Sometimes, studying the Bible is like cleaning out your kid’s bedroom. The deeper you dig, the more you find. In my case, I recently had this experience with Psalm 2. A couple of weeks ago, the psalm appeared in my daily Bible reading (I follow another plan in addition to the schedule we’re on here), and as I was reading it, I said to myself, “Hey! There’s a hymn in there!”
After I’d paraphrased the psalm, two things struck me about it. The first is the great relevance of Psalm 2 to the New Testament. Only a few other psalms are quoted more frequently than Psalm 2, and most of those are much longer.
Second, though, Psalm 2 has a great deal of relevance to us. It’s about a time when the authority of God is under attack by powerful people, and guess what? We live in a time when the authority of God is under attack by powerful people. In such a time, we need to be reminded about what the outcome of those attacks will always be. This evening, then, let’s look at Psalm 2.
Really, Psalm 2 has four verses, and the first of these verses concerns THE RAGE OF NATIONS. Let’s read here from Psalm 2:1-3. This is a text with multiple meanings, and the first of those meanings concerns the life of the author himself. Even though it doesn’t say so at the top, we know from the New Testament that Psalm 2 was written by David.
David was a warrior king who had many enemies, so there are several incidents in his life that could reasonably have provoked him to write this. I suspect, though, that it’s probably based on what we see in 2 Samuel 10:6. In context, the king of the Ammonites has insulted David, so he tries to get together a coalition to defend himself from the Israelite army. All these nations are hoping to defeat David, who is the Lord’s anointed, so that Israel won’t be in control of the region anymore.
However, as is often the case with psalms about David, this has a Messianic fulfillment as well. Consider what the Christians in Jerusalem say in Acts 4:23-28. It’s interesting to me that Luke doesn’t attribute this statement to any particular apostle or church leader. Instead, it appears to be obvious to everybody. They’re saying, “Hey, look! The Jews and the Romans plotted together to kill Jesus, and now the leaders of the Jews are continuing to oppose Him. This is clearly a fulfillment of Psalm 2.”
At this point, we start to see a trend emerging. Whenever God raises up His anointed, the devil is going to stir up enemies among the nations who will try to pull him down. It was true of David, and the apostles 2000 years ago see that it’s true of Jesus too.
Indeed, I believe that today, we continue to see the enemies of God fulfilling this prophecy. As it was obvious to the apostles, I think it’s obvious to every one of us today that there are powerful people in our time who have set themselves against the Lord and against His Anointed.
In fact, even though Psalm 2:3 wasn’t originally written about them, I don’t think that I could come up with a better description of their attitude if I tried. Isn’t this exactly what they want to do? Don’t they want to break the bonds that Christ has placed on their conduct?
This is perhaps most true when it comes to sexual morality. The people of our time want to break the bond of marriage. They reject the clear teaching of Matthew 19 and get divorced and remarried whenever they feel like it. They throw off the cords that tie us to intimacy only in the context of marriage by practicing fornication and adultery. They ignore God’s warning that the practice of homosexuality is unnatural and against His will. Recently, we even see people denying that God created them male and female, choosing to call themselves transgender. The message in all of this is plain. They don’t care about God’s authority. They’re going to rebel against Him and do what they want.
Fascinatingly, the heavenly reaction to earthly rebellion is THE LAUGHTER OF GOD. Look here at Psalm 2:4-6. In earthly terms, David and the Israelites might have been concerned about all these kings forming an alliance. In earthly terms, early Christians might have been concerned about the combined might of the Sanhedrin and the Roman government. Today, we might be concerned about all those powerful forces that are trying to corrupt our nation.
You know who isn’t concerned, though? God isn’t concerned. No matter how powerful His human enemies may be, God will laugh at their pathetic attempts to oppose His will. He has chosen His king, whether David or Christ, and no possible human combination will unseat that king.
The same thing is true today, folks. It seems like every few months, I see another article about how fewer and fewer Americans believe in God. Know what? It doesn’t matter. No matter how loudly they deny the sovereignty of Christ, they can’t diminish that sovereignty even one little bit. Our nation can become so wicked that God decides to judge us and hammer us flat, but we are certainly not going to overthrow God or Christ. The reign of Jesus will continue long after the United States ends up on the historical rubbish heap, and there’s not a thing that all the haters can do about it.
Here’s the point. The next time you hear someone talking about how Christianity is on the wrong side of history, remember that God is sitting in heaven laughing at them, and it’s not a nice laugh. That will help you react to them appropriately.
The centerpiece of God’s plan for the rule of mankind is THE EXALTATION OF THE SON. Let’s keep going in Psalm 2:7-9. In context, this section is a little confusing. The rest of the psalm is written in third person, but here the point of view shifts abruptly to first person. This is God’s king speaking.
In particular, the king is saying that God has begotten him as His son. Even for David, this is a meaningful thing to say. Back in the day, inheritance was extremely important. A man would leave everything he owned to his son. If God has made David His son, then, David becomes the heir of everything that God owns, which is everything. This includes the very nations that are trying to attack David. As a result, because David owns them, David is able to smash them up like a clay pot.
However, as is often the case in the Psalms, language that is figurative when David applies it to himself becomes literal when it is applied to Jesus. Paul explains in Acts 13:32-33. There are several cool things to note about this text. The first is that when Paul preached in Antioch, Psalm 2 was already known as “the second Psalm”, so the order of the psalms in the Book of Psalms is at least that old.
Second, when we think of Jesus being the only begotten Son of God, we normally think about the virgin birth. However, that’s not what Paul is talking about here. Instead, he says that the quotation from Psalm 2 is a reference to the resurrection of Jesus. As always, we don’t dare overlook the importance of the resurrection to our belief that Jesus is the Son of God. It’s one thing to go around claiming to be the Son of God. It’s another to have God confirm that by raising you from the dead!
Because God has declared that Jesus is His Son, we can be certain not only that Jesus will have victory, but that we today will have victory. Consider what Jesus Himself says in Revelation 2:26-27. Once again, consider the parallels. Through faith in Christ, we too become sons and daughters of God. Because we are His children, we too inherit the authority that He has over the nations. We too will reign alongside Jesus. The haters are doomed to fail in their attempt to overthrow God, and they’re doomed to fail in their attempt to oppose us too. Ultimately, it is God’s children who will be glorified and their enemies who will be destroyed.
David concludes the psalm with A WARNING FOR RULERS. It appears in Psalm 2:10-12. The “therefore” at the beginning is very important to understanding this text. We’ve seen that God is so powerful that He holds His enemies in contempt. We’ve seen that He has confirmed the authority of His king over the nations. As a result, if you’re one of the rulers of the nations, you’d better be smart and submit to God and to His king rather than rebelling and getting squished. The king will protect you if you take refuge in him, but he will kill you if you make him angry.
The applications in David’s case are obvious. All the Ammonites, Philistines, and whoever elses needed to steer clear, or else they were going to get clobbered. In Jesus’ case, the applications were less obvious but equally accurate. The early church looked much less powerful than the Jewish state or the Roman Empire, but in the end, it was the Jews and Romans who were destroyed, not the church.
So too, the opponents of God and Christ today need to wise up. They may think that they’re so smart and powerful, but in reality, if they continue to oppose God, they will only ensure their own destruction. This is true for kings and nations, and it’s equally true for individuals. The only hope for any of us is to fear God and do homage to His Son.