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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « The Omission of "Sanctified" in the Golden Chain | Main | Gospel Summary »

    Kiss the Son

    I had the opportunity to preach again yesterday, and took the time to manuscript my sermon, "Kiss the Son," from Psalm 2. As follows.

    Kiss the Son

    It is a commonly accepted notion, and doubtless true, that the first and second psalms stand together as an introduction to the entire psalter, and provide all the information necessary to interpret and make sense of all which follows. Thus, there is contained in these two psalms every major doctrine that the remaining one-hundred forty-eight unfold so variously and wonderfully, from the lives of so many different psalmists, in so many different conditions. But not only is there a true summary of all the major heads of the psalter; there is contained in the first two, moreover, the very root from which those doctrines all spring, the one immovable foundation upon which the entire house is built. So that, if one were to attempt to interpret the things contained in the one-hundred and forty-eight without first being familiar with the two, he would doubtless cast himself into many needless snares and discover certain foolish and dangerous doctrines, that ought not at all to be derived from the psalms, when they are treated of as they should be.

    Now, the first psalm is a very vital foundation in that it both sets the stage for the great conflicts which would be played out in the later psalms between the righteous and the wicked, and it also shows the certain and blessed end that the righteous will obtain, and the terrible destruction of the ungodly. The Church father Augustine was certainly right to contend that this first psalm, giving the synopsis, as it were, of the great struggle to follow, speaks primarily of Christ; although it is also true that the blessed Man there spoken of is foreshadowed in the lives of the psalmists and most especially of David, that great type of the Savior; and it is true as well that his great blessedness is there held forth and offered freely to all those who would come to Christ, and account their own souls as one with his, and who would walk in the same example by the power of his Holy Spirit.

    But the second psalm is even more foundational than the first, in that it does not just give the true nature of the great conflict between good and evil, the Righteous with his seed and the Wicked with his seed, and show most certainly how that great conflict will end; but it also gives the very reason for the existence of this great struggle, the reason, that is, for why there is any opposition at all between the Christ and his Enemy, for why there is even a world and a humanity and a history in which these things have been and will continue to take place until the blessed end prophesied in the first psalm. In this second psalm, the psalmist travels by the Spirit back to a time in which there was no time, nor any created world, nor any struggle at all, and shows by what means and for what reason this world and its great warfare came about. And one can no more understand all the psalms that follow with true and unerring wisdom than a man in a rough and dark place may travel without stumbling, unassisted by any source of light. He may arrive at his destination, but he will be sore and bruised when he gets there; but he who has learned to shed the light of this second psalm on the psalms which follow may make much more steady and easy progress.

    Now, it is also true of the entire psalter, that it contains in some form all the doctrines revealed in all the other parts of the bible, and is full of all that is necessary to make one a sound theologian. The Psalter is, as Martin Luther once expressed it, a “little bible,” inasmuch as it gives the whole message of the scriptures, only in a manner peculiar to itself, in many poetic expressions of speech, that is, and in dark figures, emotional outpourings of spirit, typical and earthly circumstances and struggles, and so on. But if the Psalter contains all that is necessary to make one a sound theologian, and if the root of the whole Psalter is psalms one and two, and most especially the second psalm, then it is probably no stretch to say that, in the second psalm there is contained all that is necessary for life and godliness. The entire bible only reveals in greater measure and by various means the one central message given in Psalm Two. When we come to this psalm let us put off the shoes from the feet of our mind, for here, if anywhere in all the universe, we have entered holy ground, we have found ourselves in the very presence of the most blessed triune God, yes, in his own inner council by which he devised a plan for all the ages past, present, and to come!

    Today, then, by the assistance of the Holy Spirit, I intend to derive from the second psalm the following heads of doctrine:

    1. That there is a universal opposition to God and his Christ;

    2. That by an eternal and immutable decree, Christ must triumph over all this opposition;

    3. That this eternal decree demands a response of utter submission and worship.

    The first point I would make is that

    I. There is a universal opposition to God and his Christ

    In the first verse of our text, the psalmist wonders, “Why do the nations rage, and the peoples plot in vain?”. In this, we may understand the universal extent of the opposition: for it is not just a wicked desperado here and there who opposes God, but whole nations; and not just whole nations, but every nation and every people group, yes, and every person of whom those nations and peoples are composed. This expression, the nations and the peoples, does not even exclude the Jewish nation, to whom God's promises were given, but they are likewise brought under the indictment, and their mad opposition to God is here exposed. For the psalmists later declare concerning Christ that, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9, ESV), signifying by this that, not just those who were naturally his enemies, and strangers of his covenant, but even his own covenant people would reject him and be furious against him, as indeed Judas Iscariot was the pre-eminent type. This is also taught by the other prophets; for Moses said, “But Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked; you grew fat, stout, and sleek; then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation” (Deut. 32:15, ESV); and in Isaiah it is said, “Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged” (Isaiah 1:4, ESV); and, “Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed” (Isaiah 6:10, ESV); again, “Who has believed our report?” (Isaiah 53:1); and many other such things.

    So then, the opposition to God and his Christ is universal and does not except any nation, his own people of Israel included; but even beyond this, it does not except any person who has ever lived; for David also says, “The kings of the earth have set themselves,” “the rulers take counsel,” which is to say, “even among the highest, noblest, and most powerful of men, there is not found one who has not madly set himself against the Christ, and raged in his blasphemous folly. Now, this doctrine is likewise very clearly expressed in the rest of the psalter, for the psalmists later declare that, “There is none who does good” (Psalm 14:1); they say in their heart that there is no God, that is, they willfully disregard and suppress their knowledge of the God who created them, “They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt” (Psalm 14:3); and many other similar things.

    Thus it is that this prophecy was perfectly fulfilled when, in mad and foolish rage against the Christ, both the Romans and the Jews, and all the rulers of the Sanhedrin, and Pontius Pilate, and Herod, gathered together to destroy him; and not even his own disciples were cleared of all guilt in the outrageous assault, but when the Shepherd was struck the sheep all forsook him and fled, and no less a one than Peter lifted up his voice and betrayed his Christ and his God. And so it was that, after having betrayed him, when he was raised and had restored his disciples, they quote from this psalm, and say, “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” (Act 4:24-28, ESV).

    Now, if the people of Israel and all the Gentile nations, and everyone within them, took a stand together against God and his Christ, then it is manifest that each one of you has not been excepted, but you all have rather been convicted of gross rebellion and wickedness. Which one of you has not lifted his hand against Christ, which one of you has not rebelled and despised him in your thoughts? You may not have been on Mount Calvary two thousand years ago, but your hand held the spike, your fist pummeled his spotless brow, your voice was lifted up in cruel mockery, just as surely as if you had been one of the Roman soldiers nailing him to the tree. The whole world has raged against Christ; and you too are guilty of that blasphemy of violent rage. There is no one who has ever been restored and accepted by Christ, who has not first been made to feel the depths of his own antagonism and rage against God. Peter knew his guilt and wept bitterly, and then was forgiven; the prodigal came to himself, and remembered the folly of his insults to his father, and then was embraced and brought in to the feast. And before you can know the blessed assurance of eternal forgiveness that flows down so freely and fully from the cross of Christ the Savior, you must first know the terror of conscience that overwhelmed the Roman Centurion, when he came to his senses and realized that this man whom he had just crucified was truly the Son of God (Mark 15:39).

    In the second place, we must notice the object of the opposition: which is God and his Christ. How foolishly do they claim to love God, who do not love and submit to his Christ! The Jews claimed to serve God, but they hated Jesus, and so he said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires” (John 8:42-44). And elsewhere, John says, “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23, ESV). God and his Christ are one, as Jesus told those same Jews a little later, they are eternally united in a mutual indwelling of love, so that, if anyone loves God, he will also love Christ, and if he hates or despises Christ, he also hates and despises God. Away, then, with those who say that Muslims worship the same God that we do, for they declare of their god that he has no son, and they refuse to give Christ the eternal glory due his name! And likewise, they who say that the Old Testament saints had no understanding of the Trinity, or that they did not set their hopes on Christ, show their folly, for if they had not loved and worshiped the Christ for whom they waited and upon whom they had set their trust, then how could they have worshiped God?

    We must also take note here that, although the world is on all other points divided amongst themselves, and at enmity with each other, and although the nations love to rend and devour each other, and delight in violence and murder as does their father the devil, yet on this one point alone they are united, by their mutual opposition to Christ. So David says that all nations and peoples and kings and rulers have taken their stand together, they have set themselves together against God and his Christ. Thus it is that Christ has said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand” (Matthew 12:25, ESV). But the kingdom of the devil is not divided, he has united them all in their rage against Christ. How is it then that some persons are so foolish as to think, “I am not as the wicked, I have not joined forces with the devil to work all kinds of evil, I am just my own person doing my own thing. True enough, I have no time for Christ, but I am not opposed to him, nor to them that serve him. I am neutral, I am just a secular person, I am tolerant of all others, and I certainly do not rage against God”. But this text exposes the foolishness of such thoughts, for Christ has said, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30, ESV). Be forewarned, then, that if you deceive yourself with such a lie, your deception will be found out and your punishment will be great. No great wickedness has ever kept anyone out of the Kingdom, but all the greatest sinners and rebels are brought in by droves; but a lack of wickedness has kept out innumerable multitudes, who say to themselves, “I may not be for Christ, but I am certainly not against him either. I make mistakes, but I am a good enough person in my own way”. Such persons are already healthy and need no physician; but the day is hastening upon them, when their torment will be eternal and irrevocable.

    Third, we will notice the reason for this opposition; which is, that they chafe and strain under the bands of God's holy Law, and would cast off all restraint and be their own gods and law-givers. For this is what they say, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us” (Psalm 2:3, ESV), that is the bonds and cords with which God and his Christ have bound them to obedience and submission. In the Garden, the Serpent tempted Adam to cast off the restraint of God's Law, and all his descendants have been doing the same thing ever since. We are therefore guilty and inexcusable, for it is not as though we were ignorant of God and his righteous requirements, but knowing him, we chafed against his rule, and were mad against him, and suppressed our knowledge, and turned aside to all kinds of unrighteousness (see Romans 1:18-32); therefore, we are guilty and will be judged.

    The Law of God, which is holy and just and good (Romans 7), has hereby become a burden and a yoke which neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear (Acts 15:10), since we are sinful and our hearts are turned aside to wickedness; but let us praise God that his Christ has come to give us a new yoke, which is light and easy to bear, for he himself has borne the weight of it, and he gives rest to our souls when we come to him (Matthew 11:28-30)!

    Finally, we see the folly of this opposition, for David wonders in disbelief, “Why do the nations rage?”, as if to express his amazement at their great foolishness in supposing that they could overthrow the eternal Christ. But if all the nations and peoples of the earth had set themselves together, and if rulers and kings, with all earthly power, had joined in the opposition, then how could he have been in such wonder at the puniness of their might and the hopelessness of their endeavor? It could only be because he had entered by the Spirit into the eternal counsel of God, before whom all the nations are as a drop from a bucket (Isaiah 40:15), and it was there that he saw the certain end of the wicked. Let us note: if we at all envy the prosperity of the wicked, or fear their evil designs against us, we ought to come to the house of the Lord, and see their end, and content our souls, as the psalmist did (Psalm 73). For in the house of God we will be instructed of his eternal and immutable counsel, according to which the destruction of the wicked is certain; which is indeed our next point.

    II. By an eternal and immutable decree, Christ must triumph over all this opposition

    Now that we have seen the universal opposition to God and his Christ, we will examine the certain triumph of Christ. It would seem that the threat which the world has to offer the godly is very great: Satan is furious against Christ and all who are in him, and he has subverted the whole world to working out his designs for their evil. And yet, when we enter the eternal counsel of God, all this fearful opposition is lighter than chaff, it is so small and insignificant a threat that God laughs at them in derision. From this, we must learn that, if we would comfort ourselves in any opposition, we must take firm hold in our minds of the eternal decree of God, for when we are firmly rooted in this immutable counsel, we too may laugh at the designs of the wicked, knowing that God will infallibly work out all things for our eternal good. For not only does the rest of the psalter speak in several instances of how God will laugh at all his enemies (e.g. Psalm 37:13; 59:8; cf. also Prov. 1:26), but it also teaches us that the righteous who trust in God may laugh at all their enemies' designs, even as the psalmist says elsewhere, “The righteous shall see and fear, and shall laugh at him, saying, "See the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches and sought refuge in his own destruction!" But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever” (Psalm 52:6-8, ESV).

    When we look to God who reigns upon his throne, we see that he is neither surprised nor ruffled by this universal opposition. They are dashing themselves against the immutability of his purpose, and can no more budge his decree than a gnat can budge an anvil when he flings his little body against it in rage. They will destroy themselves in their mad uprising, and he will only laugh in contempt. But will you see the perfect fulfillment of this prophecy? Then look to where all the forces of the world raged the most wickedly, where they put the Lord's Christ to a shameful and bloody death: but even in this they were so far from preventing God's eternal decree, that they actually accomplished it, and did all that his sovereign plan had predestined to take place. For this Jesus, against whom the nations raged, and who was “crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men,” was delivered up to them “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Act 2:23, ESV).

    But not only is God unruffled by such worldwide opposition; he has also determined, and he will not revoke it, that he will actively pour out his wrath and judgment upon all this world of ungodly men. He will judge them reasonably, as is signified by that expression, “he will speak unto them in his wrath” -- for in that he will speak to them, it is clear that he will declare to them precisely why and for what reason he is about to send them into torments; but that judgment will not only be reasonable and just, it will also be horrible enough to terrify and overwhelm them forever; as indeed it should be, seeing they have raged against so high and exalted and eternal a God, before whom there is no other. This prophecy was fulfilled, in one sense, when God in his anger destroyed Jerusalem, where his Christ had been slain, and did not leave one stone upon another when he overthrew the temple where men had despised their Maker and the true Temple of God; but even that unspeakable horror of AD 70 is but a foretaste and hint of the fearful judgment to come. For soon, “the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Peter 3:10, ESV); and ah what horrors of darkness await the enemies of Christ on that day I could never express.

    Now we must make clear by what certain proof we may assure ourselves of these truths; and we find in our text that the reason for this certain triumph of Christ is an eternal and immutable decree of the Father. For when he speaks to the wicked in his wrath, he tells them how foolish their opposition to him is, since he has purposed to set his King on Zion, his holy hill; and then, the Christ himself speaks, and relates the eternal decree by which the Father had determined to set him upon the throne.

    In this decree, we may first see that the nature of the rage of the world against God and his Christ is most fundamentally in opposition to his being crowned the King and Savior of his holy Church; for that is what is represented by Zion, which was the place where God established his Temple, made his name to dwell, made manifest his glory, and set up the throne of his chosen king David. Ultimately, that holy hill represented the place where all of God's redeemed would be brought back into his presence to worship him, and to serve his Christ, who would reign over them forevermore. Thus, in his letter to the Hebrews, the author teaches us, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Heb. 12:22-24, ESV).

    Be sure, then, that Satan's opposition is always directed against the holy Church of Christ. He hates Christ, and would not see him reigning and triumphant, and so he attacks the subjects of Christ, and attempts to deceive them and draw them away, so that Christ's Kingdom might be the less glorious, and his reign less complete. Every subject that comes to God's holy hill of Zion, and bows the knee to Christ, who reigns thereupon from the throne of David, is a subject that has been snatched from Satan's own domain, and has thus made his own kingdom weaker. Let us beware and persevere, for the devil knows that his time is short (Rev. 12:12), and now that Christ has indeed ascended to his throne, he knows his opposition is doomed to fail, and so he is all the more furious, and delights to put the Church to great and fearful persecutions; but he who holds fast unto death will be saved to eternal life, and will reign with Christ forever.

    And yet, we may comfort ourselves with the knowledge that all of this, yes, even the rage of the Serpent, has come about because of God's eternal decree. The very reason that the heavens and earth were created, was for the triumph of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. God has determined to raise up this universal opposition all so that Christ might be seen to be all in all, and so that he might bring everything under his throne; he created the world to display the immense glory of his Christ; but in order to show how great is the glory of his mercy and the strength of his power, he permitted immense evil and opposition, so that his glory in overcoming it all might shine yet more brightly.

    This eternal decree, then, is the very reason for the world's existence, and it directs all events according to God's good pleasure, and makes sense of everything that has happened or ever will happen. Therefore, if one would be a true theologian, he must know something of this decree – although no mere human may ever know its full extent, which is illimitable and unsearchable, as the apostle Paul declared with such passion when he sought to plumb its depths, crying out in worshipful wonder, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" "Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:33-36, ESV).

    Therefore, we will now look more particularly from our text at the substance of this eternal decree, as Christ himself declares it from his holy throne. Now, in the first place we must take care not to overlook how fitting it is that David here portrays Christ as the one who proclaims the divine decree, and not God the Father. For this decree contains the eternal plan of redemption, and it is only through Christ that God's plan was revealed, and the gospel proclaimed. So it is that the beloved John calls him the Word; for he came to reveal God's plan, and to shed forth upon the earth that blessed light which is the life of men (John 1:1-4); and so also does he declare of him, “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only-begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14); and again, “No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has revealed him” (John 1:18). So it is also that, as soon as he began his ministry on earth, he began to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom, always speaking only what he had heard from God, and what God would have him speak, as he says so many times in the Gospel of John.

    But what is the substance of this revelation that Christ brought from God to his people? Only this, the message of their eternal life and happiness. But what is eternal life? Only this, “That they might know you, the only true God” (as Jesus prayed in John 17), “and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”. So the eternal decree consists of this, that God had purposed from all eternity to reveal himself to his people through the Son; and thus, throughout the rest of the High-Priestly prayer, Jesus speaks much of the eternal relationships within the most holy Trinity.

    But how was this message, by God's eternal decree, brought to the people? Only in this, that Jesus Christ showed to them who God is, in his life on earth, his sacrificial death, and most especially, in his crowning triumph by the resurrection from the dead. This is why, when Christ speaks the eternal decree, he uses the words, “The LORD said to me, 'You are my Son; today I have begotten you” (Psalm 2:7). Now, the Church fathers were right to say that this verse teaches us of the eternal relationship between the Father and the Son within the Trinity; in fact, the very decree according to which the world was created and all history designed, pertained to the self-revelation of God through his Son. Therefore, when God revealed through Christ that he was the eternally-begotten Son, he was relating the divine decree. But how did Christ proclaim this truth? When, in other words, was the prophecy fulfilled that Jesus would declare to us the nature of the triune God? According to the apostle Paul, this prophecy was fulfilled when Christ was raised from the dead, as he says in Acts, “And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, "'You are my Son, today I have begotten you.'” (Acts 13:32-33).

    To understand this, we must realize that God had promised to David, who is speaking to us here in the second psalm, that he would give him a Son, who would sit upon his throne forever, and reign over his people for all eternity; and furthermore, that this Son of David would also be God's own Son (2 Sam. 7:12-14), and greater than David, even as elsewhere David in Spirit calls him his Lord (Psalm 110). So then, when the promised Son of David should arise to sit upon the throne of David, and reign there forevermore with the power of incorruptible life, he would thereby make it apparent that he was the promised Son, who was not only David's Son, but also the eternal Son of God; and thus, on that day when Jesus arose from the dead to sit upon the throne of David, God was declaring that this was indeed his own eternally-begotten Son. In all eternity he existed with the Father as his only-begotten Son; but “Today,” that is, on the day of the resurrection, God was declaring, “I have indeed begotten you, I have demonstrated by raising you from the dead that I have begotten you”. And this is also why Paul says in his epistle to the Romans that he who was already the Son of God was designated to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead.

    What then may we say, in review, of the substance of this decree? It was a decree in which from all eternity God had determined that he would reveal himself to his people, through his eternal Son; and that he would do so by giving him up to be slain as an atoning and propitiatory sacrifice for their sins, and by raising him up from the dead, and bringing him to sit on the throne of David, and thereby declaring that this was indeed his own eternal Son.

    So this, then, is what was required of Christ by God's eternal decree; but what was promised to Christ as the reward for his sufferings? We see that in our next verses, in which the Father says to the Son, “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."” (Psalm 2:8-9, ESV).

    This decree is what theologians have sometimes called the “covenant of redemption,” and it is the source and fountainhead of every redemptive blessing, and the reason for all of history. In this covenant, the Father promises that he would give the Son a people as his inheritance and possession, from every nation under heaven, and that he would eternally destroy all his enemies. In exchange, the Son would suffer for their redemption, and undergo the just wrath of God against their sins, and reveal the nature of God to them, and bring them back to him. It is the one purpose that makes sense of and gathers together in one united cause everything that exists and every event that has ever occurred. This is why the apostle speaks of the purpose of God's decree as this, that he might sum up all things in Christ, and bring all things under his feet (Eph. 1:10). This Covenant of Redemption is also spoken of in Isaiah 53:10-12, where the Christ willingly pours out his soul as an offering for guilt, and in exchange, God divides to him a portion with the strong, and gives him a people who are justified by his sufferings. But it is seen most clearly in the Gospel of John, where Jesus speaks often of fulfilling all that God had given him to do, in this eternal decree, and most especially, of saving all the people whom God had given him by the terms of that covenant. And at the end of his ministry, he declared most certainly that this eternal decree had been fulfilled, saying to God, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word” (John 17:1-6, ESV).

    So then, all of creation and history, and most especially the redemption of his people, occurred according to an eternal decree, the purpose of which was to bring eternal glory to the triune God, the Son giving glory to the Father by revealing him to his people and redeeming them, the Father giving glory to the Son by bringing all things under his feet when he had raised him from the dead, yes, and the Spirit glorifying the Father and the Son as well by producing in the hearts of his people the full effects of that redemption that Christ had accomplished. This means that our salvation was most fundamentally for the purpose of displaying the glory of God. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession,” the apostle Peter proclaims, for what reason? – “that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Let us then give all diligence to living lives worthy of the gospel (Phil 1:27)!

    But consider further: if the whole purpose of history and reality is the eternal Kingdom of the Son of God, promised to him before the world began, than how fervently ought we to pray and labor for his Kingdom to come! The prophets proclaim of Jesus that of the increase of his Kingdom there will be no end (Isaiah 9:6-7), they declare that he will have dominion from sea to sea (Psalm 72:8), they look ahead to when he will have his worshipers, whom he has bought with his blood, from every kindred, tribe, tongue, and nation (Revelation 5:9). When we are spreading the gospel of his Kingdom, we are laboring to fulfill the eternal decree of God – and what enemy will stop us? Will all the nations rage against our work? Yes, for now, but he who sits in the heavens will laugh in derision; so let us take comfort, and rise up and work!

    For the time is now short, and the day will soon come in which the wicked will be destroyed, and cut off forever from any hope of salvation. Our King will crush them with a rod of iron, and they will never rise again. Oh, that we might be faithful to proclaim to them the Good News, to snatch them out from the city of destruction by any means possible! But for now, we must touch upon our last point, that

    III. This eternal decree demands a response of utter submission and worship

    We see in the next verse the application that David makes, saying, “Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth” (Psalm 2:10, ESV). But if even kings and judges, who have power on earth to rule and reign, to pass laws and judgments, to condemn or acquit, then how much more ought we to be wise and take instruction. For by addressing the most powerful, and saying that they must submit, David is including everyone, as if to say, “Even the king must submit, so how much more the subject? Even the judge, so how much more the defendant?”.

    And then, we see what we are admonished to do: for we must “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:11-12, ESV). The essence of true religion is a response of fear and rejoicing, when we see what Christ has revealed to us of God, according to the eternal decree. True religion is not that we are doing anything for God or adding anything to him. What good things could we offer him when he owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10), when the nations are all counted as a drop from a bucket (Isaiah 40:15), when he himself gives life and breath to all things (Acts 17:24-25)?

    Instead of trying to placate God with our offerings and works, as the heathen do who hate Christ and rage against him, let us instead look upon his perfect work in our behalf, and fear before him and rejoice in his free gift. For when Christ revealed God to us, he revealed a God whose wrath is so great that he will judge sin with the most terrible torments, and so we ought to fear and tremble; but he also revealed a God whose mercy is so free and deep that he would even give up his own Son so that he might redeem us at no price of our own, and so we ought to rejoice and be glad.

    Consider as well that we worship what we fear the most deeply. When we fear any person or government too greatly, we will do any sort of act or service to stave off his displeasure, and in this way we will be brought to worship him. But we also worship that in which we most deeply rejoice, for in rejoicing we are saying that it is good and worthy of love and adoration, which is the essence of worship. So instead of rejoicing in creation more than the one for whom and by whom it was made, we should rejoice in Christ, God's unspeakable gift to us; and instead of fearing them who can kill the body and do no more, we should fear God who can destroy both body and soul in hell. When this is true of us, oh, what sins it will prevent in us, oh, what courage it will produce as we seek to please him! But this fear and rejoicing will only come when we gaze upon Christ, who according to the divine decree has revealed to us the nature of God. We must therefore fear Christ, and recognize his great and terrible glory and kingly majesty; but we must also rejoice and trust in Christ, run to him in confidence, and be assured of his favorable disposition toward us.

    Finally, summing up the whole matter, we must kiss the Son, that is express with our lips our submission to, and love, trust, and worship of him. We must seek refuge in him, that is, from the wrath and anger of God which, when kindled but a little will forever destroy all against whom it burns. For David has given us the certain conclusion of the matter, that all those who thus seek refuge in him, and rejoice before him with trembling, will be forever blessed, but they who refuse to believe in him and come to him will be punished, for God's wrath already abides on them, because they have not believed in the only-begotten Son of God (John 3:18, 36).

    Posted by Nathan on August 31, 2009 01:45 PM

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