Inauguration Day: A Sermon based on Psalm 2
This Psalm originally functioned, as a coronation Psalm for ancient Israel. When a king was being installed, this Psalm would be read or performed during the coronation service. The idea was that this Psalm would remind the Davidic King of his calling to represent God’s rule on earth, by reigning with the justice and righteousness required by Torah. Psalm 1 and 2 function in similar ways. Psalm 1 outlined the two paths for individuals, the path of righteousness and wickedness, Psalm 2 outlines the two paths for kings and nations: the path of righteousness, or the path of wickedness. On the day of coronation, this Psalm was meant to call the king of Israel to walk the path of righteousness and justice.
As I reflected on this Palm, I began thinking of other coronation services and inauguration speeches. I started thinking about the sermon that President Trump heard at his inauguration. I remember being surprised when the minister likened Trump to Nehemiah, saying that it was God’s will to build walls. I began wondering what I might say if the impossible happened and, due to some ridiculous administrative error, I was slotted to speak at the inauguration of a national leader. I thought that this might be a particularly appropriate exercise on the day after our nation’s 150th birthday. So, what follows is going to be my inauguration speech or sermon. It isn’t necessarily written for Trudeau, but rather, any person who’s found themselves in the position of leading our nation. Perhaps you want to imagine yourself sitting in the Prime Minister’s seat as you hear this. Imagine we’re at Parliament Hill, we’re all in suits and ballgowns, I’d have gotten a haircut, and the rest of Parliament is here with us. By the way, I’m not sure if this sort of scenario would or does ever happen, but if it did, this is what I would say if no one edited my speech.
Right, honourable Prime Minister of Canada. Today is a historic day. On the morning of our nations 150th birthday, the sun is rising on the dawn of your leadership. We know, of course, the one who commands the Sun to rise, is the one who empowers rulers to rise to their office. As the Apostle said to the Romans, “there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God.” Such was true for Caesar of Rome, and this is no less true today. All authority is derived from God, including the authority enjoyed by our esteemed Prime Minister of the Sovereign Nation of Canada. This Psalm sets out two roads before us today. One road leads to destruction for the nation and its leader, the other leads to life. Of course, our nation has many roads, and many sights to see on those roads. And as we travel those roads together, our national choices become apparent. If we got up from here and traveled down Sussex Drive, we would see a monument of three soldiers, inviting us to remember our country’s long-standing devotion to international peacekeeping. When we raise our eyes above those soldiers, we’d see the towering American Embassy, calling to mind our countries new pressure to integrate into the United States Military structures. Suppose we traveled further down the road, out of Ottawa and into the Algonquin Community in Rapid Lake. We would find the dirt roads turning to mud. We’d see not towering skyscrapers, but homes that appear derelict. From an office in a trailer Tony Wawatie, a community official, might bluntly tell us: “Some of our people live in third-world conditions.” This Psalm invites us to reflect on which road we will travel down as a nation, and to reflect on the choices made along the way.
This Psalm really boils the political reality down to the choice between two roads, and recognizes, all too often Rulers do not travel the highways of the righteous. The Psalm beings with Kings and rulers taking counsel together against the Lord and say, “Let us tear off their chains, and let us cast off their cords from us!” These rulers see the life giving laws of God not as the road to flourishing, but as a dead end. They are chains, a prison, a noose. These rulers of the nations band together, form councils of war against God, discuss tactics against God’s way of truth, justice and peace. They challenge the universal rule of the one God, and behave as if they themselves are God. Surely no one actually does this, one might think? But again and again throughout the Old Testament, leaders are indicted for attempting to position themselves over and above the Sovereign God. Nebuchadnezzar made this mistake and was humbled. Senacharib, the King of Assyria, get’s confused on the same point, and promises to take the Israelites to a new promised land if they surrender. In Isaiah, the King of Babylon is rebuked when he tries to raise his throne above the heavens. This is all a further outworking of Genesis 3, where the first humans strove to raise themselves above the Supreme Ruler and become like God. With great power comes great temptation. That’s why kings and rulers are singled out for warning in Scripture Those with greater power can more easily abuse their power.
Political leaders today have done horrendous things with their power. One only needs to think of Bashar Assad deploying chemical weapons against his people. This last week, Police in Zimbabwe arrested a pastor for his work in calling for government reform. The former president of South Korea was found guilty of using her powers to gain admission for her daughter to a prestigious university. Michel Temer, the president of Brazil was accused by the country’s chief prosecutor for taking bribes. Today we have far too many examples of leaders growing infatuated with themselves, becoming a law to themselves, casting off the restraints of truth and justice, and casting off the mantle of God’s rule. God looks at this with derision. He addresses them in his anger, and in his wrath he terrifies them. Prime Minister, this is not the path that you want to walk down.
There is another path. There is a path to righteousness Psalm 2 sets out the road, mapping the way God’s governance is to be carried out. The big surprise is that God’s governance is channelled through one ruler. This is the king who inherits the nations. This is the kings who possesses the ends of the earth as a gift from God. This is King David, and to those who follow in his line. Every time a new king was crowned in Jerusalem, they were reminded of this calling to extend God’s rule throughout the eart. God adopts this king as his son, and the king is meant to represent God to the world. And amazingly, although other rulers were rebuked for thinking of themselves too highly, the David King was encouraged to think in such ways. There is a sense that God’s King is regarded in some sense as quasi divine, he has God as His Father. But then again, this is true of all humans. We are made all in the image of God. We are created a little lower than the Elohim.
In fact, all of our calling, our original mandate in Genesis 1 and 2, was to extend the rule of God throughout Creation. As God’s image bearers, we are meant to extend God’s rule throughout the earth. This calling is concentrated in the king of David. God’s king, the human that God formally adopts as Son. All other people, indeed, all other Prime Ministers are meant to submit to his rule, and bow to his authority. The David King is the one God has made covenant with, He is the one God has said, “I will establish the throne of his Kingdom forever.” The pathway of righteousness, honourable Prime Minister, consists in submitting to the rule of this King.
But who is this King? Of course this Psalm was read at every coronation for Kings in the line of David, but those Kings always disappointed. Every new coronation, the king heard those words of God’s decree, “You are my Son, Today I have begotten you.” But there was always disappointment. These kings never walked down the road marked out for them, and one day, there were no more kings. Israel was conquered by Babylon. Its striking that the only picture we have of a king of Israel, its not one of other rulers coming to kiss the feet of the son. Rather. its a picture of King Jehu, kissing the feet of the King of Babylon, Shalmaneser the 3rd. Who’s feet will you kiss, Prime Minister? There are plenty of feet out there for you to kiss. Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, would love you to kiss there feet. But there is only one David King. There is only one ruler who exemplifies justice, peace and righteousness.
But who is this King? When Israel’s monarchy fell apart, this Psalm transformed into a prayer of hope for the future. The word anointed one, or messiah no longer described the kings who had been anointed with oil at their coronation. The anointed one, the messiah, was the one that all Israel longed for. The King who would finally make things right and extend God’s rule to the ends of the earth. So this Psalm became a prophetic prayer, a hoped for prophecy.
Until the day when a Nazarene came to be anointed by his cousin John. As that Nazarene came up from the waters, the heavens parted and the Holy Spirit came on Him like a Dove. A voice came from heaven, echoing the declaration of Psalm 2, saying, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” So began the anointing. On the mount, the anointing continued as Jesus was transfigured before the eyes of his friends, and a voice again called out, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen, listen to him.” And the anointing continued as the Messiah was crowned with thorns, and was lifted high above all rulers, on the cross. So Jesus was marked out as King, receiving full sonship through the Resurrection of the Dead.
Colossians tells us “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisble, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” This means, honourable Prime Minister, your rule and your authority were created by the Son, who alone possesses true honour and glory. Whose name alone is above all other names. Take the words of Psalm 2 and be wise, then, O Prime Minister, and kiss the feet of the Son. Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you perish in the path. The book of Revelation borrows language from Psalm 2 to describe the Anointed One on a white horse. “Its rider is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name inscribed that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called “The Word of God.” And the armies of heaven, wearing fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will triad the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, “King of kings and Lord of lords.” We might say He is the, “Prime minister of ministers.”
So, let me once again conclude with the words of Psalm 2, honourable Prime Minister, which reads, “So now, O kings, think carefully! Be wise! Be warned, O earthly rulers! Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son.”
Blessed are all those who seek refuge in Him. His is the way of truth and justice, mercy and peace, glory, honour and immortality. O Rulers of the nations, Kiss the feet of the Son. O People of the Bulkley Valley, God has made you to rule over His Earth, He has made you a little lower than the heavenly beings, so be wise, and today when you hear his voice, do not harden your heart, but kiss the feet of the Son.