The first two Psalms form a sort of introduction to the Psalter. Where Psalm 1 introduces us to the contrast between the blessed life of walking with God and the miserable life of walking with the scoffers and evildoers, Psalm 2 presents an eschatological vision. The first Psalm tells us how to live in the here and now, and the second Psalm goes on to lay before us the glorious future under the global reign of the Messiah.
1 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, [saying], 3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. 4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. 5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. 6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. 7 I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou [art] my Son; this day have I begotten thee. 8 Ask of me, and I shall give [thee] the heathen [for] thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth [for] thy possession. 9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. 10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish [from] the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed [are] all they that put their trust in him.
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
This Psalm pits mankind’s word against the Word of God’s Messiah. This song opens with the question which often confronts God’s people (v1). Why do the goyim rage? Why do the people have brains full of daydreams? Earth’s kings & rulers have called a war-council to determine what to do about Yahweh & the one He has Anointed (v2); they issue the results of their council: “let us overthrow the Almighty (v3).”
How does God respond to this challenge? He laughs (v4). Then He replies with the Word of His wrath (v5). What judgement shall these rebels bring forth upon themselves? How will He vex them? Despite their raging, despite their protests, despite their vanity, His anointed King shall reign from Zion (v6).
The Messiah then speaks. He reveals to the nations God’s decree. This Christ is Yahweh’s begotten Son (v7; Cf. 2 Sam. 7:14). This Sonship comes with the right to ask of the Most High for an inheritance of nations (v8, Cf. 1 Kg. 3:5, ); the Anointed Son might shepherd the nations firmly to either obedience or damnation (v9). He has every right to crush the nations into powder. But He holds out wisdom to the kings of the nations (v10). Obey His imperatives. Serve Yahweh with joyful reverence (v11). Kiss His Son in humble love, and so His lawful wrath might be removed (v12). This done, all the covenant blessings of Eden & Sinai held out in Psalm 1 are offered to these nations by trusting in the Christ of Yahweh.
AN APOSTOLIC FAVORITE
At the Apostolic Psalm-sings this second Psalm was likely a crowd favorite. It is one of the most cited Psalms in the NT. After Peter and John’s examination before the Chief Priests, after healing the lame man, the early Christians lift up a prayer with one accord. This congregational prayer quotes this Psalm and applies it to Herod, Pilate, and the threatening of the chief priests and elders (Cf. Acts 4:24-31). The wicked opposition to Christ had been foretold by David’s Psalm, and this emboldens the early church to stand courageous even in the face of the threatenings of those same rulers. A sort of second Pentecost takes place at the offering of this prayer.
Verse 7 is cited three times, once in Acts13:33; and twice in Hebrews (1:5 & 5:5). In Acts the thrust is that Christ’s resurrection was a new birth which affirmed that Jesus was indeed the Son of God, and therefore the heir of all the earth. While Hebrews asserts that Jesus total ministry was a proof of His Sonship, and thus a better ministry than the Angels or Aaron. Luke also records two moments where the Father declares the Sonship of the Christ, at Jesus’ baptism and at the transfiguration (Lk. 3:22, 9:35). Jesus baptism, an anointing of sorts, is immediately followed by the temptation in the wilderness, where one of Satan’s temptations was offering Jesus all the nations (Cf. Ps. 2:8).
Finally, verses 8-9 are either alluded to or directly cited by John as He describes the just wrath of the Lamb upon unbelieving Israel (Rev. 2:26,27; 12:5; 19:15). John saw the judgement on Jerusalem as an example of how the Ascended Christ was fulfilling His calling to break the nations and rule them with an iron scepter.
THE MESSIAH’S WISDOM
It should be plainly seen that the way God vexes rebel kings, the way He subdues raging nations, is by the Word. The Father sent the Word, in the Flesh, and now that Word issues His Word to the nations.
Jesus offers true wisdom, not just for kings & rulers, but for all mankind. He is depicted as a Shepherd King alike to David. The LXX translates “breaks” the nations as rule/shepherd the nations. The Good Shepherd is not a pushover. He will shepherd the nations to adhere to His commandments. It is apparent that for the Apostles, they viewed this Psalm as being fulfilled in Christ’s ascension.
This means that as the body of the Anointed our proclamation of the Word is an outworking of the Good Shepherd’s commission to us to teach and disciple the nations. This Psalm inspired great missionary movements, going to all the ends of the earth to serve the Shepherd King in gathering His flock from every nation. So, what are the missionaries, according to Psalm 2, tasked with teaching the nations? To come near to Christ. To learn the wisdom of this better Solomon. To rejoice while trembling.
Christ reigns from Zion. This is not a far off dream. This is not a description of some day in eternity. The kings & rulers sought to thwart the coronation of Christ Jesus by slaying Him, but by His resurrection He displayed that God’s eternal purpose was not derailed. Christ arose from the grave. So not even death can stop the inevitable reign of Christ over all nations and distant isles.
This brings a great deal of implications for all spheres of human life. If Christ is the King of all nations, He is reigning over them now, He is shepherding them now. All of His commands pertain to all people from all nations. His commands to husbands to cherish their wives as they do their own body is not confined merely to Christian husbands. Parenting is not a clinical or medical proposition, for Christ commands fathers and mothers to raise their children in the nurture of the Lord; for parents to refuse to do so is to bring down the fierce wrath of the Lamb upon themselves. And what of a nation that doesn’t wince at aborting their offspring en masse?
Indeed, the scope of Christ’s jurisdiction is both global and personal. He is Lord of all, and He is Lord of you. There are two options, and only two, be Shepherded by the Shepherd who laid down His life for the flock, or be dashed to pieces by the Potter who can dispose of malformed vessels as He sees fit. What you can’t do is ignore this Anointed One which God the Father has enthroned in Zion. Here, in the gathering of the saints, Christ reigns, Christ feeds us, Christ Shepherds us, and sends us forth to bring all nations to enjoy the promised blessing of trusting in Him.