Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sermon -- Advent Vespers -- 3rd week (December 18, 2013)

PSALM 2:1-12
Foretold As King.
In the name + of Jesus.

      Americans are not good at having respect for any kind of king.  Based on our history with the British crown, we understand why.  But history is not very familiar with democracies.  History remembers kings—whether good or bad, whether benevolent or tyrannical, whether peace-loving or blood-thirsty.  But no matter what kind of king ruled, he always demanded the obedience of his subjects.  No king tolerated any act of rebellion, real or perceived.  No king could afford to.  In order to rule over his country and territories, the king’s authority had to be absolute.
    When Esther had been made queen of Xerxes, king of the Persians, she was urged to go to the king and plead for the deliverance of Israel.  But she protested, “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live.” (Esther 4:11)  Such an unannounced visit was tantamount to an assassination plot, even for the queen.  You might call that paranoia.  The king would call it preservation.  King Xerxes was not interested in good PR; he wanted humble submission.  And he would destroy any who would not give it to him.
     While a king may not have had any rivals in his own dominion, he certainly would have had opponents in other kingdoms.  There is no exception to that, even when the king is the Lord.  Listen to our 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 the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” (Psalm 2:1-3) 
     But who are these kings and rulers?  It is any who oppose our Lord, his reign, and his word.  This rebellion goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden where Satan lured Adam and Eve into rebellion against the Lord.  Why would anyone be foolish enough to rebel against God Almighty?  Satan declared, “God knows that when you eat of (the fruit) your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God….” (Genesis 3:5)  Adam and Eve believed the lie, and so do all of their offspring.  You, too, challenge God, wanting to be the gods, kings, and queens of your world.  You are annoyed by those who make you wait, who get in your way, who talk back to you, or who mock your opinions.  You want to see them subject themselves to you.  And if they will not be submissive, you want them swept out of the way.  You envy kings like Xerxes who could destroy his opponents and enforce his will. 
     While it is bad enough that you think of others this way, you also challenge God in this way.  You ignore the commands which forbid your sins, and you despise the Lord when he holds you accountable.  You even think that you can cast off the bonds of God’s word, as if he is a rival to be challenged and beaten.  So foolish is the sinful heart!  So arrogant!  And so wrong!
     The Lord responds to the rebels.  He who sits in the heavens laughs…. (Psalm 2:4)  The Lord actually finds it comical that man thinks he can go toe-to-toe with God.  And why wouldn’t he?  It’s like watching a toddler throw a tantrum at his father, thinking that he can beat him up.  The father just lets the toddler push and punch away, knowing that he will finally pick up his child and carry him wherever he wants to take him.  And while God finds a comical element in it, he is not amused.  Nor will you be when his patience gives out. 
     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.” (Psalm 2:4-6)  The Lord’s throne is not open to competitors.  The Lord’s Anointed reigns, and he always will.  There are no rivals.  Though the Lord mocks those who think they can attack or escape him, derision will quickly become destruction and damnation.  The Lord said to me, “You are my Son….  You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.” (Psalm 2:7,9)
     But now you, dear Christian, have already been broken by the King.  He destroys your sinful arrogance and your foolish pride.  He brings you to repent of your sin, and to sorrow over your rebellion.  Even when you do not understand why the King acts as he does, he has led you to recognize that he is right.
     But now this holy King does what no other king does.  He does not leave you in terror, but shelters you in his mercy.  He provides a refuge for you from destruction and damnation.  He has established terms of peace for you, even though you were rebellious.  The King, the Lord’s Anointed, did not let you be consumed by the foes which had claimed you—sin, death, and the devil.  Instead, your King went out to fight for you, to conquer your foes, and to win you from them.  And unlike other kings who send their subjects to die in battle for their glory, your King, Jesus, went into battle by himself.  He fought alone.  And he won his victory by willingly laying down his life for you.  He let the enemy have its way with him.  And so sin condemned him.  Death claimed him as a casualty.  And the devil reasoned that the death of Jesus meant the condemnation of the world.  In fact, the devil was half right.  The death of Jesus DID mean the condemnation of the world.  For, Jesus was condemned on behalf of the world.  He died for the sins of the world.  He died for you. 
     But the one enthroned in heaven had the last laugh.  Jesus rose from the dead.  He is the victor.  Jesus destroyed the power of the devil.  He has no claim on you, for Jesus has rescued you.  He is the victor.  Jesus has granted you a full pardon for all of your sins.  That is his royal decree upon you, no matter how much you may have rebelled in the past.  No matter how feeble your efforts of obedience are even now.  This is a gracious King who is known for his mercy and compassion.  He knows that you are weak.  He knows that you are only dust.  Therefore, he treats you tenderly and continues to declare his peace upon you.
     The Lord’s Anointed is your refuge.  He is the one who protects you from death and the devil.  He keeps you in his care.  The Christ has established his throne.  His judgments and his decrees stand firm, no matter who would dare to rage against him.  Jesus lives, and that is for your benefit.  Jesus reigns.  His kingdom will not be shaken, and he shall reign forever and ever. 

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.