A Rod of Iron

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Devotional Word for Monday, March 23, 2020

I’ve been thinking a lot about Psalm 2:9. Here’s the background for it. In Psalm 2 we see a picture of how the world thinks and lives: the nations rage and seek to cast off God and His Word, they want to rule themselves. As a result, they see God’s Word, His rules, as chains that bind. But God laughs at their futile efforts to get rid of or override His rules, and declares He has set His King in place, namely the Messiah. Regarding the nations, God tells His Anointed One, the Messiah, “You shall break them with a rod of iron.” [Ps. 2:9] That’s verse 9.

It sounds awfully harsh, does it not? I thought so. But I’ve learned over the years that when confronted by the words of Scripture, I want my thinking and my behavior to be shaped by those words, regardless how they seem to me. As I reflected on that verse for several days, I noticed God used that verse when describing Jesus in the book of Revelation. [Rev. 12:5; 19:15] Interestingly, the word used for “break” in the Greek is a word that means “to shepherd.” It is from the same word group as the word for “Pastor” and the word for “flock.” Thus, what is signified by the word “break” in Psalm 2:9 should be understood to mean to shepherd a flock as well. The “breaking” or “shepherding” was to be done with a rod of iron, of course. That rod of iron is God’s Word, His Law in totality, that is, in the natural realm and in the moral realm.

A rod of iron conveys an image of unbending strength. Think of reinforcing rods in construction work. They are used because their unbending quality enhances the strength and stability of that in which they are placed. The word “break” began not to sound quite so harsh.

Then, this morning, I remembered verse four of Psalm 23. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. Why I had not made that connection before, I don’t know. Just slow, I guess! 

There’s that rod again. This time in a place of great stress, a place where fear ordinarily resides. But there is no fear, only comfort. Because of the rod of iron! Because of God’s Law; because of God’s Word. 

I think I can see how best to understand Psalm 2:9. The rod of iron with which Messiah shall break the nations, is meant to break them free from their intention to self-rule. Self-rule will only result in disaster and judgment. If, instead, the nations yield to the structure of the rod of iron they will be shaped to conform with life the way life is meant to be lived. It will bring strength and comfort, no matter what the conditions of life may be. They will stand in the judgment.

The same is true for individuals. As Christians, we want God’s Word to rule in us, to shape us, to change us, to instruct us, to richly dwell within us. That means it will “break” old ways of thinking and it will “break” old ways of behaving. It’s the way of discipleship. It is the way which will enable us to stand in all the circumstances of life and in the judgment to come. May we have the rod of iron “breaking” us and “shaping” us in these days in which we live. 

Let us pray: Lord Jesus, You are the Word of God. We thank You that You are the same yesterday, today, and forever. Your Word is good and true always. May Your Word richly dwell in me and in all who are called by Your name. Feed me this day with Your Word. Give me strength to live this day for You. May Your light of Your Word shine in and through me. Amen.