Christianity 201

February 22, 2013

The Second Psalm

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:52 pm
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Psalm 2

New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)

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.
“Let us break their chains,” they say,
    “and throw off their fetters.”

The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
    the Lord scoffs at them.
Then he rebukes them in his anger
    and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
“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 become your Father.
Ask of me,
    and I will make the nations your inheritance,
    the ends of the earth your possession.
You will rule them with an iron scepter;
    you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;
    be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear
    and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry
    and you be destroyed in your way,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
    Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Spoiler alert: This is from the final pages of Eugene Peterson’s The Jesus Way.

…Psalm 2… is a favorite psalm of new Testament writers.  It is quoted or alluded to nine times…  It shares honors with Psalm 110 as the most quoted psalm in the new Testament.  The contrast with our times is significant.  What are our favorite psalms?  What psalms have we memorized?  Psalm 23 tops the chart.  Psalms 1 and 100 and 121 are runners-up.  But Psalm 2?

Psalm 2 provides a text-prayer for personally realizing and internalizing, feeling in our gut and in our muscles, the unbridgeable abyss fixed between the ways of this world – its Herod and Caiaphas and Josephus ways, and also the counter ways pursued by the Pharisee and Essene and Zealot sects – and the Strong God and his Messiah:  “Don’t you know there’s a King in Zion?”  (Ps. 2:5, The Message)

The first generation of Christians took Jesus at his word when he announced that his kingdom was at hand – a real (not ideal) kingdom with a real king, King Jesus.  The words and sentences of Psalm 2 dismissed the pretensions of all these other ways and let Christ the King permeate their preaching and prayers and following.  They followed the resurrected Jesus with an air of triumph and praise. The gospel was not something private that they cultivated in the cozy security of their homes and hearts; it was public, the most powerful force in human history, shaping the destiny of nations as well as the souls of men and women.

The context for these remarks is his contention that the prayer of Acts 4:24-30 originated “out of long meditation and much praying of Psalm 2…”  In Peterson’s own words (as he translates The Message from the original language) the prayer reads:

One Heart, One Mind

Acts 23-26 …“Strong God, you made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. By the Holy Spirit you spoke through the mouth of your servant and our father, David:

Why the big noise, nations?
Why the mean plots, peoples?
Earth’s leaders push for position,
Potentates meet for summit talks,
The God-deniers, the Messiah-defiers!

27-28 “For in fact they did meet—Herod and Pontius Pilate with nations and peoples, even Israel itself!—met in this very city to plot against your holy Son Jesus, the One you made Messiah, to carry out the plans you long ago set in motion.

29-30 “And now they’re at it again! Take care of their threats and give your servants fearless confidence in preaching your Message, as you stretch out your hand to us in healings and miracles and wonders done in the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

In The Jesus Way, Peterson continues:

And there is this:  the prayer is Trinitarian.  It is addressed to God the Creator: “Strong God, you made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them” (Acts 4:24).  It uses as its text the inspired words of David that God spoke “by the Holy Spirit” (v. 25); and all the action is entered in “your holy Son, Jesus… messiah”(v. 27).

A unique thing was taking place in the Christian church as our early ancestors were saying and praying what they believed — a formulation of God as Holy Trinity. This prayer was laying the groundwork for that formulation. Two thousand years later Trinity continues to serve as both the most succinct and the most comprehensive way to maintain our bearings as we follow Jesus and stay alert to the uniqueness of what it means to follow him in a world that is dominated by the power and popular…

By insisting that God is three-personed — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; God-in-community — we are given an understanding of God that is emphatically personal. The only way he reveals himself or works among us is personally. God is personal under the personal designations of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and never in any other way. Never impersonally as Force or Influence. Never impersonally as Idea or Cause.

It is the easiest thing in the world for us to use words as a kind of abstract truth or principle, to distribute the good news in tabloids of information. Trinity prevents us from doing this. We can never get away with depersonalizing either the gospel or God to make things easier, simpler, or more convenient.

And Trinity is a perpetual reminder that the only way we can follow in the way of Jesus is by being personal participants — not just by thinking right thoughts or carrying out assigned tasks, but prayerfully and believingly involved in the very lives with whom, name by name, face by face, God is involved.

For those of you who enjoy Peterson’s writings, a new book, Practice Resurrection, is now available in paperback from Eerdmans.  To read another excerpt from The Jesus Way, click here.

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