Thursday, September 26, 2013

18th Sunday of Trinity: Psalm 2

Psalm 2
1      Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
2      The kings of the earth set themselves,
          and the rulers take counsel together,
          against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
3       “Let us burst their bonds apart
          and cast away their cords from us.”
4      He who sits in the heavens laughs;
          the Lord holds them in derision.
5      Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
          and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6         “As for me, I have set my King
          on Zion, my holy hill.”
7      I will tell of the decree:
     The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
          today I have begotten you.
8      Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
          and the ends of the earth your possession.
9      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.

Sept 22, 2013; 18th Sunday of Trinity; Texts: Psalm 2; Proverbs 25:6-14; Ephesians 4:1-6; Luke 14:1-11; Title: This King will Save You; Rev. Tim Beck

Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

The Psalms were Israel’s hymnal and the foundation of ours. For example, one old church practice lost, one worthy to restore, was for centuries, at the five cathedral services a day, the Psalms were sung in Gregorian chant. Their melodies echoed in the city’s most beautiful structures, to the glory of God. In a few years of chanting, the entire Psalm book was memorized by the singers. How many of the faithful were sustained by those sacred songs, and how much they still sustain us today! We chant, read and pray their sacred poetry, divinely inspired.
          We rejoice, since Christ is taught, preached, and speaks in the Psalms. We worship using the different kinds of Psalms. We could group them in this way: Messianic Psalms prophesy Christ; teaching Psalms instruct us; comfort Psalms tell the promises of God; supplicatory Psalms beseech; thanksgiving Psalms declare our gratitude that He hears our cry. The Psalms are prayers that confess the faith. Like our hymns, they are no fuzzy ditties, but declare Christ crucified, risen, and coming.
          Today’s appointed Psalm is a Messianic hymn. The word “Messiah” is a Hebrew word translated by the Greek as “Christ.” It means “Anointed.” The Messiah is the anointed one, anointed as king, prophet and priest. Given that anointing, we find comfort in the Psalms, we even hear this as a comfort: 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.” (2:1-3)
          You say that’s a comfort? It doesn’t sound like one! It sounds like the faithful are going to have a rough time. Yes - and yet these verses describe our Messiah. They describe His kingdom come, how He rules, and how His kingdom appears         to human eyes and before God’s eye. There is help here, because the Psalm says that the devil, the world, and the flesh oppose the kingdom of God. So don’t be surprised when the church suffers for good. We hear when God’s kingdom comes it comes with tumult, a violent reaction. It is not the fault of the kingdom of peace, but those who refuse that peace. Look how the enemies of peace treat the gospel, that wonderful word of peace. They say damn to the word of God and then imagine they conquered God. The nations rage, peoples plot, kings and rulers oppose, and ironically, to human eyes it looks like the church is causing trouble again - Christians are the problem - as say those burning churches in Egypt this very hour. But God sees otherwise, for His word brings peace; a peace passing understanding; for when His Word enters our lives, regardless of political strife, His peace rules. So the Holy Spirit teaches us to cling to the Messianic King despite all the raging against His kingdom, all the decrees meant to silence it. The LORD and His anointed have a kingdom, and it shall stand. It stands despite all those who wish to be free of Christ’s peace.
          Perhaps you remember the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who as a good atheist-communist jailed those who said they believed in God. At His overthrow mobs of people stood outside His palace chanting, “There is a God, there is a God!”  And for a time, the most valuable black market item was a Bible. Today’s love for atheism will meet a similar end. There is a God and He has His Christ, His Messiah, His anointed who didn’t come to condemn the ordinary affairs of the world, of good government, civil order, kings, princes, legislatures and unity in a people. But they so often oppose Him. And the church, bearing the cross of Christ, feels the anger of the world. Yet it does not suffer alone… since the rage is against God and His Christ. As said the ascended Jesus to Saul on the road to Damascus (Saul who persecuted the church), Jesus said “Why do you persecute me?” This is a consolation, for what can the world’s raging achieve against the Triune God? What harm shall it really do the church; poor, small, and troubled as she is? The world’s raging is a counsel of foolishness. It is like a fool rushing against a tree to knock it over with his head. It is a fool saying cords bind, these cords constrict, the cords of peace, joy, grace, and its fruit of love. Yes, the church is sorely tried, and we personally are tempted to shrink from the tumult, to deny Christ. Since we are still of the flesh we so easily fear the wrong things, forgetting whom to fear, forgetting whom to trust, drifting from the power of God for salvation. Yet the fact that our foes rage testify that the Word is calling sinners to repentance. That too is a comfort since the gospel gives us the very righteousness of God, His kingdom. While Christ’s foes aim to earn a righteousness of their own, rejecting His righteousness, we receive it as pure gift. We have the righteousness of Christ, the Father’s approval, peace with God.
          So why fear those who call the faithful terrible names? 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.” (vs 4) That’s another comfort. While governments direct bodily punishments, economic exclusion, second-class citizenship and think since nothing happens God doesn’t know or care… while rulers forbid, the media laughs, people turn away because of the church’s bad reputation and say God is weak, scared by the devil and human shouts… while all this happens, the LORD laughs, he derides them, He is unaffected by rebellion. He is above it all; and laughing now, and will laugh last saying the last word against human rage. He laughs, and turns all things to good for those who love Him, working all things to His purposes.      
          Be comforted, even the persecution which Satan inspires, the Christ works to good, to a good end. He laughs and so will we when our troubles are turned to joy. See what He did in the lives of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and all the saints before us. No matter what the church bears she shall conquer at the last, for Her Lord cannot be defeated.  As our Lord suffered the rage of nations (Acts 4:21) yet by dying conquered, so too the church. Struggles against sin, the world, and Satan call us to repentance yes, but we have a confident hope because the Father placed His King on Zion, lifted high. The Almighty established a kingship having rule over all the earth, though not yet exercised in glory, visibly, like an iron scepter. The cross atop that high holy hill in the city of peace, the holy city, the city of the promise, shall be manifest in full. While the King did not then establish a physical rule over earthly Jerusalem, He reigns over all the world to bless the church, His bride, His holy people. He dwells in us to manifest Himself on earth, to proclaim His salvation, to reveal His spiritual kingdom and to promise His return in glory, in power.
          Today, the church by faith receives the righteousness given sinners, and at the end, the righteous reign of the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords (Phil 2). One day, at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow (Phil 2), even the defiant although to shame. As for the church, Jesus already brought us into His body, into one hope, one faith, one baptism, one Lord.  What is the key to this Psalm? 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.
          The first part of that is: “today I have begotten you,” literally, “the day” I have begotten you. This is not an earthly day but is the standpoint of eternity, “the day,” like the “I AM.”  The anointed one, the king, true man is yet true God. He is the very Son of the eternal Father by everlasting decree. So the Apostle Paul says, regarding the eternal manifest in human flesh: God promised beforehand through His Prophets in the Holy Scriptures the Gospel concerning His Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by His resurrection from the dead. Rm 1:1-4

          He rules as the eternally begotten who took within His person the nature of a man and humbled Himself to death for sinners. Laying down His life as a ransom, He is now lifted up in His human nature too, and with the divine nature in the one person reigns above every name. This Anointed King is distinct from all other kings, not only in divinity, also in character. His spiritual rule is not by law but by gospel. Thus He asked the Father for his promised heritage, praying “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Then given all authority in heaven and in earth He sent the apostles and those that continue in their office to bind and release sinners from guilt. So the church goes forth, baptizing and making disciples, teaching all that He commanded. In this way God’s kingdom comes. While sinful man sees a weak church, a foolish way to rule, God sees things as they are. The kingdom of God is conquering, reigning and shall reign in glory. One day we too shall see exactly as God sees, that is when we see God.
          Take comfort, Oh believers - He absolves, that is, looses us from sin and its penalty. If we, the church, truly believed this we would laugh at death, the devil, the weakness of our flesh and sin. Those are defeated enemies. He, the eternal Son who assumed a human nature, was given Zion, received the Kingdom and dwells there for you and brings you to dwell with Him. The Father gave the kingdom to Jesus the Anointed, the King, the sacrifice, not to be a ruler of this world, just a greater lawgiver, but to receive his inheritance. What is the inheritance that Jesus Christ earned? Haven’t you already heard?  He made the nations His possession when, as Isaiah 53 describes, He became the offering for sin, therefore He shall be satisfied. He shall divide the spoil with the strong. Despite the raging of kings against this kingdom, the kingdom of God comes. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” 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. (vs 10-12)
          As the church waits, this too is her comfort. The kingdoms of this world cannot conquer the kingdom of our Lord and God. Kings die, nations fall, empires crumble but the word of the Lord stands forever. And the gospel goes out converting many nations. A review of history tells us that. Seemingly invincible kingdoms fell as prophesied and mighty foes were overcome by the weakness of Christ crucified. This is true, although our King looks weak since He only fights by His Word, without steel sword. Yet His word breaks to pieces the rebellion of Adam’s race.        Then His Word proclaims the love of God. He gives that all might be saved, (Jn 12:47, 48).
          This Word is “the power,” a power rarely visible in earthly life, although there are clues to its fact.  For example, why the rage to destroy the sacred text, to cause doubt in it, to suppress it? How many kings have burnt it, scholars denied it, publishers defaced it, religions twisted it, and yet the church endures? Why the victory of the Word seen in the church born, sustained, and conquering by martyr’s death? Did it not enter into you, changing all things? Therefore, O kings and rulers, be warned! The Word of God cannot fail, it shall not fail, and all powers must bow to it.
          So hear the promise, for all who humble themselves shall be blest by the Christ. That explains the admonition to serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.  Fear, since the Anointed One, the King, is the Son who is also Lord. He shares the Divine name. Serve Him, because God is a Holy God. You owe Him obedience. So the church too fears, because we still sin. Yet, knowing His mercy, we      live repentant, absolved lives before Him, and rejoice. The church rejoices, because all believers are received as His children. We are made sons of the Son to inherit the kingdom of heaven. In this way fear and rejoicing are mingled in this life. While still sinners we are saints, justified by the Anointed One’s rule, and given His strength to fight against sin. So kings are advised to kiss the Son, give homage due the King. This kiss is the reverent worship due God alone.   So the Son is worshipped, equal with the Father and the Spirit. Kiss the mediator of our salvation. Adore Him, see Him who rules in heaven and earth. So we are admonished, lest He be angry and we perish. There is no middle ground, no false worship, no rebellion, no state of unbelief that He overlooks. This is the believer’s comfort too. The elect will be vindicated, those who cry to Him day and night (Lk 18:7). He will come soon (Rev 3:11). This Messianic Psalm declares comfort.  Christ’s own shall not be overcome.  Our King, the Anointed, God’s Son, shall rescue us. Despite whatever we face in the kingdom of this world, He who justifies sinners like us will seat us with Him forever on Zion, His holy hill.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord (Amen)

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