The Reign of the Lord’s Anointed – Psalm 2

Sermon preached at Grace Church of Philly (Feltonville) on February 3, 2013. Audio is available here

A MESSIANIC PSALM

The psalms are a collection of individual songs and poems that were preserved for use in Jewish worship.  They often don’t sound like songs when translated into English, but the psalms are a hymnbook, and many churches throughout the centuries have written music and used them as songs in their worship services.

This, by the way, is why we call it Psalm number two, or the second Psalm, instead of saying Psalm chapter two.  The chapter and verse numbers in other books were added later on to make it easier to find your place in one long text, but each of the psalms in many ways stands by itself.

Each psalm can have a different author, a different historical context, a different style, and a different purpose.  Scholars have debated the context, authorship, and purpose of Psalm 2, because unlike many other psalms, there is no heading to guide us. Many commentators call this is a royal psalm, thinking that it was written for the coronation of a new king in Israel. If you read the notes in the ESV Study Bible, which is my absolute favorite study Bible, and strongly recommended, this is the view you will see.

But my big question about Psalm 2 is this: instead of an earthly king of Israel, does this psalm primarily speak of Jesus, Israel’s promised Messiah?  When the psalm says the “Lord’s Anointed,” the word in Hebrew for anointed is “Messiah,” which translated into Greek is “Christ.”  It could be referring to one of the anointed kings of Israel. But the scenes and the promises portrayed in the psalm are bigger than what any human king of Israel could expect – even David and Solomon were not promised all the nations for their domain, and neither are declared to be the begotten Son of God. So we consider, is this primarily speaking of Jesus?  I think the answer is yes, absolutely.

There are only a small number of psalms that seem to be primarily Messianic, prophetically speaking of the Messiah, the one chosen and anointed by God to bring salvation to his people.  These include Psalms 22, 45, 72, and 110.  There are shorter pieces of other psalms that are interpreted as referring to Jesus. In these psalms, we hear in the words of the psalmist, often the great King David, the words and life of the far greater King Jesus.

From Psalm 22, we hear Jesus’ cry on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” as well as the mocking of the Pharisees: “He trusts in the Lord, let him deliver him.” Psalm 72 speaks of the King who has dominion from sea to sea, to whom all kings and nations will bow, who delivers the needy when they call, and redeems their lives from oppression.  Psalm 110 speaks of the One who is declared by God to be a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.  From our study in Hebrews, we of course know exactly who this is: Jesus Christ.

Psalm 2 is one of the most quoted and referenced psalm in the New Testament, and I think its interpretation by the apostles clarifies for us the prophetic nature of the psalm.  The longest reference is in Acts, which records the prayer of thanksgiving offered by the believers after Peter and John were released by the Sanhedrin with only a warning:

Acts 4:24–28 (ESV)

24 … “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 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?
26    The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed’—
27 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, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

The writer of Hebrews applied verse 7 to Jesus twice, in Hebrews 1:5, saying: For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”?

And then in Hebrews 5:5: So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”

And Revelation says Jesus is the one who will rule the nations with an iron scepter and dash them to pieces like pottery (Rev. 2:27).

The writers of the New Testament had no doubt that Psalm 2 was talking about Jesus.  They saw the plotting of Herod and the Romans against Jesus and the spread of the gospel as the very conspiracy described in verse 1 of Psalm 2.  And they rejoiced to know that the Son was at that very moment reigning in heaven, and would soon return to finally place all nations under his feet.

So this is the context in which we consider this second psalm.  We see it speaking primarily and directly of Christ and his reign. The 4th century theologian Augustine called Jesus the one who himself is the singer of the psalms, and this is clearly visible in Psalm 2, as we hear within it not only the voice of the Father, but the voice of Jesus the Son.

 

A SECOND INTRODUCTORY PSALM

Psalm 2 is placed in the collection of the Psalms as a second introductory psalm, and they seem to be pretty specifically paired together.  Mike Brown took us through Psalm 1 a few weeks ago.

Psalm 1 on the one hand stands as a psalm for the Jew of personal morality and response to God. Psalm 2 stands on the other hand as a psalm for the Gentiles, foretelling the global rebellion against the Christ, and a call for all nations to honor him.

But what if we take the two psalms together, as it seems the apostle Paul did when he quoted from Psalm 2 in Acts? An early Jewish commentator noted that David always started and ended his favorite verses with “Blessed,” as we see in Psalm 1:1, “Blessed is the man…” and in Psalm 2:12, “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”

If we take them together, what we see is the actions of the ungodly taken to the next level and the greater final judgment on wickedness.  And if Psalm 1 speaks of the righteous Jew, we must ask, who is the Righteous Jew?  Is it not Jesus himself? Jesus is the perfect righteous man spoken of in Psalm 1.  The gospel becomes apparent when these two psalms are linked, because it is not in walking our own righteous path than we are saved. Rather the wicked are saved by taking refuge in the Son, who alone stands as righteous before God.

PART 1: THE NATIONS SPEAK

Psalm 2 can be easily split into four sections.  In each section we hear a different voice and consider the actions of a distinct person or group.  We will hear the voice of the nations, the voice of the Father, the voice of the Son, and the voice of the Holy Spirit.

In this first section, verses 1-3, we hear about the nations and their plan:

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.”

The governments of the earth gather together and loudly protest against the Lord and his Christ, and plan to overthrow his rule.  While Christ has come to bring true freedom, these seemingly wise men and women find his laws to be constraining them from what they want to do.  And it is not just the rulers who are rebelling against Jesus’ authority, but it is the people themselves who gather together to refuse the rightful King.

In a limited sense we see this in the opposition of the Gentile nations to the David kings.  But the apostles specifically linked it to the rejection of Jesus by the Jews, his crucifixion by the Romans, and the subsequent persecution of the church and the attempt by the rulers of the world to stop the spread of Christianity.  This is a greater, ongoing rebellion, and it isn’t against an earthly king, but a heavenly one.  It is all leading to a final a physical battle after Jesus has returned to establish his kingdom on this earth, but the battle has indeed already started and has been going since Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden.

Consider the voice of the world around you.  What do people want?  They want freedom from God’s rule.  Freedom to marry whomever they want, freedom to live however they want, sleep with whomever they want, drink and smoke whatever they want.  Freedom from inconvenient children, freedom from having to work.  No judgment, all fun.  Easy and free.

Our politicians have shaken off the notion of being servants of the people and are instead servants of themselves, their own egos, and their own wallets.  Even preachers get caught up in the praise of men, seeking recognition, approval, bigger churches, bigger crowds, and a bigger name for themselves.

All of this shouts, Jesus, we don’t need you or your stupid rules! What we have in these first three verses is not just a picture of some future battle, but a description of the rebellion of every human heart against the Father and against the Lord Jesus Christ.  All sin is rebellion against the Lord and his Anointed. Those who have not surrendered to Jesus are not simply misguided – they are waging war against him!

The rebellion may be veiled or restrained now, but at the end of time, Satan will raise an actual army of the nations who will stand against the Lord Jesus and his saints.  It is wise to consider now, whose side are you on?

PART 2: THE FATHER SPEAKS

What does God think about this rebellion?  In verses 4-6 we hear the Father’s response:

    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.”

God does not get suited up for battle.  He does not hide in his fortress, count his armies and decide whether or not this war can be won.  He does not even stand up, but rather sits in the heavens, far above the earth.  He looks down at the armies of men, and they appear to be no more than ants.  And he laughs.

God laughs, a dismissive laugh.  You think you have what it takes to stand against the Lord and his Anointed One?  Really?  Are you nuts?  The men of the earth growl their loudest, but God refuses to take the threat seriously – he chuckles to himself over these idiots who think they’re something.

God continues to remain patient with men, hoping that they will turn from their rebellion and surrender to the King.  But there will come a time when this patience is exhausted, when the storehouse of grace has been closed.  God will speak in his wrath and shake the wicked to their core.

Revelation tells us that after the tribulation, after many millions have been killed by the pouring out of God’s judgment on the earth, at long last the final seal of judgment will be opened, and everyone from the kings to the slaves, from the richest to the poorest, will hide themselves in caves and ask the mountains to fall on them to spare them from the coming wrath of the Lamb.  Pestilence and plague and war and famine are not enough to shake the mighty, but the knowledge that the Lord himself is coming for that final judgment will terrify them.

God’s answer to the rebellion of the nations is to declare that he has set his King on Zion, his holy hill.  In the midst of this world, in the midst of his enemies, God has set a throne for his Anointed One, and has established his saints as an eternal kingdom against which the gates of hell shall never prevail.  Our King is Jesus, who now reigns in Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, and will soon return to take up his rightful throne on the earth.  God has declared that all things will be placed under the feet of Jesus.  Every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord.

PART 3: THE SON SPEAKS

We have heard from the Father, now let’s hear from the Son.

    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.”

While the narrator introduced the voice of the nations and the voice of the Father, the Son just starts speaking.  And he confirms his divine appointment and the authority over all nations granted to him by the Father.

The Father’s commission to Jesus is quite interesting: “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.” To beget means to give birth or to father a child.  Does it mean, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses claim, that Jesus is not the eternal Son of God, but that at some point God created or gave birth to Jesus?  This clearly cannot be true, because we know from the Scriptures that Jesus is God and always existed.  “Truly I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM!”

The apostle Paul tells us very clearly what this means:  “God has fulfilled this to us … by raising Jesus [from the dead], as it is written in the second Psalm, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’”  The birth that God proclaims is his resurrection, and Jesus is called the firstborn from the dead.

Romans 1:4 (ESV): [He] 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.

None that this does not mean that Jesus “began” to be a son, but rather that his Sonship was declared with power.  Jesus has been a Son forever, eternally in relationship with the Father.  His Sonship is unique and unparalleled, unlike that of any earthly king. Jesus was declared to be the Son of God at his baptism and at his transfiguration, with the voice from heaven declaring, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  Listen to him!” But the ultimate declaration and the ultimate vindication of his claims was his resurrection from the dead.

What Jesus gains at his resurrection is he is now fully qualified to sit on the throne of David. Each new king of Israel received the promise of God, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.” (2 Samuel 7:14). Hebrews tells us that Jesus for a time was made lower than the angels, but that after he had made purification for sins, he became far superior to the angels, having inherited a name far superior to theirs.  This does not speak of his increasing divinity, but rather his transition from the role of humble Servant to the role of the glorious exalted King.

“Today I have begotten you” speaks of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and his inauguration as the Mediator King of the New Covenant.  God the Father has set his Son in Zion to bring into submission all nations and to judge the universe in righteousness.

PART 4: THE SPIRIT SPEAKS

The question that every preacher needs to answer is, now that we know this, what do we do about it?  How do we take what we’ve heard and respond to it in a godly way and put it into practice?

Thankfully for us, the Holy Spirit included the application for us right in the psalm itself.  Listen to the Spirit’s warning:

10    Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11    Serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12    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.

You know that God has set his King in Zion and that he is appointed to rule all nations.  You know that the rebellion of the nations – and of each person who does not submit to Christ – will be crushed without mercy at the final judgment.  Be warned, and choose your path wisely!

The path that leads to life is the path that leads to Jesus.  To kiss the Son is to demonstrate humble loyalty and grateful submission to Jesus.  It is exactly what the rulers of the earth will not do, and why they are in danger of fiery destruction.  They are being destroyed, but why should you be?  Make sure you are not among them!

Why do I say that the Spirit says this to us?  I’ll admit, it is partly because it makes an easy outline – the voice of the Father, the voice of the Son, the voice of the Spirit.  But in reality, all Scripture is spoken to us by the Holy Spirit, who reveals all truth to us.  It is the Holy Spirit that convicts the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment (John 16:8).  It is only by the Holy Spirit working in your heart that you can hear and know that these things are true and that you must come to Jesus.

The hands that Jesus holds out for you to kiss are the hands that were pierced with nails when he was crucified in your place for your sins.  He will not turn away anyone who comes to him in faith. There is no sin so great that he can not forgive.

For you who have not yet come to Jesus, now is the time.  If you have come to Jesus, but you are still living in a mini-rebellion of your own, now is the time to return to him and kiss the hands that were pierced for you.  Let us serve the Lord together in fear, rejoicing in trembling.

When you come to Jesus, you will find this last verse to be your eternal joy, and its great promise to be your great comfort: “Blessed are all those who take refuge in him.”

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply