A Sermon Preached on January 5, 1992, Recorded, Transcribed, and Revised.
Open with me to the second Psalm. “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.”
Let's pray. Father, I pray that this morning you will anoint me with the power of the blessed Holy Spirit of God, and enable me to preach the Word of God this morning. Oh God, I pray that you will warm my heart with the precious things of the gospel of Christ, and enable me to preach them as they need to be preached here this morning in order to accomplish your work. Oh Father, use this holy Word of God this morning to actually do your work by it. Amen.
Now, there's a question in the scripture that I read to you this morning. It begins with a question. “WHY?” I'm going to first dilate a little bit on that question, and then answer it for you. Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed—that is, against his Christ. Against his Messiah.
Here we've got the kings of the earth and the rulers of the people, and of course the people themselves, gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. We've got the people raging against the Lord, and against his Christ. We've got the people imagining vain things against the Lord, and against his Christ. And the text begins with, Why? Why would anybody set themselves against the Lord? Who is the Lord? Well, he is the God of all encouragement. He is the God of all grace. He is the God whose mercy endureth forever. He's the God concerning whom the Scriptures say, Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights. He is the God who loved the world and gave his only begotten Son—so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Who is his Christ? He is the Christ who loved me, and gave himself for me, who went to the cross to save my soul. He is the Christ who says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, and ye shall find rest for your souls.” He is the one who stood in the last day of the feast and cried, and said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. As the Scripture hath said, He that believeth on me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” He is the Christ who stood beside the well at the noon day and talked to the poor, corrupt woman who was there, and said to her, “If you had known who it is that speaks to you, you would have asked of him, and he would have given you living water.”
Now the question rings in our ears, Why? Why would the whole human race rage against this God, and against his Christ? Why would they imagine vain things against this God, and against his Christ? Why? This is the God who created this wonderful earth that we live in. He's the God who put every beautiful-colored feather into the birds that flit about us, and put the beautiful songs into their throats. Some day when you stand outside and listen to a mocking bird sing song after song after song, never two alike, there you see the hand of God. Can't do that in this latitude, but you can listen to a thrasher or a catbird, and they sing about the same way. The God who put every beautiful-colored scale into the wing of the butterfly, and dozens of different kinds of them. What for? Why did God do that? Do you think God did that for skunks and turtles to look at. Or was that for the eye of man? The God who filled the paradise with delicious fruits for the man to eat, whose goodness and love is manifest everywhere in his creation. Why would the human race rage against him? Why would the human race set themselves against the Lord and against his Christ? The God whose name is love, who created love—whether it's the love of parents and children, whether it's romantic love, whether it's the love for that newborn baby that you hold in your arms, or the love of a close friend—God created that. You know what it is. You know how to enjoy it. So does the rest of the human race. Why would they rage against this God, and imagine vain things against him?
Now let me tell you, there is an answer to this question. We have read it. We'll read it again in a minute. The human race doesn't have anything against all of the good things that God lavishes out upon them. In fact, they're glad to take all those things from God's hand. Not thankful, but still glad to take all those things from God's hand. In fact, if they don't get quite enough of it they tend to blame God for it. But why is it that the human race will have to do with a God who has lavished out his love upon them—it's visible everywhere, in the lower creation, and in our own selves—it's visible in this book, and it's visible in the cross of Christ—nobody has any argument with God on that score, and yet in spite of all of God's love and goodness, the human race rages against him, imagines vain things against him, and sets itself against him.
Now if you'll read in the next verse, it will answer that question, Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? Why do the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Christ? This is the counsel that they take. They say, “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” BANDS AND CORDS! This is what the human race has against God. The human race is just like your little rebellious three year old. He's glad to have Mommie bake him a batch of cookies. He's glad to have Mommie buy him a new toy—glad to have Mommie tuck him into bed at night—glad to have Mommie there when he's afraid and cries during the night—glad to have the good warm supper that she cooks for him and the good warm clothes that she dresses him in—but he doesn't want her to tell him what to do. Bands and cords. Bands that tie us down. Cords that bind us—that restrict us, and inhibit us, and limit us, and tell us, “This is what you must do, and this you can't do.” That is what the human race has against God, and that is the answer to this question, WHY—why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The human race doesn't have anything against all the good things that God has created, and that the hand of God lavishes out upon them, filling our hearts with food and gladness, as Paul says. It doesn't have anything against that. It's the bands and cords. It doesn't have anything against the love which God has created. Happy to enjoy that. And you know, the whole world is capable of this—knows how to enter into it. One of our own dear sisters spoke a little bit ago of the ecstasy of holding her new little baby girl. Well, the whole world feels that. But they don't glorify the God that gave the little baby. They don't have anything against the little baby. It's the bands and cords they don't want. Don't want the Thou shalt's and the Thou shalt not's. Don't want the strait gate. Don't want the narrow way. Very happy to take everything that God's hand lavishes out upon them, but they say, “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.”
You know, when Adam and Eve were in the garden of Eden, they certainly didn't have any quarrel with God over all the delicious fruits which he had provided for their taste, but it was the bands and cords. Maybe I should just say the band. He only gave them one commandment, and they decided to take that one band that God had given them and break it—cast away his cords from them, and so plunge themselves and all of their heirs into all of the misery that the world is now in.
The prodigal son, you know, manifested exactly this same spirit. He said, “Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me.” You know what we see in that? Just a perfect picture of the whole human race. Everybody knows how to pray when they want something. “Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me”—thought he had something coming from God, thought he deserved it. “The portion of the goods that falleth to me.” It's my right—my inheritance—just give it to me. That's the way the human race treats God. Every good thing they happen to want, they think it's their right, and they know how to pray for that. Oh, but he didn't want the bands and the cords! He wanted everything good and pleasant that his father could load upon him. He wanted the money bags—but he didn't want his father's authority. So when his father gave him the portion of goods that he had his heart set upon, “not many days after”—he had to wait a few days, you know, to try to make it look good—he “gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.” A perfect picture of the human race.
The human race doesn't have any objection to receiving the fresh air that God gives them to breathe—doesn't have any objection to receiving the cold water that he gives them to drink—doesn't have any objection to receiving the turkey dinner, or the roast beef, or any other good thing which God has created for them to eat—but they take their journey into a far country, and eat it there, and breathe God's air there, and drink his water there. They don't want his bands and his cords. Don't want God saying, “Thou shalt,” and “Thou shalt not.”
This is the spirit of the whole world. “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” This is where the human race is, by nature, by choice, by practice. You want to get back to God? Well, you've got to take those bands and those cords back upon you. You know Christ says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden”—or as it may be translated, all ye that are weary and burdened down—with the cares and troubles of life, or with a guilty conscience—he says, “Come unto me, all ye that are weary and burdened down, come to me, and I will give you rest.” But the next verse says, “Take my yoke upon you”—submit to the bands and the cords—put your neck back under my authority, and let me rule over you—“and ye shall find” that “rest for your souls.”
Now God in this scripture (Psalm 2) particularly addresses the kings of the earth. It says, “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against his Christ, saying, let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” It happens all the time, every day in the legislatures all over this country. It seems that the purpose of the legislatures that are sitting is to break the bands of God and cast away his cords from us. I've observed this for years in the laws that the legislatures in this land make (generally now, I'm not saying in every instance, but generally), the trend is to give the people more and more liberty to do that which is wrong, and less and less liberty to do that which is right. Legislatures convened in solemn sessions to make laws for the land, and what they are doing is breaking the bands of the Lord and casting his cords away from them.
Well, it says (verse 4), “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.” And when he speaks to them in his wrath, this is what he says, “Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.” You kings and rulers of the earth, that have set yourselves against the Lord and against his Christ, and have determined to break his bands and cast his cords away from you, you're not getting anywhere. God says, “I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.” And then this king speaks. He says in verse 7, “I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” In other words, all of the vain things that the heathen rulers have imagined are indeed vain. They're not going to overthrow the authority of God, or take his throne from him. God is going to set his king on his holy hill of Zion, and have them in derision, and laugh them to scorn, and he is going to give to his king all the nations in the uttermost parts of the earth. And verse 9, these are the instructions that he gives to his king: “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.” A potter's vessel is a piece of pottery, a clay vessel. Here we have the human race in its present condition, raging against the Lord and against his Christ, imagining vain things, determined to cast away God's cords and to break his bands asunder—content to take the portion of the goods that falleth to them, every good thing that God gives—breathe his air, drink his water, eat his food, walk on his earth, enjoy the love and the friendship that he has created—but break his bands asunder, and cast his cords from them.
God says he will laugh you to scorn, have you in derision. You're not going to get anywhere. God is going to set his king on his holy hill of Zion, and the first thing that his king is going to do when he takes the authority over this earth is to take a rod of iron and break the people in pieces like a potter's vessel. You want to go your own way, and break the commandments of God, break his bands, and cast away his cords from you? Here is your destiny, spelled out for you. You are just a vessel of clay—a frail little cup or vase of clay—and God's king is coming with a rod of iron, to break you in pieces.
But verse 10 says, “Be wise NOW, therefore, O ye kings; be instructed, ye judges of the earth”—and all of you who have followed the kings and judges of the earth, and gone your own way, and broken the bands of the Lord, and cast his cords away from you, “be wise NOW.” You see, we change here from the future tense. Verse 9, “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron. Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.” This is what the Lord's Christ will do when he comes back. He will execute judgement upon all the ungodly, and break them in pieces with a rod of iron. But now—there's a little time left before he comes back to do this, and he says, “Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings; be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little.” “Kiss the Son” means to be reconciled to him. Come to him, and take his yoke upon you. Say, “I'm all done breaking God's bands. I'm all done casting his cords from me.” I come back to God as a humble penitent, and I say, “God, just lay those bands and those cords back on me. Put your yoke on my neck. I'm going to serve you. I'm not going to go my own way any more—not going to do as I please—not going to break your commandments. Lay those bands and those cords upon me. Just tie me up tight. Bind me on a short chain. Don't let me run all over the field and do as I please. I'm going to serve the Lord with fear.”
That's what being wise is. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Prov. 9:10). “Be wise now, therefore”—while there is still a little time before that promised judgement falls. Be wise now. Take those bands and those cords back upon yourself. “Lest he be angry.” Oh! this same God who created all the good things that are all around you, who gives you the fresh air to breathe, and fills your heart with food and gladness—this same God is angry to be so spurned and slighted and trampled upon by ungrateful wretches. “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and YE perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little.” When man, woman, or child says, “I am going to break God's bands asunder—I'm going to cast his cords away from me—I'm not going to be tied down and restricted and inhibited and restrained,” God's wrath is kindled, and it will burn even to the nethermost hell.
But let's turn again to the other side. “Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” Blessed means happy. The way to happiness is the way of holiness. To put your trust in him does not mean merely to believe, while you go on breaking his bands and casting away his cords. It can't mean that. We do not have one little sentence tacked on to the end of this Psalm in order to contradict everything else in it. No, this final sentence is to confirm all the rest. And that it in fact does confirm all the rest is as plain as the noonday sun to anyone who understands what faith is. The man who has faith in God never will cast away his cords or break his bands asunder. He trusts God—trusts that God is good, trusts that God's commandments are good, trusts that God loves him and cares for him, and trusts, therefore, that to submit to the bands and cords of the Lord is the best way to secure his own good, and his own happiness. Any faith which can cast away the bands and cords of the Lord is no faith in God, but faith in the world, the flesh, and the devil—confidence that the devil is more able, or more willing, to give happiness than God is, faith that there is more good in sin than there is in the will of God, trust in the world to give me that fulfillment which I do not expect to find in God and all his ways. This is faith in the devil. This is the faith which moved Eve when she ate the forbidden fruit. By this faith the multitudes walk the broad way to destruction. They believe there is good in the broad way. They believe there is happiness in sin. Faith in God leads men without fail in the opposite direction—to submit to the bands and cords of the Lord, however unpleasant they may be to the flesh, in confidence that this is the sure way to secure all of their own best interests. “Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”