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Psalm 2

December 03, 2010 Length: 14:05

In the second episode, Fr. Wilbur takes us through Psalm 2 which begins "Why have the heathens raged?"

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Psalm 2:

Why have the heathen raged, and the peoples meditated empty things?
The kings of the earth were aroused, and the rulers were assembled together, against the Lord, and against his Christ.
Let us break their bonds asunder, and let us cast away their yoke from us.
He that dwelleth in the heavens shall laugh them to scorn,
and the Lord shall deride them.
Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and in his anger shall he trouble them. But as for me, I was established as King by him, upon Sion, his holy mountain, proclaiming the commandment of the Lord.
The Lord said unto me: Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.
Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance,
and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
Thou shalt herd them with a rod of iron; thou shalt shatter them like a potter’s vessels.
And now, O ye kings, understand; be instructed, all ye that judge the earth.
Serve ye the Lord with fear, and rejoice in him with trembling.
Lay hold of instruction, lest at any time the Lord be angry,
and ye perish from the righteous way.
When quickly his wrath is kindled, blessed are all that have put their trust in him.

This reading [is] from The Psalter According to the Seventy.

Psalm 2 stands at the entrance of the Psalter as one of two great pillars: Psalm 1, the first pillar, introduces us to the world of prayer, shaped and filled by meditating on the wisdom of God’s word and entering into the abundant goodness of the blessed life. Psalm 2 is the second pillar, introducing us to the rough and tumble world of life in the heavenly realm. For in the world of spiritual reality there are enemies that by their intimidation rob us from the intimacy of the holy place, where we enter into communion and communication with God. These two realities make their marks throughout the Psalter; they are so closely related that as far back as the 2nd century St. Justin the Martyr cites Psalm 1 and 2 together in their entirety without a break between them, indicating the unity of their vision.

Today, as then, we need to embrace this theme of strife in the Psalms, even though, naturally, we find the gentler tender Psalms of intimacy and longing for God more attractive. But the reality of life is that we must deal with the strife and the struggles in prayer if we are going to get to the place of the quiet rest and peace with God. This reality is seen in Acts 4. The first recorded prayer of the early Church, where the frenzied hostility of the enemies of God drew the Church to pray Psalm 2 as the context for their asking the Lord for his serious concern for their danger, for courage to speak his word and for power to act in both faithfulness to the meaning and the power of the Lord Jesus Christ that his glory might be seen in the face of this opposition.

This intimidating pressure on the Christians in chapter 4 of the book of Acts has never stopped and those pressures continue in our lives and in the Church today. Problems come upon us and they intimidate us: by their size, their intensity and by their danger, until they become more real to us than the goodness and power of God. Psalm 2 is a prayer that puts things back to true size. Unless we pray ourselves back into a ‘Kingdom measure’ of the size of our problems we will soon be in danger of not praying at all.

Psalm 2 provides us with four spiritual measures or measurements to strengthen our confidence in the ultimate greatness and power of our God over all things, even the things that intimidate us. First, we see the reality of emptiness. We bask in the confidence of God’s security and we enter into the mystery of the eternal covenant. And from all this we commend reverent submission to God for all concerned. Let’s look at each of these things.

First we see the reality of emptiness. From the persecution of the Lord under Herod and Pontius Pilate to the murderous devastation of the Church under Communism, Christians have felt the rage and the rebellion against God and his people. [The] threat, [the] pain and loss of this ungodly rage is overwhelming. But at its root it has an ironic secret. All of this storm and fury comes from people meditating on empty things, focusing and feeding on what the Greek word calls kenos, ‘emptiness’, ‘nothing’, the ‘unreal’. Even when the storms of opposition to God and his Kingdom, to the life of the Church and of each of us Christians swirl around us, Psalm 2 calls us to holy remembrance: this is what happens when people feed their souls on emptiness, on the false promises, the delusional pride and the misplaced confidence that people place in everything but our all holy triune God. This prayer anchors us in the determination not to go there, to determine [that] our meditation will reflect the godly man who prayed Psalm 1. Psalm 2 is the re-orienting prayer that centres us away from the inner emptiness revealed in the raging rebellion of the ungodly.

Second, as we pray Psalm 2, we bask in the confidence of God’s security. These are pretty powerful words:

He that dwelleth in the heavens shall laugh them to scorn,
and the Lord shall deride them.
Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and in his anger shall he trouble them.

God’s laughter and derision, his wrath and anger, is certainly not an indication of God’s lack of concern and love for all of his creation. But rather it is an expression that nothing touches his governance. Nothing can displace his purpose and nothing can disturb his peace. When we are threatened, when we are upset or fearful or even when we are overwhelmed in pain because of the conflict, as we cry to God and hear and enter into his peace, we know his security and we find our shelter in him.

The third reality of this prayer that puts all things into the perspective of proper size: we enter the mystery of the eternal covenant, behind all of the rage and underneath all of the instability of this world, we hear these words:

But as for me, I was established as King by him, upon Sion, his holy mountain, proclaiming the commandment of the Lord.
The Lord said unto me: Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.
Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance.

This prayer takes us into the holy of holies of all eternity. There the love of the Father is poured out in covenant communion with his eternal Son on that day that never had beginning and never has end: the eternal day of the Son’s begetting of the Father. It was in this eternal moment, without time and before all ages, when the eternal Son was established as King, as priest on Sion, where all creation will find him alone as our only access to the Father. This Son, the incarnate Lord God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, in his life in the flesh prayed in faithful obedience to this covenant, asking the Father and receiving from him all the nations, even in their empty raging, to be brought under his authority and power. This is the eternal secret of the universe, of all creation: that Christ our God, the eternal Son, has been given all things by the Father. And the people of God have entered now into this prayer of the Son, in Jesus’ name, for this universal inheritance of all creation. We pray with all confidence, because the Father has promised to give his Christ all things.

And finally as we pray this prayer we commend reverent submission to God for all concerned. This prayer ends with a very calm commendation:

And now, O ye kings, understand; be instructed, all ye that judge the earth.
Serve ye the Lord with fear, rejoice in him with trembling.
Lay hold of instruction.

This commendation is to kings—beginning with ourselves, who are responsible for the governance of the kingdom of our own lives—to understand and be instructed, to serve with reverence and joy, with a teachable spirit and with fear. Not the fear of the raging empty, the fear of resisting the goodness and the security of the God who is greater than all things and who offers the people of his Christ the ultimate inheritance of all the Earth.

Until that day, may God grant us his mercy to pray:

Let my prayer arise as incense before you;
and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice.


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