The Coming Kingdom: A Messianic Psalm

Dr. Ron J. Bigalke

Reflections on the Psalms, Part 2

Psalm 2 concerns the anointing and coronation of a Davidic king (cf. 2 Kgs 11:12), and is therefore classified as a royal psalm. There is not any certainty regarding the historical circumstances for this psalm. Quite possibly, the psalm was composed to celebrate the coronation of one of Israel’s kings (most likely King David). Therefore, in its historical context, Psalm 2 addresses the restlessness among the nations surrounding Israel (cf. 2 Sam 5:17). The king, however, is certain of his divine appointment, and is confident that God will vindicate him as the Lord’s anointed. The raging of the nations against Israel’s king is in opposition to God’s anointed representative.

Psalm 2 depicts the unrelenting rebellion of fallen humanity against God and His Anointed. Even though Psalm 2 lacks a title, it is definitely ascribed to David by Peter and John in Acts 4:25. Psalm 2 should be understood historically in view of Nathan’s prophecy of God’s covenant with David (2 Sam 7:5-16). According to the New Testament, the psalm anticipates a future time in which the promised Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, returns to earth in glory and power (Acts 4:25-26; 13:33; Heb 1:5; 5:5; Rev 2:26-27; 12:5; 19:15). The rebellion of the world toward God is truly insurrection against the reign of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus, over all the earth. Though the nations are in an uproar and the people devise vain things, such attempts will be unsuccessful. God appeals to unbelievers for them to exercise discernment by means of humble submission to His Son prior to the day of His wrath.

Psalm 2 is classified as messianic because it prophesies aspects of the Person and work of Jesus Christ; it is one of the most quoted psalms in the New Testament. For instance, Hebrews 1:5 quotes Psalm 2:7 and interprets that verse in reference to God’s Son. Moreover, the Hebrew word mashiah, translated “Anointed,” in verse 2 means “Messiah.” Psalm 2 reveals two contrasting realms of activity. The first depicts “the nations in an uproar ... against the LORD and against His Anointed.” The second prophesies the Lord’s second coming to reign on the earth in glory and power. Psalm 2 portrays the perfect King: Jesus Christ. He was rejected at His first coming (vv. 1-5), yet will reign at His second coming (vv. 6-9); hence the invitation to worship (vv. 10-12).

There is an evident relationship between Psalms 1 and 2. Psalm 1 described the vast chasm between the life of the righteous and the unrighteous, and concluded with emphasis upon the unrighteous person continuing to behave in an unrighteous manner. The poignant depiction of the ungodly person in Psalm 1 is expanded in Psalm 2 to reveal the behavior and thoughts of fallen humanity collectively. Psalm 2 prophesies the end of the wicked, even celebrating a world absent of evildoers. Such a hope encourages the righteous that God knows their struggles in an intimate and personal manner.

The King Rejected
Psalm 2 begins with a description of the uproar and vanity among the nations. In the time of the Old Testament, such insurrection was in reaction to Israel’s kings. Beyond the immediate historical context, the nations of the world today persist in entire opposition to Christ. Consequently, Psalm 2 is as relevant today as when it was first composed.

The Hebrew word goy (“nations”) can denote Abraham’s descendants: the nation of Israel (Gen 12:2; 17:20). As it is used of other people or nations, they were usually pagan and wicked (Deut 9:4-5), “detestable” (18:9), “foolish” (32:21), idolaters (2 Kgs 17:29), ruthless (Isa 25:3), and uncircumcised (Jer 9:26). Though the Lord scoffs “at all the nations” (Ps 59:8), the Lord’s Anointed will yet redeem them (Isa 2:2; 11:10; 42:6; 60:10).

The introductory interrogative “why” is rhetorical, because the psalmist already knew the answer. The question is designed to provoke thoughtfulness. The psalmist is astounded (or feeling indignation) that the nations are “in an uproar” and the peoples devise vain things; yet he was not worried by such rebellion, because it is futile and thus destined to fail. Unbelievers do not conspire with any design or purpose; rather, their reaction to God’s sovereignty is entirely emotional (cf. Rom 1:21-32). They refuse to have the Son of God reign. Regardless of the fact that Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt 11:30), they are determined to rid themselves of what they perceive as oppressive. Such a defiant attitude was particularly evident in the crucifixion of Jesus. In a broader sense, the clamoring against God’s Anointed is evident in the attitude of a world that absolutely refuses to have Christ rule over them (cf. Acts 4:25-28).

In spite of fallen humanity’s sinful rebellion, “He who sits in the heavens laughs ... [and] scoffs at them” (Ps 2:4). The laughter is not that of hilarity but scorn. The divine laughter assures the believer that God is “a mighty fortress ... a bulwark never failing.” Anthropopathic language is used to depict the Lord in terms of human emotions. God is unassailable, which makes rebellion against Him preposterous. That is why the Lord “scoffs” at fallen humanity’s feeble attempts to circumvent His eternal will. Fallen humanity may think they can do whatever they desire and thus oppose God’s purposes, yet all they deserve is the Lord’s laughter at their foolish pride.

The divine laughter is not eternal, though, for it will change to fury. God “will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury” (v. 5). His judgment will be brought against those who defy His sovereignty. “The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes at him with his teeth. The Lord laughs at him, for He sees his day is coming” (37:12-13). Subsequent to God’s scorn is His righteous anger toward anyone opposed to Him or His people.

The King Reigns
Verses 6-9 prove the meaninglessness of humanity’s sinful revolt against God (what was depicted in vv. 1-3). The rulers of the world “take counsel together” in their clamoring for world domination, yet God has already chosen His king. The king asserts that He has been declared God’s son (v. 7). Similar to how Israel can be regarded as God’s son (cf. Hos 11:1), each king of Israel could also declare this sonship (cf. 2 Sam 7:14; Ps 89:26-27).

Sadly, the Northern Kingdom (subsequent to Solomon) had a total of 20 kings, and not one of them was credited as being a godly man. The Southern Kingdom also had a total of 20 kings, but only approximately half of them were said to have “done right before the Lord.” Even among that percentage, there was a serious deterioration as their reign progressed, and there was a turning from the Lord in their latter years. Consequently, the prophets gave hope to the people of Israel that a King would come, and He would rule in righteousness as an Anointed, true Son of God. His reign would result in peace and salvation for Israel and the world. While it originally referred to a historical king of Israel, Psalm 2 was eventually regarded as a prophecy of the coming Messiah. The Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah 52a, reads, “Our Rabbis taught, The Holy One, blessed be He, will say to the Messiah, the son of David (May he reveal himself speedily in our days!), ‘Ask of me anything, and I will give it to thee,’ as it is said, I will tell of the decree etc. this day have I begotten thee, ask of me and I will give the nations for thy inheritance.”

The wording of Psalm 2:6 is noteworthy, since it gives promise of a future event—the millennial kingdom—as a consummate reality. Speaking of the future as if it were past is a common aspect of biblical prophecy; it is termed “proleptic” speech (i.e. speaking of a future act or development as already accomplished). With unrelenting resolve, God asserts, “I have installed My king upon Zion, My holy mountain.” Zion was the hill (God’s “footstool”: 1 Chron 28:2; Ps 99:5; 132:7; Lam 2:1; Matt 5:35) upon which the temple stood and is an undeniable reference to the holy city of Jerusalem.

God installed His Anointed to be King, making it foolish to oppose the Lord and His servants. God’s declaration has historical precedence, yet it testifies to the present enthronement of Christ at the Lord’s right hand, whereby supreme authority, honor, and privilege were bestowed upon Him (Ps 110:1-2; Acts 2:34-35). The earth belongs to the Son; all He needs is to ask to be given the nations as His inheritance (Ps 2:8). Christ’s legacy is a large host of people from among the nations; the Father gave them to His Son in eternity past for them to be His own possession (John 6:37, 39; 17:2, 24).

Ultimately, Psalm 2 anticipates the second coming of the Lord Jesus and Him being installed upon David’s throne in Jerusalem (Rev 20:1-10). His reign will be one of absolute sovereignty. Jesus Christ will destroy His enemies as easily as shattering earthenware (Ps 2:9b; cf. Rev 19:15). God’s purposes for the world He created prove that the actions and attitudes of lost humanity are entirely void of wisdom.

An invitation concludes Psalm 2. God exhorts the rulers of the world to “show discernment” by doing “homage to the Son.” Sinners are warned to think carefully and cease from their rebellion against God. Only two alternatives are possible: “wrath” or “refuge.” Every person must determine his or her choice. Having been warned of senseless opposition to God, repentant sinners need to “worship the Lord with reverence and rejoice with trembling” (v. 11). The latter admonition does not involve fear; rather, it is to recognize “the kindness and severity of God” (Rom 11:22), and thus to worship Him with humility (the command of Ps 2:12 is literally “kiss the Son”). The Lord Jesus will certainly bless those who take refuge in Him, which is an expression synonymous with being saved by grace through faith in Christ alone (cf. John 5:24; Eph 2:8-9). All humanity is invited to “do homage to the Son” while there is opportunity, because the day is coming in which His wrath is outpoured. He will then be installed as King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev 19:11-16).

Midnight Call - 09/2019

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