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Psalm 2 –
The World in Rebellion
1Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2The kings of the earth take their stand
and the rulers gather together
against the Lord and against His Anointed One.
3“Let us break their chains,” they say,
“and throw off their fetters.”
4The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them.
5Then He rebukes them in His anger
and terrifies them in His wrath, saying,
6”I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.”
7I will proclaim the decree of the Lord:
He said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have become your Father,
8Ask of me,
and I will make the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession,
9You will rule them with an iron scepter;
you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”
10Therefore, you kings, be wise;
be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11Serve the Lord with fear
and rejoice with trembling.
12Kiss the Son, lest He be angry
and you be destroyed in your way,
for His wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.
Psalm 2 is the first Messianic Psalm in the book of Psalms, meaning that it contains a prophecy about the Messiah, Jesus Christ. It prophesies the coming kingdom, with Christ as King, and warns that those who do not bow to Him will be judged. No author for this Psalm is mentioned in the book of Psalms, but Peter ascribes this Psalm to David when he cites it in Acts 4.
This Psalm is organized into the following four sections: 1. The rebellion against the Messiah’s kingdom by the rulers of the earth (v. 1-3); 2. God the Father’s reply in word and deed (v. 4-6); 3. The coming King and Kingdom described by the Messiah, Jesus Christ, Himself (v. 7-9); 4. An exhortation to submission to the coming King by the Holy Spirit (v. 10-12).
The Psalmist begins with the question “Why?”, concerning the reason that the people and the nations rebel against the Lord. Note that no answer to this question is given. In fact, there is no logical reason or explanation as to why people knowingly rebel against the God of the universe, their Creator, and even their Savior. These questions can be asked of multitudes in history. Before, during and after the time of Christ, people have united against the Lord.
Many who would not unite on other grounds, unite against the Lord. For instance, during Christ’s life, the Sadducees and the Pharisees were often united in their opposition to Christ. Though doctrinally they could not agree on very much, they often tried to turn the crowds against Christ with their questions on doctrine. Herod and Pilate are another unlikely pair of allies against Christ. Concerning the day of Christ’s trial, Luke informs us: “That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies” (Luke 23:12). According to Peter, the prophecy in this Psalm is partially fulfilled by Herod and Pilate’s opposition to Christ. In a prayer, after citing the first two verses of this Psalm, Peter points out: “Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed” (Acts 4:27).
Peter cited this Psalm in Acts 4 in order to comfort Christ’s disciples. He was making the point that the opposition to Christ and His disciples was prophesied by God. Peter went on to say in his prayer that Herod and Pilate “did what Your power and will had decided beforehand should happen” (Acts 4:28). So also, we should realize that God is in control, even when we face opposition.
The ultimate fulfillment of the prophesied rebellion in this Psalm is the rebellion of the earth during the end times. The book of Revelation speaks about the spirits of demons that “go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty...Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon” (Rev. 16:14,16).
In verse 3, the rebels state the motive for their opposition. They view God’s law as “chains” and “fetters” that they want to “break off” and “throw away”. In this, they show their ignorance. God’s law is just, holy, righteous, fair and, for those who keep it, profitable, edifying and life-giving. “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple” (Ps. 19:7). “So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12). “We know that the law is good if a man uses it properly” (I Tim. 1:8). Nevertheless, the rebels see it as “chains” and “fetters”.
Interestingly, there is a section of this Psalm devoted to each person of the Trinity. In verses 4 through 6, we have God the Father’s response to the rebellion. The Father here is depicted as the One in control. First, He shows contempt for the rebellion, then He shows His wrath, then He states His sovereignty over the situation.
Conspiracies against the God of the universe are ridiculous and foolish. Thus, the Father shows His contempt for the rebellion by laughing and scoffing. In a similar passage in Psalm 37, the reason for God’s mocking is given: “But the Lord laughs at the wicked, for He knows their day is coming” (Ps. 37:13). God knows His own power and ability to quash any rebellion. However, He refrains from judging the rebellious because He is patient and longsuffering, giving the rebels a chance to repent. Nevertheless, at the appointed time, God will judge those conspiring against Him when He “rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath”.
His judgment will be a confirmation of His anointing of Christ, for during the judgment He says: “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill”. Note that the Father says “I have installed”. Jesus Christ came to earth with the full backing and authority of the Father. Note also, Christ is described by the Father as “my King”, for Christ was anointed by God and will be sent by God to rule the earth.
In verses 7 through 9, the Son, Jesus Christ, relates the commission that the Father gave Him to reign as King over the earth. It is interesting that Christ, as the “Word” (cf. John 1:1), reveals the secret counsel between Him and His Father.
The Father said to Him: “You are my Son; today I have become your Father”. The “today” that is referred to is, I believe, the day of Christ’s baptism. On that day, Christ was revealed to the world as the Son of God: “And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17).
The Father says to His Son: “Ask of me”. God’s promises are appropriated through prayer, even the promises made to the Son. So also, in order for us to appropriate God’s promises to us, we are to ask of Him.
Significantly, Christ needed only to ask in order to establish His kingdom. The promise stood at least from the time of Christ’s baptism (the “today”). Thus, if He asked, Christ did not have to endure the cross in order to reign, but, by His love, He chose to endure the cross for our salvation.
Christ will “rule with an iron scepter”. His rule will be just. God’s commandments will be the law of the land. Injustice will not be tolerated; immorality will not be permitted. The rebellious, He will dash “to pieces like pottery”.
Interestingly, “pottery” is a symbol for God’s creatures. Isaiah says: “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Isa. 64:8). And Paul asks: “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” (Rom. 9:21). Yes, and if the pottery rebels, the potter certainly has the right to dash it to pieces.
In the last section, verses 10 through 12, the Holy Spirit, through David, warns the rebels to repent, warning them of the judgment. This is in line with one of the purposes of the Holy Spirit. He is to “convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8).
He exhorts the kings to “be wise”. Again, rebellion against the God of the universe is foolish and will lead to death. Also, the kings and the rulers will have no excuse for what they are doing because they have been “warned”.
Significantly, God gives the rebels a chance to repent. He offers mercy even to those in open rebellion against Him. Moreover, He also tells them how to obtain it. First, they are to “serve the Lord with fear”. It is the clear indication of scripture that we are to “fear” the Lord. “The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, He is the one you are to fear, He is the one you are to dread” (Isa. 8:13); “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecces. 12:13); “Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear” (I Pet. 1:17); etc. Our lives should reflect that we fear the Lord. If we truly fear the Lord, if we truly understand His power and sovereignty, if we truly understand His wrath, we will do what He says. Here, the Psalmist says to “serve” the Lord with fear. We should understand that it is our privilege to serve the Lord. Too many people think that they are doing God a favor by serving Him. Take note! “Serve the Lord with fear”.
Second, in order to receive mercy, the rebels are to “rejoice with trembling”. Even in our rejoicing, we are to, having the awareness of the holiness of God, tremble with fear. To “rejoice with trembling” is to recognize God’s mercy on one side (thus, the rejoicing) and His wrath on the other (thus, the trembling). While in the midst of the blessings of God, we may forget that we are being blessed by a God that demands righteousness and reverence. Remember to “rejoice with trembling”.
Third, the rebels are to “kiss the Son”. The kiss is a symbol of affection, homage and subjection. Thus, we are to love Jesus, worship Jesus, and serve Jesus. It is no disgrace, even for a king, to “kiss the Son”; it is no disgrace, even for the rulers of the earth, to submit to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
If these solicitations to receive His mercy are ignored, the Lord will “be angry” and the rebels will “be destroyed”. Rejected grace brings God’s anger and the greater penalty. To reject God’s free gift of salvation is to insult God and to denigrate the sacrifice Christ made. Indeed, God’s anger is just.
Note that “His wrath can flare up in a moment”. Be ready! The end can come at any time. The day of God’s wrath is near. “While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety’, destruction will come on them suddenly” (I Thess. 5:3).
But don’t worry, as long as you “take refuge in Him”, you will be “blessed”, even through the day of God’s wrath. The Psalm ends with a blessing. God always emphasizes His grace and mercy over His wrath and judgment. God’s wrath is called “His strange work” (Isa. 28:21). When God describes Himself to Moses, again His mercy and grace are emphasized: “The Lord , the Lord , the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished” (Ex. 34:6,7).
Lord, thank you for the blessings of taking refuge in you: cleansing from sin, delivery from wrath, communion with God, everlasting life. We praise You that You have clearly stated how to escape Your wrath and receive Your blessings. By Your Spirit, teach us to fear You so that we may be driven to serve You. Forgive us in our rebellion, for we kiss the Son, we love Jesus and worship Him as our Lord and Savior. In His name we pray these things, Amen.