“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’
He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying,
‘As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.’
‘I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me,
“You are my Son; today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”‘
Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned,
O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”
Yesterday, we looked at David’s request to build God a house for his name, and God’s two-fold response: I will build you a house – i.e. establish the Davidic kingdom – and your son will build me a house. Today and tomorrow we jump into the Psalms – Psalm 2 today and Psalm 72 tomorrow – to learn more about the king and the kingdom.
Psalms 1 and 2 are the key to all the Psalms that follow. Psalm 1 sets the scene by contrasting the Godly man with the ungodly man:
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
The line dividing them is that the former delights in the law of God, strives to live according to its precepts, and is blessed by God. The ungodly man, on the other hand, scorns that law, walks contrary to its precepts, and so will perish. It is therefore a wisdom Psalm, setting up the rest of the Psalter by establishing that the way of wisdom comes from delighting in God and his law.
In Psalm 2, which Acts 4:25 tells us was written by David, we are introduced to the king, whose job it is to rule justly and righteously by wisdom. Who is he? He is God’s anointed or Messiah, whom God has appointed to rule from Jerusalem. He has many enemies, especially other kings and rulers who conspire together to oppose him. Yet as they do this, the one who anointed him as king, he sits there and … cries? No, he sits in heaven and laughs. Why? Because they are all under his sovereign control, and can therefore do nothing without his say so. He has foreordained his anointed, and he has even foreordained their rebellion.
In the first instance, it is clearly David himself who is in view. He is God’s anointed one – or Messiah – appointed by Yahweh to rule from Zion. And throughout the Psalms, we see David meditating on God’s law to learn wisdom, as in Psalm 1, and battling with his enemies, as in Psalm 2.
And yet the rule here envisioned extends far beyond the kingdom established by David, or even his son, Solomon. Although the kingdom under David grew, with many nations around becoming tributaries, it did not reach the “ends of the earth”. Acts 4 24-28 tells us how the Psalm receives its ultimate fulfilment:
“And when they (Peter and John) heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, ‘Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,
‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’
for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.’”
In other words, the ultimate Anointed one is Jesus. The ultimate king in Zion (the church) is Jesus. The son, who will rule the world, is Jesus.
But there is also something truly incredible, which we shouldn’t pass by. If this Psalm is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus – which the New Testament says it is –, and if the kings setting themselves together against God’s anointed was fulfilled with Pilate and Herod conspiring together to put Jesus to death – which the New Testament says it was – then what was God doing when they were busy sending Jesus to his death? According to the Psalm, he was laughing at them. Yes there is wrath, but laughter as well. Why? Because they were unwittingly doing his will, sending Jesus to his death, and so ultimately being tools in God’s hand to save people from their sins, and to establish the everlasting kingdom.