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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Preached At:Langley Canadian Reformed Church
 Langley, B.C.
Title:God reveals the folly of attempting to overthrow his rule
Text:Psalms 2 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Christ's Kingship

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 67
Psalm 15 (after the law)
Psalm 110:1-2
Psalm 2
Hymn 6

Readings: Acts 4:23-31, Hebrews 1
Text: Psalm 2
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of Christ our Lord,

It’s something that goes right back to the very beginning, or at least shortly thereafter.  The Satanic lie was swallowed whole:  you will be like God.  “Adam and Eve, put God behind you – you don’t need him.  Stand up on your own two feet!”  Through history the pattern has been repeated over and over again.  For instance, take the French Revolution of the eighteenth century.  One of the slogans of the more atheistic revolutionaries was “No God, no master!”  We’re free, we can do whatever we want.  And many of the other revolutionaries in France were deists – they believed God wound up the universe like a clock and just lets it run.  This “God of reason” or whatever else you want to call him doesn’t care personally about us, nor does he have any meaningful say about how we choose to live our lives.  This emasculated God would not stand in the way of the French Revolution.

And what about today?  A few years ago there was a trend on YouTube with several hundred people in videos denying the Holy Spirit.  They did this because they thought that this is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit spoken of in passages like Mark 3 (they’re wrong).  And they thought that by doing this they’d be committing the unforgivable sin (they’re wrong about that too), sealing their eternal damnation and they just didn’t care, because they don’t buy it.  But there’s more happening than that.  Those people are also swallowing the old lie, the same lie proclaimed throughout history:  no God, no master.  Human beings are free to do whatever they want, live however they choose.    

It’s this age-old lie that we see in Psalm 2 as well.  From the New Testament in Acts 4, we know that David is the author of this Psalm.  David had a prophetic vision and recorded it for us in this Psalm.  In that vision, God gave David a picture of the nations foolishly following the lie.  But more than that, he also showed him the Messiah who would do something about this. 

I preach to you God’s Word from Psalm 2 with this theme:

God reveals the folly of attempting to overthrow his rule.

We’ll consider:

  1. The ruse of the rulers and their nations (verses 1-3)
  2. The response of the Lord (verses 4-6)
  3. The report of the Messiah (verses 7-9)
  4. The reprimand of the Psalmist (verses 10-12)

The Psalm begins with a question, one about the peoples and the nations.  In his prophetic vision, David sees them restless and itching for a fight.  In fact, they are actively conspiring and plotting.  According to the second verse, their kings and rulers are with the people in this business. 

This business is oriented as a ruse or conspiracy against Yahweh – the LORD with all capital letters is God’s covenant name Yahweh.  They’re conspiring not only against Yahweh, but also against his Anointed One, literally “his Messiah.” 

David begins by asking why they would do this.  This doesn’t make any sense.  This is not wisdom, certainly not the wisdom that introduces the book of Psalms in Psalm 1.  Rather, this is total foolishness.  Nothing good comes when people rise up against God and his rule. 

The foolishness of all this is emphasized when the Psalm says that the peoples plot “in vain.”  What they’re planning to do is pointless and worthless.  In making these sorts of plans, the nations, peoples and their kings are like the chaff that winds blow away.  They’ll never be able to stand in God’s judgment. 

These are the people who say, “Let us break their chains and throw off their fetters…”  They look at Yahweh and they don’t see a Shepherd or a Father, but a tyrant.  They believe that his decrees are repressive, his laws are unjust or inadequate, his promises undependable and his threats not worth taking seriously.  So, what we do with a tyrant?  We throw him out and set the people free.  Let them do what is right in their own eyes.

Just who are these nations that David saw in this vision?  Well, we know that in the Old Testament era there were nations whose claims echo those found here in Psalm 2.  One example of this can be found in Ezekiel 29.  In that chapter God promises judgment upon Egypt.  One of the reasons is given in verse 9, “Because you said, ‘The Nile is mine; I made it.’”  Egypt said, “Forget about Yahweh.  He’s not the Creator.  He’s not the Lord and master of all that is.  Instead, we are!  We’re going to throw off the chains!”  Now remember that at certain points in its history, Egypt was exposed to Yahweh and his revelation – think of the Exodus and the plagues that preceded it.  They could not plead ignorance.

But it wasn’t only the foreign nations that did this sort of thing.  Listen to what Jeremiah 2:20 says about Israel and see if this doesn’t sound familiar:  “Long ago you broke off your yoke and tore off your bonds; you said ‘I will not serve you!’”  And what about Jeremiah 5:5, “So I will go to the leaders and speak to them; surely they know the way of the LORD, the requirements of their God.  But with one accord they too had broken off the yoke and torn off the bonds.”  So, the people of Israel were also notorious for being among those nations and peoples which conspired and plotted in vain.  God’s own people were acting foolishly and rising up against Yahweh and his Messiah. 

All this culminated in the events leading up to the death of Jesus Christ.  In Acts 4, the believers directly applied the words of Psalm 2 to what happened with Christ.  They quoted Psalm 2 in their prayer and then said, “Indeed 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.”  Herod the Edomite, Pontius Pilate the Roman, with an assortment of other Romans and the Jews, they all conspired together to rise up against Christ and his reign.  They would not have Jesus of Nazareth as King – they would not recognize his royal power and prerogatives.  Even the people of God who’d been given all the promises – they too rebelled.  They would sooner live under the weight of all sorts of man-made laws and additions to God’s law than submit to the Messiah. 

And that brings us to today and the people of God.  It’s very easy for us to look outside the church and see all sorts of people on YouTube and wherever else who are rising up against God, but what about us?  Listen to the words of our Saviour in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Loved ones, come to Christ and you will find rest.  He will lay his yoke upon you, but it is an easy yoke and a light burden compared to what you’ll find if you go your own way.  The way of Matthew 11:28-30 is the way of wisdom.  The way of the nations in the first verses of Psalm 2 is the way of foolishness.  Why would you want to do that?  Pretending to cast off God’s rule and the rule of Christ is pointless and futile.  You will live under God’s rule one way or another, but those who accept and recognize his rule will experience it as a blessing.

But what does God think of these nations and rulers who don’t accept and recognize his rule and that of his Messiah?  That’s what we find in the next few verses, verses 4 to 6.  David tells us that God is the one enthroned in heaven – in other words, he is the supreme ruler of the universe regardless of what these puny little people might think.  God looks at this foolishness and he laughs.  In fact, in his prophetic vision, David not only sees God laughing but also mocking them, scoffing at them.  These people are fools and their rebellion is as laughable as the man who tries to build a castle out of water. 

But God not only thinks these people are laughable, their rebellion is directed against him and so it arouses his anger and wrath.  David sees God rebuking them and speaking to them.  He sees God terrifying them with a declaration:  “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.”  Now remember that God’s throne was on Zion.  In the tabernacle (and later on the temple), in the holy of holies, the ark with the mercy seat was an earthly representation of God’s heavenly throne.  God presence dwelt between the cherubim in a special way.  So, God’s king, his anointed one was sitting on God’s throne.  He would be God’s vice-regent on earth. 

These words too speak prophetically about the person and work of Christ.  The people rose up against Christ and his anointed.  But little did they realize that they were in God’s hands in so doing.  Listen again to what it says in Acts 4:28, “They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.”  No wonder God could laugh and mock them!  Despite their best efforts, they were actually part of God’s plan and in his hands.  They actually played a vital role in Christ’s work – when they placed the placard on the cross announcing him to be “King of the Jews,” they didn’t realize that that they were God’s messengers announcing the truth. 

Their unbelief and rebellion is reason for them to be afraid.  Christ’s kingship not only involves a powerful reign but also a terrifying judgment.  He carried out an initial installment of that judgment in 70 A.D. when Jerusalem was sacked by the Romans.  Terrible suffering preceded and followed.  If you want to know how bad it was, read a book by the Jewish historian Josephus called the Wars of the Jews.  It was an awful, awful time – the days of God’s vengeance.  They would not have Christ as King and that was the price they paid.

That judgment came especially upon the Jews, but God promises a judgment for all mankind at the last day.  Those who have accepted and recognized King Jesus and his reign will rejoice.  But those who have gone their own way and done their own thing will have ample reason to be terrified of God’s wrath.  The Great King who sits at God’s right hand will come again to judge the living and the dead. 

The Psalm goes on in verses 7 to 9 to report the words of this Messiah.  David hears the Messiah speaking the decree of Yahweh.  Yahweh declared that he was his Son, that it was on that day that he was begotten by God.  Now it wasn’t unusual for kings in Israel to be described as sons of God.  However, this is the only place that we read about a king being begotten by God.  This indicates that David is witnessing something entirely unique here. 

The only way that we can make sense of this is by allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture.  The New Testament applies these words in several places directly to Christ.  One of those places is what we read from Hebrews 1.  The author of Hebrews quotes Psalm 2 to indicate Christ’s unique glory.  He is the only-begotten Son of the Father.  In Acts 13, Paul also sees these words as referring directly to Christ and particularly his resurrection.  From this it would seem that David’s prophetic vision here refers directly to Christ.  He is God’s Messiah and God’s Son.

But then someone might say, “But it says, ‘Today I have become your Father.’  We believe that Christ is the eternal Son of God, so how can this be speaking about Christ?”  Good question!  Well, many times in the Bible we find that a person or thing becomes when it is made known to be what it is.  Understanding this, we could paraphrase the last part of verse 7, “I have this day declared that you are begotten by me.”  This is basically the same as saying, “I have declared you to be my son.”  This is also the way Paul understood the expression in Acts 13:33 where he says that the resurrection was the moment at which Christ was declared by God to be the Son of God.  He was certainly the Son of God before this, but at the resurrection, at his moment of glorification, God announced his status.

The glorified and exalted Messiah reports in verses 8 and 9 that God has given him the right to rule over all the nations and the ends of the earth.  He is the king of Kings and Lord of lords.  He will rule them powerfully – with an iron scepter – and when they fall out of line and rebel, he will dash them to pieces like pottery.  Nothing and no one will stand in his way. 

This is our Saviour described here in this prophecy.  When we read and sing this Psalm, we have to be thinking of him and his rule.  But there’s more because we are united to him by true faith.  We believe in this Messiah.  And the New Testament tells us that what is given to him in his glorification will also be given to us in our glorification.  In Revelation 2 we have the letter from Christ to the church at Thyatira.  At the end of that letter, what is said about Christ in verse 9 of Psalm 2 is applied to the church at Thyatira.  The church will rule the nations with an iron scepter, the church will dash them to pieces like pottery.  Christ says in Revelation 2:26, “To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations” -- and then comes verse 9 – “just as I have received authority from my Father.” 

So this Psalm not only speaks about Christ, but also about those who have union with him.  Through this union, someday we will reign with him.  That promise is here in seed form in this Psalm – it only gets worked out later in the New Testament, but it’s here already as a seed.  God promises that we will rule with Christ.  Do you remember the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe?  Just as Edmund, Lucy, Susan and Peter were together Kings and Queens over Narnia, so we will all be Kings and Queens in the age to come.  We will rule over heaven and earth and all of Christ’s enemies will be subdued under his and our feet.  There’s a promise of future glory here that encourages us in the brokenness of the here and now. 

That brings us to the end of the Psalm and a reprimand from David to the kings and rulers.  Given what David saw in his prophetic vision, he calls out for wisdom.  Rising up against God is pure foolishness – don’t go there!  You need to be warned, you kings and rulers of the earth – and nations too!  Serve Yahweh with fear and rejoice with trembling – in other words, worship this God instead of rebelling against him.  Not only that, but reconsider what you do with his Son, the Messiah.  Instead of slapping him, you should be on your face before his feet.  You should be kissing his feet, showing him the respect and honour that he deserves. 

If you won’t do that, David says, know what’s coming.  He will be angry and you will be destroyed in the way.  His wrath can flare up just like that – and it’s not an unrighteous anger, he has every reason to be angry with rebels.  This is not a meek and mild Jesus – this is the Lion of Judah who overturned the tables in the temple.  This is the Holy One of God, the Righteous Judge.  You don’t want to mess with him. 

But isn’t that exactly what we do so often?  How impressed are we really with King Jesus?  Think about all the ways that we resist the reign of Christ.  We often compartmentalize our lives and live in a double-minded way or worse.  Psalm 2 speaks to us, the people of God in this way too.  Like I mentioned, we can easily see the lie being swallowed on the Internet or in historical events like the French Revolution, but we’re in no position to pat ourselves on the back.  Let our hearts break when they see this.

And let them flee to the cross of Christ.  “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”  That’s the way David ends the Psalm.  The Son of God is and will be a terror to those who go on living in sin.  But to all who repent and believe he is a refuge, a safe place in the storm.  While the wind and waves of his wrath buffet those outside, we who are in him are like Noah and his family safe in the ark.  Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven for all our rebellion and double-mindedness.  Forgiven for all the times we have thought to be our own people and have not seen ourselves as the subjects of King Jesus.  Forgiven for all the times that our loyalty to the King has waned and we desired to live apart from him.  The Psalm truly ends on a gospel note when it says, “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” 

Knowing that gospel and being thankful for it, let’s go forward and live under the reign of our King – the king whom we love and adore.    Let’s announce his reign whenever and wherever we can.  Let’s believe that living under King Jesus is the way of wisdom and let’s steer clear of the way of foolishness – for it is the way of death and destruction.  AMEN. 


Yahweh our God,

We thank you for revealing to us foolishness and wisdom this morning in your Word.  We praise you for your Son, the Messiah who reigns on high.  We adore you, Lord Jesus, for your good and perfect rule over heaven and earth.  We thank you, O God, for the promises of your Word – those promises made and fulfilled and those promises which are yet to be fulfilled.  We thank you that looking to Christ, we can know ourselves to be in a safe place.  Continue to shower your mercy and grace upon us in him.  Teach us to ever more cast our rebellion aside and to constantly flee to the cross of Christ our Saviour.  We know that there is no hope for us besides in his blood and suffering, in his death and resurrection.  All our hope and help is bound up in him.  Help us to not only say that with our mouths but to believe it in our hearts and to show that we believe it with our lives.  Father, we also pray for the nations and their rulers.  We pray particularly for our own country, that our rulers and fellow citizens would, like us, kiss the Son and recognize him as King of kings, Lord of lords, and the blessed Saviour.                                         


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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