There is a specific response that God demands from us in Scripture. When you hear that someone makes a demand, there is an underlying implication of authority. In our culture, the very mention of the word demand automatically invites skepticism. In our age of anti-authoritarianism, anyone making a demand is likely to face stiff opposition.
However, God is not moved. The Creator makes a series of demands that every creature is obligated to obey:
- God calls all people to acknowledge the greatness of his worth. ““Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11, ESV).
- God calls all people to serve him and sing to him with reverent joy. “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” (Psalm 100:1–2, ESV)
- God calls all people to give thanks to him for who he is and for the good gifts he has given. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” (Psalm 100:4, ESV)
- God calls all people to acknowledge his greatness and his glory. “Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength! Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts! Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!” (Psalm 96:7–9, ESV)
- God calls all people to bow down before him because he is worthy. “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!” (Psalm 95:6, ESV)
- God calls all people to celebrate the kingly reign of Christ and worship him. “All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”” (Psalm 22:7–8, ESV)
God calls people everywhere to do these things. But the sobering reality is this: Not every person acknowledges the greatness of God’s worth. Few people serve him and sing to him with reverent joy. Millions of Muslims pray to Allah five times a day, facing Mecca but they bow before a false god, thus failing to respond rightly to the God of the universe. Others worship nature. Some worship a god of their own making. God calls all people, however, to worship him alone, not some cheap substitute. He calls us to worship him in his appointed way.
God’s command for all people to respond to him with a heart of worship raises questions which are relevant to every human being. What is our response to God? And where do we stand in our relationship to God?
On a recent trip to the former Soviet Union, I was reminded of the reality and ramifications of the danger zone as I had the opportunity to preach in a church near the site of the Chernobyl disaster.
The date was April 26, 1986. An explosion released massive quantities of radioactive particles into the atmosphere, which spread over much of the western USSR and Europe. Radiation will linger in the Chernobyl region for the next 48,000 years, but humans may begin repopulating the area in the next 600 years or so. The area around Chernobyl is a danger zone.
Our journey to the danger zone does not begin in Chernobyl – it begins with resisting God:
“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.”” (Psalm 2:1–6, ESV)
Who is Resisting God?
We find the nations resisting God in Psalm 2:1. This describes the people of the world other than the Hebrews, that is, Gentile people (although it can include Jews). The nations by way of implication imply pagan nations. In the Old Testament, these pagans were described as wicked (Deut. 9:4-5), without understanding (Deut. 32:31), idolators (2 King 17:29), and ruthless (Isa. 25:3) to name a few.
The nations may include kings/rulers or political powers or government that militate against God. The nations may include educational institutions that make removing God a key plank in their curriculum. The nations may include individuals who resist God. These rebels include more than governments, heads of state, educational institutions, and famous authors. They may include business people, housewives, athletes, or students – anyone who refuses to bow the knee to the Lord Jesus Christ.
What is Their Posture?
They rage against God (v. 1). Raging against God implies uncontrollable anger; a vehement desire for passion. People who rage against God stand in open defiance of his authority.
They plot against God (v. 1). A plot is “a plan made in secret by a group of people to do something illegal or harmful.” A plot implies secrecy, scheming, and overthrow. The reason for these subversive actions is found in verses 2 and 3: “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.””
They oppose the LORD and his annointed (v. 2). This proactive rebellion is decisive that is radically set against the Lord. Such raging or plotting is an accurate depiction of the human heart that is set against God (Rom. 3:10ff).
They strive for autonomy (v. 3). Their resolution is simple: “We shall flee from God’s law and live in the freedom of our self-imposed standards.” Matthew Henry adds, “It is a most spiteful and malicious opposition. They rage and fret; they gnash their teeth for vexation at the setting up of Christ’s kingdom.”
So these rebels who resist God rage against him; they plot to overthrow him, and they oppose the LORD and his anointed. Jonathan Edwards captured the essence of this rebellion in his book; Men Naturally Are God’s Enemies. Edwards’ argument is rooted in Romans 5 which states that before we received grace, we were “enemies of God.” The passage describes the condition of sinners: they are without strength; they are ungodly; they are enemies of God (Rom. 5:6, 10).
Notice the following keen observations of Jonathan Edwards:
They are enemies in the natural relish of their souls:
“The natural tendency of the heart of man is to fly from God, and keep at a distance from him, as far off as possible. A natural man is averse to communion with God, and is naturally disinclined to those exercises of religion.”
Their wills are contrary to his will:
“God’s will and theirs are exceedingly cross the one to the other … They are not loyal subjects, but enemies to God … They are enemies to God’s authority.”
They are enemies to God in their affections:
Edwards rightly noted that the hatred sinners have for God often lies unexpressed; secret if you will. But there is “in every natural man a seed of malice against God … wherein the heart is like a viper, hissing and spitting poison at God.” Their hearts, will, in the final analysis be laid bare: “When wicked men come to be cast into hell, then their malice against God will appear. Then their hearts will appear as full of malice, as hell is full of fire … A natural man has a heart like the heart of a devil.”
They are enemies in their practice.
The Puritan divine wastes no time in describing the natural bent of the unregenerate heart:
In their enmity against God, they are exceeding active. They are engaged in war against God … They oppose themselves to his honor and glory: they oppose themselves to the interest of his kingdom in the world: they oppose themselves to the will and command of God … They list under Satan’s banner, and are his willing soldiers in opposing the kingdom of God.
I understand that plunging the depths of the depraved human heart can be unnerving. It shocks us. It rattles us. It may even offend us. But it is important that we see the reality of the situation. This is a full-scale rebellion that resists God’s character, plans, and righteous rule and reign.
So the psalmist asks, “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The Psalmist uses this penetrating rhetorical question to make a point. That is, what is the predictable outcome?
What is the Predictable Outcome?
The predictable outcome is vanity, that which is empty, worthless, or fruitless. That is, the predictable outcome for all who oppose God’s authority is destined to fail. No one has ever successfully resisted the rule and reign of God. Opposing God is always a bad idea. Opposing God will place you squarely in the danger zone!
What Can We Learn From People Who Resist God?
- Are you among those who resist God?
- Do you find yourself raging against God?
- Plotting against God?
- Opposing God?
- Striving to call the shots?
- Are you a law unto yourself?
The critical lesson we learn about people that resist God is this: they lose every time! And each time we rage against him, plot against him, or oppose his righteous rule, we enter the arena of the danger zone. To make matters worse, look at God’s response to the rebels.
RESPONSE TO THE REBELS
A Response Rooted in Authority
This response comes from God. He is the true God who is worthy of our love, allegiance, obedience, and worship:
“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”” (Psalm 2:4–6, ESV).
First, he is seated in the heavens. God is enthroned (v. 4). To be seated means “to be in a particular position or sate; in this case, he is seated in a position of authority.
“Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion! Tell among the peoples his deeds!” (Psalm 9:11, ESV)
“Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.” (Psalm 22:3, ESV)
“The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.” (Psalm 29:10, ESV)
“God will give ear and humble them, he who is enthroned from of old, because they do not change and do not fear God.” (Psalm 55:19, ESV)
“But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations.” (Psalm 102:12, ESV)
“Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord! Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and forevermore! From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised! The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?” (Psalm 113:1–6, ESV)
God laughs at these rebels. To laugh in this context means “to ridicule or scorn.” It means “to hold someone in contempt.” He laughs because he knows the rebels are no match for his power (Isa. 40:12-28).
God holds rebels in derision, which is to mock them or laugh at them in a scornful way. It is utterly unthinkable that the creature should respond to God without anything but devotion, joyful submission, and worship.
Second, he speaks to the rebels (v. 5). He speaks to them in wrath, a Hebrew term that means “to have flared nostrils.” Indeed, this is the New Testament equivalent of wrath (Rev. 6:15-17).
He terrifies his enemies in a fury. Throughout the Scripture, we learn of God’s fierce anger which is expressed against rebels:
“Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the Lord your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you” (2 Chron. 30:8, ESV).
“Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the Lord of hosts in the day of his fierce anger” (Isaiah 13:13, ESV).
God speaks to the rebels in wrath. He terrifies them in a fury. And finally, he says, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill” (v. 6). The Lord Jesus Christ has been installed as the King of the nations and demands unwavering worship!
We enter the danger zone when we resist God’s rightful rule and reign. We enter the danger zone when we live in defiance of God’s sovereign authority. This kind of a bold response leaves sinners in a most vulnerable place. Such 1a response leaves sinners under the almighty wrath of God – the most dangerous place one could ever imagine!
Followers of Christ – I want you to rejoice! I want you to see that at one time, you were separated from God; at one time you were strangers to the covenants of promise; at one time you had no hope and were without God in the world (Eph. 2:11-12). “But now in Christ, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13, ESV). Rejoice that your name is written in the Lamb’s book of life! Rejoice for the work of grace in your life. For you have been forgiven all your sins!
Unbelievers – I want you to reflect. I want you to reflect on where you stand in relation to God. The Word of God has exposed you and left you in a place of vulnerability. The Word of God has revealed that you have raged against God. You have plotted against his kingdom; you have opposed his rightful rule. I want you to reflect on this question, “Where will you end up if you continue to oppose Christ? Where will you be if you die as an enemy of God?”
Jonathan Edwards has important words for the unconverted: “… Without a mighty work of God to change their hearts, they will never get over their enmity against God…” Your only hope out of the danger zone is a work of grace from the merciful hand of God!
We enter the danger zone when we resist God’s rightful rule and reign. We enter the danger zone when we live in defiance of God’s sovereign authority.
 One example would include the former Soviet Union who corporately rejected God by removing him from the culture and dismissing him as an “unnecessary crutch.” As a philosophy, Bolshevik ideology came out of the tradition of Karl Marx and 19th-century materialism, which considered religion to be the “opium of the masses.”
 An example is the philosophy of secularism and her evil step-child, evolution – which by definition is atheistic.
 Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (2004). Concise Oxford English Dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
 Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Ps. 2:1-6). Peabody: Hendrickson.
 The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 2- Edward Hickman, Men Naturally God’s Enemies (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth, 1834), 131.