The Spirit Warns
Psalm 2 begins with David speaking as a prophet, lamenting over the way the world’s rulers scoff at the Lord. It proceeds with the Lord laughing over the feeble attempts of men to frustrate His will. It is then punctuated by a proclamation of Jesus in which He announces His Father’s promise that He, the Son, will one day triumph over all the kingdoms of the world.
The psalm concludes with a warning given by the Holy Spirit:
“Now, therefore, O kings, show discernment;
Take warning, O judges of the earth.
Serve the Lord with reverence,
And rejoice with trembling.
Do homage to the Son, lest He become angry,
and you perish in the way,
For His wrath may soon be kindled” (Psalm 2:10-12a)
The Spirit’s warning is addressed to the kings and judges of the earth. It is a solemn call for the political leaders of the world to clean up their acts and submit themselves and their nations to the Lord’s will before He bursts from the heavens in wrath.
Unfortunately, this stern warning seems forever to fall on deaf ears and hardened hearts. The warning was spoken 3,000 years ago, and power grubbing and political corruption continue unabated to this day. The world’s political leaders continue to thumb their noses at God and mock His Anointed One.
But a “day of reckoning” (Isaiah 2:12) is fast approaching, and what a day it will be! The book of Revelation says that on that day “the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong…” will hide themselves in caves and will cry out to the rocks of the mountains: “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” (Revelation 6:15-16).
The Lord has delayed the outpouring of His wrath because He does not desire that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). But there is a limit to the Lord’s patience, and while He waits, “He reserves wrath for His enemies” (Nahum 1:2). The Lord may be slow to anger, but “He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished” (Nahum 1:3).
But the political leaders of the world are not the only audience for the Spirit’s warning. The warning is also aimed at the redeemed, for — as I have already pointed out — we will one day serve as the kings and judges of this world. So, let the redeemed take notice of what we are called to do as we await the Lord’s return.
A Call to Worship
First, we are called to “worship the Lord with reverence” (Psalm 2:11). The actual Hebrew word here is “serve” rather than “worship.” But I like the use of the term “worship” because it emphasizes that our ultimate worship of the Lord is expressed in how we serve Him.
We so often think of worship only in terms of what we do when we come together corporately as a congregation of believers. Don’t get me wrong — corporate worship is extremely important. We were created to worship God (Deuteronomy 6:13), and God actively seeks people who are worshiping Him in spirit and truth (John 4:23).
But the ultimate worship is expressed in what we do when we leave the congregation and return to the world. Do those who come in contact with us recognize that we have been in the presence of the Lord? Do we return from worship “to bless our household,” as was the case in King David’s life? (2 Samuel 6:20)
Do you have a passion to worship God? Do you desire to celebrate Him for who He is and what He has done? And do you desire to express that worship not only with the praise of your lips but with the labor of your body and the money you have earned?
One other thing — Do you understand that one day soon You will stand before the Lord and be judged of your works?
A Call to an Unusual Form of Rejoicing
The future judgment which we face for our works is the reason that the Spirit expresses His next command in such an unusual way. He calls us to “rejoice with trembling” (Psalm 2:11).
Have you ever thought about what a strange command this is? A person normally rejoices with laughter, dancing, singing, or hand-clapping. How does one rejoice with trembling?
I think the command relates to the tension that exists in the Scriptures between grace and works. We are saved by grace, and we should rejoice over that and over the completion of our salvation (the glorification of our bodies) that we will enjoy when the Lord returns. But at the same time, we should tremble over the prospect of standing before Jesus to have our works judged.
There is both good news and bad news about the Lord’s forthcoming judgment of the redeemed. The good news is so good that many Christians find it hard to believe, but it is true nonetheless. The incredible, good news is that the redeemed will not be judged of their sins to determine whether they will spend eternity in heaven or hell.
The reason, of course, is that we have already been judged of our sins. That judgment took place at the Cross when all our sins — past, present, and future — were placed on Jesus, and He received the wrath which we deserve.
That’s why the Bible teaches that if you are covered by the blood of Jesus, your sins have been forgiven and forgotten (Isaiah 43:25 and Hebrews 8:12). They have been removed from the presence of the Lord “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12-13). As Corrie ten Boom used to say, “The Lord has placed our sins in the deepest part of the ocean, and He has put up a sign that says, ‘No Fishing!'” (See Micah 7:19.)
What does it mean for the Lord to “forget” our sins? It means they will never be held against the redeemed again with regard to the determination of their eternal destiny. That’s why the writer of Hebrews could confidently assert that when Jesus appears a second time, He will come “for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him” (Hebrews 9:28).
So, if our sins have been forgotten, what will be the nature of our judgment when we, the redeemed, stand before the Lord? This brings us to the bad news that should cause us to tremble. We are going to be judged of our works, not to determine our eternal destiny, but to determine our degrees of reward. And in regard to our works, our shortcomings and failures will be remembered.
This news comes as a great shock to most Christians, for most seem unaware that their works have any significance, and others do not realize that there will be degrees of reward.
Degrees of Reward
The concept of degrees of reward is clearly spelled out in the Scriptures. In 1 Corinthians 3:8, Paul says, “Each will receive his own reward according to his labor.” He then says that our works will be tested by the Lord to determine their quality (1 Corinthians 3:13). He indicates that some will, in effect, be saved with their tail feathers smoking! This is because their works will not stand the test of the Lord’s “fire” (His judgment). He thus concludes, “If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:15).
Some of the last words Jesus spoke on this earth had to do with degrees of reward. Those words are recorded in Revelation 22:12 — “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.”
The Judgment of Works
How will the Lord judge our works? What criteria will He use?
I believe the starting point will be the gifts of the Spirit which we received when we were born again. The Word teaches that at the moment of salvation, every redeemed person receives at least one gift of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:7 and 1 Peter 4:10). Some receive more than one gift, and some may receive additional gifts as they develop in the Lord, particularly if they are good stewards of their initial gifts (Matthew 25:14-30).
I believe the Lord will ask each one of us how we used the gifts He gave us for the advancement of His kingdom. And then I believe He will test our works in terms of quantity, quality, and motive.
What about you? Do you know what gifts you have been given by the Spirit? Are you using them to advance the kingdom? And are your motives pure? Are you serving the Lord in the power of His Spirit for the purpose of His glory?
A Call to Commitment
As we await the Lord’s return, we are to “worship the Lord with reverence,” and we are to “rejoice with trembling.” The third thing the Spirit calls us to do is to “do homage to the Son” (Psalm 2:12).
What the Hebrew actually says here is very clear but is seldom literally translated because it sounds so strange. Literally, the Hebrew words say “Kiss the Son.”
For years I wondered what those words meant. I consulted commentaries and found a lot of conjecture, but none of the answers seemed to click in my spirit. So, I continued to pray that the Lord would show me the true meaning of the words.
One day, as I was reading the book of Hosea, the Spirit suddenly impressed a verse upon my heart that gave me the answer I had been seeking. The verse is found in chapter 13.
As this chapter begins, Hosea has just completed his preaching tour of Israel, in which he calls the people to repent of their idolatry. To his horror, when he arrives back home, he finds a neighbor bowing down before a silver calf, and he cries out, “Men kiss calves!” (Hosea 13:2)
When I read those words, the Spirit witnessed to my spirit. I immediately thought of the words of the psalmist: “Kiss the Son!” Suddenly, this strange statement made complete sense to me.
You see, if Hosea were alive today and could preach to us about America, I think he would say, “I have traveled all over your land to seek its spiritual temperament, and I say to you, everywhere I go, I find men kissing calves!”
Except, I suspect he would put it in modern English: “Everywhere I go in this land, I find men kissing CD’s in the bank, chrome-plated automobiles, and audacious houses. I see men in love with money, power, and fame. I say to you, take all that the world has to offer, set it aside in a junk pile, and put God first in your lives. Fall in love with Jesus!”
That’s what it means to “Kiss the Son”! It is a call to commit your life to Jesus by falling in love with Him and putting Him first in your life — above career and family. It’s a call to make Him the Lord of everything in your life — your family and job, your hopes and dreams, your thoughts and words, your music, reading material, food, drink, recreation — everything!
By making Him your refuge, you will be delivered from the wrath that is to come (Romans 5:9 and 1 Thessalonians 5:9), and you will come to know the full meaning of the last line of Psalm 2: “How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!”
God is on His throne. He is in control. Three thousand years ago, He promised Mankind that His Son will triumph in history. He is currently working out that purpose in history.
God has the wisdom and the power to orchestrate all the evil of Man to the victory of Jesus. The world may appear to be out of control, but what we are experiencing are the death throes of a worn-out world and the birth pangs of a new one.
End-time events may be fearful in nature. But believers can find peace and comfort in the assurance of Psalm 2 that Satan will be defeated and Jesus will triumph as King of kings and Lord of lords.
The signs of the times tell us that Jesus is at the very gates of Heaven, ready to return any moment to take His church out of this world. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Live with an eternal perspective. Rest in the confidence that while evil men scheme and Satan plots, God sits on His throne in Heaven and laughs.