The King of all nations

Psalm 2 is a song about God’s decree of giving a Kingdom to the Messiah, His rule over the nations, and His wrath against their rebellion. The first three verses remind me of the current situation of the world, especially America and Europe, how the nations want to have nothing to do with God ruling over them. The LGBT agenda, abortion, public schools teaching children that socialism is great, lack of self-control is fine, evolution is fact, and Christianity is evil, are all manifestations of the rebellion of the nations. What does God say about this? Let’s see what God says by looking through the different sections of this Psalm.

Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against YHWH and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.” (vv. 1-3)

This Psalm begins with a question. It asks why are the nations raging and plotting against God in vain. This question is intended to ridicule the rebellious nations, to point out that the raging and plotting of the nations against God is all for nothing. The kings and rulers may set themselves against God and His Anointed (this is, Messiah, Christ), but they will never succeed. These kings know that they are bound to God and Christ, and they want to be “free” from His rule, but they never will.

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
Then He will speak to them in His wrath,
and terrify them in His fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.” (vv. 4-6)

God responds to the rebellion of the nations with mockery, and by pointing to the Messiah as His King. There is also a picture of judgment here when it says that “He will speak to them in His wrath…” Then God says, “I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” The Messiah has received the Kingdom from God the Father. When has Christ received this Kingdom? After His resurrection. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” (Matthew 28:18). I take these words from Jesus literally. Jesus has all authority, not just some authority here but not over there. All authority has been given to Jesus. Paul mentions in Acts 17:31 that God “has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a Man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead.” Christ’s resurrection is our guarantee that our sins have been forgiven, but also a guarantee that He is the one who has been appointed to judge the world. How is this judgment going to happen? Jesus puts it in very simple terms: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” (Matthew 25:31-32). In the rest of the passage, He describes how those on the right are called righteous and welcomed to eternal life, and those on the left are called wicked and cast into eternal punishment (see Matthew 25:31-46). The eschatology of the Bible is simpler than we make it seem sometimes. Let’s move on to the next section.

I will tell of the decree:
YHWH said to Me, “You are My Son;
today I have begotten You.
Ask of Me, and I will make the nations Your heritage,
and the ends of the earth Your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” (vv. 7-9)

Clearly the voice speaking here is the voice of Christ. Christ is speaking about what the Father told Him in eternity that He would do in time. God planned redemption in eternity past, and He would accomplish it through the Son incarnate. After the Son did His work, He would inherit all the nations. The nations plot against God, but it is all in vain, because God has given His Anointed One the Kingdom, and He will come to judge them. No nation, no army, no individual can ever frustrate God’s plans. He reigns over them with authority, with the strength of His iron rod. The nations with all their armies will be dashed in pieces because they are really fragile compared to the iron rod of the Messiah.

Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve YHWH with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
lest He be angry, and you perish in the way,
for His wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in Him. (vv. 10-12)

The kings, judges, and rulers of the earth are warned to be wise and to fear God, serve Him and rejoice with fear and trembling. They must give God and the Messiah what is His due because He is sovereign over all. They are also told to kiss the Son. This probably refers to either the kissing of the hand or the kissing of the feet, both of which are done to a king as a sign of reverence. They are told to give the Son reverence because the day of His judgment and wrath is coming soon, and they must humble themselves before it is too late. Then there is a divine blessing for those who take refuge in the Son. This same Messiah who is King over all the nations is the refuge of all who have faith in Him. We have absolutely nothing to fear if Jesus is our refuge. We are no longer condemned if we are in Christ, and so we don’t even have to fear death and the judgment because we have the righteousness of Christ by faith. This should make us rejoice, and praise and serve God, glorifying Him and obeying His commandments. The nations may reject God and His people, but He laughs at them, and warns them of the coming judgment, while He is also the refuge of His people.

True food and true drink

After redeeming Israel from slavery, God fed them with manna. God tested them, they sinned against God in different occasions, even rejecting the manna because they were tired of it. In Deuteronomy, Moses tells Israel that “He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of YHWH.” (Deuteronomy 8:3). The people of Israel had a need that was greater than a need of food or drink. God let them go hungry so that they might understand their true need, and God fed them with manna so that they might understand that it is God who provides through His Word for that need. What kind of need? The key is in the manna itself. The manna points to something greater. We know this from the New Testament.

We go to John 6 and we find the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. The people ate the bread and the fish that Jesus had multiplied, and they wanted to take Him by force to make Him king. They saw Jesus as a king who would make sure that their stomachs were always full. They didn’t want Jesus for who He is, not even for what He did; they wanted Him for the food. Jesus, who knows the hearts of men, knew this was the case. “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.'” (v. 26). Jesus continues: “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on Him God the Father has set His seal.” (v. 27). Jesus reminds the Jews who were there that their true need was not physical food, but eternal life which only the Son of Man can give because only He has been sealed by the Father for this purpose.

The Jews asked for a sign, most probably expecting something comparable to the manna, since that is what they say afterwards: “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness.” (v. 31). Jesus tells them that “it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (vv. 32-33) The people who were following Him wanted bread to fill their stomachs, but Jesus said they needed the bread of life to fill their souls. I am the bread of life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (v. 35). In Jesus we find true satisfaction for our hunger and thirst. Now the question is this: Hunger and thirst for what? Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” (vv. 53-55; emphasis added). What does it mean to feed on His flesh and drink His blood?

Jesus came into the world as a man, as the Second Adam, to fulfill the covenant of works that the first Adam failed to keep. Jesus came to fulfill all righteousness as our representative, that His sacrifice might be accepted by God the Father, and that the righteousness that He has earned for us might be ours by faith. On that cross, “For our sake [God the Father] made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is important for us to understand what it means to eat His flesh and drink His blood. When we eat or drink something, our digestive system absorbs the nutrients that our body needs to function. To eat Jesus’ flesh and to drink His blood is to eat and drink righteousness and eternal life: righteousness because He has earned it on our behalf by keeping the Law that Adam and his descendants broke; and eternal life because He is the resurrection and the life (see John 11:25-26), and because after He was crucified, dead and buried, He rose from the dead, and He will surely return to raise His people from the dead to eternal blessedness. This is what we receive in His flesh and blood. How do we receive this righteousness and eternal life? By grace, through faith (see Ephesians 2:8-9). I mentioned in my first article that faith rests on union with Christ. Christ Himself presents the picture when He says that “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on Me, he also will live because of Me.” (John 6:56-57). It is through faith alone that we receive Christ and all His benefits, and it is how we are united to Christ. If we believe in Christ, we abide in Him, and He in us.

That is the same picture that the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper presents, as the bread is called the body of Christ and the wine is called the blood of Christ. The Lord’s Supper, though, is more than just a picture. We truly receive the flesh and blood of Jesus, but it is through faith, not through the elements of the bread and wine. As it says in Article 35 of the Belgic Confession:

…we err not when we say that what is eaten and drunk by us is the proper and natural body and the proper blood of Christ. But the manner of our partaking of the same is not by the mouth, but by the Spirit through faith. […] This feast is a spiritual table at which Christ communicates Himself with all His benefits to us, and gives us there to enjoy both Himself and the merits of His sufferings and death, nourishing, strengthening, and comforting our poor comfortless souls by the eating of His flesh, quickening and refreshing them by the drinking of His blood.

In other words, each time we participate in the Lord’s Supper, we are being reassured by Christ through the Holy Spirit of all the promises of the Gospel, and these promises are being presented and given to us again. In this sacrament we confess our union with Christ and, in a sense, renew our vows; and the Spirit preaches the Gospel and its promises to us through the senses of sight, touch, smell, and taste, as we take the bread and wine. This is why we cannot take the Lord’s Supper lightly. Remember this each time you participate of this sacrament. In it we receive not just bread and wine, we spiritually receive and enjoy Christ and the merits of His sufferings and death. This sacrament is not merely a symbol, and neither is it some sort of magic. When we reduce the Lord’s Supper to a mere symbol, and when we confuse the sign with the thing signified, we miss what God is really doing for His people through this sacrament.

Truly, Christ is true food and true drink. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says these words: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6). Today, many people reject the true manna, the bread of life, Jesus Christ. That is because they do not hunger and thirst for Him who is righteousness. They are deceived into thinking that they do not need this righteousness. We all once were in this condition. We were empty of righteousness and full of sin, but the Holy Spirit came through the Word and showed us our need. Just like God let the people of Israel hunger in the wilderness and fed them with manna, so He did to us. God made us aware of our sin, and gave us a hunger and thirst for righteousness. Not only did He do that, but He provided what we needed to satisfy our hunger and thirst: He gave us Christ who is our righteousness, and we ate His flesh and drank His blood.

Not by law, but by grace alone

Galatians 2:20-21: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

Paul says he has been crucified with Christ. This phrase in the Greek is Χριστῷ συνεσταύρωμαι. This phrase literally reads “Christ together-with-crucified [I have been]”. This is what Paul is emphasizing: true faith rests on union with Christ. We must be careful when we use this word faith, since it is a word that has been redefined by the world, and sometimes we use the world’s definition of faith as though it were true. A faith that does not rest in union with Christ is a false faith, a blind leap into the abyss.

Paul says here in his letter to the Galatians that faith unites us to Christ in His death on the cross and His resurrection. When he says “I have been crucified with Christ”, he speaks a deep truth. If we are united to Christ, we have died. We have crucified our old nature. Our old nature has been buried with Christ. Now we are reborn with Christ because of His resurrection, and we will rise from the dead in the last day, at the last trumpet. We are reborn, but our old nature is still dead and buried, which is why Paul can say “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Not only can Paul say that his old nature has died with Christ and that he has new life in complete union with Christ, but he can say with all confidence that the Son of God has loved him and given Himself for him.

The love of Christ is usually misunderstood both in many churches and the world. Many people think of the love of Christ as being generic and hypothetical. The love of Christ is personal and actual, it is a particular love for those for whom He died. Christ did not die for a hypothetical mass of people. It is not as though Christ did 99% of the work waiting for people to do the remaining 1%. If that were the case, we have no hope. I want to add that Christ does not need your permission to save you. When our Great High Priest died on that cross, He had the names of each and every one of His elect people in His mind and heart, just like the high priest in the Old Covenant had the names of the twelve tribes of Israel on his shoulders and on his breastpiece. Our Great High Priest knows the names of all His people, and He intercedes for them before the Father.

The Apostle Paul continues “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” In other words, Paul says “I do not nullify the grace of God because my justification does not depend on my works. If it were, then Christ’s atoning sacrifice is vain, and that would nullify the grace of God.” If justification were by works, it wouldn’t be by grace, because then it would be a prize or a salary, as in the example of Romans 4: that “to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believe in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” (Romans 4:4-5). If I can earn my salvation through my works, then there is absolutely no reason for the death of Christ, for it would be absolutely unnecessary. Again, Christ was not doing 99% of the work waiting for us to do the remaining 1%. Either Christ did it all, or He did nothing, because God never does an incomplete or imperfect work. Our salvation depends not on our own righteousness, but only on the righteousness of Christ which we receive by grace alone, through faith alone.

Christ said in the Sermon on the Mount “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3). Those of us who have been saved have recognized that we have absolutely no righteousness of our own with which to enter into the Kingdom of God. We have also this comfort: Jesus Christ has earned that righteousness, and it is ours by faith. Salvation belongs to the Lord (Jonah 2:9). Who can frustrate God’s perfect plan? Nobody. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:31).