Psalms 2:1-6 NLTse Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile plans? (2) The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the LORD and against his
anointed one. (3) “Let us break their chains,” they cry, “and free ourselves from slavery to God.” (4) But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them. (5) Then in anger he rebukes them, terrifying them with his fierce fury. (6) For the Lord declares, “I have placed my chosen king on the throne in Jerusalem, on my holy mountain.”
Before we begin the first lesson, it’s a good idea to review basic study rules covered in previous books. Look for and highlight words that are the same, similar, or related. Those key words tell us two things. The main theme of the texts we are studying. Bible authors follow a pattern of repeating key words to draw reader’s attention to the main theme. Key words are also used to search for parallel texts, which lead to parallel chapters. Context is found in the introduction and summary of chapters. Parallel chapters can have similar or contrasting themes which focus on the same spiritual lessons. It can be difficult to understand Bible study lessons without proper examples. The good news is, God knew we needed good examples. He knew exactly how people would take His simple Word and examples then come up with the most confusing ways of explaining the simple methods God installed in scripture thousands of years ago. There’s never any reason to be confused or intimidated when it comes to Bible Study. When God wrote His book, He included the rules… all of them. The best news is, all of God’s study rules were placed in the prophecies about His Son, Jesus. Not only does God’s plan of salvation provide forgiveness, redemption, and a direct path to God’s throne – God’s plan also includes simple lessons so each of us can learn to study His Word, stand in awe, and give all the glory to Him.
We see some of the fiercest words in the Bible at the beginning of Psalm 2. David lays it on the line. They are wasting their time when they plot against God and His Anointed One. This is also one of the easiest
New Testament texts to find since it is quoted in Acts chapter 4.
Acts 4:24-30 NLTse When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God: “O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them– (25) you spoke long ago by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant, saying, ‘Why were the nations so angry? Why did they waste their time with futile plans? (26) The kings of the earth prepared for battle; the rulers gathered together against the LORD and against his Messiah.’ (27) “In fact, this has happened here in this very city! For Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate the governor, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were all united against Jesus, your holy servant, whom you anointed. (28) But everything they did was determined beforehand according to your will. (29) And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. (30) Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
Notice how only a small part of Psalm 2 is quoted. Look at the details found when the Old Testament texts is read. “Let us break their chains,” they cry, “and free ourselves from slavery to God.” But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them.” I’ve mentioned how much God teaches with repetition, here’s another example. Did you ever notice how often Jesus quoted scripture? Almost every time He answered a question. The pattern is repeated in Acts. The thing that fascinates me is – if the religious leaders bothered to look at scripture Jesus sent them to, there is no way they would have crucified Him. Take a look at this small detail and think about it for a moment. Why is so much of the New Testament made up of Old Testament texts? I’ll bet you didn’t know this. A large amount of Paul’s letters are actually quotes from the Old Testament. As much as thirty percent or more of some of Paul’s letters are quotes from the Old Testament. Why is that you may ask? For one thing, all of those quotes make it impossible for anyone to separate the New Testament from the Old. I’ve heard some preachers try to do it, but never met one. Here is another fact that may surprise you. I want you to take a look back at all the studies you read, all the seminars you attended, and all the sermons you heard. Did anyone ever point out this little fact? Look at the lesson in Acts 4, “ you spoke long ago by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant, saying.” Did anyone ever explain to you the fact this term is repeated in the Bible hundreds of times for a reason. You may be asking why. There are two reasons for this. Either they don’t know, or don’t want you to know. Let’s examine why preachers do not want you to know how to read and study the Bible.
How long has it been since anyone discovered anything new in the Bible? God’s been revealing new light in every generation. What happened to our generation? Did their god run out of information to share? I can give you one little revelation a serious student of the Bible will see. Look at the story about Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. Pay attention to ALL the words and the timing. There was a preparation time included. How long did Jesus fast? When did Satan come on the scene? How many sermons have you heard on this story — I know each one left out vital details. Did they tell you what Jesus did during those forty days? Did anyone explain how Jesus prepared for the confrontation? Did anyone bother to show you how Jesus answered Satan? Did they explain the entire chapter Jesus’ first answer came from? Did they tell you how that chapter answered all of Satan’s temptations? Did they explain Satan’s limitations? Why not? Why would one of God’s warriors not equip you with the proper armor to go out into the world as one of God’s soldiers? If your preacher has, that’s great. If they haven’t, how much more are you missing? Why have the so called world’s greatest minds of the most advanced society on earth withheld so many basic details in the Bible at a time you need it most?
Let’s stop fooling ourselves. Every Christian denomination claims there will be an outpouring of God’s Spirit before Jesus returns. Where is it? Why are they delaying this outpouring? Come on now… the strangest religions in the most isolated areas in the world claim there will be an outpouring of new understanding before the end of the world. The entire world seems to agree, but whose looking? Whose searching? Who cares? Why have they stopped searching?
Years ago the United States and other countries got into counting. The common term is census. Governments collected all kinds of facts and figures. For what? To identify, prepare for, and solve problems. They wouldn’t think of asking God’s help, but thought with enough facts and figures, they could solve any problem. Soon churches joined the frenzy. They were not only included in Government census, but started their own. There was a reason God told David not to number Israel. David didn’t have to pay the price, but his people did. This is a prophecy repeated today. Get on your computer and see. You can search every fact and figure about any church you choose. But what about finding new insight to God’s Word? Getting the picture here? How did it happen? What went wrong? Churches got caught up in numbers – their main concern today. To increase numbers they compromised – changed the way they wanted their preachers to study the Bible, or shall we say, AVOID studying the Bible at all cost. It seemed to change overnight. Common sense left the world as darkness crept in. “Let us break their chains,” they cry, “and free ourselves from slavery to God.” To free themselves from God, scholars threw out the basic rules of Bible study. The very rules contained within God’s Word discovered long ago and taught for generations. To cover truth they needed a deception so close to truth common people would never notice. Man made up a newer, simpler set of rules… one they could control. Inductive study and context have been replaced by a new form of study referred to as proof texts. The steps are contrary to God and His Word. The steps for proof texts study are simple, there are only three. Develop a concept. Find texts supporting that concept. Check the results against the doctrine you practice. No where does Jesus teach such blasphemy. No where does the Bible support any concept which begins with man’s concept of what to think and how to think. But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them. The question remains – do world religious authorities preach proof texts studies from ignorance, or control? All of this is tied into the numbers game, designed to divide denominations instead of bringing them together to drink deep of the pure, untainted water of Christ. To wash the feet of fellow disciples in a show of humility and unity.
Jesus’ disciples had an attitude quite different from today. A casual reading of the New Testament will show how they struggled to keep the young growing church united. I doubt if church leaders will ever get together to celebrate communion, the observance of the last supper, or an ordinary dinner. For one thing, they would never agree what to eat. If it should be clean, or unclean meats, or no meats at all. Their happy with what separates them… they are deceived into thinking that’s what makes their church grow. I always thought it was Jesus who made a church grow. “Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” This isn’t a new problem. The disciples saw the same problem creep into the early church. People wanted to join the church and bring in a few of their customs. So what is the difference between customs, doctrine, and tradition? Why does every church have custom doctrines, traditions and make them the focus of their study, sermons, and messages? What happened to the simple message Jesus gave His disciples? What happened to simply preaching about what Jesus accomplished? It was enough to hold the early church together. It seems the world just broke down and accepted division. It seems that’s what makes the world happy. Census, numbers, division, and proof texts. A simple plan – man’s plan – but not God’s plan of salvation.
Time to put away influences running free across the world. No one’s doctrines are on trial here. That’s for you to determine on your own. All I want to do is tell you what kind of deceptions to look out for. What good is that? Once one is exposed, the devil has a list of others to take its place. If you looked at how Jesus answered Satan, you already know Satan’s limitations. Let’s face it, Satan is missing one vital link to God’s Word, His Spirit. We need to look at God’s Word as it’s written – test it, ask questions, wait for answers. It’s not only words we’re looking at but God’s personality and wisdom. We see a portion of that in His creation and another little part in how His lessons effected His followers. We see this revealed in the introduction to Acts 4.
Acts 4:1-4 NLTse While Peter and John were speaking to the people, they were confronted by the priests, the captain of the Temple guard, and some of the Sadducees. (2) These leaders were very disturbed that Peter and John were teaching the people that through Jesus there is a resurrection of the dead. (3) They arrested them and, since it was already evening, put them in jail until morning. (4) But many of the people who heard their message believed it, so the number of believers now totaled about 5,000 men, not counting women and children.
What do we see in this introduction and how does it compare to the introduction in Psalm 2? Peter and John were confronted by all the religious leaders. The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the LORD and against his anointed one. Those leaders were very disturbed that Peter and John were teaching the people that through Jesus there is a resurrection of the dead. Look at the detail. Why did they arrest Peter and John? Almost every Christian denomination believes in one form of resurrection or another. They may be all over the map on their beliefs, from the moment of death all the way to the moment Jesus returns. That’s not the point, but you can see how man’s common method of study, proof texts will miss the point in this chapter. This is why it’s important to study repetition to reveal the lesson. The kings and leaders stood against the Anointed One, Jesus who is the resurrection and life. Now ask why and how they stood against Jesus. If the religious leaders didn’t believe in a resurrection what did they believe in? Were they of the opinion only people living at the moment their Messiah appeared would reign with Him forever? Why did the religious leaders twist their own beliefs? For control. See how the Bible is showing the problem we’re facing today? See how easily proof texts can be laid aside when control is at stake? If we only looked at the Old Testament we see signs of a resurrection. Many of David’s Psalms talk about his reign in the distant future. The religious leaders knew David was dead. They talked about his future reign. To arrest Peter and John they threw their beliefs out the window to regain control.
Now to put yourself into the scene, another important step to understand scripture. Imagine yourself in prison with Peter and John. Pray about the scene and look at the image in your mind. What is God showing you? Look back at scripture that comes to mind. Look at how details show Peter and John reactions at the time. Look back at what they experienced and learned before the event. In this case ask yourself what this trial accomplished.
Jesus took Peter and John up a mountain with another disciple where they met Moses and Elijah. They also heard God’s voice and trembled in fear. Peter often jumped to conclusions, answering questions before he understood them. Peter was always trying to outdo the other disciples. John was the biggest in size. Was physical power going to win John a special seat next to Jesus? Peter and John often argued about who was the greatest. Look at when they brought up the subject. Every time Jesus tried to tell them about the prophecies He was going to fulfill on the cross.
Peter and John were thrown into a small cell in the deepest, darkest dungeon. There seemed no way out. The smell was worse than they ever imagined. The floors were slimy and so were the walls. It seemed as if the cell was intentionally littered to make them suffer more. A thought occurred to John. He wondered what the pit was like that Daniel was thrown into. No one left the lions out. They ate, slept, performed all their functions in that pit and finally died in the hole. All the lions could do is wait for another meal. John wondered if the angel who spent the night with Daniel did anything to light the cave or counter the smell. For a while they didn’t speak. Peter thought about how he told Jesus he would die with Him, and later denied Him. John’s mind wondered over the times he interrupted Jesus every time He brought up the prophecies. Jesus recounted those events when He sat down to reveal everything after His resurrection. Peter and John were sure of the resurrection. They saw Jesus in the flesh and in the Spirit. When Peter’s mind rested upon this assurance, he asked John. “Remember when Jesus took us up the mountain?” Even in the stench the memory brought a smile to John’s face. “Yes,” he relied. A few moments of silence went by in the darkness. Neither one of the disciples knew if they would live to see another day, or if they were going to live out their last days in that dingy, dark dungeon. John turned to Peter in the dark, reached out, put his hand on him and asked, “forgive me brother? I don’t want to be greater than you. All I want to do is share the comfort Jesus gave us.” Peter was speechless. For what seemed to be the first time in his life, Peter didn’t know what to say. Finally Peter asked, “John can you forgive me?”
It took a great trial for Peter and John to see their weakness which they always considered their strength. After learning at Jesus’ side for three and a half years, and forty days at His feet, God’s Spirit was still teaching them. In the deepest, darkest, dirtiest hole they could imagine, God’s Spirit reached out and touched each of the disciples. They were ready to preach together. Their first test was to defend their Savior at their trial. The summation of Acts 4 tells the outcome of their trial. When we compare it to the summation in Psalm 2 we see another dimension of the story revealed.
Psalms 2:11-12 NLTse Serve the LORD with reverent fear, and rejoice with trembling. (12) Submit to God’s royal son, or he will become angry, and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities– for his anger flares up in an instant. But what joy for all who take refuge in him!
Acts 4:33-37 NLTse The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. (34) There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them (35) and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need. (36) For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. (37) He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles.
It’s interesting to think of what Peter and John may have thought about the conclusion in Psalm 2. Of course the lessons Jesus taught them were still on their minds. What did serving the Lord in fear and trembling mean to them? After escaping the grasp of the religious leaders, trembling was fresh on their minds along with thoughts of rejoicing. Psalm 2 was no longer only words, but an experience. Peter and John knew exactly what it meant to find joy in God’s refuge. This was another spring board for Peter and John who went out and testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all.
What about the people who gave up all they had? Did they do it through fear? I see a lot of women saying they’re looking for a God fearing man and wonder what they mean by it. I’m not sure they know what they mean or what they’re looking for. When I chat with them, they seem to have little or no idea what they’re looking for or how to tell if a Christian is for real or putting on a show. I had that experience in my life and learned the lesson the hard way. Looking at the story in Acts 4, we see another important detail that helps answer this question. As soon as they were freed, Peter and John returned to the other believers and told them what the leading priests and elders had said. When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God: “O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them– you spoke long ago by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant, saying, ‘Why were the nations so angry? Why did they waste their time with futile plans? The kings of the earth prepared for battle; the rulers gathered together against the LORD and against his Messiah.’ “In fact, this has happened here in this very city! For Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate the governor, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were all united against Jesus, your holy servant, whom you anointed. But everything they did was determined beforehand according to your will. And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness. All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. (Acts 4:23-32 NLTse).
A closer look at scripture shows all the believers lifted up their voices in prayer, reciting the prophecy in Psalm 2. God’s Spirit gave all the believers the same thought at the same time. Has that ever happened to you? It happened to me. The week leading up to the day I published the second book in this series I talked to a number of people. They all brought up the same concern. They all saw how the world, especially those around them seemed unconcerned about developing a close relationship with God. People thought little about what Jesus is doing today, how He’s calling out for workers, how He’s looking down at a world that seems less concerned than the day before. It wasn’t by mistake my friends shared the same concern. The series of events showed how important it is to share these simple concepts of Bible Study. Doctrines and traditions have little to do with a real relationship with Jesus. What would a marriage be like if week after week the rules of the household were discussed? You do the dishes, cooking, cleaning, clean the bathrooms, dust, vacuum, etc., etc…. What kind of a relationship would that make? Does it sound like fun to you? Is that what church sounds like? People churches are witnessing to today look at their message as the most boring, restrictive choice on earth. What choice do you think they’re going to make? What’s the message the church gives you? Don’t do this, that or the other thing. We do this and that’s what makes us better than others. Where did thinking they were better than the others get the disciples? That attitude led them in the wrong direction. They wanted to be the greatest and missed seeing hundreds of prophecies fulfilled in front of their eyes. What makes people today think they can harbor the same thoughts and selfishness the disciples displayed and not miss messages, lessons, and prophecies in front of them? How many have they missed already? When will time run out?