A lmost every week somewhere in the world there is a terror attack and I ask myself, how much longer can this continue? Does God see our pain? What will he do? Will he respond? Will he save us? How long must we remain here in this world where turmoil and injustice reign? Psalm 2 looks at these questions.
Many in Israel were asking themselves similar questions in in the years before the incarnation. Under the Persians Israel had been allowed a lot of freedom to worship and live according to the Scriptures. They were even allowed to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. In 332 BCE however Alexander the Great’s armies conquered the region and brought with them new challenges. Alexander allowed religious plurality but the Greek culture was very different from the Jewish culture and they brought unbiblical practices and idolatry to the holy city. The low point came in 167 BCE when Antiochus Epiphanes, the Greek ruler of Judea had his own people blessed as priests and sacrificed unclean animals in the temple. This was like spiritual rape to the Israelites.
They responded with uprisings and civil war. There were a constant string of rebellions until 63 BCE when Rome annexed Judea. Rome brought peace but it was brought with the sword and for the peace Rome required high taxes. The Roman soldiers and symbols of the occupying empire were omnipresent.
In this situation many Jews were interested in the prophesies of the coming Messiah, the King who would save the people. They longed for an end to the fighting and injustice. They read for example Psalm 2, which begins with a question: Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? That is our question today too. Why is there so much violence in the world today? Why so many wars? So many attacks?
T he answer is given in verse 2: The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed. Kings, and those who would be kings have rejected God and his anointed (another word for the Messiah). There is a rebellion against God. They see his laws, when they know them, as chains that need to be broken. That is why there is no peace on earth. That is why there is so much suffering and pain today.
Terrorists hope to bring terror. But is God afraid of terrorists? Of course not. 4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. How is it that God can laugh at terrorists? Because he knows that they will not be successful. He has his own plan and he has already implemented it. 5 He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, 6 “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” It sounds strange to our ears when we speak of the wrath of God or hear that God is angry. Isn’t God love? Didn’t God send his Son to die for the sins of the world? Why is God angry? Many people I minister to see anger as sin. But anger is an emotion neither right nor wrong and anger is the natural response to injustice. When we see abuse and injustice in the world it is appropriate to be angry.
The Bible says however, “In your anger do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). What did God do in his anger? He installed his king (verse 6), who is his own son (verse 7) and gave him the nations as an inheritance (verse 8). Jesus is the king. Jesus is the anointed one, the Messiah. Jesus was sent to establish his kingdom to respond to the rebellion, to stop the injustice, to stop the raging of the peoples. He did this on the cross. He is continuing to do it through us. And ultimately he will complete it with his return when he comes with an “iron scepter” (verse 9).
You will break them with an iron scepter; you will smash them like a potter's jar!
W e don’t often think of Jesus wielding an iron rod. That makes one pause. Our Jesus is so much softer, gentler. But this picture from Psalm 2 of the Messiah with the iron rod which he uses to destroy the rebellion like so much pottery comes up multiple times in the New Testament. Jesus will judge the world. It is not our place to judge but it is his place. I draw comfort from this knowledge. In Afghanistan I witnessed great injustice –women imprisoned for being raped, children used as a delivery system for bombs, judges who back the wealthy and ignore the poor. God has seen this injustice too. He is not indifferent and he is not ineffective. Justice will come.
When it seems like there is no response from God it is not that he does not see the injustice or that he can do nothing to stop it. He has sent his Messiah who will judge the living and the dead. God desires relationship though not revenge. He did not send his son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him (John 3:17). He invites each of us to stop our rebellion, to serve him and worship him, and accept him as king. That is why he has not sent his judgment and injustice is still allowed to reign. Peter says this, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) God endures the injustice because he is calling us to himself and he doesn’t want to leave anyone behind. Psalm 2 ends with this promise. 12 Blessed are all who take refuge in him.