The Kings vs The King
Why are the nations in an uproar; And the peoples devising a vain thing?
The kings of the earth take their stand.
And the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let us tear their fetters apart; and cast away their cords from us!”
He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them.
Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury, saying,
“But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”
“I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD:
He said to Me, ‘You are My Son; today I have begotten You.
‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,
And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.
‘You shall break them with a rod of iron.
You shall shatter them like earthenware.’”
Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; Take warning, O judges of the earth.
Worship the LORD with reverence and rejoice with trembling.
Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,
For His wrath may soon be kindled.
How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!
Psalm 2 ESV
Psalm 2 is the second half of the inspired introduction to the amazing Book of Psalms, the poetic prayer journal of those who have known the Lord through ancient biblical history. Since it is the second half, it will be helpful to review the basic message of Psalm 1, the first half of the introduction. Psalm 1 sets the tone for any person who wants a blessed life, a life of eternal meaning and purpose, a life lived in the wisdom of God. It contrasts that good and fruitful life with the chaff-life, the dead, wicked, mocking life that disdains God’s presence and his word and that vanishes in the winnowing gale. This perspective of personal covenant loyalty and commitment to the Lord is foundational for interpreting the fathomless depths of faithful emotion found in the Psalter. All the material in the five-fold collection of Spirit-wrought prayers and praises that follow assumes that the authors and the readers of these poems have as their highest priority the cherishing of God and his word. It ends with a warning and a promise that when all is said and done, the wicked will perish and those whom the Lord knows (meaning a gracious, covenant relationship) will stand with him in eternal life.
Psalm 2 expands on the chaff-life by broadening the perspective to the geopolitical world. It opens in verses 1-2 with an astonished rhetorical question regarding whole nations, the populations of the world. “Why do the nations rage (live in an uproar, chaos)?” “Why do the peoples of the world plot (same word as “meditate” in psalm 1) such emptiness?” The world leaders unite together in violent rebellion against YHWH and his Messiah (anointed one, v.2). They view God not as a good Creator, but as an infuriating restraint on their own sovereignty (which they mistake for freedom). Apparently, they think they should be their own gods. The psalmist is amazed at such international stupidity. This, of course, is the classic human response to the Lord ever since Eve and Adam listened to the serpent and decided to take their own opinion of things over God’s word about things. Profound confidence in the Self, spawning distrust of God, produces angry rebellion against goodness and the loss of the blessed life. Does this ring any bells?
God looks on in disdainful amusement in verses 4-6. The Lord is not threatened in the least. In fact, the situation is ridiculous, comical in a sad way. This is the only place in the Bible where it portrays God laughing. Like a grown man gazing down at an angry gerbil in a cage, the Lord dismisses the chattering foolishness of puny human arrogance. He already has a King that he will appoint over them all, one who will judge the world, punish the evil, and rescue those who have taken refuge in him.
This divinely anointed King picks up the poetry in verses 7-9. He is God’s actual Son, begotten of YHWH himself. This was a metaphor in the original composition, where King David is in view. But there would come a time when a true, biological Son of God would appear to fulfill this passage (Jn.1:1-18: Matt.5:17). The psalms have many such typological pointers to a coming messianic fulfilment (see Psalm 22 for instance). God’s plan to redeem and regenerate his fallen creation centers on a true King, one who will bring God’s kingdom to earth (Matt.6:9-13; Col.1:13-14). This King will at the end of time bring a shattering judgment against all human arrogance, violence, and rebellion. Like the climax of a hero movie where the Good Guy rescues the innocents and destroys the perpetrators of atrocity, the biblical story-arc reveals a devastating vengeance from the Lord who gave his own life in the spirit-war and returned to dramatically rescue his loved ones (Rom.12:19; 2Thess.1:5-12; Rev.19:11-21).
The psalmist then applies God’s word to the arrogant world rulers of this age in verses 10-12. Get a life! Wake up and smell the coffee! Don’t be stupid! Worship the Lord and do homage to the Son. God’s wrath is real and there is a judgment coming. Eugene Peterson, a well-known authority on the psalms, makes this sobering comment in one of his writings, “The Reality is God! Worship or flee!” Wise words.
Yet, this introductory psalm, so rich in the imagery of God’s sovereign plan to retake his rebellious creation, ends in the offer of grace. “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” The Lord is gracious, even as he prepares to judge all sin. Derek Kidner in his classic commentary on the Psalms reminds us that, “There is no refuge from him, only in him.” This is why, in the New Covenant, we are many times reminded that we are “in Christ.” He is the eternal and perfect refuge. Paul understood this when he dictated these words: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit in Christ has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom.8:1-2)
Contrary to popular belief (and dogma in western public discourse), the history of the world is not one of accidental biological progress toward a secular, evolutionary utopia. (How could “progress” be accidental anyway?) It is the account of humanity’s senseless and futile rebellion against God, even as God reveals his miraculous plan to take the cosmos back under his lordship, remove all evil and death, and restore perfect loving peace. Human history in this age will end violently because the kings of the world will not take the advice of Psalm 2 (Rev.6:15; 19:11-16). But it will be reborn in Christ, with the Lord of holy love at the center and the regenerated universe glowing and pulsating eternally with his own perfect Trinitarian life. Life as it was meant to be. (Rev.21-22)
In a world chaotic with tragic rebellion against the Author of life, we should remember that God has a plan (Eph.1:10), and he is not at all threatened by anything humans conspire to mount against it. The kingdom of God, where the Father is Ultimate, the Son is King, and the Spirit is regenerating God’s people, is the ultimate and final Reality. The gracious and saving Lordship of Jesus Christ, God’s one and only Son, is the destiny of the created order.
The book of Psalms, filled as it is with faithful, honest prayer and praise, will make the most sense to people who are steeped in God’s living and written word (Psalm 1) and enamored of God’s gracious and rescuing King (Psalm 2). It’s all about Jesus Christ.
Just a Thought,