God's Glory Over The NationsErwin W. Lutzer | March 2, 2014
Selected highlights from this sermon
America is in rebellion against God. We as a nation, and even many of us as individuals, are insulting Him by exalting ourselves and minimizing Him.
Through four different voices in Psalm 2 we see the defiance of the nations and the response of the Trinity. And though the future holds judgment for those who rebel against God, His merciful hand is still extended to everyone.
Since you can’t win in a battle against the Almighty, why not accept His invitation of salvation?
Today I want to begin by sharing my heart with you and telling you that you already know that America is in a period of rebellion against God. I don’t mean to say that there are not thousands and hundreds of thousands of fine God-fearing people, but generally as a nation, we are deliberately, in the words of John Piper, minimizing God and exalting ourselves.
We are insulting God, and this kind of rebellion can be easily seen in three different areas. First of all, in the fact that we believe in evolution, or at least that it is being taught. The very idea that God is the creator is being (what shall we say?) marginalized in our schools, and people are being taught that out of nothing everything has arisen, that the complexity of nature is all happenstance. It’s unthinkable and unbelievable, but people believe it today and it’s the only information that can be taught in the schools regarding origins.
I can’t help but think of the words of Julian Huxley, who died in the 1970s, who said, “The reason that we believed in evolution without proof is that we did not want a god to interfere with our sexual morays.” Man is in rebellion against God.
There’s another way that we rebel against God, and that is through the male-female relationship and how there’s an emphasis today to say that they are the very same and it’s just a matter of environment, and how today people rebel against the idea even of male and female. A man was handing out a questionnaire at a university, and it said at the top “Male or Female.” And one of the young ladies said, “Don’t put me into your narrow social construct.” And so you have that.
You have same-sex relationships, which are obviously contrary even to natural law, quite apart from the Bible, and all of that is celebrated. And so that’s the way in which we live today in rebellion.
But not just God as creator – God as lawgiver! One day I was speaking in another state in these great United States, and someone took me to the capital building of that particular state. And the tourist brochure that was given to us had a picture of the bench of the Supreme Court that met there. And behind the Supreme Court there was a blank wall. Now if you actually went to that Supreme Court, as we did (We got into the chamber.) you could still see the Ten Commandments back there. They hadn’t exactly taken them away or scratched them out, but so far as the tourists were concerned, all that there is now is a blank wall because the Supreme Court is the highest court of the land, and there is no court above the Supreme Court. There is no lawgiver called God. And so we are rebelling against God as creator, God as lawgiver, but also God as redeemer. We want to redeem ourselves.
Now the Bible has a message for folks like this but it’s also a message of hope. It’s a message that this nation needs to hear. It’s a message that you and I need to hear – that God is the God of the nations.
I want you to take your Bibles today and turn to Psalm 2, and this is a Messianic Psalm very clearly as we shall see in the next few moments. It’s a very important Psalm, and it’s very easy to outline Psalm 2 when you realize that it has four different voices. There are 12 verses and 3 verses for each voice. We’re going to go through the Psalm, and then we are going to see the invitation that God gives to all of America no matter where they are on their spiritual journey. It’s a Psalm also of hope.
First of all, you have the voice of the nations. You can see it there. “Why do the nations rage and the people plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take council together against the Lord and against His anointed saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’” One translation says, “Let’s get rid of the chains that bind us to God,” because the idea is, “Let’s have freedom.”
And so the kings of the earth plot together vainly, I might say, but they plot together and they say, “Let us burst His cords. Let us do whatever we want to do,” and so they plot against God as creator, as redeemer and as lawgiver because they are a law unto themselves. Not only that, but notice in the text very interestingly how when you rebel against God you rebel against Messiah. Notice it says very clearly, “The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take council against the Lord and against His anointed.” If you are against Jesus you are against God. If you are in favor of God and understand who God is, you will accept Jesus. There’s a very interesting connection here within the Trinity.
And then it says, “Not only will they cast aside God’s laws and God’s (quote) chains, but also that of His anointed. And of course this happened even when Jesus was here on earth. They got together and plotted to kill Him. Very interestingly, the Bible says that Pilate and Herod were enemies, but when it came to getting rid of Jesus they became friends that very day as they plotted together against Him. And today you have scholars all over the world who plot against Jesus. They humanize Him. They strip Him of His deity. They say that the miracles didn’t happen. They are the ones who speak of Him as simply a prophet or a teacher, and they refuse to accept His divinity, even though the evidence for that is overwhelming because they have chosen to set themselves against God and against His anointed. That’s what the text says exactly that they want to do. So that’s the voice really of the nations. It’s one of rage. It’s one of anger and it’s one of defiance against God.
Now let’s look at the voice of the Father. Verses 4-6: “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.’” What is God’s response? It’s laughter! God is laughing.
Now God isn’t laughing at a joke. You know we usually laugh at jokes because we don’t know the punch line until it’s told to us, and so forth. For God there is no punch line that He needs to wait for. God knows everything. He didn’t have to watch the game last night to know that the Blackhawks were going to win. God has knowledge of all things, both actual and possible. But God does laugh and this is, of course, symbolically speaking. It is in the language of humanity. I don’t think at all that God is sitting in heaven actually laughing like we laugh. But the imagery is that He is scoffing at them. The Bible says in Psalm 59:8, “But you, oh Lord, laugh at them. You hold the nations in derision.”
Psalm 37:13 says, “The wicked plot against the righteous, but God laughs at the wicked because He knows their day is coming.” He’s making fun of them. “How foolish can you possibly be? You’re taking me on of all things.” It would be like a group of ants and their anthill saying, “We will not allow the farmer and his plow to come to us and disrupt our nest.” Are you serious? Or like some fish over in some part of the sea saying, “We will not allow an aircraft carrier to come here. We’ll live independently of them.” Oh come on! Do you understand what you are up against? Do you have any idea? God is laughing at them. He is scoffing at them, and I might say that He’s mocking them. “So you are taking me on.”
So God is not only speaking and laughing. God is also installing. It says there, “I have set my King upon Zion’s holy hill.” Now Zion is a poetic name for Jerusalem. When David conquered the city of Jerusalem, the part that he conquered, which is really outside of today’s city walls, by the way (It’s on the southern part of the city of Jerusalem.), is called Zion. And later on it became known as a word for all of Jerusalem. And it’s really speaking here about the temple mount.
God says, “I have an answer. Someday My Son is going to sit on Mount Zion, and He’s going to rule the nations.” Now this, of course, is Messianic. I believe that it refers to the Millennial Kingdom when Jesus finally sits on the throne in Jerusalem. “For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
Now this is part of a complex involvement in terms of the totality of prophecy, but what God is saying is that the answer to the derision and the insulting aspects of the nations is My Son. He is going to sit upon the throne and He is ultimately going to be the judge. And may I say that Jesus will ultimately be the judge before whom all people will someday come. As a matter of fact, the final judgment is terrifying. God says, “I’m installing My Son as king and My Son as judge. That’s my answer.” So that’s the voice of the Father.
Let’s look now at the voice of the Son. You’ll notice in verses 7 to 9 it says, “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.’”
Now the terminology that is used here is not always familiar to us. First of all, sonship was incredibly important for Jesus to rule over Israel and to rule from Jerusalem, because when God made a covenant with David He said, “David, you are going to have a Son, and He is going to rule over the kingdoms of the earth forever.” And Jesus Christ is born, and He is known as the Son of David. So this is a prediction of the coming of Jesus when He will come as king, when He will come as judge. And Jesus is going to be ruling there from the city of Jerusalem. He is the Son.
But also when it says, “Today have I begotten You,” what that really meant in Hebrew and in the expression of those days is that the day of begetting is the day when a person is crowned. And Jesus won that right when He was raised from the dead. This is what it says in the book of Acts.
“And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this He has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.’”
Now on one level Jesus has always been the Son of God, and its imagery is to help show us the relationship of the two members of the Trinity. But at another level it was when He came and He died and He rose again. It is then that He finally met all of the qualifications to be Israel’s king. And that day was the day of begetting.
Now Jesus does rule today in heaven. But the Bible says that He is also in heaven ruling but He’s still waiting until the day when all of His enemies are going to be made a footstool for His feet. That is still a day that is coming, a day when God is going to wrap up history, and Jesus shall rule forever and ever.
So the answer, you see, to the situation on earth is that Jesus is going to rule. Now I read it just a moment ago. It says that He will take the nations and He will dash them like a potter’s vessel. You must understand that this imagery refers to this – that oftentimes when kings won a war, what they would do is smash the vessels of those whom they conquered because vessels were always associated with worship. And that was why it was so important when the vessels were taken from the Temple and they were taken to Babylon. That’s a very important passage of Scripture because of the meaning that was connected with vessels in those days. And what it shows is that Jesus is going to rule over the nations. There is a time coming when “He shall reign o’er the sun, where its successive journeys run,” as we sang just a moment ago. Jesus is going to rule and He’s going to reign. The missionary enterprise that we talk about will be fulfilled someday. All the nations are going to be subjected to Christ, and in the end everyone subjected to Him and to His judgment.
In a day of judgment you can almost imagine that Jesus is the one, the Bible says, who has the keys of death and of Hades, and that people go before Him and some folks go to the right and some folks go to the left, all dependent upon the authority and power of Jesus.
By the way, notice that this is not exactly Jesus meek and mild, is it? You know there are so many different skewed views of Jesus today, but one of them is that all that He did was talk about love. Jesus also talked about hell. He talked about judgment. And this is the same Jesus, found on the pages of the New Testament, ruling with a rod of iron, bringing nations in line with God and His program during the Millennial Kingdom, which eventually becomes part of the eternal kingdom when, of course, there are many changes, but there will be an eternal kingdom and the eternal rule of Jesus Christ over the nations. So God says, “That’s my answer.” The Father is laughing. The Son is fixing to rule. God says, “That’s My word to the nations.”
But now in the last three verses you have the voice of the Holy Spirit, and notice how gracious that voice really is.
Verse 10-12: “Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 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.”
You know in the Bible there’s a message of judgment, as we just read, but there’s also a message of grace. But before I get to the message of grace, I want us to back off and to look at this Psalm for just a moment. Do you notice that things are not what they appear to be? You know, if you read the headlines and you read the news and you see all of this chaos and you see all of this rebellion, and those who stand against God win one battle after another after another, and they celebrate their rebellion, when you stop to think about that, you begin to realize that things are not quite what they appear to be. God says, “I look at things from a standpoint of heaven and eternity, and not merely from the standpoint of earth.” So while the world says, “We are winning,” God says, “I am waiting because I have installed My King, and eventually righteousness shall rule.” While the world is in chaos, do you realize that everything in heaven today is calm? You know, we say to ourselves, “Look at what’s going on. Look at the headlines. Look at the unrest among the nations. Look at the rebellion. Look at what’s happening here.” And God says, “I want you to know that in heaven everything is calm today.” God is having a good day, and He doesn’t have a bad hair day ever, and He has everything in this world under control, and He’s saying, “Look, why don’t you trust Me and get rid of your anxiety by having confidence in the fact that I am in control? The chaos is not the reality. At the end of the day, My control is.” And so there are those who are plotting against God. God says, “I am preparing. I’m standing and I am waiting.”
Spurgeon made these interesting comments. “Hell cannot erase a single line of God’s purpose. Skeptics cannot cut so much as a single twig from the forest of God’s promises. Skeptics cannot do that. Atheists cannot steal a single flower of the garden of God’s decree. And Satan cannot dilute a single drop of God’s awesome power.” At the end of the day God wins. (applause)
So remember that things are not what they appear to be. Heaven looks down and says, “I’ve got it under control. Just trust Me.” That’s the way the Psalm ends, but before it ends it says that there is judgment but there’s also grace.
Now we want to look at these concluding verses one more time and see the blessedness of it, and then give an invitation for people to believe on Christ. Look at it. It says, “Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth.” Where did we come across those phrases before? Well, right there in verse 2. “The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take council together against the Lord and against His anointed.” God says, “I’m speaking to you rebels. I’m speaking to those of you who have been raised up against me, and I have an invitation for you. You will not win in your battle against Me, so why not accept My grace?” By the way, you know Saul Alinsky who wrote that book, Rules for Radicals? I read it one day. You know whom he dedicated it to? He dedicated it to Lucifer, the first rebel.
I want you to know that Lucifer’s decision was not a good one. I believe that Lucifer’s responsibility in heaven when he was that angel was that he was the choir director. I think that he made sure that all the praise of all the angels got to God, and then he stole some of it for himself. But he will never sing again. He will only howl because he rebelled against God. And because of that rebellion he will suffer forever, and he knows it, and his suffering will be just. It’s always a bad idea to rebel against God. If I speak to you today and you are a rebel, you are holding bitterness in your heart to God. Notice what the text says. “Be wise.” You can be bitter against God. Plenty of people are. Someday I’m going to preach a series of messages on that. Plenty of people are angry with the way God runs His world.
Well, that’s one possibility. One possibility is to say, “If that’s the way you run your world, I’m out of here.” Another possibility is to look at verse 10 again and be wise, and say to yourself, “In light of the fact that God is a god of judgment and justice, I’m going to rush to receive His grace.”
Notice, “Serve the Lord with fear. Rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son.” There are at least three kisses in the Bible – maybe more – but I’m thinking of three. The first is the kiss of deception and betrayal – Judas. Judas said to those with whom he had made the agreement to betray Jesus, “Look, it’s dark in Gethsemane and you can’t see exactly who it is, but whomever it is that I kiss, He’s the one that you need to capture.” The kiss of betrayal!
Then there’s the kiss of reconciliation. I think, for example, of Jacob and Esau. They were twins. They didn’t get along. It was a huge family scandal. They come together 20 years later. They kiss each other. Now that doesn’t last very long because they end up going in different directions, but that’s the kiss of reconciliation. We’ll make up.
But the kiss that is spoken of here is imagery for worship. It’s the kind of kiss that makes you bow down and you acknowledge the sovereignty of Jesus as Lord, as King, and so you submit to Him, and you worship Him and you say, “You are King of Kings and You are Lord of Lords. You are God of all gods, and I receive Your mercy and I receive Your grace. And in the process of doing that, your rebellion and my rebellion can be forgiven. It can be cleansed, and the invitation is to all the rebels to come and believe and kiss the Son.
You know, in the movie The Last Emperor, there’s a scene in which a king, showing his power (and how that no matter what he does others have to take the blame and he always gets the credit), takes a pitcher and he throws it on the ground and smashes it. And in the payment of that it is a servant that gets whipped for what the king did. Wow!
Think for a moment of how opposite it is with our King. We are the ones who in rebellion take that vase and we throw it on the ground and we say, “God, I’m going to be a rebel and I’m going to do my own thing.” And then what happens is the King Himself takes the blame for our sin. He’s the One who dies on the cross and suffers so that our Messiah is not only King. Our Messiah is Savior, and He invites everyone, including the worst rebel (not Satan who can never be converted because Jesus didn’t die for fallen angels) to come. He says, “Come. Do homage to Me. Submit to Me. Be wise and receive My grace.”
And even when He was there with the disciples and said, “Take eat, this is My body which was broken for you; this do in remembrance of Me,” and said, “This is the blood that I am shedding,” He was saying, “I am King, but I am also Savior and can take the heart of a rebel and turn it into the heart of one of My children.” He’s Lord, King, but also Savior, and before Him every knee will bow. Every tongue will confess. Don’t you dare take Him on.
Father, we ask in Jesus’ name that you’ll help these words to speak to our hearts, and may we be content with the knowledge that You are in heaven, and You are in control. We are Yours and we pray that many people may receive Christ and bow humbly to worship because in the end we all bow and we all worship and confess that He is Lord. We pray this in His name, Amen.