God sees glory and honor in attitudes and actions that defy the mind of natural man. He writes songs, if you will, about subjects that natural man would not find praiseworthy. Such is the case with much of the second psalm: it lauds things that unregenerate men would never commend. Our present text provides a striking example of this fact: “Then shall he [God] speak unto them [rebellious mankind] in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure” (v. 5).
For two millennia, men have basked in the smile of God’s grace as expressed in the face of Jesus Christ. Though men have rebelled and rejected the heaven-sent Deliverer, though they have cursed the One who died for their sins, though they have made the precious Son of God and Savior the object of their curses and the butt of their crude jokes, still God has waited in quiet patience and longsuffering, enduring man’s anger, rejection, and contempt, and has continued to extend the cup of mercy to wretched sinners. But He will not withhold judgment forever; the time of eternal reckoning will come. God’s laughter at man’s futile rebellion will end. And that His laughter was never joyously humorous is made clear from today’s verse.
“Then shall he speak,” David prophesies. When shall He speak? we might ask. When the time of laughter, the time of silent forbearance, the age of grace is over. David looks forward to the seven-year period of tribulation, “which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Rev. 3:10) immediately after the church is caught up to be with the Lord at the rapture. God, who “hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son” (Heb. 1:2) the glorious and gracious message of the gospel, will cease to speak to the unbelieving world except in judgment. A time of immeasurable horror will befall mankind as God closes the age of grace.
“Then shall he speak in wrath.” Once God “repented” of having made man and He sent a universal flood to destroy His rebel creation. And although all but eight people perished in that deluge, that judgment pales by comparison with the wrath to come. The only voice sinners will hear in that day will be the voice of thunderous judgment without mercy. Those who have mocked the existence of God or who have rejected His grace, those who have stopped their ears against His gracious invitation to turn to Christ for salvation will hear a different voice. No invitation for deliverance will come to inveterate sinners, but all they will hear will be the voice of a wrathful God, not one overcome by the emotion of anger, but one fixed and determined to judge sin once and for all, to cast sinners out and into the Lake of Fire, and to cleanse the world.
“Then shall he . . . vex them in his sore displeasure.” We should not be deceived into thinking that the word vex conveys an idea that ameliorates what has been said previously. We use the term vex to mean “annoy,” “displease,” or “irritate.” But the Hebrew word connotes a much stronger idea. Though it has multiple meanings, elsewhere it is translated in various forms in the AV as “dismayed,” “troubled,” “afraid,” “affrighted.” Similarly, the NASB translates it in our text as “terrify.” The description of God as expressing “sore displeasure” suggests unbridled “fury,” which is God’s holy response to sin.
Have you considered that God (through the psalmist) has written a song that He intends us to sing in praise of His wrath toward and unremitting judgment upon sin? This psalm instructs us to exalt God for His work of judgment as well as for His work of redemption. Have you done so? Can you do so? Will you do so?
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