Other sermons in this series
I don’t know if you’re even allowed to say this, but there’s a problem with the Psalms.
Have you noticed it?
The book of Psalms can seem a bit like your favourite uncle.
Everyone loves him, but every now and then he’ll come out with some incredibly awkward stuff.
That’s so embarrassing. Or so politically incorrect. That sometimes you almost want to pretend you don’t know him.
According to the website biblegateway.com, the book of Psalms is the most accessed book of their online bible.
And look, pastorally I’ve seen that as well. People going through hard times just love the Psalms. One of my first hospital visits as a young pastor in country NSW; her name was Christine, she was in her early 50s and just a few days to live with lung cancer. No church connections, but she wanted to see a minister. And she wanted me to read Psalm 23. Which she remembered somehow from school.
And you could see it was comforting that the road through the Valley of Death had been walked before. And there was one who’d walk with her.
And look, so often the Psalms are full of such majestic words, such comforting words, such heartfelt words, it’s no surprise if you’ve got any sort of bible background. Even distantly. You’ll want to turn there for comfort in hard times.
But then suddenly awkward uncle turns up. Sounding awkwardly racist perhaps. Like this one from Psalm 144 verse 11…
Deliver me and rescue me from the hands of foreigners whose mouths are full of lies…
I mean, that’s so politically correct, is it? Or awkwardly violent maybe; did you notice the refrain in our musical item just now? Psalm 2.
Dashing enemies to pieces like the dinner plates at a Greek family wedding? Others are worse.
Or have you noticed if you’re honest there’s another way the Psalms get awkward as well. As Jeremy points out in the study guide, the awkward claims of righteousness that just don’t match up to our own experience. Well, not mine, anyway. Like Psalm 18.
The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me… I have been blameless before him, and have kept myself from sin.
I mean, have you? Have you really? Because I haven’t. Not even close.
So when you get past the sentiment we have towards the book of Psalms – how do we make sense of it?
And especially, how do we make sense of it in the light of Jesus? Because it was Jesus who said to his disciples after his resurrection, Luke 24:44:
Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.
The Psalms were the song book of the nation of Israel. But we can’t properly sing the Psalms until we work out how to sing them with Jesus. Sing them how he would have sung them. Sing them with him in mind. As their ultimate fulfilment.
Through this series, and as you’re reading through the Psalms for yourself, it’s going to be helpful to keep a key idea in mind, that we’ll keep coming back to. There are a few more key ideas we’ll see along the way.
But number 1, keep in mind over and over again we’ll run into Psalms that are describing Israel’s ideal king. Who in the first instance, was meant to be king David. Here are songs that sing about what it’s going to look like when you see God’s idealking. Here’s what it’s going to look like when God’s ideal king rules over an ideal Israel.
And the book of Psalms sets the bar pretty high. To the point where only one king ever qualifies.
Which brings us neatly to the picture of Israel’s ideal king that’s here in Psalm 2.
An ideal King David, who right from the opening words is in a tight spot. Surrounded by some very genuine military enemies.
You’ll see in verse 2 the King is called God’s anointed one. He’s symbolically anointed with oil at his crowning, but more importantly anointed with God’s spirit; to rule with God’s authority. And the plan is that he’ll rule not just over Israel, you’ll notice, but much more.
Which is why, it seems, the other nations aren’t quite so keen. And so as you’ll see in verse 1, the nations are conspiring, verse 1; they’re plotting. The Kings of the Earth are taking their stand against the Lord God himself and his anointed one King David.
Because these other kings aren’t going to be fettered and limited and ruled over by the God of Israel and Israel’s king. Even if Israel’s God is the God who made the universe.
They’re raging and conspiring. But because he’s the God who made the universe, God’s not too worried.
God… laughs. Verse 4. Read it.
The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.
They think they’re mighty. But God’s got a higher perspective on things. And so he thunders at them in his anger; and these hardened warrior kings just quake at his powerful anger. As God says in verse 6, don’t mess with my anointed king: because he’s mine! He says,
I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.
Got the picture so far? A world against God. And God sets his ideal king on Jerusalem mountain, Mount Zion. The anointed one. And he’s going to back him against any threat.
Verse 7, now it’s the anointed one speaking. King David speaks. Listen in. “Here’s what God said to me. Here’s why I’m so confident.”
He said to me, “you are my son; today I have become your father.”
Which is why (ideally at least) David’s so fearless. That’s the bond between Israel’s God and Israel’s king. Father and son.
David says, God said to me “you’ll be my son. I’ll be your dad.”
Which brings with it astonishing inheritance rights. Because God’s not just the God of Israel but of everywhere. That’s why God says to David in verse 8,
Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You’ll rule them with an iron sceptre; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”
Ask me, Ideal King of Israel. And all this. Will be yours. Because all this is mine.
Ask me. And I’ll make the nations raging and plotting around you your inheritance.
They’re raging in vain.
Ask me. And all this is yours.
Now I want to pause here for just a moment to chew on that. The principle is, Israel’s ideal anointed king, Israel’s king-like-a-son of God. Where’s his authority and power and influence ultimately going to come from? What’s his power source?
The website globalfirepower.com points out that China has got nearly a million more soldiers than the USA. 2.3 million against 1.4.
Is that where power and influence come from?
In Australian politics it seems it comes from economic management credentials.
Or maybe you grab power on the basis of your own personal net worth. Like Donald Trump; or Clive Palmer.
Maybe it’s the power of rhetoric.
Or family connections.
For Israel’s Ideal King, power and influence come from one place and one place only. Ask your father.
Not alliances with Egypt. Not trusting your economic might. Not the size of your army and the number of war horses. The source of power and influence for the ideal anointed King of Israel is always only going to be – asking his father. And trustinghim for the outcome
So that’s the picture. Psalm 2.
The nations conspire. The peoples plot. The kings take their stand. The rulers gather. Against the Lord God. And his anointed king.
But God laughs.
Because this king of Israel is his son; this faithful king of Israel just has to ask him; and he’ll give him rule over every nation.
Nice picture isn’t it? Except of course, when you follow the story of the history of Israel through the Old Testament that’s not quite how it goes.
Because even David himself is a constant disappointment. And his son Solomon is worse; sets up foreign alliances; seals them with multiple marriages to foreign princesses. Building up a great army of chariots.
Psalm 20:7, David says this…
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
Trouble is, it’s just not true.
And so as you read through the book of Kings, it’s just getting worse and worse and worse. Further and further from the ideal of the God-trusting king.
Whenever things get tough, they look to any other solution they can find. Maybe the king down the road can help me fight off the king up the road? Maybe a few more chariots.
And so ultimately the nations conspire and the king of Babylon marches on Jerusalem; and it seems it’s not in vain at all. It’s 587 BC; and Israel’s crushed. Millions, marched into exile. King de-throned, Nation de-nationed.
And it’s never the same again. Israel, from that point on, a kind of crippled semi nation. Always ruled by someone else.
Although always hoping… for one day. An ideal king of Israel. An ideal anointed one. God’s son.
Which sets the scene for the Jesus in the gospel of Luke. Who makes that bold sounding claim that the Psalms are fulfilled… by him. We’re going to track through the way Luke tells the story; as he looks back at the Psalms.
You’ll remember in Psalm 2, God says to Israel’s King, you are my son.
Jesus comes to John the baptist to be baptised. It’s Luke 3. And they watch as he’s anointed by the spirit. And they hear with him the words David heard.
Pick it up at Luke 3 verse 21…
When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Here at last; Israel’s ideal king. Here at last, God’s son. Uniquely. As you look back on the story of his birth.
And then you can just watch and see how he goes at it where the other kings failed. As the very next thing Luke describes is the way he’s put to the test.
Let me remind you in the Psalm, God said ask me… and I’ll make the nations your inheritance. Ask me… and you’ll have a rule that extends to the ends of the earth. You can watch it play out in Luke chapter 4…
Jesus, full of the holy spirit, into the wilderness. Where for 40 hot desert days he’s tempted by the devil. Without food.
And testing comes. All built around the question, who are you going to trust? Who will you bow to?
The devil takes him to a high place, Luke 4 verse 5, and shows him all the kingdoms of the world.
And you know what the devil says to him? It’s actually mine to give you. If you really want to rule the nations of the world, don’t ask your father. Just ask me. It’s mine; and I can give it to anyone I want to. Verse 7:
If you worship me, it will all be yours.
Where is the source of his power going to come from? God says ask me. The devil says no it’s mine. Ask me.
God says, this is a kingdom and a coronation that’s going to involve going to the cross. That’s going to involve giving yourself for your people.
The devil says, no, there’s an easy way. I’ll give you all their authority and splendour without all the pain; and Jesus says no.
I’m going to keep trusting my Father. And taking him at his word.
I guess that’s our own inclination when we’re facing challenges as well, isn’t it? The idea of of trusting God and pressing on with integrity just doesn’t stack up against fixing things ourselves. Taking moral short cuts. Doing deals with the devil.
Look, the short version is, in Jesus we’ve finally found Israel’s ideal king. The son of God who’s going to trust his father to the end. And even beyond. God says ask of me, and I’ll give you all the nations. And Jesus says, that’s what I’ll do.
Which is, ultimate, costly. And it is the path to the cross. And his execution.
And here’s the thing. It’s not only the nations who are conspiring against the Lord and his anointed one. It’s Israel as well. It’s even one of his very own twelve.
The Jewish leaders take him from Judas to the Roman governor Pilate; who signs his death warrant. And they nail him up.
With a crown of thorns, and a sign above him, proclaiming him as King of the Jews. The way Luke sets it up all the way through his gospel, it’s a coronation on Mount Zion. In a way the Psalm had never imagined.
And yet he really is the ideal king. Because he’s trusted his father all the way to the cross. And he’s paying there. For the sins of his people.
And then three days later, according to Luke, his astonishing resurrection. As a concrete reality. And the incredible ongoing campaign by his followers to promote his kingdom to every corner of the planet.
Forget armies. I read the other day that China has now got the largest number of Christians in the world.
Forget armies. Because since the resurrection, this has been a Kingdom that grows by word and not sword.
Not, of course, without opposition.
The nations still conspire.
And the kings still take their stand.
And the rulers still gather together.
And more painfully so do your mates at work.
So does your dad or your mum or your brother.
So does the media.
To say in the office that you follow Jesus will probably be met by an awkward silence. And maybe laughter.
Say it in the media, you’ll just be ridiculed. In a way nobody else is. So if you watch The Project on Channel 10, it’s astonishing to me that the panel hangs off every word of Waleed Ali as he promotes his version of moderate Islam and that’s somehow really cool; and yet every time they mention Christianity, it’s like those Christians are crazy.
Maybe you feel we’re being laughed out of town.
If you’re singing Psalm 2 with Jesus in mind, remember who gets the last laugh.
Not long after the resurrection of Jesus – Luke describes it in the book of Acts – the disciples Peter and John are preaching about Jesus.
I noticed a great quote the other day where a well known preacher said, “There’s no such thing as a country that’s closed to the gospel. Just that some places it’s harder to preach your second sermon.”
Which is exactly how it is for Peter and John. Preach sermon number 1, they’re arrested. And thrown in jail. By the same group of leaders who crucified Jesus.
The next day they’re let off with a final warning. And as they meet with the church and they’re praying afterwards, Peter and John say this. In Acts chapter 4. They quote from Psalm 2. And they say, that’s exactly how it’s been with Jesus. And it’s exactly how it is with us. And they pray,
24… “Sovereign Lord,” they say, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.”
You’re the God of everywhere.
25And you spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
these words from Psalm 2…
‘Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
26The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord
and against his anointed one.’
27Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. And you know, Luke says, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit; and they all spoke the word of God boldly.
No matter what Herod and Pilate and the rulers of the world throw at them, not even Caesar himself. Is going to stop the gospel going forward. Because God laughs. They’re just doing what his power and his will decided they would.
No amount of mockery or opposition or persecution. Is ever going to stop the kingdom of Jesus being proclaimed. And lives changing. And churches growing. And people believing.
Last Wednesday Tim Buxton and his family got on a plane to head back to northern Iraq. And their work there proclaiming Jesus boldly.
Esther, Tim’s sister said to me on Wednesday morning, it makes the words of this Psalm really vivid doesn’t it? Surrounded there on every side by the threat of ISIL. Whose sworn goal is to get rid of Christianity and Christians from the wholecountry. And yet our confidence is that it’s God’s plan working out and not theirs. Because of the resurrection of Jesus.
I mean, it’s scary, isn’t it? And yet God laughs. And in the last words of the Psalm,
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
In his anointed one.
No shortcuts. We’re not depending on political power or military might. We’re not going to rely on persuasive rhetoric or personal charm. Just going to do what those first apostles did. Keep hoping in Jesus. Who simply asked God. And trusted.
And whoever we are and whenever we can, speak the word of God boldly. Make that our priority as a church. Not depending on superb music and a light show and slick marketing campaigns. But trusting Jesus who trusted his father… andspeaking the word of God clearly and humbly and boldly.
Will you join us in that?