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Psalm 2: The true King

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Psalm 2: The true King
Posted on November 22, 2019  - By Dr. David Brooks

Christians hold to (or should hold to) Biblical values. However, many voices in the world violently oppose those who believe the Bible is the standard for living and accuse Bible-believers of things we don’t believe. Many who claim to be Christians even follow along with them. Psalm 2 addresses resistance to God’s ways, what the result will be, and the wisest course to follow.

Psalms 1 and 2 form an introduction to the Book of Psalms by addressing two of the major issues in the book. Psalm 2 deals with the kingship of God and His Anointed One (Messiah) over the world. The psalm has four sections of three verses each.

Empty resistance

Verses 1-3 show the tumultuous and unhappy people groups whom David had conquered east and northeast of Israel (“the nations rage… the peoples plot a vain thing”). They did not want to be taxed by a foreigner, provide soldiers for Israel, or have Israel govern them. The psalm says they were rebelling also against the Lord. Therefore, this goes beyond political or military rebellion to revolting against the Lord and His standards. They do not want some or all of God’s values to be imposed on them, such as sexual purity, honesty, being compassionate and helpful to the weak, speaking well of people instead of gossiping, etc. Although they would claim this wrongly represents them except on the matter of sexuality, the results of their opposition to the Bible affect the other matters. But this type of resistance to God’s ways is empty and worthless; it cannot ultimately succeed.

Verses 4-6 direct our attention to God (“He who sits in the heavens laughs”). He is in heaven above it all and derides their plans as futile. He even becomes angry with them (“He will speak to them in His wrath… His fury”). Since God loves people, He becomes angry when we want freedom from the obligation to be righteous. He is offended when we pursue evil, advance ourselves at others’ expense, and are unjust. God’s laughter might seem cruel at first, but the text is not saying He is laughing because the rebels will be destroyed. He is laughing in derision because the attempt to revolt is ridiculously impossible. He is also derisive toward the revolt because the rebels seek to promote their own selfish agendas, which invariably and inevitably include insensitivity and oppression toward others.

God’s laughter might seem cruel at first, but the text is not saying He is laughing because the rebels will be destroyed

Verses 7-9 direct our attention to the Messiah (“my King”) who was mentioned in v. 6 (“The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son’”). In 2 Samuel 7:12-16, God made the Davidic Covenant in which he promised David an eternal dynasty (though it could be, and was, interrupted temporarily because of the kings’ rebellions against God; see 2 Samuel 7:14). Therefore, the promises to David were not just for him but also for his descendants. In many psalms, David wrote as if speaking of himself, but the words could apply as well to any of his descendants. This one speaks ultimately of the Messiah.

The right to rule

In the Davidic Covenant, God said David’s son who would be king would be God’s son. In the ancient Near East, a king was sometimes called the son of his god. The Lord used the same common terminology, so that in 1 Chronicles 28:6, He says clearly that David’s son Solomon was His son. Any of David’s descendants who reigned as king could be called God’s son. The New Testament develops this further and points out that Jesus Christ is God’s son as a regnal descendant of David but also as God the Son, genuine deity. Thus, the term applies to Jesus (cf. Acts 4:25-27) in more than one way.

In Psalm 2:8, God promises, “Ask of me and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.” If the king from David’s family would ask to rule the world, God would give it to him. The psalmist did not include the qualifications of the one making the request other than being in David’s family, but a prophet would. Isaiah would announce the requirement for someone to be exalted this highly: he will have to die in the place of sinners to take God’s wrath against sin (Isaiah 52:12-53:12). A descendant of David, the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth in the first century, did this very thing. He earned the right to ask to rule the world.

When Jesus died in the place of sinners to take God’s wrath against sin, He earned the right to ask to rule the world

The New Testament states David wrote the psalm (Acts 4:25-26). In his last words, David declared that a ruler must be righteous (2 Samuel 23:3). Some versions translate it “justly”, and “in justice”, but the Hebrew word is an adjective describing the ruler.

He also declared the ruler must rule in the fear of God. This includes obedience to God, trust in Him, worship of the Lord, loyalty to Him and, of course, maintaining an attitude of reverence and awe for God. Most of the Law gives instruction on treating others with respect, compassion, and fairness (cf. Micah 6:8). Since the Messiah will be righteous and rule in the fear of God, to oppose Him is to promote dishonour to God and to people.

The end of rebellion

Psalm 2:9 says the ruler will soundly defeat those who revolt (“You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel”). Some translations interpret the first half as “You shall rule them with a rod of iron”. In the world as we know it, this would mean with violence and inflexibility, harshness, selfishness, and absence of compassion. Indeed, God views the world’s empires as behaving in just this way (cf. Daniel 7:1-12). But His plan involves destroying these governments and systems and turning them over to His truly humane Ruler (cf. Daniel 7:13-14) who will reverse all this and be a righteous ruler, governing in the fear of the Lord. Therefore, when He arrives, He will be intolerant of fraud, corruption, prejudicial treatment, violence, injustice, oppression, misrepresentation of others, and all the other ways people mistreat one another. Anyone who attempts to mistreat people will be exposed, judged, sentenced, and punished (cf. Isaiah 11:1-9). Thus, when He defeats (or rules) with a rod of iron, He will crush evil, not good.

God’s plan involves destroying oppressive governments and systems and turning them over to His truly humane Ruler

Verses 10-12 address the rebellious people of vv. 1-3, exhorting them to change their minds and submit willingly to the Lord and His Messiah (“serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling”). It will be the responsibility of people to visit the Messianic king when He reigns (cf. Isaiah 66:23; Zechariah 14:16-19). If they do not do homage (“kiss the Son”), He will punish them on their way from Him, for their selfishness will quickly provoke His anger.

Just as the first psalm began by announcing who is blessed, so the second psalm rounds out the introduction to Psalms by announcing who is blessed. Verse 12 ends by declaring everyone who trusts in God’s Messiah will be blessed. The term used for “trust” means specifically to trust and, therefore, seek refuge. Those who seek refuge in God’s Messiah will be rescued from those who wish to abuse and misuse them for their own selfish purposes, because the Messiah will completely defeat the oppressors.

Although many people object to and oppose the principles of God’s Word, and though they win political and social battles over the issues, the end result will be failure, because they are opposing God. Despite many people’s misperceptions about the Lord, He cares about people and will destroy efforts to oppress them. The wise are those who adhere to His values and seek refuge in Him. We need to make this choice.

Dr. David Brooks

About Dr. David Brooks

David Brooks is a senior professor of Hebrew & Old Testament at Criswell College, Dallas, where he lives with his wife and four children. Having been raised with an emphasis on international missions, he often accepts international teaching assignments while also teaching adjunctively at Dallas Theological Seminary.



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