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“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.’ ”
This is Part 2 of a four part series on Psalm 2. It is a prophecy of Christ, that He would suffer and become King of the whole world. Regarding the psalms of prophecy, Luther taught:
“They speak, for example, of Christ and the Church or what will happen to the saints. This class includes all the psalms that contain promises and warnings – promises for the godly and warnings for the ungodly.”1
In Part 1, we examined verses 1-3. Psalm 2 opens with the nations, peoples and kings of the earth raging, plotting and taking counsel together against God and Christ. Of course Pilate, Herod, Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin, the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel were ignorant of the fact that by opposing Jesus, they were opposing God, because they believed neither that Jesus was God’s Son nor that He was sent by God. They thought by crucifying Jesus, they were honoring God and the cause of freedom, but in reality they were rejecting God and the real freedom which God in Christ offered to them.
The psalmist, who believes the promises of God and that His will cannot be thwarted, asks in astonishment: “why?” Crucifying Jesus would not burst the bonds of Christ’s reign as King. To the contrary, Jesus’ death on the cross for the sins of the world would burst the bonds of sin, death, Satan and hell for everyone who believes in Him. Therefore, “the peoples plot in vain.”
Thus we are given an example of how the works of God in the world and in our lives often are contrary to all human understanding and our senses. In the midst of suffering or when it looks as if sin and evil have the upper hand, Christ is reigning and will deliver His people according to His Word, despite all appearances to the contrary.
We pick up this week at verse 4:
“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.’ ”
The mismatch between the power of God and that of the tyrants, whether men or devils, is so vast and the outcome in God’s favor so certain, that the psalmist portrays God laughing at his adversaries, holding them in derision (i.e., scoffing, ridiculing, mocking, making fun of them). For what God decrees will most surely comes to pass!
Although who would have thought, while Christ was suffering and His adversaries triumphing, that God was seated in the heavens laughing at them all the while? Similarly, when we are oppressed or afflicted, how will we believe that God is holding our adversaries in derision, when it seems to ourselves that we are the ones held in derision both by God and men?
Faith, therefore, must hold fast to the Word and promises of Christ, and join with the psalmist: “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.”
Pharaoh imagined that by drowning the Israelite males, he had found a way to diminish them. But at the same time, Pharaoh’s own daughter, in his own court, gave a prince’s education to Moses, their deliverer. Did not God laugh and hold Pharaoh in derision?
Similarly, the Jews and Gentiles imagined that by crucifying Jesus, they could eliminate Him and His kingdom. But did not God hold the whole world in derision by raising Jesus from the dead, taking what began as a kingdom among one people and making it into a worldwide eternal kingdom?
In the midst of oppression and affliction, unbelief sees God as nonexistent, absent, disinterested, or uncaring; whereas faith sees Christ caring for His people and reigning over His enemies. The psalmist encourages us to rise up by faith and hope above all our tribulations to Him who sits in the heavens. From this perspective, we will bear the evils of the world and hold them in derision. Of this the Apostle Paul also wrote: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:4-6); and “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3:3)
“Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury”
God’s laughter is no joke, nor does he take the suffering of His people lightly. God will “speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury.” Caiaphas had prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation: “it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” (John 11:50)
God held the vain meditations of Caiaphas in derision until: first, He raised Jesus from the dead; and second, not many years later, He destroyed both Jerusalem and the temple by the hand of the Romans. They killed Jesus, but God set Him up as King! They withdrew themselves from under Jesus, but God placed His holy hill of Zion and all the kingdoms of the earth in subjection to Him! Thus, they are laughed at and held in derision, and openly shown to have meditated vain things.
“I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”
The Church of Christ is called “Mount Zion” because it began in Jerusalem by the sending of the Holy Spirit. Though it is not confined to any particular place, it began there. From there it has spread throughout all the earth, that the words of Jesus might be fulfilled: “the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” (John 4:21)
It is a “Mount” because God has highly exalted her above all power, wisdom and righteousness of men, not in riches and influence, but in faith, hope and love, and all those virtues that despise the riches and power of the world.
It is His “holy hill” because the kingdom of Christ is the people who are made holy by faith in Christ, who alone by His cross sets us apart from sin, the world, Satan and our own flesh, and makes of us His holy hill. Amen.
Thank you for reading. Next week we will pick up Psalm 2 at verse 7, in which Christ proclaims the Father’s decree: “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.” Amen.
1 Concordia Publishing House. Reading the Psalms with Luther. 2007. Print. p. 14.
A warning was issued that there was an incoming ballistic missile…and “this is not a drill”.
Thank God, it was a false alarm.
It did get me thinking however…
What would I do if I received such an alert?
The obvious answer was to pray, not to get right with God, but for peace and the ability to give it where needed.
I would gather my cats and try to gather the loved ones in one place …and prepare to meet the Lord together.
It was also a reminder that I might get called home without notice…and that what I was and how I am remembered could be finished already.
I pondered what my last words to the people I love and this community would be if I were suddenly gone without opportunity to speak again…
What would you do?
There come times when one feels the need to stand up and be counted. Counted for when there is considerable wrong which needs to be opposed. I have not written here for a little while, but last week’s political happenings have led me to write once again to lend whatever little influence and impact I have to the determination that there is serious wrong in our land and to stand against it. Also to implore others, most especially my fellow Christians, to reckon doing the same.
As practically everyone is already aware, it was reported last week that President Trump said, “Why are we having all these people from s—hole countries come here?” to a group of lawmakers during immigration policy negotiations. Just as so many times before, something that Donald Trump said or did, or allegedly said, sets afire the people across our nation into another ugly political melee. It has not been pretty.
Now, clearly I am far from the only one who is taking a stand against something President Trump has said or done. I am not out on an island all by myself. If it were an island, it would be more the size and population of a continent. But taking a stand against this latest reported transgression by Trump is not really the main focus of what I’m doing. Rather, I am choosing to count myself as against not just what the President allegedly said, but principally against the defense, rationalization, and support of President Trump in this incident by far too many Christians, most especially those who would be labeled the same as myself – Evangelical Christians who are conservative, both theologically and politically – even more so, many who are high-profile personalities in our culture.
The reported words by Trump are unrighteous, and those who defend them are joining in that unrighteousness. These types of scenarios have occurred far too often since Trump has risen to political prominence and they are an unseemly stain on the name of Christianity. Therefore, I am standing to be counted as a conservative Evangelical Christian against these current reported words of the President and the defense of them by many of my fellow brethren. It is an affront to Christianity and a gross distortion of the One we represent, to espouse them.
I am no one special for taking such a stand. I have my own struggles, downfalls, and sins. I do not claim to have a special righteousness for doing so. However, when there is unrighteousness that needs to be countered, God has only imperfect people to work with if He chooses to use human means. I feel led to raise my voice against an epidemic that has significantly contaminated the family group with whom I most broadly identify with in the Christian faith.
With all that said, let me expound a bit on the happenings of these professed words from Donald Trump. First of all, they are only reported words, we do not have means of hardened proven evidence of such. The President has denied saying the exact reported words. Now, outside of Trump’s denial, the evidence would strongly suggest that he did say these things or at least something very similar. The White House communications staff, themselves, will not deny that he said them.
Yet, there are some who have decided that this an at least likely fake story made up by the Democrats and the press and choose to place all their faith in Trump’s denial. They have decided to forego the evidence that weighs greatly in the other direction and instead believe a narrative that suits their political agenda and desires.
Beyond that, however, the much bigger problem resides with those who choose to defend the President and his purported words. Regardless of whether or not the President actually said them, they are defending the use and sentiment of the words. Thence, this is what I am ardently opposing.
As a caveat, the biggest difficulty is not, in and of itself, that Trump said the word “s—hole”. I personally choose not to use such language, but in this case, getting primarily worked up at the use of a term that is culturally considered to be a obscenity would be straining the gnat and swallowing the camel.
The biggest problem is that of the message, meaning, and attitude within the manifest context and understanding of the reported words. The President was not just allegedly using a descriptive word to say that these countries are third world, troubled, and with many problems. If indeed said, he was assigning the same “s—hole” worth to the people who are trying to escape these terrible conditions and come to our country. The main thrust of the words were, “why are we having these people come here”. It was an expressed message that we should not be letting the type of people that come from these lousy, trashy countries to come into ours. The value being assigned to these people and the judgment being given as to whether or not they are worthy to come live with us was fundamentally being placed on the conditions of their countries of origin. If their country is s—hole, then that is what they are like, too, and they are not welcome here. Any rationalization to explain that this wasn’t the message of the words is a rejection of plain context and understanding.
These words and attitude are sordid, hateful, and anti-Christ. They also can easily be seen as racist, especially given the reported preference of letting in people from Norway. They fly in the face of everything we learn in Scripture that each one of us is made in the image of God, loved by Him, and that we are to be especially mindful to the plight of the alien, poor, and needy. The excusing, defense, acceptance, and even promotion of the words and attitude by my fellow brethren is all the more saddening and disturbing.
On the immigration issue as a whole, there are legitimate concerns as to who we let into our country. We cannot maintain order and justice if we just let in everyone where ever, whenever, and however they want to come. And we have to be careful to not let in those who we believe are out to cause harm. But as Christians, our disposition must be diametrically opposed to the message and attitude expressed in Trump’s alleged words, just as we often oppose other immoral and anti-Christian issues, elements, and circumstances in our culture. We cannot desire and expect our governmental leaders to uphold traditional Christian values and ethics when it comes to issues like abortion and gay marriage and then turn a blind eye to an issue like this. Worse so, to actually support these hateful and unChristian words and sentiments.
Obviously, this is far from the first time that a scenario like this has occurred with Donald Trump. We could all make a long list if we wanted to. I have spoken out about other occurrences, but for whatever reason, this one has pushed me a bit harder. Maybe it is the straw that has broken the camel’s back.
I do not like writing about or talking about politics. It is so often a dirty world that I would much rather avoid. I would much more so like to write about other things here and I know Michael also often feels the same way. (And these are my words and thoughts. I am to be held responsible for them, not Michael.) I do not want to start a food fight.
Yet, I feel obligated to raise my voice to advocate for those who are being treated unfairly and unrighteously. There is a sickness that has affected significant segments and leaders and individuals within the church where political ends has gained precedence over Christian ethics and righteousness. It affects those on both the Right and Left. However, since the pro-Trump-related issues has impinged the family I most closely identify with, this is where my biggest personal concern lays.
We are always going to have political disagreements, and that is okay. But when political aspirations become of greater import than the ethics and morals of our faith, we are in a state of sickness. I want us to get healthy. Lord, help us to become so.
Thanks again to EricL…support him at top right…
1. We’ll hear a lot today about the personal and theological flaws of Dr.Martin Luther King. Ignore them…like Lincoln before him, what King represents as the symbol of the modern civil rights movement and non violent social change is what we are celebrating today…
2. I’m convinced that when it comes to issues both social and theological, complete ignorance is safer than being partially informed. In reality, the are close to the same thing, but only one recognizes it’s lack…
3. Because people will no longer support unbiased media financially, the media survives by reinforcing bias. We will end up paying anyway…
4. Evidently, this is one of those verse for “that culture”… “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19–20 ESV)
5. I long for the day when “research” involved reading multiple 400 page books instead of 4 paragraph websites…
6. Many of our debates these days are little more than attempt to deny the reality of the image of God in someone else…which is the work of the devil…
7. There’s a weariness in the souls of those who try to be decent and reasonable in how they communicate on social media. I hope that a tool with this much power isn’t abandoned to those who use it as a weapon…
8. Politics and sports are the last two arenas where we experience ecstatic communal joy and deep communal despair…
9. “Righteous” Lot is one of the few biblical characters who actually makes me feel good about my spiritual life…
10. I’m way too emotionally invested in sports, especially my Minnesota Vikings. I spent the whole week preparing for them to lose, so the defeat would be easy to handle. This morning, I realized I spend most of my life preparing to lose…which is a denial of the hope we have in a God who controls providence and happens to be my Dad. I’ll bet I’m not alone…
Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The Church at Ephesus – Part 2
4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.
- After all the nice talk, all the commendation and recognizing what a tough spot they are in, Jesus still says “I have this against you.”
- Ugh, no break.
- This is not what is often described. We need to be careful not to make this a feeling. This is not that they have lost their zeal that the once had for Jesus.
- Bible study used to be exciting but now it no longer captures my attention, it is ordinary and I no longer go. This is not it.
- This has been since the beginning. This is the pattern of Adam & Eve in the garden.
- What is happening here is they have stopped believing in God’s love (note the difference vs. their own love).
- This is not disobedience; this is that they have stopped trusting God. They / We end up following Adam & Eve and we trust the words of the devil (culture, the world, politics) over the word of God, and in a strange way begin to think that God does not love them as much as he should or could have.
- So the Ephesians trusted the devil, and ate the fruit.
- To lose the first love if we can appeal to the catechism, The First Commandment = you shall have no other gods. What does this mean? = We should fear, love and trust in God above all things.
- I don’t know if John had Luther’s Small Catechism in mind, but he is telling them you are not loving God above all things, you are not trusting his word, you are not even believing him and to this extent your works are no longer what they were.
- We love God because he first loved us. God’s love in us is what produces our love for neighbor.
- When we start thinking God does not love us, we start abandoning God’s love and start chasing after other things and we diminish our love for others.
- So, as I said above, it is not that they don’t love God the way they once did – it’s that they have abandoned God himself who is their first love – producing less good works … and this is the issue.
- So what distracts us?
5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
- Note that Jesus is not beyond making a threat – he is working at getting their attention.
- ) Jesus states the problem.
- ) Jesus reminds them where they were before falling.
- ) The command to repent – repentance is not just a mental thing, he is bringing out returning to the works you did previously.
- ) Threat of punishment – not necessarily a casting into hell.
- ) Solution to the problem – repent!
6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
- What? Jesus hates something? “Not my Jesus” many would say. That is correct, but the Jesus of the Bible does.
- Not only does Jesus hate these works, but the church is commended for hating them also. Let me just say, it is always good to hate the things Jesus hates. So much for “all we need is love.”
- This teaching of the Nicolaitans is just what we spoke of above. The goal of the teaching is to lead the Ephesians away from their first love.
- Who are the Nicolaitans? Are they some cultic group? Are they a Christian sect?
- Irenaeus mentioned that they were an antinomian cult who used their Christian liberty as license for sensual sin – do what you want, don’t worry, God loves you anyway.
- What we have here are good people who are faithful, they are still Christians, their lampstand is still there, but bad things are creeping in – distractions are arriving in the church and they need to be aware.
- This is not uncommon today.
7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’
- Ephesus’ reward – to eat of the tree of life. Where is this tree? In the paradise of God. Where is that? Where God dwells
- If you go back and review Gen 3:24, this reverses that ban.
- What about the others? The church in Smyrna is offered freedom from death; Pergamum, spiritual significance; Thyatira, rule over the nation; Sardis, the honor of wearing a white robe; Philadelphia, a secure dwelling place; and Laodicea, fellowship.
- Although this is a letter (really more like a postcard) to one church, the teaching is for all of the churches on this route.
- Those who have ears are the sinners who know themselves to be sinners. Those who want to repent, those who want forgiveness, want to do better.
- Who are those who do not have ears? Those who think they have it all figured out, those who are too good to be burdened by their sin.
- What does it mean, in the context here to conquer? Passively put it is the one who endures and keeps the faith to the end.
- In doing so you defeat the devil and all of his army of false teachers who try to get you to give up and surrender. They want you to become a Nicolaitan (a compromised Christian) or even an unbeliever. But you conquer by being faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ.