Roy Hargrave is pastor of Riverbend Church in Ormond Beach, Florida. He also has a media ministry called “GraceWorx” and most recently a publication called GraceTrax. His purpose statement is “to clearly and faithfully declare the truth of God by rightly dividing the Word and courageously proclaiming its content to exalt Christ through my life and my words.” For more information about Hargrave, go here.
Text: Psalm 2
This text is like staring down the barrel of a high-powered rifle. A world that hates God and us – those who hold that truth, preach it, and live it. As we see this text, we are shocked by the reality of this, yet this is the way it is. People are in rebellion against God’s truth and His Word. Yet we are quickly taken to the sovereignty of Almighty God which stands against that which is man, fallen, and depraved. We are encouraged, admonished, and rebuked by the truths set forth in this psalm of David.
But this text is not merely about David, but it is about the King of David – Jesus Christ. If we don’t see that this text is about Jesus, we are missing the point of the text. This psalm answers the most critical question confronting our culture:
“Who has the right and authority to rule?”
Who has the right to reign supreme? All other elements are mere corollaries. The failure to answer this question disqualifies all other answers. Everything else we do is of no value unless this question is answered. There is an element of information in today’s preaching, but much of it lacks power and passion. Though it informs us, it doesn’t move us. Worse, we are hearing sermon after sermon of Chirstless preaching in the pulpits of America.
This is a psalm of legal dominion. It answers who has the right to rule and reign supreme. There are four stanzas where the text moves. They are scenes which open and close.
Stanza One: (v. 1-3)
This is a resistance described. There are four elements in this resistance. First, we see commotion (“Why do the nations rage?”). Why do you think this psalm is introduced in the form of a question? What audacity and amazing thought that mere mortals would see to rebel against sovereign God who in a moment of time can sweep them into eternity? Spiritual combustion is when depravity is combined with truth to cause a reaction. This is happening all around us. This reaction is universally present in varying degrees when God’s truth is presented before depraved minds. The natural mind does not receive the things of God. All cultures are the same – they are all made up of depraved people. However, cultures vary in the manifestation of the depravity of man and open hostility against God and His truth. When there is such commotion and conflict, some preachers think that the best thing to do is to hold back the hold truth or water it down to deal with the commotion. The gospel is reduced because we do not like the conflict, commotion, and controversy. The failure to adequately engage the culture is due to our failure to understand the depths of depravity in the human heart. The result is that we have a remedy that isn’t worth much.
Secondly, resistance is manifested in the element of conspiracy (“why . . . do the people plot in vain?”). The architect is the devil, and many people who are involved in this conspiracy are unsuspecting participants. They are of their father, the devil, and they don’t even know it. Thirdly, there is the element of contempt (“set themselves against the rulers, . . . against the Lord and against his anointed”). The world is diametrically opposed to God. They are not indifferent; they are against God. If you want to see the hostility, preach the truth. I would rather have a house full of mad people or a bunch of indifferent people. We cannot cozy up against the world and befriend it. The contempt is ultimately targeted against the person and work of Jesus Christ. The pagan mind can tolerate ethical or philosophical content in preaching, but it cannot and will not tolerate Christ-centered preaching. It renders man-centered remedies useless. It is not preaching that Jesus is a way to heaven that brings contempt; it is when you say that Jesus is the only way to heaven. Fourthly, there is confusion (“let us burst their bonds apart . . .”). Confusion reigns when all restraint is cast off. It is utter lawlessness. One of the most dangerous places today is the Christian bookstore. There is great confusion in the church because there is little difference between the church and the culture. Sin is not a mere peccadillo; it is an offense against Almighty God.
Stanza Two: (v. 4-6)
This is a remonstrance demonstrated (of opposition). First, there is a controlled derision (“he who sits in the heavens laughs . . .”). This verse ought to bring us great comfort in the culture we live in. The posture described is that God sits; he is not pacing, trying to do with a people whose will he cannot violate. The reaction employed is that God laughs. Second, there is a calculated declaration (“he will speak to them in his wrath”). Where are the preachers today that talk about the wrath and fury of God? Thirdly, we see a conclusive determination (“I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill”). No man can thwart the purposes of God. You can curse him, but you will bow your knee before him. You can rebel against him, but you will stand before him in the day of judgment.
Stanza Three: (v. 7-9)
This is a reassurance declared. First, there is a continued procession. This text should be understood as the eternal procession of the Son, not speaking to the Incarnation of Christ. The Son of God proceeded from the Father from all eternity. He is the Son of God eternal. There was never a point in time when he was not. This is a reassurance of the mercy and love of the Father. There is also a conferred inheritance. “All that the Father gives to me will come . . ..” Thirdly, there is a consummate vindication. This vindication is another element of preaching that is missing in most pulpits. We are to glory in all the perfections of God and his divine attributes. There will be a day when we will glory in the wrath of God. God still rules and reigns. We are to love our enemies, and we must leave vengeance to the wrath of God. Many times God uses our enemies to point our real faults. They will say things to us our friends don’t have the courage to say. People go to hell because God is the one that sent them there. We should glory in all his attributes, his love, mercy, justice, and wrath.
Stanza Four: (v. 10-12)
This is a reassessment demanded. First, there is a comprehensive warning (“be warned, O rulers of the earth”). Jesus promised to build his church. Our churches are being prevailed against by our world because we are building our church. It is a gospel of our liking. It is a gospel without warning. Our good news is meaningless unless they have heard the bad news. I believe that Calvinism is the gospel. There is not a truth and a variance of it. That is a dangerous proposition of it. Men will not be driven to Christ who do not come to the end of themselves. There are evangelism methods today that surprises me if everybody doesn’t accept it. Second, there is a compassionate invitation. We must have soft hearts but hard preaching. Hard preaching is preaching the word of God. It is saying, “This is what God says.” We must acquiesce to this, or else. Finally, there is a conditional deliverance. It is not our business to determine what condition the soil of men’s hearts. We must preach the gospel indiscriminately.
I must say that I have not heard many sermons on Psalm 2. This was a faithful exposition of the text of Scripture which points to two of the most fundamental issues of the gospel – the nature of man and the nature of God. Both of these doctrines are being challenged both by our culture on the outside and by theologians on the inside. God’s sovereignty is being undermined, and man’s depravity is being suppressed by theological negligence and half-truths. Today, there are wicked men who laugh because they do not believe there is a sovereign God. It is because they think they are sovereign and have the right to rule their own lives. Yet it is only the work of the sovereign God who through divine mercy can change the madness of man to embrace the gladness of God. As believers who have been entrusted with the gospel, we must faithfully take the message of Jesus Christ to our world with broken hearts committed to its uncompromising truths – truths that might bring a spiritual combustion.