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Friday, March 12, 2010

U-mabonga-kutuk-izizwe-zonke and The Warning to the Nations in Psalm 2

Solomon was right: there is nothing new under the sun. I am amazed at the ongoing objections concerning the relevance of the Bible today, yet within those very objections is proof enough that the Bible is indeed very relevant. Objectors do not realize how they confirm scripture by their very act of rebellion. We find ourselves in the unique position to view an incredible display of God's omniscience as He reveals what is on the hearts, minds and in the actions of His enemies. This, too, demonstrates the relevance of God's Word today as what God reveals continues without abatement today. They bring nothing new to the forum, but a tired excuse to disbelieve God. When David was inspired to ask, "why are the nations in an uproar," he was reflecting on old news and from our perspective, nothing has changed in that regard: the nations are still in an uproar as they try to cast off the rule of God.

What should the nations be doing? The book of Psalms alone contains a small catalogue of how the nations should be responding to God. The nations should be: in awe of Him (33:8); joyfully worshipping Him (66:1-2) and giving Him praise (117); in glad praise of God's salvation and justice (67:3-5); in peaceful prosperity (72:3); receptive witnesses to His salvation (98:2). Psalm 145 in its entirety describes the goodness of God in His Kingdom.

The nations should be enjoying God. Because of His Soveriegnty (Psalm 2:2) God has made His saving work known to the nations. God demonstrated this saving work known to Israel (Exodus 6:2-8) as well as to the Egyptians (Exodus 7:5; 9:14; 9:29; 10:2; 12:2). Notice the repeated phrase to all peoples: "that you may know that I am the LORD." Israel alone receives specific instruction regarding holiness, being separated from among the peoples in Leviticus 19 where the LORD says, "You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy" then gives a list of commands each followed by "I am the LORD your God," a phrase repeated 15 more times, and three more times in the next two chapters!

Psalm 2:2 is most informative: "the kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed." The Messiah reigns, and the nations refuse Him and His rule. The word "messiah" literally means "anointed one" (the Greek word is "christos" from which we get the word "Christ."). This refers to an individual who is set apart for a divinely ordained office or task and it is this "set-apartness" that leads to exaltation. The Messiah is further identified with three other distinguing features. The Messiah is to be: the Son of David; that is, the LORD's anointed rules from the Davidic throne that lasts forever (1 Samuel 7:12-17). He will never give up his seat. Second, the Messiah is to be the Son of God; that is, the highest king of the earth (Ps 89:27, 19). Finally, the Messiah is to be the Son of Man, as described in passages as Daniel 7:13-14.

The kings and rulers of the earth don't like the idea of being "below" anyone. Also, the Messiah threatens their own throne--consider all the "world powers" as recorded in history and note where they are at present: Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome. The nations respond to God in manners unworshipful, unjoyful, and make themselves to be enemies of God. The bottom line reason is this: they have have witnessed His salvation (Ps. 2:3)! This does not escape God's notice (Isaiah 37:28). In what ways to nations attempt to cast off His rule?

They try to forget God (9:17). This may be a simple, "if I ignore Him, He will go away." God has a place for those who are disinclined to give the honor due Him. God does not receive first place by the nations in the hearts, minds, the souls and strength of the nations as they make their plans apart from all He is setting out to do. This may be seen through so-called athiesm in its various forms. I dropped this question into three Atheist online groups in various sites: "How would you classify yourself: a practical atheist ('I just don't care for God or religion, that's all'); a dogmatic atheist (religion is the 'opiate of the people'; or, 'religion is man-made'); or, a virtual atheist ('I have my own ideas about God')?" Here is a sampling of responses (misspellings included), followed by comments of my own:

  • "I'm kind of a combo of all three if I'm to be honest lol. I don't care for higher beings or religion, but I don't care for religion because I think it's a disease and limits people or just makes them do really dumb things all in the name of their creator. Can I be the friendly Atheist? That would be more accurate." [note: "I don't care for higher beings/religion" Personal viewpoint for convenience]
  • "Militant Athiest, Religion is a disease :) Surely 'virtual athiest' as you call it is really agnosticism, It's perfectly reasonable to believe that there is no god if you know the science. Everybody with an idea is dogmatic, science is dogmatic, facts are dogmatic, it's only a bad thing is dogma in the absense of evidence." [question: if science is dogmatic, then how can there be reasonable contrary evidence?]
  • "Definately [sic] a dogmatic atheist. People who are believers seem very childish and silly to me." [note: "to me." Personal viewpoint for convenience]

  • "Virtual Atheist. I believe that their hasd [sic] to be some sort of God per say or higher being that created us. It's just unpractical to find out who or what did it." [unpracticality is an excuse for disobedience]
  • "Dogmatic. Richard Dawkins style." [observation: Dawkins believes in intelligent design . . .]
  • "Maybe its a what, my simple question is how did everything come from nothing. I don not believe in any god, nor do i follow any religion. But believe that something supernatural has to have started this cycle, and what started the supernatural being that started this all. It seems that no matter if it is religion or science, their is no explanation as to how all came from nothing." [note: admission that "something supernatural" exists. Personal viewpoint for convenience].
  • "My personal atheistic view is that no supernatural beings of any kind exist and that science has already or will further prove anything left to question--such as life in other galaxies. If it's not tangible or provable, then for me it simply does not exist." [personal viewpoint for convenience]
  • "virtual and friendly athiest" ["I have my own ideas about God"]
  • "Practical atheist. Even if someone would prouve [sic] god's existence, I'd just say "So what?" [personal viewpoint for convenience]
  • "Well i completly dismiss any idea's about a supreme or supernatural being/s. Even when it comes to the meaning to life, if a supreme [being] thought of putting aload of creatures on earth to test them, what would be the whole point anyway. We are born, we live and we die just like the billions of other creatures that have been on the planet, a continuous system." ["I have my own ideas about God"]

Still other ways the nations attempt to cast off God's rule is prayerlessness, which God says is wickedness. "Do all the workers of wickedness not know, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon the Lord" (Psalm 14:4. cf. 34:15). Together with prayerlessness is the lack of "brotherly love" between nations. In the verse above, notice how the wicked are also identified to be those who consume other people. This is not in a literal sense of course, but includes the idea of involuntary servitude as found in slavery and human trafficking. Treatment of the poor (or lack of treatment) even through religious systems such as Hinduism is another form of casting off the rule of God, for man is made in God's image and is held responsible to take care of those in poverty, as well as the sick and infirm. If man is an no more than an animal, why the desperation to tamper with evolution and survival of the fittest?

Injustice is rampant by disallowing lawbreakers their penalty. Governments have the God-given responsibilty to enforce law, yet lawbreaking seems to be a prerequisite to achieving and maintaining an office. The crime rate grows in equal proportion to tolerance. When the news reports a breach of law, and the lawbreaker goes unpunished, we again affirm the relevance of scripture by speaking out, "how can this man or woman go free?" "He who says to the wicked, 'You are righteous,' peoples will curse him, nations will abhor him; but to those who rebuke the wicked will be a delight, and a good blessing will come upon him." (Proverbs 24:24-25). A judge who lets a lawbreaker go without justice is worse than the criminal.

War is another place we see the nations attempt to cast off the rule of God. James 4 gives us the "theology of war:" fighting occurs because of the percieved right to selfish pleasure. "You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures." (4:2-3) What is war good for? Absolutely nothing.

One final area the nations try to demonstrate autonomy is evidenced by immorality. How one responds to God is evidenced by their sexuality--when men choose the creature over creation, God finally turns them over to their desires and they do the things which God says are improper (Romans 1:18-32). I stood on a street corner a while back talking with a person who wanted to know what God thought of homosexuals. I told her that God thinks the same thing of homosexuals that He thinks of people who have ever lied, stolen, looked with lust or even hated another person--God desires their repentance. God wants them to put their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, that they be delivered from the penalty and power of sin, looking forward to the day of deliverance from the presence of sin. Someone in the group voiced their disbelief and I told them that this explains why their conscience was seeking for an answer--they had the wrong ideas of God and God turned them over to their own desires. An hour later, one of those girls heard of God's love and the call to repent.

God is not surprised by any of this. "But I know your sitting down and your going out and your coming in and your raging against Me." (Isaiah 37:28). Someone may say, "if I give in to God, I'll just become a puppet." Imagine for a moment what happens when you first wake up. Your room is dark, or is just being lit by the rising sun. You swing your legs over the edge of the bed--perhaps your feet slide into your slippers. You reach over and turn on the lamp and the room is flooded with light. One moment, it was dark (relatively) and the next, light fills the room. How is that possible? The darkened bulb surrenders to the electricity and light fills the room. The "personality" of the bulb is not destroyed. When it surrenders to do what it was made to do, it becomes useful, still maintaining it's identity--a bulb is a bulb. Acts 13:47, "I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.'"

After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good he started roaring. He kept it up until a hunter came along and shot him. The moral: when you're full of bull, keep your mouth shut. How does God respond to all this? Psalm 2 records that God laughs a scoffing laughter (2:4), responds with anger (2:5) and points to His Messiah (2:6). This is the response of a father who has had enough. God has already decided how everything will end: with the glory of Christ, so the raging of the nations against His Christ is nothing. "I will even laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes." (Prov. 1:26). The Zulu tribe have a very specific name for God (U-mabonga-kutuk-izizwe-zonke, "He who roars so that all the nations be struck with terror.") Thomas Watson (1620-1686) wrote, "God laughs to see men's folly--to see poor, weak clay strive with the Almighty Potter. But let the wicked remember that God is never more angry with them--than when He laughs! After His laughing, then He shall speak to them in His wrath. "I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you!'" (Proverbs 1:26)

"The One enthroned in heaven laughs". They scoff at us--but God laughs at them! Laugh? This seems like a harsh word at first view. But are the derision, the persecution and the injuries of his saints; and the cruelties of their enemies--a matter of laughter? God laughs--but it is in scorn; He scorns--but it is with vengeance. Short is the joy of the wicked! Oh, what are God's frowns--if His smiles are so terrible! (Thomas Adams)

One might say that while there is tumult on earth, there is tranquillity in heaven. God laughs because the Kingdom is secure; the King has been established. Jesus is God's King. Though the nations rebel, we don't need to worry, for the King is already enthroned in heaven. Listen to the voice of God. He is laughing at the world's rebellion, and you can laugh with Him if Jesus is your King. The world often tries to drown out the truth. Its voice of defiance is clear. The world's corruption is a result of its defiance. Take inventory of the voices you listen to. Are you part of the voice of defiance, or can you laugh with God at the world's rebellion?

Dr. Guy Duffield taught Bible doctrine, helping college students come to a feeble understanding of who God is. He would begin his lectures each year saying, “We’re going to endeavor to find out everything that we possibly can. We’re going to ask every question that we possibly can, and we’re going to learn all that we can. And when we get to the end and we can go no further then we are going to lift our hands in worship.” Then Dr. Duffield would explain: “You never worship what you understand. You only worship when you get to the end of your understanding.” He’s right. It’s then that you fall on your knees and exclaim with Jack Hayford, “Majesty! Majesty! Worship His majesty.”

Did you notice the speaking voices? The nations speak in verses 1-3. God speaks in verses 4-6. In verses 7-9, "I" am speaking. Christ identifies Himself in verses 7-9 very plainly. He is the Son, the begotten of God (7). He is also the ruler of nations, the earth-possessor (v.8). He will "break them with a rod of iron." Another way to read that is He will rule them with a staff. The meaning is simple: any and all other systems of idolatry will be gone. That's the end of the story. Man says that there are many ways to God, and when man reaches God, then God will be worshipped as he understands God: a Muslim will worship Allah, a Christian will worship Jesus and Jews will worship God and etc. This passage destroys that idea, as a baseball bat destroys grandma's vase.

The nations are left with a warning in the remaining verses. One might say that the Spirit is speaking here because this is a call to the nations for repentance. The Spirit wants the nations to learn, to be wise, to be instructed. Many depend on philosophy, psychology and history. These disciplines are helpful, but Christians must rely first and foremost on the Spirit of God to reveal truth. The Holy Spirit wants us to be willing to serve. We serve the Lord, not sin. There is joy with our fear because God is our Father. In searching for liberty, the rebellious crowd practices anarchy, for freedom without authority is anarchy. We are made in the image of God. To rebel against Him is to rebel against our own nature. The Holy Spirit also wants us to be reconciled through forgiveness and cleansing offered only through His Messiah. Today He is the Lamb, but someday He will come as the Lion to judge. God is holy and will not allow sin and rebellion to go on forever.

"The only safe place from the wrath of God is in God. Everywhere outside of his care is dangerous. He is the only hiding place from his own wrath. If you see him as frightening and try to run away and hide, you will not find a place to hide. There is none. Outside of God’s care there is only wrath. But there is a refuge from the wrath of God, namely, God. The safest place from the wrath of God—the only safe place—is God. Come to God. Take refuge in God. Hide in the shadow of his wings. This is where we live and serve with joyful trembling. It is terrible and it is wonderful. It is like the eye of a hurricane—terror all around, and totally beautiful and calm. Here there is sweet fellowship. Here is quiet, loving communion. Here we speak to him as to a friend. Here he ministers to our deepest needs. I invite you to come." (John Piper)

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