Epiphany 1c

Preached: January 13, 2013

The Lord's Anointed Reigns
Psalm 2:1-12

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The word from God through which the Holy Spirit points us to Jesus is Psalm 2

Why do the nations rage and the peoples murmur uselessly? The kings of the earth station themselves and the rulers set themselves together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. “Let us tear off their chains and throw off their ropes from around us!”

The One sitting in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then in his anger he speaks to them, and in his fury he terrifies them. “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

“I will proclaim the decree of the LORD. He said to me, ‘You are my Son. Today I have begotten you. Ask of me and I will give the nations as your inheritance and the ends of the earth as your possession. You will break them with an iron scepter and shatter them like pottery.’”

So now then, you kings, carefully consider; stand corrected, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son lest he become angry and you perish in your path. For his anger can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him! (Psalm 2:1-12).

This is the word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

Last week at Bible class, one of the members pointed out that there is a petition to the White House asking for the Roman Catholic church to be recognized as a hate group because of what they've said against homosexuality. Last I checked there were under three thousand signatures on that petition. It may not get enough to warrant even a response, much less any sort of action. But it does give us some insight, doesn't it, into the growing rejection of morality we see in our world.

Although we are not there yet, might it be illegal one day to say what God says about sin, especially sins that society favors? How far in our society is that progression where they first just ask for tolerance, then acceptance, then promotion and finally silencing, that is, stopping any who would speak against it?

“Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One” (Psalm 2:1, 2 NIV84). Yes, dear friends, we may feel the weight of those words more and more as the years pass. But take heart, the Lord's Anointed reigns. “I have installed my King” (Psalm 2:6 NIV84), the One enthroned in heaven declares. And that King is your Savior, Jesus Christ, the Anointed One. Take heart, dear Christian.

The Lord's Anointed reigns. That's the theme today. He shatters all opposition. He offers you refuge.

A. He shatters all opposition

Opposition against Jesus is nothing new. Let's go back to the beginning of the New Testament church. Think back to the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples and they spoke the Good News of Jesus, crucified and risen, to the crowd gathered in Jerusalem. Yes, the people had crucified Jesus but God had raised from the dead showing that he was indeed the Christ, the Anointed One, which is what Christ means. Many were cut to the heart at what they had done. And what a miracle the Holy Spirit worked as he brought three thousand to be baptized that day for the forgiveness of their sins!

Now some time after that, Peter and John went to the temple and healed a man who had been crippled since birth. When the crowds gathered in amazement, they again spoke the Good News of Jesus, crucified and risen. He was the fulfillment of God's prophecies. He was the Christ, that is, the Messiah, which means the Anointed One.

And while they were preaching to the people, they were arrested and spent the night in jail. Brought to trial before the same ruling council that had condemn Jesus, Peter and John boldly confess that Jesus alone saves. They said, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 NIV84). They were ordered not to teach or speak any more about Jesus. But the both answered, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20 NIV84). After the council makes further threats, thy are released.

When Peter and John returned and told this to the other believers, they join in prayer, quoting the opening verses of Psalm 2. Oh, how the rulers had conspired! Even political enemies like Herod against Pontius Pilate, or like the Saducees against the Pharisees, made common cause against Jesus. They gathered together and took their stand against the Lord and against his Anointed One, Jesus Christ. And now they were united against Christ's followers. So the believers pray for boldness to keep on speaking God's word.

So down to our day, dear friends, the words of this Psalm still ring true. Even worse than the immorality that rages in our society is what we could call the spiritual plurality that people promote. They don't mind us talking about Jesus as long as we don't exclude other possible saviors as well.

But there is only one Anointed One, only one Savior, and he is Jesus of Nazareth, born in Bethlehem. How do we know that he is the Anointed One? Look at his Baptism. There you have the Holy Spirit testifying that Jesus is the One, as the Spirit descends in the form of a dove. Jesus is the Anointed One, not anointed with oil like kings of old, but anointed with the fullness of the Holy Spirit his entire life. At his baptism you have the Father's testimony, “You are my Son” (Luke 3:22 NIV84), a testimony repeated on the Mount of Transfiguration toward the end of Jesus' earthly ministry.

Now listen to Psalm 2 as the Christ tells us what the Lord said to him, “He said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father’” (Psalm 2:6 NIV84). Don't get tripped up by that word /today/, as if there were a time that Jesus was not the Son. Remember what the Bible says. God is above time. There is no yesterday or tomorrow for God. It's always the same today, the one and same, eternal, everlasting now. From all eternity the Father and the Son had that relationship. The Bible clearly teaches that.

Now at certain times, such as at Jesus' Baptism, that relationship was proclaimed for us to witness. And what a declaration of this we witnessed when God raised Jesus from the dead! The Apostle Paul writes, “who ... was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:4 NIV84).

So believe with all your heart and do not doubt that Jesus is the Lord's Anointed. He is the Messiah, the Christ. Yes, this world will continue to rage against him. But don't doubt his control or power. He's told us such things will happen.

And we will suffer. Since the world cannot lay its hands on Jesus and crucify him again, it will lay its hands on you and me, his followers. But don't loss heart. The Lord is faithful and true. He does not lie. “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill” (Psalm 2:6 NIV84). This is not some promise for the distant future, some sort of heaven on earth. Right now, today, Jesus reigns. He reigns not from some sort of earthly Zion or mountain top. He reigns from the heavenly Zion, the new Jerusalem. He reigns with the power of God's right hand. He reigns over all. Empires rise and fall. But Jesus, our King, reigns forever and ever.

And in the end he will put an end to all who oppose him. “You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery” (Psalm 2:9 NIV84). When he returns in glory on the Last Day, no one will be able to deny that he, and he alone, is the Anointed One. He is the Son of God, the King of kings and Lord of lords. He shatters all opposition. So boldly proclaim your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

And no matter what this world does to you, find refuge in him alone.

B. He offers you refuge

The Psalm certainly brings home Jesus' complete power. The nations are his inheritance. The ends of the earth are his possession. He rules and breaks them not with a wooden stick that splinters, not with a bronze rod that bends, but with an iron scepter that dashes them to piece like shattered pottery. How terrible to fall under his anger! How inescapable his justice!

But the Psalm ends with a merciful invitation, a blessed offer of refuge. Let's see how this unfolds. “Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth” (Psalm 2:10 NIV84). True wisdom begins with knowing the Lord and our place underneath him. And what good is a warning, if there's not at least a little hope that some will listen?

There's a call to repentance: “Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment” (Psalm 2:11, 12 NIV84). He is not a pushover. He is serious about his commands. He will punish all who do wrong. So how can sinners like you and me rejoice? How can we kiss the Son, welcoming him? For we daily sin much and deserve nothing but punishment.

Take to heart the last line. “Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:12 NIV84). Fly to his cross and take refuge in his wounds. His blood has paid for your sins. Humble yourself at his feet, hidden safely in the shadow of his cross.

For you see, dear friends, those who rage against God and conspire and plot against his ways are not only the people out there who promote immorality or make our lives difficult. Living inside you and me is a would-be king who wants to shake his fist at God and say, “I'm going to do it my way. I'm not going to be chained by your rules or fettered by your laws. And if I say I'm sorry for something, you better forgive me because you're a loving god.”

Crush that would-be king within you. Crush him with the iron scepter of God's Law. Dash him to pieces day after day. Jesus is deadly serious about God's commands. So hold all his commands in the highest regard.

Never imagine that forgiveness is due to you by right, as if your sorrow can compel God. That's not repentance. Rather gaze in amazement at what he did for you, for me, for all sinners. Count the drops of blood shed for you. Fly to his cross and take refuge in the wounds of Jesus. Believe his promise. Through the water and word of your Baptism, he has washed away your sins. That's his gracious promise to you. You have been reborn as God's child. Would we not serve him now with that child-like fear? This fear is not the terror of a slave coerced to obey, but the joyful awe of a child that knows the wonders of his love, the greatness of his grace, the depths of his mercy, and the warmth of his compassion, and so does not in anyway want to cross him up who has loved us so dearly. Would we not kiss the Son in amazement for what he has done for you and me?

What refuge we have in Jesus, the Lord's Anointed! He is your refuge, as he reigns in your heart through his word of promise. Amen.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313