Monday, 26 September 2011
Psalm 2: Pulling back the curtain
I used to love watching the Wizard of Oz with our kids. Favorite scenes include–Toto wiggling out of the basket to race back home to Dorothy, the house lifting and spinning in the tornado, the crash landing next to the yellow brick road, and the high pitched singing of the Munchkins. One scene that always stayed with me was near the end. The Great and Terrible Oz, who had terrorized Dorothy and her friends, was exposed when Toto pulled back the curtain. Instead of a Wizard with Great Power, he was an old man pushing buttons and pulling knobs on his noisy invention. There was no power behind the throne.
The opposite is true of Psalm 2. Similar to the book of Job, it offers a chance to peek into heaven and see the way things really are. “Gentle Jesus meek and mild” is the picture most of us have of Christ from the Gospels. Our unbelieving friends and neighbors aren’t too worried about ignoring him, because he wouldn’t hurt a fly. I, too, can be lulled to sleep by grace. Psalm 2 pulls back the curtain and shows me another Jesus. One who is crowned and reigning, waiting for the day of his triumphant return.
4 stanzas, 4 words. Here’s a quick summary of my study of this Psalm.
1. Stanza 1: Why? The question is rhetorical, amazed. The Psalmist looks out at a rebellious world, trying to overthrow God, and is open mouthed. Don’t you realize that you’ve already lost?
2. Stanza 2: He! God is so un-threatened by their threats that he mocks them. You only do that from a position of power, unless you are bluffing. This is no bluff. The King is already on the throne, set there by the LORD himself.
3. Stanza 3: I! We get to hear from the Son directly, permitted to eavesdrop on the conversation that determined world history. The Son’s reign has been decreed. His rule will be universal. His enemies will be obliterated.
4. Stanza 4: Now. The Psalmist speaks to the rebels. What would you say to dirty rotten enemies if you knew your side would win and they would be destroyed? Would you gloat? Keep it secret? Boast? Representing the heart of God, he begs them to bow voluntarily before it’s too late. Blessing awaits them if they do.
Blown away. This Psalm blows me away. It causes me to think about things I don’t normally consider. It is not directly comforting, but it does bring strength and comfort in the end. Here are 4 responses I’ve had this week as a result of the curtain being pulled back.
1. God wants to bless, even the wicked. Psalm 1 started with the word “blessed.” I found out that God wants to bless the righteous. Psalm 2 ends with the word “blessed.” I found out that God wants to bless the wicked, by offering them a chance to repent before it’s too late. This severe Psalm reveals God’s intention to bless not just his friends, but his enemies.
2. God has already won, so I don’t need to be intimidated. God’s enemies sometimes feel like my enemies. I find myself out of step with them, not getting their jokes, uncomfortable with their choices, held at arms length, or pushed out altogether. I weaken and back down. I feel intimidated by their strength. It silences me. But when I remember what lies behind the curtain, that Jesus has already been crowned, that he stands ready to return and conquer, that wrath will be unleashed against all his foes, I am strengthened. Instead of backing down, I push back into their lives.
3. Christ is triumphant, ascended and waiting to return, so I can be bold and speak. This Psalm gives me courage–and a message. God is great. He will win. He will judge his enemies. God is good. He offers a second chance to his enemies. Give up and take refuge before its too late. Hide in the Savior before he returns as the Judge.
4. Christ will return as King, to obliterate his enemies, so I need to wake up and warn people around me. Sometimes I am silent because I’m intimidated. Other times I’m silent because I’m lazy. I’m happy just to be “safe.” I don’t feel any urgency about warning others. I need this reminder of the wrath of the Lamb–that a day will come when rods of iron and shattered pottery will be a reality, among people I know and love. I need this wake up call. I need love to replace laziness. Then I will join the Psalmist and speak words of warning.
5. The power behind the curtain is the power behind my words. Did you notice what happened when the early church prayed this Psalm in Acts 4? They proclaimed Christ’s reign, and they asked for boldness. God answered their prayer for boldness, but he also honored their proclamation of his power. He gave them boldness by sending his Spirit. As the Spirit filled them, they spoke the gospel with clarity and authority. And by the Spirit’s power their words were effective. That encourages me today. As I pray in harmony with this Psalm, God will answer by sending his Spirit. My words, echoing his heart, will become powerful with the very power of God the Spirit. Some of those I love will believe because of my words, filled with his power.
I find great comfort in that. What did you see when the curtain was pulled back?