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EXPEDITION: World’s Best Boss   Psalm 2    Resident Amelia Schmidt    (1st)

{Manuscript–View video for complete content}  Hi! I just want to tell you about myself before I get started.   I grew up in a tiny town in South Dakota, moved to Minnesota to go to Crown College, and then moved here just over three years ago to attend Denver Seminary and pursue my Masters of Divinity.  In just under a month I will finally graduate! I started working here at South just four days after moving to Colorado and I’ve had the privilege of working with our middle and high school students here for the past three years, leading worship for them. I absolutely love our students and getting to be a part of their lives. Some other important things you should know about me is that I love pizza, ultimate Frisbee, and spending time with friends.

Another thing about me that a lot of people don’t know, is that I’m a pretty big nerd. Growing up, my family watched a lot of sci-fi movies and shows, and one of my favorites was Star Wars! Throughout this epic series, we see the story of a famous rebellion. The Rebel Alliance stood bravely against the evil Galactic Empire. They never backed down, despite the overwhelming odds stacked against them. They worked in secret for decades to overthrow the Emperor and restore democracy to the galaxy, which (spoiler alert) they finally did. The Rebels took down the Empire! Good won once again!

This story, and those like it, move us; good versus evil and the good guys winning! But what if it was evil rebelling against good? That’s not a story you hear very often, probably because it wouldn’t make much sense, because people don’t usually rebel against good things, right? I mean, if you go watch a movie where the bad guys were trying to defeat the good guys, and they won, it probably wouldn’t be a very good movie. It doesn’t seem right. Yet, as much as that doesn’t make sense, I realized that it happens all the time. Kids rebel against their parents who love them. People break rules that are meant to help them and keep them safe. And each and every one of us rebel against God. We sin. As much as we don’t want to, we still do it. We rebel against a God who deeply loves us and wants what’s best for us. We want to control our lives, be our own boss. And we lose sight of who God is.

We’re not the first ones to do this either. Ever since the beginning of humanity this has been an issue.  Psalm 2 starts off by talking about a rebellion, a rebellion against good, a rebellion against God. If you have your Bibles, open them to Psalm 2. It will also be on the screen.   Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.”  The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.  He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.”  I will proclaim the Lord’s decree: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father.  Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the end of the earth your possession.  You will break them with a rod of iron; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”  Therefore, you kings, be wise;  be warned, you rulers of the earth.  Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling.  Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment.  Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Psalm 2 begins by setting the scene with a rebellion. The nations are conspiring, people plotting, kings rising up, rulers banding together. It seems as though everyone is in on this revolution. Then, we see that they are all against the Lord and his anointed, which is the king, the king of Israel. The goal of rebellion was lordship. These earthly leaders wanted to be the ones in charge.

In verse 3, we hear the battle cry of the rebels, “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.” This was a metaphor of stubborn cattle or oxen that break and throw off their restraints in order to be free of the plow they were attached to. These earthly leaders saw the rule of God as something they were enslaved to, something oppressive, and something they needed to free themselves from. God was an opposing force, their enemy.

Throughout Scripture, there is this theme of rebellion against God, and things aren’t much different today. In our post-Christian culture it’s become normal to live in rebellion to God.   How do we do this?  Rebel against God? It might not be obvious. Maybe for you, it’s trying to control every area of your life – your finances, schedule, family, job – instead of surrendering it to God. Maybe, it’s just avoiding spending time with him overall, letting busyness, laziness, fear, or just life get in the way. I know I struggle with that.

One night in youth group, we were in small groups, and I asked a question, “How do you enjoy God?” Students were throwing out answers – sports, nature, music. And then I called on one student and I asked her, “How do you enjoy God?” and she just replied, “I’ve never thought about it. For most of my life, I’ve been afraid of God, so the idea of enjoying God is so foreign to me.” I don’t think she’s alone in that. There is this widespread view of God that he is a big scary God who will strike you down if you mess up or do anything wrong. If you think that, the idea of enjoying God would be crazy! If you have that view of God, I want to encourage you to listen up this morning and to be open to the idea that maybe you have an incomplete view of God. The one true God is all powerful, yes, but he is also full of love, compassion, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and so much more!

These rebels in Psalm 2 thought God was oppressive, they did not enjoy him, and they wanted nothing to do with him. They didn’t see him as good, and thought that they could get out from under his control by rebelling, but they would soon realize that wouldn’t work out very well.  In verses 4-6, we see God’s response to the rebellion of the nations, kings, and rulers.  The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.”

The psalmist shows here that God has the full range of emotions, from laughter to anger, scoffing to wrath. God is laughing at the ridiculous idea of people trying to defeat him. God. The very one who gave them life, the one enthroned in heaven.

WRATH – What do you think of when you hear this word? How does it make you feel? Maybe a little uncomfortable, fearful, anxious? Let’s be honest, it sounds scary. God’s anger and wrath is something that we don’t often talk about. It’s not as fun to talk about as his love or mercy. It’s pretty ironic that I’m talking  about wrath and anger, because for those of you who know me, know that I never really get angry. I could probably count on one hand the times I’ve actually been angry in the past 5 years. But love, now love I can talk about! I love love, and I love loving people, and helping them, and encouraging them! So I prefer to talk about God’s love, and avoid his wrath and anger. But today, I’m gonna go there.

I want us to take a step back and look at what God’s wrath really means.  So many of us have this picture of an angry, scary, wrathful God, like my student had for most of her life.  I think God’s wrath is his response when things go against his design, his good plan. It’s the natural reaction to evil and sin, things that God didn’t intend for humanity, those created in his image. But, listen to this because it’s very important. The object of God’s wrath is not you, it’s not me, it’s not us. The object of God’s wrath is sin and evil. God is angry at sin, death, and evil, and what it does to his children whom he deeply loves. He hates when those things have a hold on our lives and isn’t going to just leave it alone. But some people experience God’s love as pain when they want to reject it. Going against the grain of God’s love can feel like wrath. It’s kind of like if you have a piece of wood. You can run your hand across it one way, and it feels pretty smooth. But then, if you go back the other way, against the grain, you might get a splinter. God’s wrath is the result of things going against his good plan, against his love.

I believe that one of the reasons we don’t talk about God’s wrath and anger is because there’s a stigma around anger in general, especially in the Christian culture. Ever since I was young, I viewed sadness, anger, fear, and other negative emotions as bad and things to avoid at all cost. I thought that a good Christian didn’t experience those emotions. So, even if I did ever feel those things, I wouldn’t dare let them out or express them in any way. However, earlier this year, I began to learn more about emotions. In a leadership class I took we read the book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero, which is probably one of the best books I have ever read, so I’d encourage you to go read it too. I learned that emotions are not bad. They are a part of being human and we need to embrace them and let ourselves feel whatever feelings we’re feeling. There is no such thing as “bad” emotions. There are bad, or unhealthy, ways to deal with our emotions, but they are not bad in and of themselves. Emotions are a part of being human, made in the image of God. Scazerro says in his book, “To feel is to be human. To minimize or deny what we feel is a distortion of what it means to be image bearers of our personal God. . . . To cut them out of our spirituality is to slice off a part of our humanity.” If emotions are a part of being made in the image of God, that means that emotions are a part of who God is too. We cannot minimize God’s anger and wrath or expect him to only express his love and other “good” emotions; just like we can’t tell a person that they can’t be angry or sad, just happy. I told that to myself for most of my life, and let me tell you, it’s not healthy! God experiences the full range of emotions, and we should expect nothing less from him.

God’s anger and wrath here are a result of people rebelling against him, going against his good plan for them, going against the grain of his love. God’s response in verses 4-6 reveals the ignorance of these nations that are rebelling, as well as God’s sovereignty. God is the sovereign King. He is the supreme authority and all things are under his control.

One of my dad’s favorite shows is Star Trek, and in this show there is an alien group called the Borg, and when they encounter another alien race they intend to assimilate into their Borg collective, part of their standard message they say is “Resistance is futile.” God’s response to the nations’ rebellion here is an emphatic and resounding, “Resistance is futile.”

God installs his king and gives a decree, read by the king here, starts with the statement in verse 7, “You are my son; today I have become your father.” At the heart of this decree is the idea of adoption, sonship. God is the sovereign king, but his earthly representative was this Davidic king, this king of Israel.

Verse 9 then says, “You will break them with a rod of iron.” The word for break can also be translated as “rule.” The rod of iron, or iron scepter, is a symbol of rule and authority. It is the means of discipline and judgment. Another use of this verb is in shepherding. Shepherds rule with a staff by using it to fight off intruders and protect their flock. So, the king will rule over the nations with this rod of iron, expressing his God-given authority, enforcing and disciplining, as well as using it to protect and guide.

The next phrase is, “You will dash them to pieces like pottery.” Now, I thought about throwing this clay pot on the ground to help you visualize this, but I figured it might make too much of a mess. But, shattering a clay vessel, or piece of pottery, was a common symbol of destruction in the Ancient Near East. In Egypt, names were often written on pottery and then shattered, emphasizing the defeat and destruction of their enemies.

An iron rod is very strong, and pottery is very fragile. These metaphors reveal the difference between the power of the Davidic king and the fragility of the earthly rulers. It all comes down to the strength and power of God. For Davidic kings, their power and authority came from God and was exercised under God, unlike the earthly kings who try to rule out of their own power.

You may have heard in the past month or so that the famous music artist, Kanye West, became a Christian. He released a new album called, “Jesus is King.” Kanye recognized this truth, that God is king. Until recently, he was his own boss. He seemingly controlled everything in his life, he had fame, money, fans. He lived out of his own power. But that wasn’t enough for him. His life has changed drastically since becoming a Christian and accepting the fact that God is the sovereign king. Now, he lives and leads out of God’s power, not his own. How cool is that!

Psalm 2 is one of the psalms most frequently quoted and alluded to in the New Testament. That is because from the perspective of early Christianity, this was a messianic psalm, which means it’s a prophesy or expressing hope for a messiah, or savior. Without a king, the Israelites were left waiting and hoping for their messiah, a king who would come in and finally deliver them and rule over them once again. That king was Jesus, though he wasn’t the kind of king they expected. First of all, he came as a fragile, innocent, baby. Years later, after he had been teaching for a while, he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, not on a big horse, as kings would normally do. A week later, Jesus was crowned, not with a crown of jewels, but a with a crown of thorns, and instead of being exalted on a throne, he was crucified, killed on a cross. This so called Messiah had just died and the Jewish people were back to square one, waiting again for their king to come.  But to death, Jesus declared, resistance is futile! Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead, defeating death once and for all. He showed that he not only rules over life, but he has power over death as well.  This new kingdom that Jesus ushered in was established in his death and resurrection and he is the king of this kingdom. Jesus is the fulfillment of this psalm. He is ultimately the one that the Lord installed as king on Zion, the Son of God. Unlike earthly kingdoms that are established in destruction, destroying other nations in order to grow, the Kingdom of God is established in love, humility, forgiveness, serving, and radical self-sacrifice.

Now in Psalm 2, these earthly leaders were trying to rule out of their own power, destroy other nations, rebel against God. God responded by announcing the installment of his king, his earthly representative, and also by showing that God is sovereign. So, how are these earthly leaders to respond to this? How are we to respond to this?  Well, following this decree of the king, we hear a warning to these rulers of the earth. Starting at verse 10, “Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling.” Leaders are called to serve God. This service to God is not slavery though, there is freedom in serving God. However, serving does not come naturally to most leaders. It seems almost like a contradiction. Although, I would argue that the best leaders are those who serve the people they lead.

I tried to think of examples of this, and I really couldn’t find any better than the World’s Best Boss, Michael Scott! {Character from TV show “The Office.”}  Just kidding.  The perfect example of this, of servant leadership, is Jesus. One of my favorite pictures of his servant leadership is in John 13 when he washes his disciples’ feet. Feet can be pretty disgusting, especially when you’re walking around the desert with sandals on. I went to Israel last year and wore my Chacos basically every day, and let me tell you, my feet got pretty nasty! Normally a servant would wash everyone’s feet when they come into a house, but this time, Jesus, the King of Kings, humbled himself and washed his disciples feet.  Jesus, the true World’s Best Boss, showed how leaders are to serve.

The author here is saying that these leaders need to realize they are not on the top of the totem pole, that in the chain of command, God is at the top and they are to serve him. God is the sovereign King. Because God is the sovereign King, we should serve him.  Verse 11 says to “Serve the Lord with fear.” Fearing God, like wrath, is another thing we don’t often talk about, but all throughout Scripture, we are told to fear God. This fear is not just being scared or afraid of God. It is recognizing his authority and that he is all-powerful and sovereign, and responding with fear, awe, reverence, deep respect. God is so great and so holy and we must remember that. But he isn’t a tyrant or an evil dictator that we are to be afraid of. He is the sovereign, loving, holy, all-powerful, compassionate King. We are to fear God, stand in awe of who he is, and respond to him with reverence and deep respect.   Along with serving the Lord with fear, leaders are also called to celebrate his rule with trembling. These are parallel statements, reinforcing how these earthly leaders, and we, should respond to God’s rule. That fear and awe is combined with celebration and joy. Worship of God is characterized by both awe and joy, fear and celebration. These things are not exclusive, they are complementary. If you truly understand how good God is, your natural response would be worship.  We are not only called to serve God because he is the sovereign King, but because God is the sovereign King, we should fear him. The psalmist here is telling these earthly leaders that they are to recognize that God is King and live and lead in light of that reality—to serve him with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling.

Even though we aren’t kings or queens, or presidents, or governors, we are all leaders, even if you don’t see yourself as a leader. We are leaders in our work places, church, families, friend groups, and whatever other places you find yourself in. This psalm should serve as a warning to us too.  Warnings aren’t necessarily bad, they can be very good things. We are not the boss. We report to a good, sovereign king who is much greater than us, one who we are to serve with fear, with awe and reverence. This is good news! God is the ruler of all things! If we truly believe that, how would that change the way we lead and live? Maybe it would mean bringing your plans, your hopes, your desires before God and seeing what he will do with them, instead of trying to make them happen out of your own power. Or maybe you would experience the freedom of knowing that everything is not dependent on you, or what you do or do not do. The pressure that we so often put on ourselves is not real. There is freedom knowing that God is in charge, he is in control, he is sovereign. We can surrender these areas that are causing so much anxiety and stress in our lives—wondering if you’ll be able to make your next rent payment, worrying about the choices your son or daughter are making, your desire for marriage or for children, or hoping you’ll get that promotion at work, or a part in the musical, or make it on the team. Part of that fear and reverence of God is conceding the need to control our lives. True freedom comes from acknowledging that God is good and sovereign. How would knowing that we serve a good, sovereign king, change the way we lead and live?

We are also told in verse 12 to “kiss his son.” This seems like an odd statement to us. But back then, kissing was a sign of honor and submission. With this call to submission, the psalmist warns the leaders of what will happen if they don’t submit and serve God. “Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment.” Now, this wording is important here. It says YOUR way will lead to YOUR destruction. It does not say, “Kiss his son, or he will be angry with you and he will lead you to destruction.” No, not at all! God knows what is best for humanity, and if they go against his good plan, they will be met with destruction, but it’s their own doing, not God’s. These earthly leaders’ ways are not as good as God’s way. It’s like a parent telling their child not to touch the stove or they’ll get burned. God knows what’s good and he wants to protect his children.

A few weeks ago, we took a group of forty-some students up to the mountains for our fall retreat. Over the weekend, we went through different passages in 1 Corinthians. The first night, Josh talked about 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Verse 6 says, “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” When talking about this verse, he said, “Maybe love is not letting everyone do whatever they want.” This kind of love is tough love, it’s the kind of love that might sting in the moment, it might hurt, it might not be what a person wants, but it is done out of love, knowing what’s best for them in the end. I think that God was showing some tough love to the leaders of the earth here in the form of the warning to serve and submit or else they’ll have to face the consequences. He is addressing those who lead others, those who have influence on others’ lives. So often, we hear stories of people in positions of authority abusing their power, I mean just look at the #MeToo movement the past couple years. Leaders have authority, and God doesn’t want them to abuse their power. Here, we see that God confronts these leaders’ sin, their rebellion, in hopes that they will submit to him and have life, instead of death and destruction.

Now, you may have noticed that there’s one more sentence in verse 12. Psalm 2 concludes with this, “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” That’s a beautiful statement, but where in the world did it come from?! I feel like I get whiplash when I read this psalm. Rebellion, anger, wrath, warning, destruction, more anger, more wrath, blessed are all who take refuge in him. Wait, what? I thought about skipping the rest of the psalm and just preaching on this last sentence. But this sentence is an essential part of this psalm. Blessed are all, ALL, who take refuge in God. This directly contrasts those who rebel against God, who try to lead out of their own power and not serve and submit to God. Those people will have to face God’s wrath and anger. But all who serve God and submit to him will find refuge in him. They’ll find safety, protection, and provision in God. Because God is the sovereign King, we should find refuge in him.

In preparing for this sermon, I spent some time looking through adorable pictures of mama birds caring for their little baby birds. There were so many pictures of these baby birds just resting under their mothers’ wings. Under those wings, they found shelter, protection, warmth, love, and peace. The baby birds trusted their mothers as they rested under their wings. Just like a baby bird, we are to take refuge under God’s wings, we are to rest in his presence.

What would that look like for us? Maybe just spending some time simply sitting in his presence, or reading and meditating on Scripture, or worshiping him with music, going on a walk and enjoying his beautiful creation, or just telling him how we’re feeling. As we take refuge in God, we get to enjoy his presence. The more we sit with God and spend time in his presence, the more we learn from him. Whether it’s a few minutes, or a few hours a day, or once a week, let your time in God’s presence form and shape you. God wants us to spend time with him because he loves us. Imagine if we were a church who took this seriously. If we pursued God’s presence. What if people could just tell that we’ve been with him, by what we say and do, the way we live, the way we love? By living in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus.  We are able to find our refuge in God because he is a good king. We are to fearfully serve the Lord as King and take refuge under his wings.

Last week we looked at Psalm 1. This psalm paints a picture of what it looks to delight in the Lord, in his law–they’ll be like a tree planted by streams of water. Psalm 2 reveals what happens when we choose our own way, and don’t submit to or serve God as king. The result is destruction and wrath. Which one is a picture of where you are today? Are you delighting in the Lord, taking refuge in him? Or are your own boss, trying to be in control? Where are you now? Where do you want to be? It’s your choice.

At the beginning of this year, I was coming out of a pretty rough season. One day, I was in a counseling session, talking about how I felt the need to be perfect in every area of my life, school, work, friendship. Friendship is a big one for me. I felt like I needed to be the perfect friend, which meant always being available, leaving my phone on at night in case anyone needed me, and loving people the best I could all the time, even at the expense of myself and my own needs. Then, my counselor asked, “Do you think someone would love you if you didn’t do anything for them?” To which I said, “No. I don’t know why anyone would love me if I didn’t do anything for them.” I was shocked when I heard those words come out of my mouth. I realized that this wasn’t just true in my friendships, but it was true of my relationship with God as well. Growing up as a pastor’s kid, I felt this pressure to be perfect, to do everything right. After a while though, I started to view God as king and I was his servant. This is true, but I don’t think I viewed God’s kingship as a loving leadership. My job was to serve him, and I did that really well; I was really good at doing things for God. Deep down, I thought that the more I did for him, the more God would love me, but let me tell you, that’s not the way God’s love works. We cannot earn his love. Even though I knew God was good and loving, I wasn’t fully living out of that reality. I didn’t know how to take refuge in God. I didn’t know how to sit in his presence and not DO anything. I struggled to believe that God loves me for who I am, not for what I do, but thankfully this past year, God has been reminding me again and again of that truth. God loves me for who I am and not what I do; and he loves you for who you are, not for what you do. We can take refuge in him, enjoy his presence, simply because he loves us, and we are his children. God is the sovereign King and we are able to trust him with our lives and rest knowing that God has it under control. Remember to both fearfully serve the Lord as King AND take refuge under his wings.  Let’s pray.

God, we praise you this morning for who you are.  God, we thank you that you are in control and that we get to serve a good, loving King.  God, I pray that you would help us this morning to take these truths and not only get them in our head, but God, I pray that you would move them to our hearts; that we would realize that you love us for who we are and not for what we do.  God, I pray that you would help us to rest in your presence this week.  God, help us to pursue you.  God, we love you so much.  In your name we pray.  Amen.