How America Can Survive–Psalm 2

Do you ever worry about America? A few decades ago America was the world’s only true superpower. We were far ahead of our closest competitor for military strength and technological superiority. But times have changed.

Today Russia and China have weapons that are superior to ours. North Korea also makes use of this technology. China’s navy surpasses our navy in terms of the number of its ships. China’s army is far larger than ours.

How can America survive? Well, the Bible’s answer to that question lets us know how America can survive. We must rely on God and God’s power. The Bible records this statement from God in Zechariah 4: : ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts. Psalm 2 endorses the same solution.

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.”

People have this shortsighted habit of thinking they are in charge. Leaders especially personify this shortsightedness. They boast and shout and threaten others. They actually think their posturing makes a difference. But it’s all noise. They think they are in control but control is only an illusion.

God is in charge and, at times, He reminds us of this fact. For example, God controls politics. Consider this one example.

God Is Sovereign Over Politics

“We will bury you!,” Nikita Khrushchev boasted. This Soviet First Secretary shouted this alarming statement on November 18, 1956, while he was attending a reception for Western ambassadors at the Polish embassy in Moscow. The phrase appeared the next day in the leading newspapers in America.

Khrushchev was known for making extreme statements. He also predicted that religion would be extinct in Russia by the year 1965.

Nikita Khrushchev

Although Western newspapers were impressed by Khrushchev’s audacity, God, apparently, was not. In 1964, Khrushchev was removed from power and replaced by Leonid Brezhnev. This took place one year before the year of Khrushchev’s failed prophecy concerning Christianity.

Khrushchev died of a heart attack in Moscow on 11 September 1971, at the age of 77.  He was denied both a state funeral and interment in the Kremlin Wall. Although Khrushchev may have ranted and raved, God has the final word. Khrushchev is “kaput.”

God is sovereign over politics. However, can we really say God destroyed Khrushchev’s credibility as a prophet? Actually, we do not know what role God played in Khrushchev’s fall from power. However, we can believe one fact about Khrushchev’s fall: Khrushchev was not in control.

God Is Sovereign Over the Nations 

Does God take direct action in the affairs of nations? You bet He does! Let’s consider an example from the Bible. The example is the victory of Judah over the Assyrian King Sennacherib at the walls of Jerusalem (see II Kings 18: 13 to 19: 37 also II Chronicles 32: 1-21 and Isaiah 36: 1 to 37: 38).

What do we know about Assyria? Archaeology contends that evidence for this group of people indicates their existence as far back as the 25th Century B.C. They lived in the middle area of the Tigris River. Today this area is primarily the northern half of Iraq.

As with several other people-groups in this area, Assyria passed through several cycles of empire building and decline. Our historical example took place during the Neo-Assyrian Empire which lasted from 911 B.C. to 609 B.C. During an expansion phase of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, the Assyrians destroyed the northern Kingdom of Israel. Israel’s capital, Samaria, ceased to exist in 722 B.C.

The affair at Jerusalem took place during the Levantine War of 701 B.C. After establishing his hold on the throne, King Sennacherib of Assyria (705-681 B.C.) turned his attention to the southern Levant, including the Kingdom of Judah under King Hezekiah.

So, what happened? In 701 B.C. the Assyrian army invaded Judah. They besieged Jerusalem. The Assyrian leaders told Hezekiah that his best course of action was to surrender. Hezekiah sought counsel from Isaiah the prophet. After seeking God’s guidance, Isaiah returned to Hezekiah with this message from God.

“Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it.  By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the LORD.  For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.” (II Kings 19: 32-34 (ESV)

The Bible says on that very night an angel of the Lord struck down 185,000 men in the camp of the Assyrian army. The Assyrians were forced to withdraw. They never invaded the Kingdom of Judah again.

What’s the deal? Who’s in charge on the battlefield? Psalm 2: 7-9 continues with a surprising answer.

I will tell of 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 dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

God is in charge on the battlefield. God also is in charge in political back room deals today.

What’s the Answer?

OK, then, what’s the answer? Have you ever been part of an argument or a disagreement or a fight? What is the first decision you want to make before the fighting begins? You want to be on the winning side, don’t you? And who probably will win? The side with the best, strongest, smartest leaders most likely will come out on top.

Of course, the best, strongest, and smartest leader is God. With God at your side, how can you possibly lose? But how can you get God to support you? How can you get God on your side?

First, you must realize that God does not come over to your side. He is totally sovereign. You come over to Him. You submit to God. The Psalmist tells us this in Psalm 2: 10-12:

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 who take refuge in him.

The answer is that we must submit to God.

How Can We Submit to God?

Knowing that God is sovereign, what actions should we take to submit to God? How can we insure America’s survival? Let’s consider the words of God that are quoted in II Chronicles 7: 13-14

When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (ESV)

If we want God’s favor, we must get right with God. This Bible verse is not aimed at non-Christians. God is speaking to us, that is, to born again Christians. What is God telling us? God wants us to stop playing church games and holier-than-thou games. Also we must act toward our neighbor as Jesus tells us to act. We must stop lying and cheating others. We must put God in first place in our lives–even above football.

Psalm 2 tells us how America can survive. Christians must turn theirs hearts totally toward God. Will America survive? Christian, that depends on you.

Discipline by a Loving Father–Hebrews 12: 5-6

Did you ever hear someone say, “God disciplines those He loves?” Really. God disciplines me out of love? Where does someone get such a strange idea? Probably from Hebrews 12: 5-11.

When I think of God’s discipline, I think of the loving discipline a father gives to his child. Remember when you were a child. Did your father discipline you? One of the responsibilities of a father is to teach his child self-discipline. To this end the father gives his child chores to do, such as mow the yard or wash the dishes after supper.

If the child does not obey, the father must take harsher measures to teach his child self-discipline. For example, he might send his child to his bedroom or make him sit in the corner of a room with his face to the walls. Continued disobedience may result in stricter measures to teach the child discipline.

Does the father want to teach the child to be cruel? Absolutely not. Such lessons in discipline help prepare the child to live as an adult. Responsible adults need self-discipline for regularly perform essential “grown-up” responsibilities, such as getting a job and going to work, paying taxes, and honoring commitments. Lessons in self-discipline are an essential part of life as an adult.

What About Godly Discipline?

What does this have to do with godly discipline? First, please understand that God uses discipline to help you grow. God wants you to grow and mature to the place where you are conformed to the image of His son (see Romans 8: 29 and II Corinthians 3: 18). Discipline helps move us toward that goal.

Second, God’s actions as a Father do not compare to the actions of an earthly father. Some people grew up and never even met their father. Others had fathers who were abusive or cruel. And some of us had fathers who were kind and intelligent and self-sacrificing. They wanted their children to have the best father possible. This last example of a father faintly mirrors God’s kind of fathering. But God is perfect love. Love is the key to His fatherhood. Love also is the key to understanding Hebrews 12: 5-6:

And you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,
            “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
            For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom he receives.” (NASB 1995)

Hebrews 12: 5-6 helps us understand God’s loving discipline. How do these Bible verses do that?

Four Greek words

These two verses use four words describing discipline: discipline and reproved (in verse 5) and disciplines and scourges (in verse 6). Let’s look more closely at these words in the Greek.

  • discipline (noun) — Greek paideias (παιδείας) — properly, instruction that trains someone to reach full development (maturity)(taken from the Discovery Bible’s Word Study HELPS)
  • reproved — Greek elenchomenos (ἐλεγχόμενος) — properly, to convince with solid, compelling evidence, especially to expose (prove wrong, correct) (from Discovery Bible’s HELPS)
  • discipline (verb) — Greek paideuo (παιδεύω) —  to train children, to chasten, correct (Strong); paideúō (“to instruct by training“) is the root of the English terms, “pedagoguepedagogy.”
  • scourges — Greek mastigoi (μαστιγοῖ) — properly, to whip (scourge) with a mastigos; to “flog (scourge) a victim, strapped to a pole or frame” (from Discovery Bible’s HELPS).

Notice that the positioning of these words indicates a progression of godly discipline. First, God uses training to improve our ability to obey and to follow Jesus. If we resist or ignore godly training, God tries to correct our behavior by reasoning with us. Following the failure of correction through convincing arguments, God must chasten us, that is, He must use mild punishment to correct. If this fails, God must resort to punishment that is not mild.

Sadly, the last two categories of discipline (chastening and punishing) causes some people to question God’s goodness and love.

Discipline With Love

Does God discipline with love? Let’s consider some additional thoughts from Hebrews 12.

A Father’s Close, Personal Presence During Discipline

Let’s look again at the opening phrase from Hebrews 12: 5: “And you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons.”

The writer of Hebrews used a special Greek word “parakleseos” (παρακλήσεως) for the English word “exhortation.” The Greek words means “a calling to one’s aid for encouragement, comfort, exhortation, or comfort (Strong’s Concordance).

Another form of this word is “parakletos” (παράκλητος). English Bibles translate this word as Comforter or Counselor. Jesus speaks this word when He tells His disciples about the Holy Spirit in John, chapters 14, 15, and 16.

There is one important aspect of “parakletos” that deserves special mention. The word describes a counselor or comforter who stays very close to the person he is helping. In other words, “parakletos,” in this context, refers to God as a heavenly Father Who remains very close to His child during discipline. Our God never leaves us or forsakes us, even during discipline.

Reasons for a Father’s Discipline

Hebrews 12: 7-11 further explains the important similarities between a father’s discipline and God’s discipline.

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (ESV)

Four similarities between a father’s discipline and God’s discipline:

  1. Fatherly discipline confirms the relationship between father and son. Godly discipline also validates your relationship as a child of God.
  2. Children respect their father when he rightly disciplines them.
  3. God disciplines us for our own good that we may share His holiness.
  4. Discipline “yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

Discipline With Love

Why does God discipline His children? Because He loves us. Believe this if you can because it is the truth.