This week Pastor Carl Santos will be sharing his reflections on Psalm 2 with a message entitled “God Inevitable”.
Carl is senior pastor at Redeemer Church in Niagara Falls and a current D.Min. student at Tyndale. He and his wife Sara are parents of six wonderful and very busy kids. Carl has a passion to know and proclaim the Gospel in a clear, deep, and relevant way, in hopes that if Christ be lifted up, that He will draw all people to Himself.
Well, hello Tyndale. My name is Carl Santos, the pastor at Redeemer Church in Niagara Falls. Glad to be back with you. I've had the privilege of speaking at the Chapel a number of times, and I'm also, of course, an alum of Tyndale. And this morning, or today, we're going to take a look at Psalm two, a Psalm that has had a great impact, and continues to have a great impact, on me. So let's read that first.
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. 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. I will tell the decree. The Lord 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 bash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. Now, therefore, O kings, be wise, be warned o rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord 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 those who take refuge in Him.
Now I remember being a undergrad student in, at the University of Toronto and sitting at Robarts library and reading about Mexican history, which was what I was focused on in my undergrad, before I became a Christian. And I read this myth, this, like most people, the Aztecs were very rich in their mythology, and they had a myth called the myth of Quetzalcoatl. And in it, here's what happens.
Things used to be good in the world of the Aztecs, but then their great king Quetzalcoatl, and their god left them, he went away, and he disappeared to the east. But one day, they said he would return. And when he returned, he would set all things right again. He would bring order and peace and joy back to the Aztecs. And they would know Quetzalcoatl when he returned, because he'd have four distinctives about him. And those distinctives would be first, he would have a beard, which is rare, because remember, the native people and the Indigenous people of North America generally don't grow beards all that readily. So he'd have a big beard. He would be able to point at people and give them new life or death. And he would be shining like the sun, and he would also be wounded. And those are interesting points for a pre-Christian culture, or at least one that hadn't heard the gospel yet. And is it any wonder then, that they fall subject, and eventually are wiped out by the Spaniards, and unfortunately with disease as well, when a man named Hernan Cortez shows up.
You see Hernan Cortez shows up on the shores of Mexico, and when he does, he has a big beard because he's a Conquistador. You know, Spaniard, he has a big beard. He also has a rifle, and muskets. So when he points at people, he can give them life or death. He's also shining like the sun because he has armor. And he's wounded, because the day before in Cuba, he had fallen off his horse, and he was limping. So when the Aztecs see him, they realized that this could be Quetzalcoatl returned, and this of course, as a chain reaction of events that leads to the ultimate destruction of the Aztecs, because they allow this, this enemy into the gates of the city. And I started thinking, even then, before I was a Christian, but now certainly as a Christian, I think about it more. Why is it that every every culture, I know of anyway, seems to have myths like this. These stories that linger in the memory of people, that talk about a time that was good, but then something happened and their King went away. But when that King returns, he'll restore goodness, and peace, and order, and justice. Why is it that we have so many of those stories?
Look at the movies and the books that you adore even today. We have King Arthur, about this once and future king, who will return when England has greatest need of him. We have Robin Hood, where King Richard has gone away to the Crusades, and Prince John has taken over and become evil in England. But one day, Richard returns and he makes it all better again. Or we have the Lion King where Simba goes away, but he comes back and he makes all things better. Or how about the Matrix? Remember that old series of movies, which I think they're making a new one, and you know in that one, it's the same thing. Neo Keanu Reeves is the one, he's the one who's going to come, and, and, and, end the matrix. Harry Potter is the same idea. This young little wizard is going to overcome evil, because he's the only one who can do it. In Lord of the Rings, the final book is actually called Return of the King where this mysterious Ranger from the north comes back, excuse me comes back and he is going to make all things good by dispelling evil from the land. And then of course, we also have the Lego Movie, which has little, you know, security vest or protection vest wearing Emmet, saving the Lego world by being the special one.
You see, humanity is always chasing kings, we're always looking for a saviour. Even if we don't like to admit it, we're chasing them. We believe our politicians will save us or celebrities or scientists or our vaccines, or Jordan Peterson.
We're always trying to put somebody on the throne of our hearts and of our lives. And what we've learned in the modern age, since the Enlightenment, surely, is that if we can find a king outside of us, don't worry, we'll find one inside of us. You will do just fine to be a king of your life. And it's funny to me that we still look for kings, when human kings have been so abysmal. The record has been so terrible. And so this morning, or right now, as we look at this, Psalm 2 speaks so clearly about kings. Psalm 2 tells us, in no uncertain terms, that we have a King. And I think the reason we yearn for a King is because we know there is a King. We have this, this faint reminder, a whisper in us, telling us that there is a King, and that's why we still search for him. And Psalm 2 tells us incredible, but also daunting things, about this King, and that's what we're gonna spend the rest of this time looking at, we're gonna see that this King is presented to us as one who is inevitable, intolerable, and indispensable. Okay, so that's the king we have.
Let's look at inevitable first. In the most recent Avengers movie, the blockbuster movie called the End Game, we have a typical superhero story where superheroes are trying to stop a great villain. And specifically this villains name is Thanos, which is immortal in Greek. And he is, he's got this plan. He realizes the world, and the universe is a mess, and the only way to bring balance back to it, is to destroy half of the life in the universe, because it's simply an issue of overpopulation. Too many. So that's his goal, he's going to destroy half of the universe, and the Avengers, the heroes, set about trying to stop him. And at one point Thanos utters these, these three incredibly fascinating words, he says, "I am inevitable". And what he means is, no matter how many times, times the Avengers tried to stop him, or they even go back in time, and try to stop him from ever rising up to be as powerful as he is, they can't seem to stop it. And that leads Thanos to conclude that he is inevitable. And what he means by that is, he feels and he says, in no uncertain terms throughout the book, or the movie as well, that there's something at work, there's a there's a greater force, there's a destiny, a string puller, that is drawing him to do this thing, that he is an agent chosen, chosen by the fates. And that is not actually all unlike, that unlike, how Canadians think about life. See Canadians, you often hear us say things - skeptic, atheist, Christian, it doesn't really matter - use language of destiny, use language of story and string pullers.
We say things like: I was meant to be a teacher, I was destined to meet my spouse, or to be a stockbroker, or whatever else we are. And we believe, deep down in our core, that we are part of a story. And not just part of a story. It seems to me that we also, not only think we're in a story, but that we are the stars of the story, and everybody else seems to be in a bit part. And we think that way. And what this Psalm does, then, in this situation is, it breaks into us and says, there's only one who is inevitable. And it is the King of Psalm two. And we see this, this outright, claim in the Psalm, when, in first of all in the tone, notice the tone of the Psalm and how confrontational it is, how mocking how derisive, and even rhetorical, the question, "Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain", is a rhetorical question. It's meant to be derisive, to say, Come on. It's inevitable. Why are you resisting? You can't resist this King, who is coming. You can't you can, well you can resist him, but you can't prevent him. He is inevitable. And we know this inevitability is anchored in the Psalm, because look at verses four to six. When it says things like "God sits in Heaven", it doesn't say He's, He might be sitting in Heaven. No, God sits in Heaven right now. That is a fact. You can't prevent it. He says, I have set my King on Zion, meaning not that I will later, I'm not going to do it in response to things going on the world. I've set him there, he's on the throne. And he says to the King as well, "You shall break them with a rod of iron and bash them in pieces like a potter's vessel". Notice the definitive terms it's in. You shall break them with a rod of iron and bash them pieces. It's not you might. You will. And this, this language of the Psalm is difficult for us, because it tells us that God is inevitable. You can't escape Him, it doesn't matter what you do, you must face Him.
And it reminded me of a story of, you know, I live now in in in Niagara Falls region. And the bloodiest battle of the War of 1812 was the battle here in Niagara Falls at the Battle of Lundy's Lane. And it reminded me of the War of 1812. And probably the most iconic battle, the one that might be your most remembered, is the Battle of New Orleans that happened January 8, 1815. And in it, 8000 British soldiers attacked a fort in New Orleans and Andrew Jackson, the famous American, was in charge of the defense, and he repelled the defense, and 2000 Brits were killed. It's a very incredible battle. Of course, the challenge is, that that battle took place two weeks after peace was already signed. You see, on December 24, on Christmas Eve of 1814, the battle had or the Treaty of Ghent was already signed, the news just didn't get to Jackson, and to the forces, the British forces either, in the area, on time. So this battle happens, and it's glorious, but the outcome of the battle was irrelevant, because the loss, or at least well, you call it what we as Canadians will call it a loss for the Americans, was in was entrenched. The peace was signed, it was inevitable that they were going to lose, it didn't matter what Andrew Jackson did. And that is similar to what this Psalm tells us, that our King is inevitable.
You want a King, you have a King, and you can't stop him from coming. But it also leads us to the second part, that tells us that this King is intolerable to us. And that shows up in a number of places, but let me use a story about why He's intolerable. The reason we find this King intolerable is because He dares to tell us that we are wrong. He dares to define truth. He dares to tell us what is good and bad, and we don't like it. And as an example, let me use one I heard before from another pastor. It's the example of what something happened in 1997.
Within a couple of days of each other, I think seven days or six days or something of each other, Mother Teresa and Princess Diana both died. And yet, the media was all a twitter with with with news of Diana's death and her legacy. But Mother Teresa, by and large, got much less publicity. And Carol Gilligan, who's a writer for The New York Times, was, was kind of thinking about why this was. And here's what she had to say, about Diana, why, why Diana got more press. Like Eve, she Diana, had come to know both good and evil, and shared that knowledge. But unlike Eve, she was resisting shame and refusing to hide. In fact, it was a relief to everyone to know, that Diana was not perfect. She was not an angel in the house, she did not sacrifice herself for the sake of her children. Now, what Gilligan goes on to say in her article, is, you know, when you look at Mother Teresa, all you are, is reminded of your own inadequacy. You look at her and you realize, my goodness, I'm not that selfless. I don't care about people that much. And as a result, you, you want to run away from her a little. But Diana, in her all her fallibility and all her brokenness. That's somebody we can relate to. Because we don't like to look at people who make us feel small. We don't like to look at people who remind us of our selfishness, of our inadequacy. And that's what Gilligan had said. And this is what happens with this King of Psalm two. We want to run from, or to destroy anything, that tells us that we aren't the people we think we are. And this King reveals our inadequacy, and we hate Him for it. In fact, nothing unites humanity, in the Bible, in Scripture, and in history, as much as a common hatred for God. We saw it in Genesis 11, the Tower of Babel, and we see it here, when we're told that the world stands together. They consult one another in rebellion. And the conclusion they come to in their consultation is that God is cruel, that a loving God would not make us feel like this. And as a result, we cry out, take these cord, these bonds from off my neck. And those are the bonds and cords that you would put on an ox, or what's referred to in Psalm two. And we think that God restricts us. You see this God, this King that's coming, He is nothing but restriction and and laws. He keeps us from being full people. So take this yoke from off my neck, I don't want it. He challenges our identity, our self identity, our self determinism and we we can't stand it.
So how do we respond? You see, the Psalm tells us that there's really only two responses to a King that is inevitable and intolerable. And the first one is, persist in your rebellion and be crushed. That's what Psalm two verse nine tells us, that He will dash us to pieces. If you persist in your rebellion. That's what will happen. The other option, outside of rebellion is surrender, make peace, kiss the sun. And those are the only two options that this King gives humanity. He comes and He says, persist and be destroyed, or submit and find life. And humans don't like the choices. We want our own choice, of saying, we want to determine what is right, we want to be king. We want to save ourselves, we don't need the King. And that's the challenge there. But then we come to this last point, this idea of indispensable.
This King is indispensable. Now, let me be honest, as a guy who became a Christian, late in life, or in university, reading songs like Psalm two, at least at the time, would have asked, had me asking this question, isn't God just a petulant little child? Doesn't He seem a little bit like an angry toddler. Listen to the language at the end, "Kiss the son lest he be angry and you perish in the way for his wrath is quickly kindled". It sounds, on the surface, that God is just the bully, that He's going to come in, and because He has the power, He's going to force you to submit, or be destroyed. And it can sound very bullying very, very tyrannical, even. But is that what's happening? Is that the image that we get from Psalm two? I don't think so. And I think the answer is a subtle one, but the glory of this wonderful King and why He is indispensable, why there's no other way that we should want or look to for salvation, is because of what we see in a very, in one word, in Psalm two, verse six, and it seems very innocuous. As for me, I've set my King on Zion, my Holy hill. Now, this is an assertive statement of fact, it says that the King is on the throne. But the word set is interesting. I was reading through in Hebrew, and I realized that the word set is used in the English translation, a couple of places here. It's used, for instance, in verse two, and it says the are the kings of the earth set themselves against God. But the different, the word that's used for set in verse two, and the one that's used in verse six are two different Hebrew words. In fact, the one that is used to refer to the King being set on his Holy hill by God, is the word that is used 24 times in the Old Testament, and 20 of those times it is used in the context of pouring out a drink offering. So it's not used in the same sense of, of putting somebody on a throne, you know, installing them, though it sure, surely can be used in that way. It's not generally used in that sense.
And I start to think, why. And some answers came to me when I saw one of the more iconic uses of that word, shows up in Second Samuel 23. And in this famous scene where David is in a battle, and he's yearning, and longing for the, the water from a well, from a particular town, you remember the story. And his soldiers, his men love him so much, they decided to go get him water. So they break through the enemy lines, fetch him some water, and break back in and bring him the skin full of this water from the well he longs to drink from. Now, he then does something very rude, seemingly, he pours out the water, you know, they've just gone a great risk to themselves, and got him water and he throws it out. And it sounds very selfish and self righteous. But what he is doing is, he is saying this. He needed them to know that their well being was more important to him than his comfort. That he chose his friends, but poured out his comfort, so he pours out the water. Now, when we move to the cross, and we see what this King of Psalm two will do with the cross, we see that it gives meaning to Him being poured out. This King being poured out on the Holy hill of Zion on the, on Calvary, because this King didn't come as a warrior king. See He could have come and destroyed, us bashed us to pieces, because that is precisely what our rebellion deserved. But instead, God chooses to say that when he installs his King, he pours Him out on the hill. Like he pours Him out as a drink offering on his Hill. And if we use that language, if we follow what I think is a hint given to us by the Psalmist. Then I think what we see, is that we don't have a bully King. And I think we've made a mistake when we evangelize people by making it sound as though you have to surrender to a conquering warrior. Surely Christ has conquered sin and death. Yes, he will conquer everything. Yes, he is Lord and every knee will bow. However, this sort of King conquers not by heaping up dead bodies, but by pouring out his own life. And that is an element, that if we miss, we come away thinking that God is a bully and a tyrant. But that's not the case. We are asked to submit, not to a bully, but to a King who gave up his comfort and his life for us. And Jesus is indispensable to us, because without this King, there is no way to escape.
And I'll close with the beautiful words of one of my favorite commentators, Derek Kidner, who says, "There is no refuge from the King, only in the King".
Let's pray. Father, thank You for this Psalm. Thank you for the impact on, personally, it's had on my life, and I pray that it is one that you continue to use in the lives of your, of your church, but also powerfully to convert. Lord this, this Psalm presents you as all these things inevitable, intolerable, but also indispensable. God, we, we thank you for that truth. We thank you for the depth of your Word. We thank you for your Spirit, that not just penned these words, but also has maintained them for us over all these years, so that we continue to be comforted by them today. Thank you for that. And I pray for all those listening that they would be encouraged this morning, in your Kingship, Lord and trust once again, that you are our only salvation. God, we ask this in Jesus name. Amen.
Thanks so much Tyndale and have a great day.
— End of transcript —