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March 3, 2019

Sermon Psalm 2:1-12 . . .“Bible songs:  Why do the nations rage?”

“Bible songs:  Why do the nations rage?”

Psalm 2:1-12

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Seven years ago, back in January of 2012, Tobias Moskowitz, a Finance professor at the University of Chicago, and Jon Wertheim, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, wrote a book they called, Scorecasting:  The Hidden Influences behind How Sports are Played and Games are Won.  And in that book, they set out to study why there’s a phenomenon called, “a home-field advantage.”

And it proved to be an interesting study.  After all, they found that, in baseball, the home team wins fifty-four percent of the time, in football, they win fifty-seven percent of the time, and in basketball, they win sixty percent of the time.

So what makes the difference?  Was it because the players could sleep in their own bed that night?  Was it because they ate a good, home-cooked meal?  Maybe it was the change in altitude, or the color of their jerseys, or the pressure the fans put on the team that made them throw the ball better or catch it better.

While all of those were most certainly factors, they suggested instead that, believe it or not, it’s the referees!

Now it’s not that refs are ever immoral or unethical.  They don’t favor the home team on purpose.  It’s just that, subconsciously, some have shown a slight favoritism toward the home team, because the home team crowd would either cheer or boo based on what they said or did.

I share that illustration with you because you and I need to understand something.  We, as Christians, used to have a home-field advantage.  But we don’t anymore.  As a matter of fact, every day we walk out into this world, we are the visiting team.  Even worse, those who makes the rules often rule against us who declare our allegiance to a higher King.

And in a way, that’s what our text for today, Psalm 2, is all about.  Please turn in your Bible to page 569.  I’ll start at Psalm 2, verse 1.  David writes:  “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.’”

As it says on the top of the page, under the word “Introduction,” “The book of Psalms is filled with the songs and prayers offered to God by the nation of Israel.  Their expressions of praise, faith, sorrow, and frustration cover the range of human emotions.”  And while some of the psalms dwell on God’s Word and God’s wisdom, others are filled with thanksgiving and praise.

And if you’ll remember, last Sunday, we looked at Psalm 1, a psalm that said, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night.”  

And while Psalm 1 emphasized God’s law, Psalm 2 focuses on God’s judgment.  In Psalm 1, people delighted in the law, but in Psalm 2, people defy the law.  Psalm 1 began with a blessing, and Psalm 2 ends with a blessing.  And while Psalm 1 isn’t quoted even once in all of the New Testament, Psalm 2 is quoted some eighteen times, more than any other psalm.

And as commentators tell us, Psalm 2 is a royal psalm, a psalm written for the coronation of a king.

And it all begins with this--a question:  “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?”

That’s a good question.  Why do the nations rage and why do the peoples plot in vain?

Take Afghanistan, for example.  Since 1978, close to two million people have died because of war, 36,000 in this past year alone!  Add Iraq and Syria, and you’ll have 750,000 more.  You could even cross the border into Mexico, where over the last ten years, 250,000 have lost their lives in drug wars.

And that’s nothing to say of ongoing conflicts in Somalia, Kenya, Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, Israel, Pakistan, and Sudan.  As we speak, our nation is at war with some seven different countries around the world.

As a wife once quipped to her husband, “Should we watch the five o’clock news and get indigestion, or wait for the ten o’clock news and have insomnia?”

As David once asked, “Why do the nations rage, and the peoples plot in vain?”

And if that’s not enough, as it says in verse 2, “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.’”

They say that, generally speaking, most dogs will go on a leash.  While some can be a little stubborn, if you’re kind to it and train it well, it probably won’t mind going for a walk on a leash.

But have you ever seen a cat on a leash?  Probably not.  Why not?  Because cats don’t like to be led.  They don’t want to be told what to do.  Instead, they’ll fight your authority.  They’ll rebel.

And as God looks down on earth, as nations rage and people plot in vain, He sees man parading back and forth, shaking his puny little fist in heaven’s face and saying, “Come down here and fight me!”

We don’t want God’s commands, God’s laws, God’s Book, or God’s salvation.  We want to be free to do as we please.  We want to do it our way.

It’s as if there’s a fight, a boxing match, and in one corner, there’s a tiny lump of clay, and in the other, a potter.  Who will triumph in this completely one-sided contest?  Who will be the winner?

Can a flea triumph over an elephant?  Can a rabbit fight against a lion?

As the prophet Isaiah once wrote:  “Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales...Do you not know?  Have you not heard?...He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers...He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.”

And as God looks down from heaven, what does He do?  Verse 4:  “He who sits in the heavens laughs,” but it’s not because it’s funny.  Instead, it says, “The Lord holds them in derision.”  He holds them in contempt, and then, verse 5, “He speaks to them in His wrath, and terrifies them in His fury.”  And He says, “As for Me, I have set My King on Zion, My holy hill.”

Do you think there’s anything on the news this morning, or tomorrow morning, or any morning next week, that God doesn’t already know?  Do you think there’s anything that surprises Him at all?  Do you think His angels ever stand and worry, biting their nails, whispering to each other on the streets of heavenly Jerusalem?

Not a chance!  Instead, the foundation of our world and all our hopes lie in a quiet throne room in heaven.

Verse 10:  “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.”

Back in 1875, a British poet named William Henley published a short poem he called, “Invictus,” a poem of defiance against God.  It ended with the words:  “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll.  I am the master of my fate.  I am the captain of my soul.”

And ever since then, his poem has, sadly, been quoted by many people.  Think of the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh, for example.  They were his last words, scrawled on a sheet of paper, just before his execution.

But sixteen years after Henley first published his poem, “Invictus,” British preacher Charles Spurgeon offered a different philosophy of life.  In the closing words of the last sermon he ever preached, he said:  “Every person must serve somebody:  we have no choice as to that fact.  Those who have no master are slaves to themselves.  Depend on it--you will either serve Satan or Christ.  Either self or the Savior.  You will find sin, self, Satan, and the world to be hard masters; but if you wear the uniform of Christ, you will find Him so meek and lowly of heart that you will find rest for your souls.”  And he said:  “If you could see our Captain, you would go down on your knees and beg Him to let you enter the ranks of those who follow Him.  It is heaven to serve Jesus.”

So where’s the gospel in all of this?  Look at verse 6:  “As for Me, I have set My King on Zion, My holy hill.”

When Christ came into the world, He was born a King.  That is, after all, what the wise men said:  “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?  We saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him.”

And throughout His life, He showed His sovereign power over all creation--over the devil, over diseases of every kind, and over death itself.  In a boat, on the Sea of Galilee, even the wind and the waves had no choice but to obey Him!

And as Caiaphas, the high priest, sat in judgment over Him, he had just one question on his mind.  He said:  “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?”  And Jesus answered:  “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  And when men crucified Him, Pilate posted a sign above His head--”Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”

There on that holy hill, on Calvary’s hill, He died to take all our sin and guilt away.

And if Jesus is our King, then we must serve Him now and always.  We must serve Him in our work.  We must serve Him in our families.  We must serve Him in our homes.  

As David wrote in the words of his psalm:  “Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.”

 

We thank You, dear Father, for this psalm, this song, that David once sang.  Help us to know that, in spite of conflicts here at home and around the world, You stand as Judge, Redeemer, and King.  This we ask in Jesus’ name.  Amen

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