Psalm 2 brings a challenge to a world that wants to live independent of the Living God and His chosen King. It also brings comfort to those who have taken refuge in the Son (verse 12) as to who is on the throne. At the same time, it is a call to the church, who are waiting for the second coming of the King Messiah, to be the instruments through whom God works to fulfill the promise made to Messiah in verse 8, “Ask of Me and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance.”
The video is below. This was recorded for those unable to attend either of our services. Underneath, I have reproduced the notes that I send out to those who have no internet.
We are living in unprecedented times. Apart from members who were around during WW2, none of us will remember anything as disruptive as this pandemic, which has changed the way most people live around the world. At the same time, political crises, economic crises and tensions between nations seem to be getting worse.
Yet this is nothing new. Human history records disease, wars, economic disasters, riots, breakdowns of society and the destruction of nations.
Psalm 2 speaks right into this by showing who is in charge. The people of Israel needed to know who was in charge of this world and that He would fulfill His promise to appoint a true King and Messiah who would save them. Today, we need to see that this King still reigns.
As well as encouraging God’s people, this psalm is a witness to the world around. Leaders, presidents, prime ministers, politicians, councillors, judges, the so-called great and good, need to know who rules and that they must respond to Him.
I) The plans of the world (v1-3)
In these first three verses, we see why the world is like it is. It is doing what it has always been doing – opposing God and His appointed King. While this psalm would have been partially fulfilled in King David and later Solomon, the language of this psalm goes beyond a human king, and points us to the King of kings – Jesus.
The psalm starts with, “Why?” What do the peoples of the world think they are doing? They are (v1):
- Raging. They are in a state of anger and rebellion.
- Plotting. This is the same word which is translated “meditate” in Psalm 1:2 The people of God are to meditate on His word; the peoples of the world meditate and talk to themselves and each other about how to express their independence from God.
It is this independence that they are seeking to achieve (v2-3):
- Set themselves – take a stand. They take a stand against God. They do not want the rule of God over their lives and nations and cultures. Christians, on the other hand, are dependent.
- They work and build together against the Lord and His Anointed (that is, Christ). Nations may fight each other, but there is a common thread among all the “isms” around the world (atheism, materialism, humanism, facism, communism, and all the religious “isms”) to oppose the true and living God and the Saviour.
- They want to break free of what they see as “bonds” (v3), that is God’s rule and authority.
Despite this, these verses are encouraging to God’s people. Sitting here in 2020, it is easy to look around the world and think that things are the worst that they have ever been, but these verses tell us that this has always been the condition of the world (it began in the Garden of Eden). It may show itself in slightly different ways today, but the condition and state of mind of the world is the same. And the Lord is telling us this so that we see He knows about it, so that we do not fear.
Furthermore, the world is unwittingly fulfilling God’s purposes. Look at Acts 4:23-31. The rebellion of v1-3 is supremely shown in the crucifixion of Christ, yet still God is in charge. Therefore, brothers and sisters, we do not need to fear today.
II) The authority of heaven (v4-6)
Verse 1 gives us a clue about God’s response – “plot in vain.” The plotting against the Living God is empty and cannot achieve anything. Hence the “why” of v1.
- Who God is (v4). He “sits” in heaven (on the throne).
- How pathetic the rebellion of the world is. God “laughs” and “holds them in derision” (v4). The rebellion of the world doesn’t make Him anxious. Instead, it is something that should be mocked because it is so utterly pathetic. See also Psalm 37:13.
- God’s timing is perfect – “then” (v5, this word is not translated in the NIV). It shows us that, while He is always in charge and is never going to be overthrown by the rebellion of the world, there will be a “then”, at just the right time, when the Lord’s power is manifestly seen. This has been the case in Biblical and secular history, and we will see it most of all at the coming of Christ.
- Nothing can stop the Lord. Verse 5 says, “Then He will speak…” We think of words as just words, but the word of God has power. When God speaks, it comes to pass; God has decreed that His King would be on the throne, and it happened. They persecuted God’s King, they nailed Him to a cross, they put Him in a tomb, and He destroyed death, burst out of the tomb and now is seated at the right hand of God until His enemies are made His footstool. Spurgeon said: “God’s Anointed is appointed, and shall not be disappointed.”
III) The reign of God’s king (v7-9)
Christ’s reign is an unchangeable fact (v7). The King Himself begins to speak. God has made a decree – it is something that is appointed and cannot be changed. It is in the past tense (the Lord said). Christ is on the throne now, and His glorious kingship is seen as the gospel spreads throughout the world.
Verse 7 that makes it absolutely clear that this is no earthly king. The verse points back to 2 Sam 7:14, which is partly seen in Solomon, but finally fulfilled in Jesus, the perfect sinless Messiah who was punished for the sins of His people.
The verse also points forward (Acts 13:33 and Hebrews 1:5, which speak of the resurrection and ascension of Christ). Christ has always been the Son, but these events fully reveal who He is. They declare Him to be the legitimate King.
The extent of the Messiah’s reign is the nations of the earth (v8). He says that God has told Him to ask for the nations as His inheritance, to be His by right, to be owned by Him. At His first coming, He didn’t march from heaven with the angelic armies; instead, He came and humbled Himself to purchase the nations through the cross.
As His church, this is why we preach the gospel. The great commission is to bring the nations to the feet of King Jesus. Why do we support missionaries? Why do we pray for the advance of the gospel? Why do we share the gospel with our neighbours? Because the nations of the world are part of the inheritance of the King of kings and He has chosen us to make Him known: “Go and make disciples of all the nations.”
The power of the Messiah’s justice (v9). In this psalm we see the full picture of who Jesus is. He is the Saviour for everyone who will believe, but He is also the Judge of the whole earth. Although the psalm ends with a promise for those who will turn to Him (v12), in verse 9 we see the power and justice of Christ towards those who oppose Him.
The language here is vivid and shows the world the urgency of repentance and to the church the urgency of mission:
- “you shall break.” This is what will happen on judgement day, but this is what happens in a different sense and the gospel breaks people’s rebellion and brings them under Christ’s authority.
- A “rod of iron” is a symbol of authority and strength. This King is the One who brings His justice to the earth, dealing with those who seek to overthrow divine authority. Yet Ps 23:4 is the same word – the shepherd’s rod is for the guidance and protection of His sheep, but the judge’s rod is for the punishment of the rejecting world.
- Dash/smash like a potter’s vessel. Shows the devastating nature of judgement and the frailty of human beings. We are clay/dust.
These are solemn words. All will stand before Him. He will be either shepherd or judge. The individual call of Psalm 1:5-6, the way of the wicked and the way of the righteous, is now a call to the nations. They need to come to God’s chosen King and be saved! And this is how the psalm concludes.
IV) The call to the nations (v10-12)
“Therefore”: because of this, you need to do something. The rebels of verses 1-3 need to respond to the King.
- “Be wise” – be prudent, understand. Think things out.
- “Be warned” – be chastised/corrected. Give up your vain plots and turn to the King.
This is how they need to respond:
- V11: Serve/worship with fear/reverence, rejoice with trembling. Here is awe and reverence and yet joy. The fools of verses 1-3 are saying, “let’s break off His bonds over our lives” and yet Christ the King says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Yes, He is the King of kings, but He is also the Friend of sinners.
- As believers, let’s rejoice in Him, serve in willing obedience and yet realising who God is. He is not to be treated lightly.
- V12: Kiss Him. Again, awe and intimacy. A kiss in this context is one of submission, but yet He is also our Beloved who invites us to draw near to Him.
Then the final warning and invitation. He will either be Saviour or Judge:
- “Lest He be angry”. As God and Judge, He is righteously angry against sin.
- His wrath is “quickly kindled.” This is not saying He is bad-tempered. No, He is patient, He is filled with loving kindness and mercy, but He is also just and there are consequences to sin; when the time comes, the consequences are swift. We do not have plenty of time. When the Lord’s judgement comes, it will surely come and there will be nothing to stop it.
- And the consequence will be “you perish in the way.” This is the same warning as Psalm 1:6.
- But instead, “Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.” This points back to Psalm 1:1-2: “Blessed is the man/woman who walks not… but his delight is in the law of the Lord…”
Which “way” are you on? That’s the key message of both these psalms.
But this is also a comfort/encouragement to the people of God living in a troubled world:
- The world without God has always been a mess and will be until Christ returns. God’s word and His church will be opposed – that’s normal, that is Biblical realism.
- But we don’t need to fear. God knows. His purposes stand forever, and Christ is on the throne.
Then there are three challenges as we close:
- Are you committed to mission? God uses His church to bring the nations to Christ. Do you pray? Do you give? Do you share your faith? Are you willing to go?
- Do you honour and enjoy Him? Serve… Rejoice with trembling…. Kiss the Son. Ask the Lord to stir your love for Him, your desire to obey Him, your delight in Him.
- Are you longing for His return, for the darkness to be swept away and His rule to be visible and to enjoy the bounty of His kingdom forever and ever? May our cry be the cry with which scripture closes: “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!”