John T. Willis

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Yahweh Warns His Subject Nations Not To Rebel Against Him--Psalm 2

Psalm 2 is a very important poem. It is closely connected with 2 Samuel 7; 1 Chronicles 17; Psalms 89; 132; and several prophetic texts. The New Testament quotes various lines and verses in Psalm 2, for example: Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5; 5:5 in Psalm 2:7; Acts 4:25-26 in Psalm 2:1-2. Psalm 2 naturally falls into FOUR parts of three verses each and thus presenting a well thought out and structured poem.

I. The Subject Nations contemplate Rebellion. Psalm 2:1-3.
    a. The psalmist begins by asking in a startled tone: "Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot?" Synonymous parallelism shows that the "nations" are the "peoples." These peoples are TALKING in anticipation about the future: they CONSPIRE and PLOT. Their "kings" and "rulers" take counsel about what they should do. At his point, nothing has happened. At the same time, the nations and their leaders are not happy about their present circumstances. 2:1-2b.
    b.  The conspiracy or plot of these kings and nations is against Yahweh and his anointed one, that is, the ruler of Israel in Jerusalem. The composer does not identify this anointed one, but he is clearly some king of Israel or Judah from Solomon to the fall of Judah under King Zedekiah in 587 BCE. Their decision is to burst their bonds asunder and cast their cords from them. This language shows that right now these nations are subject to Yahweh and his anointed one. 2:2c-3.

II. Yahweh Responds to the Plot of his Subject Peoples. Psalm 2:4-6.
     a. As king, Yahweh "sits" in the heavens. The words "sit," "sat," "set," "seated," and "sitting" often denote the idea of a king "reigning" over his people. Thus, here Yahweh is "king." Since he is securely and confidently in control, when people oppose or rebel against him, he LAUGHS. There are many different kinds of laughter. One kind of laughter is joy. Another kind of laughter is doubt. In Psalm 2:4; 59:8, the laughter is that of holding in derision, as the synonymous parallelism in Psalms 2:4; 59:8 shows. This kind of laughter means something like: "You must be kidding," "the very idea," "you cannot be serious," "What are you thinking of?" etc. 2:4.
    b. Since his subjects are planning to rebel against him, Yahweh's "wrath" or "fury" is his response. Many people reject the biblical testimony that Yahweh is a God of wrath and anger and fury and punishment. But throughout history, Yahweh has demonstrated that when human beings and nations develop hardened hearts, in time Yahweh responds in wrath and punishes the wicked. 2:5.
    c. Yahweh emphatically declares: "I have SET my king on Zion, my holy hill." Here, again, the verb "set" is a royal term meaning "reign." or "rule." When Yahweh makes a decision, no human being or nation can deflect his powerful word. Since Zion=Jerusalem was Yahweh's chosen city, the earthly king under the heavenly king Yahweh rules in Jerusalem. Yahweh is a holy God, and thus his city sits on a holy hill. The same term appears in Psalms 3:4; 15:1. 2:6.

III. The Earthly King Responds to Yahweh's Proclamation. Psalm 2:7-9.
      a.  When Yahweh declares, "I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill," the king declares to his people: "I will tell of the decree of the Lord" (in verse 6), he [Yahweh] said to me [the present speaker, the earthly king of Israel], "You [the earthly king] are my SON; TODAY I have BEGOTTEN YOU." Every king of Israel is "the son of God" (the same testimony appears in 2 Samuel 7:14; Psalm 89:26-27; Isaiah 9:6), and Yahweh is his "Father." Thus, the earthly king is subservient to Yahweh his Father, and whenever the earthly king disobeys Yahweh, Yahweh will punish him, as 2 Samuel 7:14-15 proclaims. In this context, then, "TODAY" is the day on which a new king steps up on the throne of Israel for the first time, THE DAY OF ACCESSION. The term "begotten" is a royal term meaning that Yahweh CHOSE this person and is responsible for putting him on the throne. 2:7.
     b. Then Yahweh promises the earthly king that Yahweh will give him a "heritage," which in this case is the nations. As son of God, the earthly king naturally becomes the HEIR of God's estate, and his heritage is "the ends of the earth." The earthly king of Israel is the highest of the kings of the earth--Psalm 89:27. Yahweh rules the nations emanating from Jerusalem, his chosen and holy city. See Psalm 48:1-2. At Yahweh's own time and in his own way, the time will come when Yahweh will actually carry out this vision which he declares--Isaiah 2:2-5; Micah 4:1-5. 2:8.
    c. Yahweh continues to promise his earthly king, his "son," that Yahweh will break his enemies with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. Powerful nations often assume they are in control, and can overcome Yahweh's power and will. But Yahweh always prevails. 2:9.

IV. The Composer admonishes the nations to continue to be subject to Yahweh or else Yahweh will destroy them. Psalm 2:10-12.
       a. Returning to Psalm 2:1-2, the psalmist addresses the kings and rulers of earth to "be wise," "be warned," not to be foolish and rebel against Yahweh, but rather continue to be subservient to him, the King of kings and Lord of lords. 2:10.
       b. He continues to admonish the nations to "serve" Yahweh with fear, and with trembling "kiss his feet" (this is the reading of the New Revised Standard Version) or "kiss the son" [that is, the earthly king, which is the reading of the Hebrew Massoretic text]. 2:11.
       c. If the subject nations refuse to be subservient to Yahweh, Yahweh's "anger" or "wrath" will be kindled, Yahweh will overthrow his enemies, and they will perish, alluding to the warning in verse 5. 2:12.

Share YOUR understandings and fears and insights and reversals and beliefs with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Yahweh's Inner Struggles of Compassion

Various biblical texts emphasize that Yahweh deeply struggles with compassion with regard to his sinful people. Yahweh initially chose his people and loves them deeply. But when his sinful people establish a long-standing HABIT of rebellion against God, the time comes when God reluctantly "gives his people up" to punishment and destruction. Paul makes this point clearly and unmistakably in Romans 1:24-28: "GOD GAVE THEM UP."

But even at that, God still struggles powerfully in his heart of hearts about what he might do to redeem his people. Hosea and Jeremiah emphasize this struggle.

I. Hosea 11:8-9.
   a. Hosea 11:1-11 paints a graphic picture of God adopting Israel when he brought Israel out of Egyptian bondage--11:1. But when Israel entered into the land of Canaan and came into contacts with the Baals, the gods of the Canaanites, the Israelites forsook or forgot Yahweh and went after other lovers. 11:2. Yahweh had done everything he could to support his sinful people. 11:3-4. But since they hardened their hearts, Yahweh finally declared: "They shall return to the land of Egypt, and Assyria shall be their king." 11:5. This is a clear announcement that God will send the Assyrians to overthrow Israel, and carry Israel into bondage. And this actually happened. BUT Yahweh still loves his sinful people.
   b. Out of this struggle, Yahweh erupts suddenly, saying:
          "How can I give you up, Ephraim?
              How can I hand you over, O Israel?
            How can I make you like Admah?
              How can I treat you like Zeboiim?  [Admah and Zeboiim were two of the five cities of the Plain that Yahweh destroyed in the days of Abraham and Lot--see Genesis 14:8--listed along with Sodom, Gomorrah, and Zoar].
            I will not execute my fierce anger;
                I will not again destroy Ephraim;
            for I am God and no mortal,
                the Holy One in your midst,
                and I will not come in wrath."

II. Jeremiah 31:15-20.
     a. Yahweh through Jeremiah compares God's sinful people with Rachel weeping for her children to depict the Babylonian exile of Judah. 31:15.
     b. But Yahweh declares that his people must stop weeping, because there is hope for the future.
     c. Yahweh responds in this way because he heard the pleading of God's people: Yahweh, you disciplined us, and we are ashamed of our sins, we repent, and seek your forgiveness. 31:18-19.
     d. Yahweh responds by declaring:
            "Is Ephraim my dear son?
                  Is he the child I delight in?
              As often as I speak against him,
                  I still remember him.
                  I WILL SURELY HAVE MERCY ON HIM, says the Lord."

Our God is a very emotional being. This is clearly demonstrated in his struggling about his compassion in behalf of his sinful people.

Share YOUR feelings and experiences and beliefs and reversals and thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis