Why are we drawn to stories? Why do we watch sports? Why do we spend hours playing video games? Is it merely the suspense and humor or the physical strength and coordination, or the life-like CGI graphics?
We all like a good story of overcoming nearly impossible odds. After all, this is often why we watch sports and movies. We happily cheer for the underdog in the NCAA tournament or the Super Bowl or the Olympics. We love watching a drama of one overcoming a terminal illness or the restoration of a nearly destroyed relationship. This doesn’t just explain our near-addiction to entertainment media. It even feeds our hunger for interesting news stories. We find something encouraging in watching Zelensky and the Ukrainians fighting and pushing back the Russian forces in armed conflict. Something about seeing a single Ukrainian tank holding off multiple Russian tanks stokes our fighting spirit.
There is something about the slim chances of success which make these stories engaging.
There are many biblical narratives which tell just such stories. They pull us in. We are engaged. We are rooting for victory. Stories like: Moses and the Israelites escaping slavery in Egypt, or David and Goliath, or Daniel in the Lion’s Den.
Perhaps these events capture our imagination because we live lives in which we encounter struggle. We face trials. Sometimes, we face nearly impossible odds. These trials may be external to us or physical. They may be psychological or spiritual. Regardless, we like to identify with the struggles of others, especially when they faced obstacles and overcame them.
Psalm 2 is different. Instead of drawing us into the specific details of a particular circumstance, the Psalmist takes us backstage—or perhaps even outside the story completely—in order to fill us with hope, faith, awe, and worship.
Psalm 2 is dramatic. It is telling a story. We hear words from pagan rulers, God in heaven, the Anointed One, and the Psalmist himself. But, in some unique way, it is telling the meta-narrative—the overarching story that makes sense of all other stories. In a very concise and compelling way, Psalm 2 is hinting at some of the most significant facets of the overall story of the Bible in 12 verses.
We are taking a couple of months out of our long sermon series in order to highlight some of the key Psalms in the Bible. Like last year, we are calling this series, “A Heart for God.” We will return to complete our series in 1 Peter in late June, and then we’ll take a month to study the book of Ruth.
Daniel put up a blog post on Friday to let you all know which Psalms we’ll be studying this year. If you want to jot them down now, we’ll be looking at: Psalm 2, 16, 22, 8, 67, 90, and 145.
I hope that you regularly find time to meditate in the Psalms. They are a vast well of God’s grace, right in front of us, waiting for us to drink deeply. To quote Daniel…
These 150 chapters put words to our prayers, whatever we're feeling. They teach. They even preach at us! They point to Christ in some of the most vivid language of the Old Testament. They explain. They give us words to sing—whether in a private lament or in a public explosion of praise.
- Daniel Baker
This morning, as we look at Psalm 2 together, we will see:
Before we get into the details of the first stanza of our Psalm, we should consider the its prominence in the Psalter.
It is very fitting that the Psalter would begin with Psalm 1, a call to personal devotion to God through meditation on the Law of God. Psalm 1 begins with a beatitude, or blessing—“Blessed is the man who…”
There is some evidence that at one point, Psalms 1 and 2 were treated as one unit. Psalm 2 ends with a beatitude—“Blessed are all those who take refuge in him.”
The original occasion for the Psalm would likely have been a coronation service for King David or his royal descendants. It’s probable that this would have been read at the moment that the king was crowned. It would have functioned to warn the surrounding pagan nations, and to assure God’s people of God’s protection and favor.
Though there may be some debate as to whether or not the Jews considered this to be a messianic Psalm, we will treat the Psalm as Messianic, following the example of the New Testament writers.
Psalm 2:1–3 (ESV)
The Psalmist begins with a question. (By the way, there is no inscription directly naming the author or occasion in the Psalm, but Luke credits David with authorship in Acts 4:25.)
The Psalmist begins with why—why do the pagans and gentiles plot against God in vain? This rebellion is ascribed to the nations, peoples, kings, and rulers. We should just consider this group to be those who do not follow the Anointed one.
The nations are in an uproar. They are conspiring to throw off the authority of God. To take this within the coronation Psalm context, these are the nations surrounding Israel who are declaring their refusal to be ruled over by the Davidic King. Throughout the history of Israel, this would be the pagan nations refusing to worship and follow Yahweh.
The Psalmist is pointing out that it’s not just the pagan citizens, it is also their rulers. Basically, the most powerful people around are actively conspiring to find ways to throw off the rightful authority of God and his King.
The Psalmist’s question is an interesting one. Why do they do this? Not merely why do they try to throw off God’s authority—I think we understand that. Rather, the point he is making is “Why do the nations bother?” It’s a useless attempt. In the end, the rebellion will NOT be successful.
We should notice in verse three that these peoples and rulers are not physically in bondage or imprisoned. We know this because in verse, two they are taking counsel with one another and conspiring to throw off God’s authority.
There is no room in this passage for saying “I’m okay with God’s authority, just not the King’s rule.” To reject God’s Anointed is to reject the LORD himself.
What is the nature of this rebellion? We’ve hinted at it already. Look at verse 3 again.
Psalm 2:3 (ESV)
They are using language of being tied up or chained in prison, but they are basically proclaiming that to be under the rulership of the Anointed King is to be in bondage.
This really does get to the core of man’s rebellion against God. We don’t like God telling us what to do, how to live, or whom to worship.
A brief survey of history and our own modern day culture shows us that this posture toward God began in the Garden and is alive and well today. In the Garden of Eden — “Did God actually say… You will be like God” (Gen 3:5-6).
It’s hard to imagine a time in history where this has been more true than today. We have some of the most powerful politicians, rulers, and corporations actively conspiring and doing all within their power to burst the bonds and cast of the cords of God’s authority.
Contemplate the number of rulers, politicians, legislators, lobbyists, corporations, media conglomerates, social media influencers, and school officials who are willingly and eagerly conspiring to promote a worldview devoid of God, rewrite morality, and cast off the bonds of God’s order. Consider the millions of dollars spent on the marketing of their message.
Mankind’s rebellion is in full-swing. It is daunting. It is not a new reality, but in our lifetimes the rate at which these affronts to God’s authority have gained acceptance is astounding.
How are we to respond? What are we supposed to do? Those are great questions, but I can’t say much here. We must be ready and bold in speaking truth, worshiping God, and loving our neighbors. We must obey God rather than men, and be willing to suffer for doing what’s right.
However, that’s not the point of our passage. The Psalmist doesn’t tell us what to do specifically. Instead, he points us to what God does.
Psalm 2:4–6 (ESV)
There is no wringing of hands. God is not worried. The future of God’s Kingdom is not teetering in the balance. God is not anxious about the outcome.
Don’t you love the subject of the sentence, “He who sits in the heavens”? God is not part of this creation, he is above it, outside it, transcendent. There is no one like him.
Psalm 115:3 (ESV) — Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.
There is no other being in all of creation anywhere that can say that! Only God. Satan can’t do all that he pleases. You can’t do all that you please; neither can I. The President cannot do all that he pleases (or else he would make his polling numbers better). Putin cannot do all that he pleases, or else he would have already conquered Ukraine.
But God can do, and in fact does do all that he pleases.
God doesn’t even have to stand up to defeat his enemies—he “sits in the heavens.” So, what does God do then?
God laughs. He mocks them. He makes fun of them and scoffs at them. These powerful rulers and kings who can nearly get away with anything—God laughs at them. If this were a sporting event, the situation isn’t that “Team-Kings-of-the-earth” are the underdogs and they just might bring an upset to the One-Who -sits-in-the-Heavens. There is NO chance. Zero.
The reality is that we often forget that this is true. When we are really thinking about our theology, we remember God’s “Omnis”—that he is Omniscient (all-knowing), Omnipresent (everywhere), and Omnipotent (all-powerful). But, in our day to day lives, when we are living out our Christian duties in the midst of a fallen world, we easily lose sight of of the reality of God.
Psalm 2 is meant to firmly ground us back in reality.
What are we to make of God laughing? This is the only situation in all of scripture where God laughs. He is not laughing because they are being funny or humorous. It’s just that their belief that they can ultimately escape God’s authority or judgement is so absurd. God is not laughing and taunting them because what they are doing is insignificant or inconsequential. It most certainly is a big deal to throw off God’s rightful authority. He is laughing because they cannot and will not ultimately get away with any of it, and they cannot possibly in any way escape or defeat Him.
If our God does all that he pleases, what are we to think about when the wicked appear to win, doing real harm to the righteous?
If we put the Psalm in the context of David’s Kingship, there were real defeats and setbacks. During the captivity, Israel and Judah were both conquered by foreign, pagan kingdoms. If consider the time of Jesus, he was actually crucified. If we think about the apostolic ministry, many of them were martyred.
This is what pushes our interpretation of this Psalm beyond David’s earthly kingdom into the territory of God’s Kingdom. We must zoom out from the individual circumstance and see that within the timeline of God’s total plan.
Psalm 2:5–6 (ESV)
“Then” he will speak to them. There will come a time in the future when God will speak in his wrath and exercise his fury on sinners.
Psalm 37:13 (ESV) — but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming.
We have such a difficult time remembering this when we see the wicked prosper.
Another Psalmist, Asaph has the same dilemma in Psalm 73.
Psalm 73:2–3 (ESV) — But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
Asaph sees the wicked doing well, seemingly having an easier life than the righteous. It takes him a while to process this contradiction. Eventually he gets to vv. 16-19.
Psalm 73:16–19 (ESV) — But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!
We really must consider the eternal perspective if we are not to lose heart in our present circumstances. We must take heart in this life that faith and service to God will be rewarded in the next, and we must be warned that disobedience, rebellion, and apathy will be judged.
The judgement that is coming will be given over to this Messiah spoken of in vs. 2 and vs. 6. God has set his King on Zion. This establishes the matter. He is the rightful ruler. He is the judge. He is the one that will bring vengeance on God’s enemies. Speaking of this judgement in the future, John tells us in Revelation that…
Revelation 6:15–17 (ESV) — Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”
They will be terrified in that day because they realize finally and tragically that the King on Zion, God’s holy hill, is in fact the true King with all power, authority, and judgement. Having refused to submit to his reign in life, they will now be judged righteously and eternally by his wrath.
So far, we have observed Mankind’s Rebellion in the first stanza and God’s laughter in the second. Now let us consider how the Messiah Reigns.
Psalm 2:7–9 (ESV)
In the first stanza, we heard from the Kings and rulers. In the second, we heard God’s own dialogue. Now, we hear from God’s Anointed One.
During a coronation service in the Davidic Kingdom, these words might have been spoken by the King himself. We don’t know for sure. Perhaps you’re familiar with thinking of verse 7 as being applied to Jesus, but not to a David or his descendants. But, the promise that David would be God’s son was part of God’s promise to him and the kings after him. The Prophet Nathan speaks these words to David in 2 Samuel 7.
2 Samuel 7:13–16 (ESV) — … I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. … And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’
These promises are certainly relevant to Christ since he is the descendent of David, but they are also a remarkable promise to David himself, as well as the kings that come after him. The promise of God’s blessing on his people does not merely come through his laws, but also through his relationship to us.
Though the prophets and the people of Israel would have longed for these verses to reach their fulfillment under the rulership of the earthly Davidic kings, it was never truly realized. They experienced a few good kings, but many bad ones. A few of the peoples surrounding Israel were conquered, but many were not. Eventually, Israel and Judah were both taken into captivity by foreign powers, which seemed to be throwing off the cords and breaking the bonds of God’s authority.
This led the Jews know that they should be expecting a different kind of kingdom with a different kind of Messiah. However, it’s clear from the Gospels that the Jews were still looking for a military leader/king to be raised up to bring deliverance from their earthly oppressors.
Now through the words of Nathan we see how this passage was applied to David as king. How exactly are they descriptive of THE Messiah, not just An anointed king.
We should have a look at how the New Testament writers applied this passage to Jesus.
There are allusions to this passage in the descriptions of the Baptism of Jesus. Here is an example from Mark 1:11.
Mark 1:11 (ESV) — And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Also, Matt 3:17; Luke 3:22)
I do expect that the Jews of the day would have brought Psalm 2 to mind when hearing this.
In Acts, 4, Luke records the words of Peter and John as praise God after standing before the Jewish rulers. They directly appeal to Psalm 2 as the description for how the Jews and Romans came against Jesus.
Acts 4:25–28 (ESV) — 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.
The author of Hebrews refers to Psalm 2 as he describes how Jesus is Greater than the angels.
Hebrews 1:5 (ESV) — For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”?
Our reading of Psalm 2 is a little challenging to our understanding of the Trinitarian relationship between the Father and the Son. The Christian Standard Bible says, “You are my Son; today I have become your father.”
James Montgomery Voice helps us see how to read this.
The other part of the verse in Psalm 2—“today I have become your Father”—is used by Paul in a way consistent with the Gospels’ use of the first part. In the first of his sermons recorded in Acts, he refers it to Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 13:33). That is, he refers “today” not to Jesus’ eternal begetting by the Father, which is wrapped up with the doctrine of the Trinity, but with God’s raising him from the dead by which he became what is elsewhere called “the firstborn from among the dead” (Col. 1:18).
- James Montgomery Boice, An Expositional Commentary, 25–26.
This is also what we see in the first chapter of Romans. Paul connects Jesus’ sonship, not to his birth or baptism specifically, but to his resurrection.
Romans 1:3–4 (ESV) — concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,
The real challenge appears to be when we should apply this Psalm. The hearers in David’s day wanted it to apply to their conquest of other peoples and nations. The Jews in Jesus’ day also were looking for a military leader who would conquer their oppressors. In our day, we long for righteous government and the victory of the church over the world.
But, the final, complete application of vv 8-9 must still be in the future.
We see this fulfilled in judgement in Revelation 19.
Revelation 19:15 (ESV) — From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.
God’s Anointed one wins. The Messiah puts down all opposition. He reigns over all the earth.
Having considered Man’s rebellion, God’s response, and the Messiah’s Reign, we should be all the more amazed at the final section of our Psalm.
Psalm 2:10–12 (ESV)
I said at the beginning today that Psalm 2 is a snapshot of the story of the Bible in 12 verses. Consider soberly the reality if it stopped at verse 9. Man rebels. God laughs. God’s Anointed reigns and judges all. The end. In this case, we would all be judged.
In God’s mercy, however, he continues the story. He tells us the reality and then he gives us an opportunity to respond. This is mercy. This is grace. Those who rebel against the Righteous, rightful King deserve the punishment coming to them. Yet, God offers mercy.
The invitation to respond is specifically to the kings and rulers of the earth. But, I think we can extend the invitation to all, just as vv. 1-2 included the nations and peoples.
Let’s consider the commands in turn.
Recognize the folly of resisting God’s rulership and his commands. You will not succeed. He has dominion to the ends of the earth. The nations are his heritage. In your pride, you think his bonds and cords are prison, but in truth, they are life and peace.
Having heard this invitation, you are without excuse.
We do have one more passage in which God laughs.
Proverbs 1:23–31 (ESV) — If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices.
You will not be able to say in that day that you did not know. You are now accountable to turn to God.
Hear this command as a king would hear it. You must serve the Lord. You must stop pretending that you are in charge. It is not enough to secretly believe that God’s Anointed is the King over all, you must submit yourself to Him and offer your obedience and all that you have.
Though we are not rulers or kings ourselves, so many of our sins are connected to us desiring to be treated like one. We are not the king of those around us—it is not their job to serve our wishes; and, we are not even king of our own lives. We serve another.
Have you come to God in repentance and faith? Rejoice! Rejoice, but do not be haughty! Rejoice with trembling. It is only by God’s mercy that you are not destroyed under his rod of iron or dashed into pieces like a potter’s vessel.
Rejection of God’s Anointed is a rejection of God himself. Embrace the reign of Jesus. Submit to Him. “Kiss the Son” is an act of submission and homage to the rightful King. It is a declaration that you willingly place yourself under his Kingship, that you honor him as King. This is a reminder that Christians are not merely individuals who take God’s word seriously or try to obey his commandments. Christianity is about being in the right relationship with God’s Son, Jesus Christ.
John 3:36 (ESV) — Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
If you refuse to Kiss the Son, there is only wrath for you. You will perish and experience the fullness of the wrath of God.
There is no refuge FROM this King, only refuge IN this King. Bow your knee to Him today. Kiss the Son.
We all love stories. How does this story relate to our own? In Psalm 2, we see how it will all end. God wins. His Anointed King reigns forever and ever. Rebellion is put down.
How, then are we to interpret our own situations and those around us, especially when we don’t seem to be winning?
Knowing this meta-narrative does not mean we won’t experience real drama within our own story. In fact, in many situations, the believer may not be delivered in this life. This does not make Psalm 2 untrue.
Romans 8:35–39 (ESV) — Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
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