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18 March 2015

Mormon Bible Study: Psalm 2 (part 4)

It's taken a long time to look at the Second Psalm and all the passages that cite it. This last bunch are all in the Book of Revelation, and they all reference verses 8 and 9 of Psalm 2:

Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. -Psalm 2:9

So much of what I have seen as I studied the 2nd Psalm has been repeating the theme: God Is In Control! In the tumultuous times we live in, this is a very comforting theme. After a short break to talk about the nature and majesty of God, that theme is back again. God is in control!

So, the first of the verses in Revelation is 2:27. Chapters 2 and 3 are a series of little letters to various churches that the Lord instructs John to send. In several of the letters there are references to stars (angels/servants - see the JST) and candlesticks (churches). Each one begins with a unique greeting which describes the Lord, and then there are a couple of verses of instruction and warning to the recipients. The verse that references the 2nd Psalm is from the middle of the fourth letter. The Psalm is a Messianic Psalm, that is, it's talking about the Messiah, and this passage also looks like it is referencing the Lord:

And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. -Revelation 2:27

Right off the bat, the imagery of a "rod of iron" suggests a connection to Lehi's dream. And this makes sense, considering that Lehi, Nephi, and John the Beloved all saw basically the same thing. But the differences in what happens with the rod - breaking vs ruling - are very interesting. That distinction suggests to me the different outcomes  that come from what we choose to do with the word of God. If we choose to have our lives ruled by scripture, then we will find ourselves guided and directed in the way of happiness and peace. Scripture is designed to teach us to live happily. But, if we so choose, scripture, and the eternal laws it contains, are also a rod we can break ourselves upon.

"We are too inclined to think of law as something merely restrictive, something hemming us in. We sometimes think of law as the opposite of liberty. But that is a false conception. That is not the way that God's inspired prophets and lawgivers looked upon the law. Law has a twofold purpose. It is meant to govern. It is also meant to educate . . . God does not contradict himself. He did not create man and then, as an afterthought, impose upon him a set of arbitrary, irritating, restrictive rules. He made man free—and then gave him the commandments to keep him free. We cannot break the Ten Commandments. We can only break ourselves against them—or else, by keeping them, rise through them to the fulness of freedom under God. God means us to be free. With divine daring, he gave us the power of choice."
-Richard L. Evans
(Commencement Address, Brigham Young University, May 31, 1957) (CR, Oct. 1959, 127)

So, here again, is this idea of the futility of resisting the law of the Lord. We can be guided to happiness by a loving Shepherd, but if we won't have that kind of relationship with him, well, the rules don't simply go away. In that case, we end up breaking ourselves upon His rod. And this is as true of nations as it is of individuals.

There is no nation or kingdom that has not received its power from him, whether it be much or little—whether for a day, an age, or century. Whether they make good or bad use of it, all power is ordained of God and is in his hand. He sets up a kingdom here, and pulls down another there at his pleasure. He breaks the nations like a potter's vessel; he forms a nucleus, and around it builds up a kingdom or nation, permitting the people to act upon their own agency, that they may do right, or corrupt themselves, as did the children of Israel; and after they have become ripe for destruction, they will be scattered to the four winds. If the people of God in ancient days had  continued holy, they would have continued in power and authority to this day.
-Brigham Young JD7:148

So, that's the first of the Revelation references to Psalm 2. The second one is in Revelation 12:5. I blogged the process I used to go through that passage and try to unravel the symbols in the chapter. At the end of my study, I think that, again, this passage illustrates the power that God has to direct events, and to see to it that His work continues and flourishes, even in the face of opposition.

At this point, I turned my attention to the final New Testament Reference of Psalm 2, which is from Revelation 19:15.

And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

One of the first things I wanted to know about here is winepresses. So I visited YouTube to see one in action. I watched several, and I'm glad that I did. This first one shows the particulars of how to use this type of winepress, which apparently is a pretty traditional design. Some of the clips showed the lever going all the way around, rather than racheting, but otherwise, they were all pretty much the same.

"Don't go too fast," she said. That really struck me. The process takes time, and can't be rushed. The Savior spent all night in the Garden of Gethsemane; His process was not rushed, either.

Here's another one video. This first lady was making apple juice, and she had the best explanation of the mechanics of the press, but the symbol in the scriptures was specifically wine, and I've always understood that to be grapes, which is partly an assumption, I think, but one based on how the olive trees were commonly grown in the same garden as grapes for wines, which is why the gardens were referred to as vineyards. That imagery occurs over and over in the scriptures, so I'm guessing the wine is grape wine. When I looked at one that was specifically wine, it was easy to figure why that would be used as a symbol. The red grapes, being crushed, are a very vivid image.

The symbolism of the red juice from the grapes is striking. It stopped me in my tracks, watching the stains on the side of the press; it's so vivid. It took a while for me to see the connection to the theme of the rest of the things in these verses, but once I found it, it's so beautiful:

God is in control. His power is sufficient to still the storm - both the external storm of nations and events, and also, if we just let Him, His power is sufficient to still the internal storm, the one within us. Stilling the internal storm is the reason that Christ "treadeth the winepress."

Peace; be still.


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