Sermon on Psalm 2:1-12 – “Is the World out of Control?”

Sermon for Sunday, August 9th, 2020 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)

Old Testament reading and sermon text:

[Psa 2:1-12 ESV] 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.

New Testament reading:

[Act 4:23-31 ESV] 23 When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’– 27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

Gospel reading:

[Luk 22:66-71 ESV] 66 When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, 67 “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, 68 and if I ask you, you will not answer. 69 But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” 70 So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” 71 Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.”

INTRODUCTION

As we are beginning a series in Sunday School on the Psalms, I thought it wise to preach on a Psalm today. And since I gave a sermon on Psalm 1 back in March of this year, I thought I’d preach today from Psalm 2. These two anonymous Psalms are together considered the introduction to the Book of Psalms. They are introductory, not only to the first book of five in the Psalms, but to the whole collection. There are, if you did not know, five “books” in the book of Psalms. The first book covers Psalms 1-41, the second book Psalms 42-72, the third book Psalms 73-89, the fourth book Psalms 90-106, and the fifth book Psalms 107-150. This must at least in part be necessary because of the limitation of the length of a scroll. The entire collection of the Psalms is quite lengthy. Perhaps it took five scrolls to include them all.

And I hope to preach on many of these Psalms in time.

Today, however, as we look at Psalm 2, we address the question that makes for the title of today’s sermon. “Is the World of out Control?”

And, for this Psalm I’ll be using a 3-point outline taken from an excellent sermon of a minister-friend of mine.

We will look at these three points:

1. The World About Us

2. The God Above Us

and

3. The Path Before Us

[REPEAT]

First, Let us look first at the world about us.

1. The World About Us

Here is where we must ask, “Is the world out of control?”

You probably answered that in your head with a big “YES!” There seems to no longer be news in the traditional since like in the days of Walter Cronkite or even Peter Jennings, but merely political propaganda. And the world all seems very much out of control. This year has included a global pandemic and scattered riots. And now adding to this turmoil. this week we hear of a great explosion, in the most literal since, in Beirut Lebanon.

Is the world of our control?

The explosion in Beirut, while in a foreign country, still “hits home.” You may not know that member of one of the churches in our denomination is doing missionary work in Lebanon. Fortunately, she works in the city of Tyre in the South and not Beirut. My wife and I met her earlier this year and saw her presentation of the work going on there. And it is very promising work. A large number of people, especially youths, have been attending the church where she is working in the downtown area. And so, she was flying to Lebanon when the explosion happened. And we should pray for her and her work in that country.

In our own country, in California, there is a battle underway to allow church services. The well-known minister John MacArthur has reopened his church despite the government’s restrictions on gathering. MacArthur argues that in closing down churches the government is overreaching its authority. Well, it is not often that one of the Biblical commentators that I read is in the national news. Granted, John Calvin has been deceased for 400 years. (That is supposed to be a joke)

We see then turmoil in the world, at home and abroad. Is the Lord “waking us up?” What more do we need? A pandemic, riots, and now an industrial explosion rivaling the power of a nuclear bomb.

So how do we go about resolving the problems in the world? In what do we trust? In whom should we seek counsel?

We find in our text that the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together. That is, the people seek counsel in other people. But they never seek counsel with the wonderful counselor himself, Jesus Christ.

The nations rage and the peoples plot in vain. In vain, because they do not seek the counsel of God. The “blessed man” of Psalm 1 meditates day and night on the law of the Lord. But the unbelievers meditate only on their own evil thoughts.

The nations rage. The nations seek to throw off the rule of God. Today, many people are advocating throwing off any rule of law at all.

When we look at the world about much seems chaotic. And when we look at the people of the world we find that they do not seek the Lord, but seek the answers in themselves.

Ignoring God, and asking one another for advice, is like asking Satan whether you should sin. Or it is like on the Appalachian Trail forums where people often ask “Should I hike the trail.” Well, the audience is hikers. And you can imagine what their response might be. When you surround yourself with hikers the counsel you receive is going to be in favor of hiking. And when you surround yourself with evil counselors the counsel you receive is going to be in favor of evil.

The world about us does not know the answer to chaos. The world about us rejects the answer.

Rather than seeking counsel in the world about us, we ought to seek counsel in the God above us.

2. The God Above Us.

While the nations plot against God, He laughs. Jesus is the true king, not them.

This Psalm is one of a number of messianic Psalms. That is, it looks forward to the coming of the messiah, the anointed.

And you might ask, “who is the ‘His anointed.’ Who is God’s anointed? Is it the people of God? Is it the King?

Well, Acts 4:25-28, the verses are applied to Jesus. The anointed is, at least, Jesus Christ.

This passage from Acts quotes from Psalm 2 and then explains further that it is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

“‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’– 27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”

So this provides a specific historical circumstance. Herod and Pontius Pilate and the Gentiles and the Jews all were opposed to Jesus.

Our Gospel reading also shows the rulers of the world plotting together.

[Luk 22:66-71 ESV] 66 When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, 67 “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, 68 and if I ask you, you will not answer. 69 But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” 70 So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” 71 Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.”

But note that they — even these evil men — accomplished “whatever God’s hand and God’s plan had predestined to take place.”

GOD IS IN CONTROL. He was in control even in that most heinous sin the world has ever known – the murder of the lamb without blemish, Jesus Christ.

Thus we see how futile it is to fight against the Lord. His will is done. The plotting of the peoples is in vain because God is in control. How foolish it is to oppose the Sovereign Lord.

EVEN IN THE VERY WORST EVENTS THEN, THE LORD REMAINS IN CONTROL. And in our day as well. The world is not ultimately chaotic because GOD REMAINS IN CONTROL. And He always will remain in control.

Now, this passage from Acts allows us briefly to consider an important point in Biblical interpretation. The New Testament interpretations of the Old are definitive interpretations! When Jesus, or Paul, or Peter, or any other NT writer explains an Old Testament passage, they do so correctly because they are being guided by the Holy Spirit. Here, the books of Acts is written by Luke. And so when Luke says that Psalm 2 is about Jesus, we must agree. In fact, from New Testament references like this we see that the Psalms are all about Jesus. Jesus is everywhere in the Psalms. And I hope that we’ll come to appreciate this fact better in our Sunday School series on the book of Psalms.

So we saw the trouble in the world about us, and the control of the God above us. Let us now look to the path before us.

3. The Path Before Us

The passage is clear — Blessed are all who take refuge in him. And we must indeed take refuge in the Lord. In the Lord we find stability. He is steadfast. We are assured of our salvation in Him.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Those who do not seek counsel in the Lord, but seek counsel among men shall be broken with a rod of iron and dashed into pieces like a potter’s vessel. The wrath of the Lord is upon them. The nations are rushing to the slaughter.

Thus the Psalmist warns “O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.”

The path before us then is to serve the Lord. And we are to take refuge in him.

So in your struggles do you trust in God that He remains in control? When the earth shakes, hold on to the Rock! When you don’t know what to do, or what to say, or what to think, look the Word of God for your answer. The news each days may be swirling chaos, anger, and death. But the Lord and His Word remains steady.

You should base your life on the Word of God. The world changes its mind from day to day. You cannot rely on it. For decades now the colleges have promoted the idea that there is no truth. Everything is relative they say. And we Christians knew that this was silly and self-defeating. If there is truth, then that very statement is itself not true, and the one speaking it is shown be a fool. But now the world has changed And the same people who were promoting the idea that there is no truth, are now willing to use violence to promote the new “truths” of abortion, homosexuality, transgenderism, feminism, opposition to police, and the acceptance of rioting and looting. And they said there was no truth!

But while the nations plot in vain, we are called to rely on the Lord and Him alone. We are to live as befits a Christian. This is the path before us. Do not be violent. Love your neighbor as yourself. Follow the laws of God. Believe in His word. Walk in His ways. Trust in His promises. Pray for your enemies. Be a light on the hill. Take refuge in the Lord.

We had seen in John’s Gospel that Christians are to expect persecution. Jesus was persecution, so shall we be persecuted. Now in Psalm 2 we find that it is a persecuting world. The people hate the Law of God and hate His people. There is a rebellion against the greatest king of all, the Lord Jesus. So we should not be surprised when we find opposition not merely to ourselves as Christians but to the church in general. This is all part of God’s plan. And the death of Jesus was in God’s plan. And while from one perspective this was the worst event in world history we know also that it was the most necessary and most gracious event in world history. God has arranged history for our sake. And he arranged for his son Jesus Christ to die for our sake. Praise be to God.

CONCLUSION

We know that in the end, all people and all nations will bow down before the Lord. They won’t be plotting or raging against Him anymore. God is the victor. And all history moves towards this day when the fulness of God’s promises will be revealed and there shall be no more strife, and there shall be no more war, and no more sin. Let us look forward to the New Heavens and the New Earth that we are promised in God’s glorious kingdom.

This is the ultimate end of the path before us. We will no longer have this world about us, but a world renewed by the God above us. Let us take comfort in God’s plans, though we might not always understand the details. He is in control. The Lord Above us guides the path before us. Let us pray. Amen.

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