Pastor's Blog

October Blog Post from Guest Contributor: Elise Tollefson Johnson

In light of the recent chaos and turmoil in Washington during the Kavanaugh hearings, I asked one of our own to share her thoughts on the matter. Elise Tollefson Johnson is a Lisbon-Lion-hearted-and-Newark-Norsemen-graduate. She now works in Washington D.C. as a Legislative Director in the U.S. House of Representatives. She knows and loves our country, our God, and us. I particularly think the Kavanaugh situation speaks not only to “the state of the Union” but also to the state of adolescence in the harvest of the sexual revolution in America. Elise has kindly provided her perspective on these two matters in her following contribution to the West Lisbon blog:

The Kavanaugh confirmation process has been messy, it’s triggered visceral, emotional, partisan responses from participants and spectators, and it’s shed a lot of light on the political and cultural challenges the United States is facing right now.

Partisanship in American politics – when both sides refuse to compromise or empathize with an opponent they consider an enemy – is causing gridlock in government at best and rot in our political institutions on a global stage at worst. Brett Kavanaugh, a D.C. Circuit Court judge and nominee for a lifetime appointment to the United States Supreme Court, is in the midst of his confirmation process, a responsibility given to the Senate by the U.S. Constitution. The process begins with a pretty grueling vetting process that includes questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee and culminates in a debate and vote in the full Senate. In the midst of his Judiciary Committee hearings, it was revealed that a woman wrote a letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee, detailing an attempted sexual assault perpetrated by Kavanaugh at a party when they were in high school. Other women came forward. Allegations range from shoving a woman against a wall after a party to participating in a group that drugged and assaulted high school girls. Republicans blame Democrats for waiting too long to release the information about the accusations, Democrats blame Republicans for rushing through the confirmation process despite the accusations. All allegations of sexual harassment and assault should be taken seriously. But, it’s undeniable that given the context of these allegations, Dr. Ford, one of the accusers, was thrown with Kavanaugh into a politically charged hearing and investigation to 1) allow Republicans to get to clear Kavanaugh’s name and confirm him, and 2) allow Democrats to completely derail Kavanaugh’s confirmation and keep a Supreme Court seat open for a less conservative judge. Ultimately, Republicans want the position of the federal government to be pro-life, Democrats want to uphold federal abortion rights, and their success or failure depends on whether Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed to the Supreme Court. They’ll do whatever it takes.

No one trusts anyone. No one knows who is telling the truth. And instead of an honest pursuit of the truth where the stakes are extremely high, Democrats are simply trying to tear down the accused and Republicans are simply trying to tear down the accuser to get the Supreme Court to uphold liberal or conservative laws, respectively. The end (partisan Supreme Court) justifies the means (making your opposing party look as out of touch, dishonest, and nasty as possible). Not surprisingly, this has serious and lasting implications for America’s “deliberative body,” a Senate that was intended to make reasoned decisions about everything from whether the United States goes to war to whom sits on the United States Supreme Court. When the Senate is full of men and women who are motivated solely by winning a majority and robbing their opponents of any success or good reputation in the process, the body doesn’t work. And when the Senate doesn’t work, its brokenness ripples across the rest of the Republic.

The United States was intended to cultivate pluralism – not a blind acceptance of all ideas but in general a peaceful tolerance of them and the people who hold them, a willingness in government to compromise or at least to walk in the shoes of a member of another party. Americans are historically divided right now, and the people they nominate and elect to the White House and Congress reflect that. There is no incentive to work together when people are motivated by the desire to tear each other apart. That’s not just bad for America, it’s lethal.

Kavanaugh’s confirmation process also shines a spotlight on America’s cultural and spiritual problems today, and both conservatives and liberals are at fault.

Again, no one knows where the truth is in all this. But Republicans’ insistence on doing whatever it takes to confirm President Trump’s nominee, even if an investigation turns up truth to his alleged past indiscretions, means that past indiscretions will continue to be unimportant and unpunishable. The behavior of Kavanaugh and his high school buddies was horribly irresponsible. They were teenagers who made drinking beer a sport often without any kind of parental supervision, and it’s completely believable that young women were disrespected in these circumstances, potentially criminally. Aside from being terribly bad for developing brains, drugs and alcohol and this culture of partying among high school kids create a breeding ground for bad decisions and hurt people. Because this behavior is so common in American high schools, it’s often met with ambivalence, “kids will be kids” and “boys will be boys.” Speaking from personal experience, sexual harassment is worse in high school hallways than it is in most workplaces, and it goes on because kids get a pass. But if young men are saying inappropriate things to their female classmates, if they’re violating them without punishment, where do they unlearn that behavior? At what point in their lives do they realize it’s wrong? Schools and parents need to shut down this sexualized, alcohol-fueled party culture among teens that produces nothing but regret, hurt, and, as we’re seeing in the Kavanaugh case, a lifetime of consequences.

On the left, we’ve had a “sexual revolution” that’s begotten all kinds of really painful problems and insufficient Band-Aid fixes. When intimacy is already okay, when it’s encouraged, outside a life-long covenant, and that worldview is lit ablaze by drugs and alcohol that rid young people of their inhibitions, it’s inevitable that people will get hurt and they’ll usually be women. Outside the intended trust and the oneness and the promise to respect your spouse’s body, the sexual revolution needed to rely on consent. No one is really sure what consent means, and there’s disagreement about how it’s given. This confusion leads to sexual assault. Its upshot is men who aren’t sure what it means to respect a woman and her body, and women who say no and aren’t taken seriously or who apprehensively engage in behavior they later regret. The left wants to make the Kavanaugh confirmation process about consent, the only remaining rule in our post-sexual revolution world. But it’s a “solution” that elicits confusion, disagreement, bad choices, and hurt that can last decades. We’re missing the mark by using Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford to have a conversation about consent. America needs to have a conversation about morality, how the best way to prevent teenagers today from making Kavanaugh- and Ford-esque decisions they’ll have to answer for later is to be really honest about the sexual revolution that created a slew of problems its supporters are trying and failing to address.

Politically and culturally, the Kavanaugh confirmation process highlights the need for young people who respect their brothers and sisters and live above the chaos our secular society has created for itself. We need teenagers who can already talk to and demonstrate why Jesus’s moral rules regarding sexuality and how we treat our neighbors is far better for the country and its health than the fast-and-loose rules we’re playing by now. We’re learning these days that decisions as big as who gets to be president or sit on the Supreme Court are profoundly affected by young people and what they believe and how they act.

Rebuilding Rhythm for the Spiritual Life

In April, our Church Council completed a year-long, devotional study of the book of Nehemiah. In total, we developed twenty-nine principles for leaders. The book of Nehemiah is typically a go-to book for biblical principles of leadership. While it is a treasure trove for that topic, I think it’s important not to miss the reason that Nehemiah’s leadership is necessary—to rebuild a rhythm for the spiritual lives of the exiles who returned to Jerusalem. Have you ever built a retaining wall? One time at a Christian camp, a team of teenagers and I accepted the challenge to construct a large retaining wall made of railroad ties for a hillside near a basketball court. It was grueling work, bringing out the best and worst in all of us. Quickly, we learned that this project wasn’t merely a physical and mental test, but also a spiritual one. Nehemiah’s wall-building project had a deeper aim than to simply build a wall. He aimed, with God’s help, to restore a regular rhythm in the spiritual lives of people. Here are five key lessons to rebuilding your spiritual rhythm.

Report of Ruin

Read:
Nehemiah 1:1–11

Reflect:
Have you ever received bad news? Such was the news that Nehemiah received, yet behind the gloomy report was the smile of God. This is called providence. One Bible dictionary describes providence this way,

The biblical concept of God’s providence . . . signals a universally confident belief in God’s loving care and protection of the world. It is grounded in the belief in God as Creator, one who continues at all times to preserve and order the world, holding chaos at bay, and leading the world and all human history toward life and full happiness. Sometimes through unpredictable turns . . . God’s providence can be written ‘straight with crooked lines’ . . . God’s provident presence can be manifest in both merciful care and righteous chastisement, but the biblical emphasis surely rests with the affirmation of God’s ultimate care (Freedman, David Noel. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (2000). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.).

Consider God’s providential provisions surrounding Nehemiah’s news: (1) he happened to have a rare job (1:11) that made him privy to royal reports, (2) a team from Judah, involving someone Nehemiah knew, arrived in Susa with a report of Jerusalem, (3) Nehemiah’s heart was soft enough to repent and to remember God’s promise, and (4) he had an audience with the king to request that something be done.

Resolve:
Get familiar with the background and story of Nehemiah with The Bible Project. Then, write out the current, major circumstances of your life. Can you see God’s providential fingerprints? Humbly ask God to make his providence clearer to you this week. How would your own “Report of Ruin” read?

Revival Reconnaissance


Read:
Nehemiah 2:9–20

Reflect:
After receiving approval from the king and favor from God to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls of the city, Nehemiah aimed to revive the people and the work. However, he faced radical rivals — Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem. These men opposed Nehemiah throughout the whole story (cf., 4:1, 3, 7; 6:1–2, 5–6, 12, 14, 17, 19; 7:62; 13:4, 7, 28). They tried to destroy his plans through violence from outside the walls and through deception inside the walls. In 2:11–16, Nehemiah took a secret, night-time ride around the entirety of the city wall. Verse 13 says, “. . . and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire.” The word “inspect” means to test or investigate with a hopeful attitude.

Resolve:
Look at the representation of the walls of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s day. Imagine that this represents your life. Inspect the walls of your life. Is your life whole and at peace? Or are there breaches? Gates were the places where important opportunities and decisions happened. Have you had opportunities or decisions that you feel have been “destroyed by fire”? Lastly, who are your enemies? Remember, external enemies utilize violence. Internal enemies utilize deception, lies, and schemes. Personal revival starts with an honest inspection of the conditions of our lives. Notice how the temple, the place of worship, is at the center. Just as the people in Nehemiah’s day couldn’t worship while neglected walls existed, neither can we effectively worship God while we neglect our own lives. After a thorough look at the walls, gates, and enemies of your life, remember that Nehemiah’s inspection was a hopeful one. He didn’t despair. He was real about the lousy conditions, but he was also real about his hope that God could revive the walls against all odds.

Responsive Reading


Read:
Nehemiah 8:1–12

Reflect:
The people showed great resolve to complete the rebuilding of the walls of the city (cf., 4:6–23). Faithful leaders were found and appointed (cf., 7:1–2). Once the work was completed, the people gathered to hear the reading of the word of God in their own city for the first time in generations. The leaders helped the people to clearly understand the word of God. The people became emotional for two reasons: (1) the clear and accurate teaching of God’s word cut into their souls with precision, like a spiritual surgeon, and (2) the atmosphere of standing within the rebuilt walls of their once destroyed city most likely created an overwhelming feeling—mixed with sadness about the past and hope for the future. Following their emotional response to God’s word, the people made decisions to obey God’s word (cf., 8:13–18) and to remember God’s faithfulness to his past promises and present protection (cf., chap. 9).

Resolve:
Commit to the healing of the walls of your life. To do this, you must faithfully steward the areas of the wall which God has entrusted you to rebuild. You also must have faith in God with those things that are outside of your control. Discuss and measure the impact that the word of God is having in your life. Is it cutting into you (cf., Heb. 4:12)? In what ways precisely? What kind of emotional atmospheres have you experienced with the word of God (e.g., camp, retreat, conference, prayer meeting, small group, recovery)? God providentially uses events like this to stir and awaken our hearts, but what happens after these unique experiences? Do you allow the word of God to cut into your regular rhythm of life? Discuss with a close friend the ways you are or are not creating space for the word of God as a part of your regular rhythm.

Reform Remains


Read:
Nehemiah 13:6–11, 15–21, 23

Reflect:
The book of Nehemiah ends in a strange and deflating way. Nehemiah left Jerusalem and reported back to the king of Persia. While he was gone, the people returned to their old way of life—(1) they flirted with the enemies of God and Jerusalem, (2) they forsook the temple and failed to worship God, (3) they forget to keep the Sabbath day holy, and (4) the men found wives who worshiped false gods, instead of the true God. Nehemiah went on a righteous rampage! The book ends with Nehemiah offering one of his many prayers—the reader can feel how tired he is—“Remember me, O my God, for good” (13:30). So what gives? What happened? Here’s the point. Don’t miss it: All the changes or reforms that we might make in life won’t truly stick unless they land on a new heart. Nehemiah was a great leader and did great work, but even he and all his efforts were not a match for the stone-cold, hardened hearts of the people. The 70 years they had spent in exile didn’t change anything. Consider the words of Jeremiah,

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (17:9),

and Ezekiel,

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh (36:26).

Religious movements, reforms, and retreats may create experiences that cause temporary changes, but if you want permanent, enduring faith and life change, then you need a new heart from God in order to truly take in all of his amazing grace available in Christ.

Resolve:
How’s your heart? Is it stone cold and lifeless, or is new and alive to God? It’s as Ezekiel said—your spiritual nature is stony and must be removed, and God must give you a new spiritual nature. How does God do this? By God’s grace through your faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, your old, calloused heart may die, and a new, soft heart may resurrect within you. The New Testament uses the phrases “new creation” and “new birth” to describe this spiritual phenomenon:

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (Jn. 1:12–13).

Jesus answered him,

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3–5).

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).

If you recognize your need for a new heart and are willing to put your faith in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of your sins, to receive the Holy Spirit, and to possess the hope of new and eternal life, then pray to God to receive Jesus Christ as the Savior and Lord of your life. Do not remain as those Stephen addressed in Acts 7:51,

You stiff-necked, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit.

The Bible also teaches (e.g., 1 Cor. 3:1–3; 2 Cor. 13:5; Gal. 5:13) that even believers with new hearts can grieve and quench the Spirit in ways that diminish the power of the new life in Christ. If you’re a believer who has grown lukewarm, lazy, and lousy in the spiritual life, resolve today to repent and recover your faith in Christ.

Regular Rhythm


Read:
Romans 8:18–39; Galatians 5:13–26

Reflect:
Tim Keller once described revival as . . .

. . . the ordinary operations of the Holy Spirit intensified.

Ordinarily, the Holy Spirit (1) convicts of sin (Jn. 16:7–11), (2) converts to faith in Christ (1 Cor. 12:3; Acts 10:44–48), and (3) gives assurance of salvation (Eph. 1:13; 4:30). Have you ever experienced these activities of the Spirit in an unusually intense way? It’s important to realize that these are his regular rhythms too. In the Read portion of this section, we find two more important regular rhythms that the Spirit wants to work into your daily life. The first comes from Romans 8:29. The Holy Spirit aims to use your sufferings, weaknesses, circumstances, and hope to shape you into the image of Jesus Christ. Notice that prayer (v. 26) is an important way for you to participate in his aim for your life. The second comes from Galatians 5:22–23. The fruit of the Spirit’s rhythm in your life looks like these things: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here, the Spirit’s regular rhythm in your life provides the essential attributes to conform you to the image of Jesus.

Resolve:
1 Thessalonians 5:19 says, “Do not quench the Spirit.” Ephesians 4:30 teaches us not to “grieve the Holy Spirit.” In unique and rare moments, the Holy Spirit has worked in an intensified way in your life, and he aims to provide a regular rhythm that transforms you over time to look more and more like Jesus. As you participate in his regular rhythm, how will you avoid quenching the fire that the Holy Spirit started in your life? How will you avoid grieving him? Start by reading the context of the all the verses mentioned in this section. Get a handle on what God says the Holy Spirit wants to do in your life. You’ll discover things like thankfulness prevents the quenching of the Spirit, and putting off the old life and putting on the new life in specific ways prevents the grieving of the Spirit. Discuss with a believing friend the ways that you’ll participate in the Spirit’s rhythm for your life. Remember, God is providentially at work in your life. Are you up for the adventure?

Posted by Rex Howe

God Still Reigns (Psalm 2)

We seem to be living in a time laced with foreign policy nightmares. Admittedly, I know very little about the practical workings of political foreign policy, and I am really just an average guy sometimes not sure what to make of all the complicated news stories. Recently in The Wall Street Journal and again at Politico.com, I read articles about a new super weapon created by the U.S. military. It’s called an MOP, which stands for Massive Ordnance Penetrator. The “bunker buster” bomb has received a “facelift” as talks with Iran have developed. The MOP is the U.S. Government’s “Plan B” just in case Iran violates what seems to be the inevitable nuclear deal. Our military knows of multiple nuclear facilities in Iran; however, the ones that concern them the most are those that the natural eye cannot see—those hidden underground or beneath mountains. Enter the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, which has the ability to burrow 200 feet into the earth and even through 60 feet of concrete before it detonates to destroy whatever surrounds it. To be honest, neither “Plan A” nor “Plan B” sound great to me!

In our own country, the Supreme Court of the Unites States (SCOTUS) has been handing out significant decisions left and right: national healthcare legislation was upheld; state bans on same-sex marriage were deemed unconstitutional, and most recently in today’s (6/30) The Wall Street Journal, the justices rejected the Obama administration’s environmental agenda because they felt the EPA had not been thoughtful and thorough enough about the costly effects such regulations may have on our economy. Whether you look at the Supreme Court justices themselves, our two major political parties, or simply spend a few minutes perusing social media comments from average Americans like you and me, it seems clear that we are nation deeply divided—made up of polar opposite worldviews leading to vastly different ends and decisions.

It is in the midst of all this chaos that I invite you into Psalm 2 for a moment. Take a breath. Set your mind on the Lord and his rule, and receive his peace in a world gone mad.
Psalm 2 is a royal, coronation psalm in which we are given an exposition on the relationship between God the King and his chosen human king who mediates God’s rule for the people of God. The psalm itself does not tell us the author; however, the prayer of the believers in Acts 4:24–31 reveals to us that David spoke these words by the Holy Spirit:

Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed”—for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

Throughout the article, we’ll return to this New Testament interpretation and application of Psalm 2, but for now, let’s get a handle on the Psalm in its original Old Testament setting. The Psalm may be organized in this way: (1) The Calculated Coup of the Nations (vv. 1–3), (2) The Confident Candor of the Lord (vv. 4–6), (3) The Comprehensive Clout of the Lord’s Anointed (vv. 7–9), and (4) The Calculated Consequences toward the Nations (vv. 10–12). As you can see, the Psalm comes full circle—beginning and ending with the activity of the nations—however, the beginning arrogance is stifled by the ending warning, and the rule of the Lord and his Anointed should cause a course correction, or else the nations will experience God’s wrath. Although we know that David is the author of the Psalm, we are less sure about the specific occasion that prompted the writing. It is a coronation psalm, and by measuring the content, we can assess that there must of been some conflict between Israel and its (newly?) coronated king and the surrounding nations. We do know from the end of 1 Samuel and from the beginning of 2 Samuel that Saul’s reign ended and David’s reign began in the midst of warfare. Further, Solomon’s coronation does not seem to have taken place during international conflicts (see the early chapters of 1 Kings). So, could David possibly be commenting on his own coronation? It is possible. One other thought that I have about the setting for David’s writing is that I think it is possible that King David wrote this psalm once he received the covenant from the Lord to forever bless his lineage with a king on the throne of Israel. Perhaps, upon hearing and believing the Lord’s covenant with him, David penned this psalm about all the future royalty that would come from his offspring. I think this may better explain the content. David was always a man of war (1 Chron. 28:3), so he may here in the psalm be speaking generally from his experience about the Israelite king’s conflict with the surrounding nations, anticipating that his offspring will share his experiences. Of course, David throughout his rule experienced the Lord’s faithfulness in the face of international threat (Psalm 2:4–6; cp. 1 Sam. 17:44–54). By the time the Lord makes his covenant with David and his household (2 Sam. 7), David could surely utter the words or Psalm 2:7–12 with experienced confidence in the Lord’s favor toward his anointed king.

The Calculated Coup of the Nations (vv. 1–3)
The first thing we need to realize when it comes to the international rebellion against God and his king is that it is not accidental. It is carefully calculated. We are sometimes far too “nice” when it comes to those who are are obstinate and hateful opposition to the Lord and his rule, even when we know that their behavior is not at all accidental but purposefully calculated and measured. Notice the text. The word “rage” in verse 1 of the ESV Bible refers to an eager, noisy, raging, roaring assembly. They are passionate in their gathering against the Lord. Further, the second half of verse 1 demonstrates that the people are calculating. They plot; they set traps and snares; they devise violence—all against the Lord. Peter Craig argues that the “peoples” is better understood as “warriors” because of the context in which the word is used. So, verse 1 shows us that the international attitude toward the Lord and his rule causes them to assemble their eager warriors to game-plan a strategy of opposition and rebellion. In verse two, the leaders of all the nations are united in their opposition to the Lord and his rule. All of these nations having innumerable conflicts of their own find unity in one thing—their opposition to God and his rule. The kings stand firm in their resistance to the Lord’s rule, and they take counsel with one another across international lines. They corporately scheme against the one they view as a common foe. Notice that their devices are not merely aimed against the Lord, but also against those who affirm and represent his authority and rule. We may ask, “What is the result for which the nations hope?” What exactly do they hope to gain by rebelling against the Lord? Verse three answers this question, which was first posed in verse 1—they want their freedom from God. They want to be rid of him. Charles Spurgeon in The Treasury of David interprets their words,
Let us be free to commit all manner of abominations. Let us be our own gods. Let us rid ourselves of all restraint.
He goes on,

However mad the resolution to revolt from God, it is one in which man has persevered ever since his [fall in Adam], and he continues in it to this very day. The glorious reign of Jesus in the latter day will not be consummated until a terrible struggle has convulsed the nations. To a graceless neck, the yoke of Christ is intolerable, but to the saved sinner it is easy and light. We may judge ourselves by this: Do we love that yoke, or do we wish to cast it from us?

Among the nations and at the core of their raging against the Lord Jesus is a sore rebellion bent on being free from his yoke. Consider for yourself today, are you seeking to free yourself from God and his rule in your life? Or are you finding life and peace under his lordship and rule? Are you willing to be the Lord’s slave and servant? Or do you long to be free of the Lord and want to “cast away his ropes”? Have you cast your lot with the Lord and his King or with the raging, scheming assembly of the nations?

As mentioned earlier in Acts 4, we see this international raging fulfilled in the united execution of the Lord Jesus. Herod, Pilate, the Pharisees, the Scribes, the Sadducees—all united, putting “lesser” conflicts aside in order to free themselves from God’s rule and God’s King.

The Confident Candor of the Lord (vv. 4–6)
What is the Lord’s response to the nations’ ranting and raging? Verse 4 is offensively comical toward the nations. First, notice that the Lord doesn’t even get out of his seat. He doesn’t stand; he is described as the one who sits. He sits as if there is no battle strong enough to spur him to action. The nations have assembled and schemed, but the Lord takes no military action. He sits. He also sits in the heavens. The place of his sitting is the first thing that reminds us that the nations may have “gotten in over their head” here. He sits above the earth, which ruler among the nations can claim such a throne? From his throne, the psalmist gives us the first verb of action—the Lord laughs. This is an unconcerned laugh. It’s that moment when opposing sides are matched up, and it is clear that the only appropriate reaction from the stronger opponent is mockery. There is no underdog story that will develop here. The Lord laughs. Now, understand that he is not laughing at the weak, the humble, the broken. He is laughing at the arrogant, at those who are calculating in their rebellion against him. The word picture of verse five is important. The words “wrath” and “fury” refer to the redness of God’s nose. The story of Scripture characterizes God as the “Long-nosed One”; that is, he is a God who is slow to anger. It takes a long time for the tip of his nose to turn red, a long time before his burning anger shoots from his nostrils. However, here in Psalm 2:5, God’s anger has reached the tip of his nose—there is nowhere for the nations to hide from his wrath and fury. He will decree judgment upon them with the words of his mouth, and he will hasten to terrify them with his burning anger. And what exactly will the Lord do? Verse six explains to us, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” Despite all of the nations’ ranting and raging, the Lord will establish his rule among his people. Nothing can stop him. Spurgeon comments again here,

. . . despite your malice, despite your tumultuous gatherings, despite the wisdom of your counsels, and despite the craft of your lawgivers . . . He has already done that which the enemy seeks to prevent. While they are proposing, He has disposed the matter. Jehovah’s will is done, and man’s will frets and raves in vain.

Turning again back to Acts 4:24–31, consider how many thought that the crucifixion and death of Jesus would be the end of him. The nations “raged” against God and his Son with their calculating and cunning, but remember that they were really only doing “whatever [God’s] hand and [God’s] plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:28). God would transform their evil raging into the atonement for the sins of the world, and he would do more—conquering both sin and death through the resurrection so that he could establish his Son as the eternal King, the Son of David forevermore, whose kingdom will never perish (Daniel 7:13–14).

The Comprehensive Clout of the Lord’s Anointed (vv. 7–9)
David is no doubt thinking of God’s faithfulness in his own experience as Israel’s anointed king. Further, if we assume that David is writing the psalm after God made his covenant with him, then David may be thinking about more than just himself. He may also be thinking about the line of kings from his house. Further still, we know that Scripture progressively reveals to us the final Son of David, the Lord Jesus Christ. So, when we read in verse 7, “You are my Son,” we may see the personal connection to David, the covenant connection to the Davidic house, and the ultimate connection to the Davidic Messiah. Peter Craigie writes,

At the heart of the covenant is the concept of sonship; the human partner in the covenant is son of the covenant God, who is father. This covenant principle of sonship is a part of the Sinai covenant between God and Israel. The covenant God cares for Israel as a father cares for his son (Deut. 1:31) and God disciplines Israel as a father disciplines a son (Deut. 8:5). The focus of the Sinai covenant is the relationship between God and nation; in the covenant with the house of David, the focus is narrowed to a relationship between God and the king, but the concept of sonship is still integral to this covenant. Thus God, through the words spoken by Nathan, declared of David: “I will be his father and he shall be my son” (2 Sam. 7:14); David, in return, could say to God: “You are my father” (Ps. 89:26).

The word “begotten” at the end of verse 7 carries the idea of “being brought forth,” not merely “birthed,” and not the idea of “created out of nothing.” The idea is that the Davidic king is established and coronated by a divine initiative to bring him forth. Craigie also comments how each coronation served as a renewal of God’s promise, where he would remind the descendent of David that he was God’s son. Therefore, the Davidic king has comprehensive clout because of the one who brought him forth and gave him kingship. He also has clout because of the access given him by God. In verse 8, the Lord says to the king—“Ask of me, and I will make. . . .” The son has the ear of the father. Notice what is to be granted to the king, “the nations” and “the ends of the earth.” If you consider the history of the Israelite kings, there are always two ways in which they go about expanding their rule and influence—(1) they throw their lot in with the nations, or (2) they remain loyal and trusting toward God. Remember the Lord Jesus was tempted in a similar way, “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you fall down and worship me’” (Matt. 4:8–9). The Lord Jesus had the opportunity to inherit the kingdoms of the earth apart from the road of suffering; all he had to do was throw in his lot with the enemy of God. Instead he replies, “Be gone Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve’” (Matt. 4:10). The very ones that rage against the Lord and his anointed will be turned over to God’s King by a simple prayer request. We know that this will ultimately be fulfilled at the second coming of King Jesus, but even David in his day experienced answers to this request as he loyally followed the Lord. In order to possess the ends of the earth, the Davidic king is given authority and power to overcome the nations. God’s king will be provided strength to pulverize the raging nations and bring them under subjection to God’s rule.

Considering the way the early believers in Acts thought of their place in God’s story, notice their prayer, “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” These believers understood God would “give them the earth” as they continued to proclaim the gospel and do the works of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ name. The warfare has shifted as God moves his rule to the unseen, spiritual realm, transforming people in to new creations from the inside out through the gospel and by the Spirit. One day at his coming, his rule will be comprehensive—over heaven and earth, over the seen and the unseen. He will have one not only a geographical kingdom, but a spiritually loyal people as well.

The Calculated Consequences toward the Nations (vv. 10–12)
Finally, the Psalmist returns to the nations in order to warn them. The confident candor of the Lord and the comprehensive clout of his anointed should stir wisdom and caution in the hearts of the rulers of the earth. They should change their ways by turning from their ranging and turning toward the Lord in service and reverence; they should rejoice at the thought of the Lord’s rule; they should be humble toward the Lord’s rule; they should do homage and kiss the Son—the Lord’s anointed one. This is the “or else” of the psalm. If the nations remain rebellious toward the Lord’s king and rule, then they will face the wrath of the Lord’s anointed. Instead, they should be wise, be warned, serve, rejoice with humility, and worship the Son. All who make this turn from among the nations will not be disappointed—“Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:12). Spurgeon comments,

The more thou troublest thyself, or art troubled by others for Christ, the more peace thou hast in Christ . . . To make peace with the Father, kiss the Son.

Notice how God responded to the early Christians in Acts as they prayed, “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” They were serving; they were rejoicing with humility; they had “kissed” the Son. God became their refuge. He demonstrated his matchless power to them. He equipped them to take the nations with the gospel by filling them with his Spirit and by providing them boldness to speak the gospel message. We live in days when the nations, and even our own nation, is raging against God. It is not an accidental rebellion, rather it is strategic and calculated. Remember the confidence of God in such a scenario. Remember the clout of his Son. Preach the gospel to the nations because we have been shown mercy and grace, and weep over the potential consequences that will fall upon a people should they not turn and “kiss the Son.”

Posted by Rex Howe

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