response. The Psalm we are looking at today is the word God settled my heart with. It gives us a balanced, Biblical perspective for our response: not reactionary, not panic — but a response of faith & trust in the God who still holds the whole world in His hand. Let’s look at what this Psalm has to tell us as a word from God for our days:
I. The Rebellion of the World
:1-3 “Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!'”
These words could not be a more appropriate description of the age we live in today. The nations are indeed in an uproar; the peoples are devising vain things. This is specifically in regard to their attitude about God, and His word. It talks about how the leaders of the world gather together, conspiring against God. What is their goal? It says they want to “tear (His) fetters apart.” They want to “cast away (His) cords” from them. In other words, they don’t want to submit themselves to God, and do what He says.
This is the spirit that has taken root in mankind since the Garden of Eden: God created man to fellowship with Him, but He also gave us rules which we were to obey. But in the Garden of Eden, Adam & Eve listened to Satan’s lie that God’s commands were there merely to “restrict” them — they were like “handcuffs” that would hinder them from being like gods. So he convinced them to toss away those “fetters” of slavery to God’s word, and do what they wanted to do instead.
That same spirit has continued down through the ages, continues to this day, and will be manifest in the end times. In fact, Psalm 2 is a prophecy which will ultimately be fulfilled in the last days. There will be great apostasy, and a great rebellion against God which will be crushed by His wrath. It may be that we are living in those last days even now. The spirit of rebellion against God and His word are certainly widespread today. People in our society are saying almost exactly what the rebels of Psalm 2 are predicted to say: that they want to “tear the fetters” of God’s word, and the “shackles” of His moral commands away, so that they can do whatever they want to do, unrestrained by the authority of the word of God in their lives.
For example, one modern philosopher writes: “It might be better now to act as if God does not exist and does not interfere in human morality. Perhaps our moral dilemmas would be one step closer to being solved if this were to happen.” (Talking Philosophy, Philosophers magazine blog) In other words, just act as if God and His moral rules didn’t exist — then we can live any way we want — that will solve our problems!
One book says that humanity must “shake off the shackles of bondage to our primitive instincts and work towards a new vision.” (Joseph McMillan, A Final Theory of God) He calls the belief in the God of the Bible and His moral commands “shackles” that we need to “shake off” — virtually word-for-word what Psalm 2 says the rebels against God will say: “tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!”
That is definitely the spirit of this age. The “Freedom From Religion Foundation” encourages you to be “a freethinker” and “throw off the shackles of religion.” Again, it sounds just like Psalm 2: Let’s ‘cast away’ the ‘shackles’ of belief in God from us. Once you’ve done that, then you are free to do whatever you want to do. We’ve seen that in the “sexual revolution” of the 1960’s, which has now come to full flower in our society:
— God ordained in Genesis that “for this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” in the bonds of holy matrimony — but more and more couples have chosen to ignore His commands, and live together outside of the institution marriage which He ordained;
— Divorce, which Jesus prohibited except in grievous cases, has now become commonplace for casual reasons — I saw one study which indicated that many young couples in their 20’s now don’t even expect their marriages to last; that the average couple in the survey predicted that their marriage would last about 7 years!
— One of the plagues of the sexual revolution has been the legalization of abortion, which has now cost 56 million lives in America since 1973. It has now been unearthed that Planned Parenthood clinics have been selling the body parts of those murdered babies. Had it been ANIMALS who were killed, and their body parts sold, there would uproar and arrests — but they’ve “tossed aside the shackles” of morality, so murdering human babies is ok.
— Homosexuality, which is clearly prohibited in both the Old and New Testaments, has now been given the stamp of approval of the Supreme Court of the United States — President Obama had the White House lit up with the colors of the LGBT rainbow as rebels against the word of God danced in the streets!
The world is in full rebellion mode against God: “tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!” They don’t have to live in the “shackles” of belief in God, or the “cords” of Biblical morality. They’ve “cast those away” from them. The rebellion of the world is in full swing.
So what’s our response? Anger? Outrage? Panic? We should take our cue from Psalm 2. God has a word for us here:
II. The God on the Throne
:4-9 “He who sits in the heavens laughs, the LORD scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger, and terrify them in His fury, saying, ‘But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain.’ I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will surely give you the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession. You shall break (rule) them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.'”
How do we respond to this rebellion against God? It is grievous to see how far America has fallen, and how fast. We can and should mourn and grieve for our country. We should mourn and grieve and pray for the individuals who buy the lie that “casting away the cords” of Biblical morality will give them true happiness and freedom. But we do NOT need to have any sense of “panic.” There is NO sense of that in Psalm 2. This Psalm is brimming full of confidence in God:
— It says: “He who sits in the heavens laughs”
God is on the throne. The word “sits” here pictures God as seated on the throne in heaven. He’s not up there wringing His hands like some powerless old man about what is happening here on earth. As we saw a couple of Wednesday nights ago, the God of the Bible created a universe that would take you billions of years traveling at the speed of light just to cross it — and He created it by speaking a word! That God is not “worried” that a few specks on one of the planets in that universe say they don’t believe in Him! “He laughs at them” Psalm 2 says. He’s not concerned with their little rebellion.
It is somewhat similar to a video I watched on Facebook a couple of weeks ago: that showed this huge dog laying on the living room floor, and the family had brought in a little kitten. And the video shows that little kitten dancing around that dog’s nose, jumping and swatting and hissing, and making a big fuss — but the dog just laid there patiently. He could have at ANY moment growled and scared that kitten out of its wits, or just snapped and bit that little critter in two, with no effort. He was definitely not “worried” about her!
Multiply that infinitely, and that’s the picture Psalm 2 gives us of the Lord and the earthly rebels. God’s not “worried.” He is being patient. But do not mistake His patience for indifference. II Peter 3:9 says “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
God is not worried. He is patient. But be warned. His patience will not last forever. Verse 5 says “Then He will speak to them in His anger, and terrify them in His fury.”
— Then He begins to speak about His Son, in :6-9, “But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain.” God says: “I have installed My King” for this world — and in the New Testament He makes it clear that this King is Jesus. Philippians 2 says that although Jesus was 100% God, He humbled Himself and became a man, and died on the cross for our sins, but God raised Him from dead and “highly exalted Him, and gave Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow: in heaven, on earth, and under the earth — and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
God says, I have given this world to My Son, and He will rule it. He will rule His enemies like a rod of iron, and shatter them like earthenware. The picture here is a vivid one: what happens when a rod of iron strikes a clay pot? It is not going to turn out well for the pot! Yet that is what it is like when the will of man and the will of God collide. It does not turn out well for us. We can rebel, and contrive, and try to “free ourselves from God’s shackles” — but it does not turn out well for us when we rebel against God.
II Thessalonians 1:7-10 says that one day, perhaps very soon: “The Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus … (and) He will be glorified in His saints on that day.”
He will indeed “break them with a rod of iron, (He shall) shatter them like earthenware.”
No matter how bad things look like temporarily here on earth, there is no hope of lasting success against God. Verse 1 says: “Why are the nations in an uproar, and the peoples devising a vain thing?” The word “vain” there means “empty, void, in vain.” In other words, what they are doing, who rebel against God, has NO possibility of succeeding! You cannot win against God!
That’s the confidence that Psalm 2 says that Christians should have in our days. It may look like the rebels against God are succeeding. In Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s day, it looked like Hitler and the Nazis would win the day. But it did not last. We can be confident that like the old hymn says, that “though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. This is my Father’s world”! We should have that kind of confidence.
I remember a number of years ago hearing the testimony of a man who was in an airplane during a bad storm, and the plane was assailed by all kinds of turbulence, and he started to get pretty concerned. But he saw something that totally changed his outlook. He saw the pilot. And the pilot wasn’t worried. He was just sitting in his seat, totally unaffected by what was going on; no panic; no worry. The man saw that and thought to himself: if he’s not worried; I’m not worried — and he closed his eyes and went off to sleep.
I think that’s something like the way that we should respond during these turbulent days. Do we need to panic? No — let’s look at the God Who is on the throne. He is not panicked. In fact, He “laughs” — and very soon, He will “speak to them in His anger, and terrify them in His fury.” In these difficult days: let’s keep our focus on the God who is on His throne!
III. The Way of Wisdom
So what’s the way forward from here? God offers a “friendly word of advice” in the last three verses of the Psalm:
:10-12 “Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the LORD with reverence and rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!”
When He talks about “kings” and “judges” here in :10, He is talking about those same people who in :2 were counseling together against God, trying to “tear their fetters apart.” What is His message to those who are rebelling against Him? It is three-fold:
A. First, He says, HUMBLE yourself:
In :10 he says: “show discernment.” This is literally, “let yourself be instructed.” It takes a lot of humility to be instructed. The men in this passage, these kings and judges, were used to instructing OTHERS! But God says, you need to humble yourself and listen. Stop your rebellion against God, and humbly submit yourself to His authority.
This is an important word for us today, too. Jesus said you have to humble yourself as a little child if you want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. That’s just exactly what so many do NOT want to do: they don’t want to humble themselves. We are so proud; we want to do things our own way. But listen: if your intelligence, or money or your position or your success makes you so proud that you won’t listen to God’s word and respond, then all these so-called “blessings” are really a curse to you, and they will drag you down to hell!
God says humble yourself. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” To be “poor in spirit” basically means to humble yourself, realize you can’t save yourself, and ask God to do for you what you can’t do for yourself. But you are never going to do that until you humble yourself before God.
And not only humble yourself initially to be saved, but humble yourself by submitting yourself to the authority of God’s word. Be humble and admit that God may just know something that you don’t. Commit yourself to follow what His word says about everything, instead of what you or others think is right. Humble yourself before God.
B. Second, Put your FAITH in Jesus
He says in :12 “Do homage to the Son”. The word “homage” here literally means “kiss.” The picture is of one “kissing the hand” or the ring of a king, and doing homage to him. In other words, what He is commanding us here is to “pledge allegiance” to the Son of God, Jesus Christ. God sent His Son to earth to die for the rebellious sins of all of us, and He raised Him from the dead, proving that He really IS His Only Begotten Son — and so He commands us to worship Him. “Pledge allegiance to the Son” is the message here!
This can’t be over-emphasized. Where you will spend eternity depends entirely upon your response to Jesus Christ:
— Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)
— The Apostle John wrote: “He who has the Son has the life, he who does NOT have the Son of God, does NOT have the life.” (I John 5:12)
If you want to be saved from the wrath of God that is coming on the world, you must humble yourself and pledge allegiance to Jesus Christ as your King.
And don’t just say it with your words, SHOW it with your life!
— Show it by being baptized.
— Show it by following Him as a disciple.
— Show it by DOING what He says. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Too many people in America for the last couple of generations have claimed to love Jesus, but they haven’t shown it with their life. I think one of the reasons that God may be allowing difficulties to come upon our nation in these days is so that He can winnow out those who SAY they are going to follow Jesus, and those who are really going to do it! I believe that God is looking for people in these last days who will really humble themselves and pledge allegiance to serve Jesus as their King.
C. Finally, he points out the alternative: if you DON’T humble yourself and line up with Jesus, His wrath will soon be kindled.
It’s notable how the warnings about the upcoming judgment are repeated in the last 3 verses of this passage:
— He says in :10 “take warning …”
:12 “lest He become angry and you perish in the way”
:12b “For His wrath may soon be kindled”
At least three times in just the last three verses of this Psalm, there is warning of God’s judgment and wrath. If you do not humble yourself, and pledge allegiance to Jesus Christ and His word, God’s wrath will soon be kindled against you.
Now someone may say: “I don’t think that’s a very happy message.” Listen, my purpose as a pastor is not to stand up here week after week and share pleasant stories with you; I am here as an ambassador of Jesus Christ to declare His word. And His word proclaims there is a judgment coming. I would be negligent in my duty were I not to warn about the impending danger.
Several weeks ago, I got on the Blue Ridge Parkway, coming back from a hospital visit in Asheville. A few miles into the drive, all the sudden, I watched a bear run from the left side of the road to my right, right in front of my car. I was alone, but I said out loud: “A bear … just ran in front of my car!” I couldn’t believe it! But I drove just a few more yards, and I noticed on the right side of the road there was a little parking area, and a man had pulled his car over, and he was out walking his dog. I pulled in and said: “Listen, I want you to know — I just saw a bear come over to this side of the road just a few yards back.” As I pulled away, I noticed he was putting his dog in the car and was getting ready to drive off.
Why did I do that? Because I would have been negligent had I not warned that man of a near and possible danger. And the same thing is true regarding God’s judgment. We cannot just “omit” the parts in the Bible that speak about the judgment of God. There is a real and impending danger, and we are negligent if we do not warn against it. And more than that: YOU are foolish if you do not respond to God’s word, and prepare for it. For as this Psalm declares: “His wrath may soon be kindled.”
I named this sermon “A Word For Our Days”, but it is really a message for every age. It’s not new. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor I mentioned in the introduction, could not not conscionably support Adolph Hitler and the Nazis in Germany, and he was eventually arrested. Under interrogation, he told them that he was an enemy of National Socialism (the Nazis) and he could not support them because of his Christian convictions. Bonhoeffer was soon brought to the gallows in a German concentration camp and hanged.
But the Nazis didn’t win. God’s wrath against them was soon kindled. Those who killed Dietrich Bonhoeffer and who murdered millions of Jews soon found themselves standing before the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob (Metaxas) — and His eternal wrath against them was kindled! But Dietrich Bonhoeffer went in peace to God, where he lives with Him in unimaginable glory forever.
You know, there has been so much said and written in recent days about the need to be on “the right side of history” on certain issues; on how you don’t want to go down in history as being on the wrong side of history regarding slavery, or freedom, or gay marriage, or whatever. But listen: the ultimate “wrong side of history” is to be found opposing GOD! You will not only end up on the wrong side of history; you will end up on the wrong side of ETERNITY!
God has a word for these days: He is still on the throne! Humble yourself, and pledge allegiance to Jesus and His word NOW: “Do homage to the Son, that He may not be angry with you, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him”!
There are a number of ways that different ones of us here today need to respond to Psalm 2:
— Christians need to read, study & memorize this Psalm, to help us deal with what is going on in our country today. Things may look bleak, but God is on His throne. Memorize this Psalm, quote it whenever you are tempted to become discouraged, and let it remind you that if you are following the God of the Bible, you are ultimately on the right side of history!
— some need to “do homage to the Son” today. You know you have rebelled against God, and you need to make a commitment to Jesus as your Savior, that in these last days, you are publicly lining yourself up with HIM! Humble yourself, and confess Him publicly in baptism; and live for Him in this world from this day forward.
— But there may be some of us here who SAY you side with God, but the question is, does your LIFE show that? Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” If you are living in purposeful disobedience to the commandments of His word, you are putting yourself in opposition to God — and this Psalm teaches that you do not want to be found in that spot! For some of us there is a specific sin that God is calling you to repent of today, and turn and obey His word regarding it.
— you may want to spend this time praying for our country, or for people you love who have been caught up in the rebellious spirit of this age — or some other request on your heart.
Respond to God’s word as He has spoken to your heart.