Reaching into the Psalms 1 to 4: 5. God’s Anger
Psa 2:4,5 The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath
Approach: We noted previously the structure of this psalm, as four sets of three verses in our Bible:
v.1-3 The rebellion of the World
v.4-6 God’s sovereign response
v.7-9 His answer – His Son
v.10-12 Warning to the World
We further noted that this Psalm is all about God. In v.1-3 it is about the rebellion against God, v.4-6 are God’s attitude towards this rebellion, v.7-9 are God’s answer to this rebellion, and v.10-12 are about having a right attitude in respect of God. Yesterday we considered the rebellion spoken about in v.1-3 so now let’s move on to see the first Part of God’s twofold Response.
Context: Before we get into these next three verses, it is important to remember that they are direct responses to what is going on in the first three verses, they are God’s specific responses to conspiring nations, people plotting (v.1), arrogant kings and rulers rising up specifically against God, banding together in their ungodly rebellion (v.2) and badly misrepresenting God (v.3), these are not responses to the ordinary God-seeking sinner. The context is important, and it is important that we understand also what is not in it.
Laughter: “The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.” (v.4) Psa 37:13 has, “the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming.” We laugh at a funny situation. Really and truly this is a funny situation. Here is Almighty God, the all-powerful creator of the universe, the One who has only got to utter four words such as “Let there be light,” (Gen 1:3) and instantly we see, “and there was light,” the One who can bring death to thousands in an instant, this is Almighty God who fills all of Creation and He is being taunted by silly little humans who have only been in existence for decades, who have probably only held power for years, like a bunch of powerless little children pretending to be something they are not.
Our Deception: How foolish we members of the human race so often are, because we allow ourselves to be deceived by four things: first, by God’s grace that holds back His hand so that He allows mankind to ruin amok, second, in our lives, years and decades seem so long and so we think we are getting away with our folly because time passes and God appears to be doing nothing and, third, our vision is so limited we cannot see the invisible hand of God moving behind the scenes, so to speak, working to bring change, bring correction, and end our folly, and fourth, we fail to remember that our lives are finite and one day they will end here on earth and then will come a time of accounting. No wonder heaven laughs at our antics.
Anger and wrath? “He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath.” (v.5) Some versions insert the word, ‘then’, before this verse which would imply an order: first He laughs but then He allows His emotions to change to take in the fully reality of the stupidity of this scene, for it is truly stupid and it is only the blindness of Sin, that we allow to persist in our lives, that enables us to act in such stupid ways. Now our problem here is that we associate anger in the human context with emotion running out of control, but divine anger is an appropriate and just response to what is wrong, what runs contrary to the wonderful design of God as He originally made the world, what is the expression of sinful mankind. If we see injustice and are unmoved by it, that simply reveals our blindness to reality, our inability to see the world as it should be and as it now is and be moved by that.
A Complementary Example: I find that when I see examples of real goodness on TV, I am moved to tears. In a worship service we listened to the worship song, “I can only imagine” with the words, “I can only imagine what it will be like, when I walk by your side. I can only imagine what my eyes will see, when your face is before me, I can only imagine.” As we sat with eyes closed just taking it in, I found myself with a picture of Jesus face, conveying utter goodness, and I found tears running again. It is natural, it is appropriate to have such responses.
Controlled Anger: And so God’s anger is the natural, appropriate and just response to evil, to wrong behaviour of silly, foolish despots who have lost all perspective (or perhaps have never had it) so they are moved to foolish words, foolish behaviour, behaviour that is not merely foolish but pure evil. In the face of the wonder of the perfect world that God created, this is terrible, this is awful, this is horrible and it should evoke within us anger, and the more we reflect on it a strong desire to cry out to God to do something (and of course He has and is), and linked in with all this is ‘wrath’. Wrath is not a word we usually come across, but it simply means extreme anger, very great anger, anger that evokes action. We can be angry, and it can be purely passive, it can remain emotion that goes nowhere, but then if it is godly anger it will lead somewhere, it will lead to action, but it probably has to build up such a head of steam before action can come that it needs to be called ‘wrath’.
God Speaks: Now there is something significant about godly anger that we should note here. It is not the anger itself which is frightening so much as what comes out of the anger. Because the Lord is angry with these foolish human beings who should know better, (and because He is God He sees the full extent of this folly which brings pain and injustice to His world, and that ‘full extent’ means He sees the ‘total’ extent of it, and it is that which builds this anger from mere emotion to full blown wrath that demands actions of Him) He does something: He speaks. It is as simple as that. “He rebukes them.” That involves speaking and in fact the verses ends with the word, ‘saying’ which leads on into the next verse, “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” (v.6) THAT is what terrifies them and to understand that we will need to move into the next study.