Last week we began a new series on the Psalms. The Psalms are divided into five books; and while all of the psalms are songs, used in worship, there are different kinds of psalm.
For instance, there are psalms of lament, where the psalmist cries out to God when he’s in trouble. Perhaps his trouble is caused by illness or affliction or slander or war or perhaps there’s some other experience which he’s going through and which causes him to cry out to the Lord for help. Think of Psalm 22:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
Then there are the penitential psalms, where the psalmist confesses his sin and seeks God’s forgiveness. Think of psalm 51:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!
Then there are psalms of praise where the psalmist praises the Lord and gives thanks to him for all the good things he has done. So, psalm 9 begins:
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
There are psalms of Zion which are songs about Jerusalem and about travelling to Jerusalem to worship the Lord. So, there’s Psalm 122:
I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’ Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!
Then there are enthronement psalms which make clear that the Lord is enthroned in heaven and rules over all that he has made. So, there’s psalm 47:
Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy! For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth.
There are also royal psalms which focus on God’s Anointed King who was appointed by God to rule over his people. And so, psalm 18 ends with the words about the Lord:
Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever.
And there are wisdom psalms which are about living your life in accordance with God’s word. Think of psalm 19:
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
There are probably other kinds of psalm and other ways of classifying them. But those are the main kinds. The reformer, John Calvin, said about the psalms that they are ‘an anatomy of all the parts of the soul’, because — he said — all our emotions are represented in the psalms. Calvin said that here the psalmist lays open our inmost thoughts and affections: our griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, and perplexities. They’re all here in the different kinds of psalm.
The first two psalms are introductory and introduce the whole of the psalter. I said last week that Psalm 1 was a wisdom psalm and contrasted the righteous and the wicked. The righteous person is the one who is right with God through faith and who is blessed by God, because he is no longer under condemnation, but has been pardoned by God and has been promised eternal life. This righteous person does not follow the foolish counsel of unbelievers and he does not associate with sinners, but he delights to meditate on God’s word. As a tree is nourished by streams of water, so the righteous person is nourished and fed by God’s word; and he is therefore successful in doing the will of the Lord. God knows and loves and watches over the righteous person. On the other hand, the way of the wicked will perish: the wicked person — that is, the unbeliever — will be destroyed by God, just as the farmer destroys the chaff when he’s winnowing the wheat.
That’s a wisdom psalm, for the righteous person is wise, because he delights in God’s word, where true wisdom is found; and he disregards the foolish counsel of an unbelieving world. Psalm 2, which we’re studying today, is a royal psalm, because it focusses on God’s Anointed King, who faces hostility from an unbelieving world. As I said last week, these two introductory psalms highlight some of the themes which we’ll find in the rest of the psalms. That is: we are called to be righteous; but the righteous will face opposition from a wicked world; however the righteous ought to look to God and to his Anointed King for help and for salvation. And, of course, like the rest of the Bible, the psalter points us in one way or another to the Lord Jesus Christ and to the good news of the gospel and the great hope we have in Christ. So, let’s turn now to psalm 2.
The psalm is in four parts. The first part — verses 1 to 3 — focusses on the plan of the nations to rebel against the Lord. The second part — verses 4 to 6 — focusses on God’s response to their plan and on how he has installed his king on Mount Zion. In the third part — verses 7 to 9 — the king himself speaks about his right to rule. And in the fourth part — verses 10 to 12 — the psalmist exhorts the nations to submit to God’s Anointed King.
This psalm might have been written for the coronation of a king. For instance, it’s possible that David wrote it for the coronation of his son, Solomon. It also recalls what we read in 2 Samuel 7 and God’s covenant with David. In that chapter, we read that after David was settled in Jerusalem, he expressed to Nathan the prophet a desire to build a temple for the Lord. But the Lord revealed to Nathan that David was not to build the temple, but his son would. And then the Lord said about David’s son, who would succeed him as king:
I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.
According to 2 Samuel 7, God regarded the king of Israel as his son. And here in Psalm 2, we read that God said to the new king:
You are my son; today I have become your Father.
The king of Israel was regarded as God’s son. And all the Old Testament kings of Israel point forward to the true King, Jesus Christ who is God’s Son and our Saviour, who rules in heaven over all.
Verses 1 to 3
And so, let’s turn now to the first part, verses 1 to 3 where the psalmist asks a question:
Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?
The question expresses the psalmist’s amazement, his incredulity, his indignation even. What’s wrong with the nations? They can’t be serious? What do they think they’re doing, conspiring and plotting against the Lord God Almighty? If you’re looking at the NIV, you’ll see a footnote beside the word ‘conspire’ which tells us that this word can also be translated ‘rage’. It refers to the raging of the sea, but here it refers to a meeting of rebels who are plotting together to stir up trouble and to overthrow the Lord and the Anointed One. However, even as he asks the question, the psalmist points out to us their foolishness and the futility of their plan, because what they’re conspiring to do, what they’re plotting to do, will be ‘in vain’. Do you see that at the end of verse 1? They cannot possibly overthrow the Lord, because the Lord our God is almighty and no-one can thwart his plans or stand in his way.
In verse 2, he describes how the kings and rulers of the earth take their stand and gather together against the Lord and his Anointed One. Notice that the rebellious kings and rulers are ‘of the earth’. Later, in verse 4, the psalmist refers to God as the one who is enthroned in heaven. So, the rebels are on earth, but the Lord is in heaven. They are earthly, earth-bound rulers, whereas he is enthroned in heaven over all. So, any attempt to overthrow the Lord of heaven is futile.
And, of course, the important word in this verse is the word ‘against’. The kings and rulers are taking a stand and gathering together ‘against’ the Lord and his Anointed One. The word ‘against’ makes clear their antagonism. They’re against the Lord, standing in opposition to him.
And, of course, the psalmist refers to the Lord and his Anointed One. The title ‘Anointed One’ refers to the king, because the king was anointed with oil to signify that God had chosen this person to serve as king over God’s people. Just think back to the time when Samuel the prophet was sent by God to Jesse’s home to find and to anoint David to be king.
So, the kings and rulers of the earth are depicted as gathering together against the Lord and his Anointed King. And in verse 3, the psalmist records the words of these rebels. They said:
Let us break their chains and throw off their fetters.
Now, the kings and rulers and their people were not really in chains and fetters. They weren’t literally tied up. But to be under the rule of God and God’s Anointed King seemed to them as if they were in bondage. They did not want the Lord or his king to rule over them and they resented God’s authority over them.
Well, in Acts 3 — which was, of course, after the Lord’s death and resurrection and ascension to heaven — Peter and John were preaching in the temple about the Lord Jesus and about how the Jews handed him over to be killed by Pilate; but how God raised him from the dead. And they want on to refer to the Lord Jesus as ‘the Christ’. Well, the Greek word ‘Christos’ means ‘Anointed One’. They were making clear that the Lord Jesus is God’s Anointed King.
And then, in Acts 4 — after Peter and John were warned by the religious authorities not to preach about the Lord Jesus again — they gathered together with the other believers and began to pray. And in their prayer, they quoted Psalm 2:
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one.
They quoted those words in their prayer and applied those words to what had happened to the Lord Jesus, because Herod and Pilate — two rulers of the earth — met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel to conspire together against the Lord Jesus who is God’s anointed. Peter and John and the other believers realised that Psalm 2 is about the Lord Jesus; and it’s about how his enemies plotted together to kill him.
However, their plot was in vain, wasn’t it? Their plot was in vain, because after the Lord Jesus died, God raised him from the dead and installed him as King over all. And as King over all, he sends his Spirit into the hearts of his people to enable them to repent and to believe, so that they’re added to his kingdom, which he’s building and enlarging throughout the world. They wanted to kill God’s Anointed King, but his death and resurrection means salvation for his people and the extension of his kingdom throughout the world.
Well, still the people of the world rage against the Lord God and his Anointed King. People hate the Lord Almighty and they hate the Lord Jesus. People do not want the Lord Jesus to rule over them. People want to be free and to live as they please. People do not want God’s Son to rule over them. And perhaps, from time to time, we worry, because their opposition and their antagonism seems so strong and people today seem so confident and so bold about their unbelief. But their opposition is in vain, isn’t it? It’s in vain, because when an unbelieving world did its worst and killed the author of life, God raised him from the dead. Why do they rage? Why do they plot? They’re wasting their time, because they cannot overthrow the Lord and his Anointed King.
Verses 4 to 6
And so, what do we find God doing in verses 4 to 6? We find him laughing. He’s laughing at the kings and the rulers and the people of the earth who are raging and plotting against him. He’s laughing at them and he’s scoffing at them, because he regards their plan to rebel against him as foolishness. It’s a joke. What they’re attempting to do — to overthrow the Lord and his Anointed King — is ridiculous. They cannot possibly succeed.
And then he rebukes them in his anger and he terrifies them in his wrath. The words used for ‘anger’ and ‘wrath’ both convey the idea of God’s burning rage. So, while he may laugh at them, because their attempt to overthrow him is so ridiculous, he also burns with anger against them because of their sinful rebellion. And despite their best efforts to overthrow the Lord’s Anointed King, the fact remains that the Lord Almighty has installed his King.
And, of course, after Herod and Pilate and the Gentiles and the Jews plotted together to kill the Lord Jesus, the Lord Almighty raised him from the dead and exalted him to his right hand in heaven, where he now sits enthroned as King of kings and Lord of lords. He now rules as King over all. And so, we can imagine the Lord Almighty saying to Herod and Pilate and the Gentiles and Jews about the Lord Jesus:
You tried to kill him, but I have installed him as King.
Verse 7 to 9
In verses 7 to 9, God’s Anointed King speaks. He makes known what the Lord Almighty has decreed about him. The Lord Almighty decreed about the King:
You are my Son; today I have become your Father.
And the significance of this relationship becomes clear in the verses which follow, because just as earthly sons might receive an inheritance from their earthly father, so this royal son expects to receive an inheritance from his heavenly Father. And the inheritance he expects to receive from God his Father is ownership of the nations. He’s expecting to receive from God his Father dominion over the world, so that his authority will extend beyond the borders of Israel to the ends of the earth. And God his Father declared to his royal son that he will rule the nations with an iron sceptre. That’s an image which conveys how strong and mighty his rule will be, because iron is strong, isn’t it? And God his Father declared to his royal son that he will dash the nations to pieces like pottery. That conveys how easy it will be for him to destroy his enemies. Destroying his enemies will be as easy as picking up a plate and smashing it on the ground.
Well, not one of the earthly kings of Israel ever ruled over the whole earth. Their dominion did not extend to the ends of the earth. No earthly king of Israel ever reigned like this. But in the book of Hebrews, the writer applies what is said here in Psalm 2 to the Lord Jesus Christ. In chapter 1 of Hebrews, the writer describes the Lord Jesus as being God’s Son, who is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of God’s being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. Then, after he provided purification for sins by his death on the cross, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. In other words, he sat down in the place of authority, on God’s throne in heaven. And the writer to the Hebrews went on to quote Psalm 2 as the words of the Lord Almighty to Jesus Christ:
You are my Son; today I have become your Father.
When did the Lord Almighty say those words to the Lord Jesus? Well, it was when he ascended to heaven after his death and resurrection. On the day he ascended to heaven, God declared him to be king over all, with the power and authority to rule the world.
And then, in the book of Revelation, the Lord Jesus is depicted as the one who rules over the nations with an iron sceptre. And the book of Revelation makes clear that while his people will suffer all kinds of trials and tribulations in these, the last days, nevertheless, the Lord Jesus is still the king who rules over all; and the day will come when he will destroy his enemies once and for all. And so, in Revelation 19, we have a vision of Christ’s return, and how he will come with justice to judge the nations and to make war on them. For years and years, they rejected him and rebelled against him. They did not believe in him or obey him. For years, he was patient with them; but then the day will come when he will come to judge them. The armies of heaven will follow him and he will strike the nations with a sharp sword, ruling over them with an iron sceptre; and he will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty, crushing his enemies like grapes in a winepress.
Verses 10 to 12
And so, we have words of advice from the psalmist to the nations in verses 10 to 12. What is his advice to them? What is his advice to people everywhere in view of these things? His advice is this:
Be wise. Be warned. Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice before him with trembling. And kiss the Son.
In other words, worship the Lord Almighty with reverence; and yield your life to Christ the King. Kissing a king means submitting to him; yielding to him; paying homage and declaring loyalty to him. That’s what people everywhere are called to do.
Because we’re sinners, so often in our hearts we say ‘no’ to him whenever we hear his commands. Something deep inside us says ‘no’ to him, because we’re sinners who resist his will. But the psalmist calls on people everywhere to yield their life to him and to submit to his authority. Kiss the Son, the psalmist says, lest he be angry. It’s not clear whether the psalmist means the Son will be angry or the Lord Almighty will be angry. Probably it’s the Lord Almighty: he will be angry and his wrath will burn against all those who remain rebels. However, blessed are all those who take refuge in the Lord Almighty and who trust in him for forgiveness and eternal life.
Well, Psalm 1 began by pronouncing a blessing on those who are right with God through faith. And Psalm 2 ends by pronouncing a blessing on those who take refuge in the Lord, which means trusting in him. God blesses all who believe by forgiving our sins, so that we will not be condemned, but will live with the Lord Alimghty and with his Anointed King forever and forever in glory.
And as we gather around the Lord’s Table on Sunday, and take the bread that speaks to us of Christ’s broken body, and take the drink that speaks to us of his shed blood, we’re reminded of the punishment we deserve, because by nature we’re sinners and rebels, who have disobeyed his commands and who have broken his laws; and many times we have said ‘no’ to the command of God; and we’ve refused to yield all of our life to him. And so, we deserve to suffer the full force of God’s anger and burning wrath. But Christ suffered in our place; and died to free us from the condemnation we deserve; he shed his blood for our forgiveness. And so, as we gather around the Lord’s Table, it’s with thankfulness in our hearts, because of what he did to save us and to bring us into his everlasting kingdom. And after we’ve received the sacrament, we should get up and go back out into the world, resolved to obey Christ our King more and more, for this is his will.