by Jack Hay, Scotland
INTERPRETATION AND APPLICATION
Throughout the Book of Psalms there are those that are generally called ‘Messianic Psalms’, poems that either exclusively or partially refer to the Lord Jesus. Most are identified by a quotation in the New Testament, but exceptions are Psalms 24, 72 and 89. The Lord Jesus is most definitely portrayed in these Psalms but there are no specific references in the New Testament relating them to Him.
When conversing on the road to Emmaus, the Lord Jesus “expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself” Lk.24.27. In Jerusalem later in the day, He divided these Old Testament Scriptures into three sections: “the law of Moses”, “the prophets” and “the psalms” v.44. Thus, He was encouraging us to look for Him in each segment of the Old Testament, including Israel’s delightful hymnbook. As with the other Scriptures, He would have told us, “they are they which testify of Me” Jn.5.39.
Some of these Messianic Psalms refer to the personal experiences of the writer, and then by extension to the Lord Jesus. For example, Psalm 41 clearly refers to the treachery of Ahithophel, who had been David’s “own familiar friend, in whom [he] trusted” v.9, but the Lord Jesus quoted the verse with a major adjustment as He applied it to His betrayal at the hands of Judas, Jn.13.18. He dropped the reference to the trusted familiar friend for He never did trust the traitor; earlier He had said to His disciples, “one of you is a devil” Jn.6.70.
Again, there are some Psalms that have clear references to the Saviour, while other statements in them have no connection with Him at all. For example, Psalm 69 is quoted from time to time in the New Testament, so we legitimately see it as Messianic. However, the writer is obviously citing his own personal experience when he says, “O God, Thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from Thee” v.5. Taking these things into account, we can see the need for “rightly dividing the word of truth” 2Tim.2.15. In contrast to Psalm 69, the other Psalm that majors on His sufferings is Psalm 22, and it is all about Him, with no references to events that could be seen as part of an autobiography.
Then, there are some Psalms that contain truth that is pre-eminently demonstrated in the Lord Jesus, even although they are not regarded as Messianic. Psalm 1 is a notable example. Our Saviour is the truly blessed Man Who beautifully exemplifies the truth of its first three verses. He never took advice from dubious sources, never shared the experiences of sinners by following their ways and never settled in the company of the cynical or the scornful. Positively, His delight was in the law of the Lord; it was His constant meditation, as expressed in Psalm 40, a Psalm that is undoubtedly Messianic: “I delight to do Thy will, O My God: yea, Thy law is within My heart” v.8.
The positive outcome of that was the ever-green foliage, the fragrance and the fruitfulness of a life that was like “a tree planted by the rivers of water [‘waters’, plural]” Ps.1.3. He was morally attractive, and everything He did was appropriate, “fruit in … season”. As a boy He never adopted the role of a teacher; He was “hearing them, and asking them questions” Lk.2.46. He had a tender word, “Weep not”, for the widow, Lk.7.13, and yet scathing woes for the hypocrites, Lk.11.42-52. It was always “a word in season” Isa.50.4.
Sufficient has been cited to demonstrate that although a Psalm may not be demonstrably ‘Messianic’, we can still catch glimpses of the Saviour. That brings us to Psalm 2, the first of those generally acknowledged to be Messianic. There are numerous references to it in the New Testament and most of these will emerge as the chapter proceeds.
AUTHORSHIP OF PSALM 2
The first Psalm to be designated “A Psalm of David” is Psalm 3, written at a time “when he fled from Absalom, his son” (see the heading of the Psalm). However, early disciples in their prayer spoke of Psalm 2 as coming from “the mouth of Thy servant David” Acts 4.25. Many translations also incorporate the phrase “by the Holy Spirit”, so they were confident that the Spirit through David inspired what Paul called “the second psalm” Acts 13.33. Peter was at that prayer meeting and on an earlier occasion he had attributed to David the status of “a prophet” Acts 2.30. Later, he taught that “the Spirit of Christ” was in these prophets and that through them He “testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow” 1Pet.1.10-12. Psalm 2 touches some aspects of “the glory that should follow”. Peter also taught in his Second Epistle that “holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” 2Pet.1.21. Thus Psalm 2 is incorporated in inspired records, containing truth about Christ that was disclosed by the Spirit through David hundreds of years before even His first advent.
INTERPRETATION AND APPLICATION
The Psalm predicts the attitude of the ruling classes to God and to Christ in coming Tribulation days, with their inevitable final defeat and demise. In the Psalm, the One Who is the “Anointed” and the “Son” is also the “King” Whose seat of administration will be David’s ancient citadel of Zion. He will sweep away these raging rulers and exercise authority over “the uttermost parts of the earth” v.8. Clearly, the Psalm anticipates what is still future.
However, in their prayer of Acts chapter 4, the Jerusalem believers applied these Scriptures to recent events in their city. Like other predictions of the Old Testament, while the interpretation demands a future fulfilment, an application was made to what had transpired in Jerusalem a few weeks earlier. The background was as follows: the church at Jerusalem had enjoyed a ‘honeymoon’ period, when they had “favour with all the people” Acts 2.47, but the healing of the lame man in chapter 3 was a watershed that altered everything. Peter and John had been arrested, imprisoned, threatened and released. “And being let go, they went to their own company” Acts 4.23. Their report of mistreatment at the hands of the authorities caused an outpouring of spontaneous prayer from the saints, culminating in the appeal, “behold their threatenings”, and a plea for boldness to maintain testimony in the face of such opposition, v.29.
The rulers’ ill-treatment of the apostles awakened memories of the conspiracy against their Lord, hence the recollections of Psalm 2 with its narrative of human antagonism towards “the LORD and … His Christ” Acts 4.26. Men participated brutally in the events surrounding His crucifixion and death, but everything that transpired was in accordance with the eternal purpose of God: “to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done” Acts 4.28. Peter had stressed that same point in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, for while the people of Israel had taken Him and employed the hands of “lawless men” R.V. (Gentiles) to crucify and slay Him, it was all “by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” Acts 2.23. However, men were culpable, and at the prayer meeting the early believers mentioned Pilate, the vacillating judge, with his ferocious soldiers, and Herod, the puppet king, with his fickle subjects, as being bitter opponents of God’s Anointed, His “holy Servant Jesus” Acts 4.27, R.V.
Jews and Gentiles, the political and the religious, the pagan and the pious, were all hostile to Christ, and some of these hostile individuals were now targeting those who loved His name. Thus, to borrow the words of the hymnwriter Joseph Scriven, they “take it to the Lord in prayer”, appeal for necessary resilience, and in so doing, attribute Psalm 2 to David and see pictured in its teaching the wicked treatment of their Lord. However, we now come to consider the main features of the interpretation of the Psalm.
In terms of travel the world has shrunk and journeys that once took months can be undertaken in a day. So summit meetings that once were rarities now feature regularly, as in the interests of international diplomacy the heads of governments confer. Psalm 2 records the last summit meeting of history, when world leaders will assemble to thrash out details of how to finally rid the planet of what they see as the scourge of God-given religion, whether it be Judaism or Christianity, v.3! Climate change and polluted oceans, uranium enrichment and terrorism, trade and immigration will be away down their list of priorities. The main item on the agenda will be how to overthrow the suffocating restrictions and the centuries-long moral demands that religion has imposed on humanity. This will be a final push for the ultimate in human rights, the luxury of living in a world where there is no thought of accountability to a Supreme Being, and total liberty to ignore the parameters of any ancient code of conduct.
The imagery that is used is that of an animal breaking free of its yoke and disentangling itself from all the apparatus that is used to guide and govern it, v.3. Little do they realise that in determining to break free, they in turn will be broken, for He will “break them with a rod of iron” v.9.
It looks as if these legislators will want to ensure that in the world there will be no theocratic rule, with its inevitable exclusion of the corruption, nepotism and injustice that have been endemic to every kind of human administration throughout the centuries. There will be the idea that military might will head off that threat. That notion is seen right at the end, when the Beast and his confederates will “make war” with the Rider of the white horse, Who emerges in splendour from heaven, Rev.19.11,19-21. Imagine thinking that bombs and bullets, mortars and missiles and tanks and torpedoes could ever dent the eternal purpose of “the LORD God omnipotent” Rev.19.6!
Around the conference table at this final summit will be “the kings of the earth” and “the rulers” Ps.2.2, but it does appear that their intention is to implement the will of the people. Verse 1 depicts the nations raging, that is, in a state of commotion, taking to the streets, agitating vociferously against “the LORD” and “His Anointed [in Greek, ‘His Christ’]”. Possibly “the people” refers to the Jewish nation, for the believers in Acts chapter 4 certainly interpreted it thus. Even the nation of Israel will have become so secular as to renounce Jehovah and repudiate His laws. In so doing they will “imagine a vain thing”. The word “imagine” is the same Hebrew word as is translated “meditate” in Ps.1.2. The blessed man meditates on the demands of the law with a view to happy compliance; “the people” of Psalm 2 meditate “a vain thing”. It is futility of the highest order to give one’s mind to scheme as to how to rid the world of the perceived shackles of Divinely-imposed regulations.
These “kings of the earth” will “set themselves” against God. They will have the temerity to think that they can effectively face up to Him militarily, and so in this conference they “take counsel together” to plot their strategy. This is a clear example of “the counsel of the ungodly” to which Ps.1.1 refers. There are two targets of their opposition. First, there is “the LORD”, that is, Jehovah, the God of the Jews. As far back as around 1500B.C., He had given His Ten Commandments. Though imposed on the nation of Israel, they are His demands on all humanity. These men now intend to consign these commandments to the dustbin of history.
Their second opponent is “His Anointed”, that is, the One Who is not only the Messiah of Israel but also the Christ of Christianity. He had strengthened and expanded the Ten Commandments, and for a further period of more than two thousand years people had been held by these restraints. They feel that the time has finally come to expose these regulations as outmoded. Honesty, chastity and loyalty to an unseen Deity are regarded as relics of an unenlightened age. Depending on the precise timing of the summit, it all either paves the way for or ratifies the decision of the Man of sin to outlaw all religion and demand universal homage for himself, 2Thess.2.3,4. As far as religion is concerned, the time has now arrived to administer the coup de grâce, and so the final communiqué of the summit will be issued, a unanimous proposal with no vetoes and no abstentions.
God’s attitude to these self-important lawmakers is to deride them. These “kings of the earth” might regard themselves as ‘big fish’, but in His estimate they are in a very ‘small pond’. By contrast, in v.6 there is One Whom He calls “My king”, unique and majestic. The supremacy of God is stamped on the verses. Around their conference table, these rulers sit “in the seat of the scornful” Ps.1.1. He sits “in the heavens” Ps.2.4, a confirmation of Isaiah’s affirmation that He sits “above the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers” Isa.40.22 (numerous translations). These rebellious men are like insects in the sight of the transcendent God of the universe. The very word that is used to describe Him in the verse endorses His sovereignty: it is “the Lord”, Adonahy, the sovereign Lord, Who “[has] them in derision”. Do they think that they can outmanoeuvre Him?
As they debate and plot, a peal of derisory laughter will echo around the universe: “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh” v.4. Opinionated men are in a sad position when God laughs at their pronouncements and derides them. When Wisdom’s call is refused, when His stretched-out hand is disregarded, when His advice is rejected and His reproof ignored, it will spell calamity: “I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh” Prov.1.24-26.
The period of the Tribulation will span the seven years of what we call ‘Daniel’s seventieth week’ Dan.9.27. Scripture designates that period “the wrath to come” 1Thess.1.10, for “the great day of the LORD … is a day of wrath” Zeph.1.14,15. As the judgments of God upon the earth intensify with the passing of the months, the latter stages of that period will see “the vials of the wrath of God” being poured out on defiant humanity, Rev.16.1. There is an indication of that in v.5 of our Psalm, when in response to the mutiny of the kings of the earth against His supreme authority, God expresses His wrath and “[vexes] them in His sore displeasure”. As always, “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” Heb.10.31.
The horrors of the Tribulation period will lead up to the destruction of these rebel “kings of the earth” Rev.19.19-21, and the installation of the “King of kings” v.16. It is seen in v.6 of our Psalm as a fait accompli, for the declaration is, “Yet have I set My king upon My holy hill of Zion”. This King is the Son, v.7, but He has already been described as His Anointed, v.2. In Israel, prophets, priests and kings were all anointed with a view to their ministry, for example, Elisha the prophet, 1Kgs.19.16, Aaron the priest, Lev.8.12, and David the king, 1Sam.16.13. Uniquely, the Lord Jesus occupies all of these offices, and figuratively He has
been appropriately anointed for each. The Spirit of the Lord anointed Him in anticipation of His prophetic ministry, Lk.4.18. His priestly activity is one of the great themes of the Epistle to the Hebrews and in the early stages of the letter we are told that He has been “anointed … with the oil of gladness above [His] fellows”; anointed to function as a priest, Heb.1.9. This Psalm sees Him as the Anointed One with a view to kingship.
This King is the king of God’s choice, “My king”. He is “of the seed of David according to the flesh” Rom.1.3, so to Him will be given “the throne of His father David” Lk.1.32. That same verse of Scripture reminds us that, although David was His forefather as to His true manhood, in reality He is “the Son of the Highest” as to His essential Deity. Psalm 2 covers that same ground: the King of v.6 is the Son of v.7. Nathanael embraced the truth of both verses when he declared, “Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the king of Israel” Jn.1.49. His seat of government will be God’s “holy hill of Zion”. This was David’s power base for most of his reign, and the Son of David will make it the centre of His administration for the thousand years of His theocratic universal rule. His arrival on the planet will be at “the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east” Zech.14.4. He will then occupy Mount Zion and be associated with Mount Moriah, the Temple Mount, the locale of God’s “holy place” Ps.24.3. He will be “a priest upon His throne” Zech.6.13, the only legitimate king-priest.
With God describing it as “My holy hill of Zion”, we have no difficulty in interpreting “the hill of the LORD” of Ps.24.3 as Mount Zion. It is clear that the One Who “shall ascend” into it to exercise control, and into “His holy place” to function as a priest, has every right to do so. He is Creator, vv.1,2. He is Clean, v.4. He is Conqueror, vv.7-10. He is “My king upon My holy hill of Zion”. As the lodging place of the Ark of the Covenant, this “holy hill” was perceived by David as the place of Divine residence. So, as he penned Psalm 3 during his flight from Absalom, he was able to lie down and sleep, because he had the confidence that when he cried unto the LORD, “He heard [him] out of His holy hill”; God was “a shield” for him, Ps.3.3-5.
Having observed the raging of the nations, the rebellion of the rulers and the retribution of the LORD, and listening to each of them in turn, we now pay heed to the Son as He speaks in v.7. Three of the references to Psalm 2 which appear in the New Testament are from this verse. The first is in Acts 13.33, where it is in relation to God raising up the Son in the nation of Israel. The second is in Heb.1.5, where it is cited as one area of the Son’s superiority to angels: “Thou art My Son” was never addressed to angels! The final reference is in Heb.5.5, in the heart of a section demonstrating that Christ is no self-styled high priest. Just as surely as God said to Him, “Thou art My Son”, He also said to Him, “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” Heb.5.6. In his commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews J.M. Flanigan explains it as follows: “… our Lord’s priesthood is as surely and as certainly acknowledged by Jehovah as His sonship … The Divine recognition of our Lord’s priesthood is as definite and as authoritative as the Divine recognition of His sonship. The one is as great as the other”.1
- 1. Flanigan, J.M. “What the Bible Teaches – Hebrews”. John Ritchie Ltd., Kilmarnock, 1986.
Two words for “Son” are used in the verses, the Hebrew word Ben in v.7 and the Aramaic word Bar in v.12, a word seldom used in the Old Testament, for according to James Strong’s concordance, it is employed on only four occasions, three of them within one verse, Prov.31.2. Commentators seem at a loss to suggest a reason for the differences, pointing out the fact, but offering no explanation. Strong does suggest that Bar possibly carries the idea of an heir-apparent to the throne, and that might be in keeping with the context of the Lord Jesus asking for His inheritance, v.8.
In his book on the Messianic Psalms, T.E. Wilson makes interesting observations based on references to men who had either Ben or Bar embedded in their names, Benjamin and Barabbas. Benjamin means ‘son of my right hand’, so he sees in the usage of Ben in v.7 the Son in relation to the Father; He is the Son of His right hand, loved, honoured, and on equality. In employing Bar in v.12, there is a reminder that the Jews had said, “Not this man, but Barabbas” Jn.18.402. The choice of Barabbas had been preceded by the kiss of treachery from Judas, Matt.26.49. Now earth’s rulers are obliged to “kiss” this Bar, this ‘Son of the Father’, the meaning of Barabbas’ name; this would be no longer a kiss of aggression but a kiss of allegiance.
- 2. Wilson, T.E. “The Messianic Psalms”. Loizeaux Brothers, Inc., 1978.
“I will declare the decree” v.7. The Lord Jesus discloses some details of a conversation with the Father. He describes Jehovah’s words to Him as “the decree”, that is, a solemn authoritative pronouncement. The pronouncement is twofold: first, “Thou art My Son”, and then, “This day have I begotten Thee”. The first is a statement of the eternal relationship. There are those in Christian circles who are clear about the doctrine of the Trinity, and unwavering in their commitment to the truth of the Deity of Christ and His eternal being, yet they resist the thought of His eternal sonship. They insist that He became the Son of God at incarnation. We dare not allow this chapter on Psalm 2 to develop into a treatise on the doctrine of the eternal sonship of Christ, save only to devote a paragraph to mentioning some facts that substantiate it.
The Son of God was the Creator: “His Son … by whom also He made the worlds” Heb.1.2; “His dear Son … by Him were all things created” Col.1.13-16. Thus, long before the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem, One Who is described as the Son of God was instrumental in accomplishing the mighty majestic work of creating the universe. “God is a Spirit” Jn.4.24, so the Son of God had existed eternally and invisibly in spirit form, but there came a time when He was “manifested” 1Jn.3.8. Note well that the verse says it was “the Son of God” Who was manifested, the inference being that He was Son of God before His manifestation. The next chapter makes three references to the Son being sent, 1Jn.4.9,10,14. In similar vein, Paul says, “God sent forth His Son” Gal.4.4, the words “sent forth” indicating that there was a place where the One described as “His Son” had existed and from which He was sent. The same context that speaks of Him sending His Son goes on to say that “God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son” Gal.4.6. Was He the Spirit before He was sent? Of course He was, and similarly, the Lord Jesus was the Son before He was sent forth. So when God states in Psalm 2, “Thou art My Son” He is affirming that eternal relationship that He had with Him as His Son. Significantly, when praying in John chapter 17, the Lord Jesus consistently addressed God as “Father”; this was the Son addressing His Father, and He referred to the glory He had with Him “before the world was” v.5, and of being loved “before the foundation of the world” v.24. Just as surely as the fatherhood of God is unoriginated, so too is the sonship of Christ. The two concepts stand together.
On two separate occasions during “the days of His flesh”, the Father used the words of Psalm 2 concerning Him. The first was at His baptism: “Thou art My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” Mk.1.11. The second was on “the holy mount”, when, as has often been pointed out, the Father quoted from the three parts of the Old Testament alluded to at the start of this chapter. See Matt.17.5: “This is My beloved Son” (quoting from Ps.2.7: “Thou art My Son”); “in whom I am well pleased” (quoting from Isa.42.1: “in whom My soul delighteth”); “hear ye Him” (quoting from Deut.18.15: “unto Him ye shall hearken”).
The second statement of “the decree” of Ps.2.7 is “this day have I begotten Thee”. Many have linked this to Him being “begotten” from the tomb, that is, being raised from the dead to experience eternal glory. This is based on the Authorised Version translation of part of Paul’s sermon in the synagogue in Antioch in Pisidia: “And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us, their children, in that He hath raised up Jesus [again]; as it is also written in the second psalm, ‘Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee’” Acts 13.32,33. Numerous other translations were consulted and not one of them includes the italicised word “again” in v.33, so at that point Paul was not necessarily making reference to the resurrection. He had already summarised the experience of the Lord Jesus from the point where He was “raised unto Israel a Saviour” v.23, till “God raised Him from the dead” v.30, and now he is recapping to provide Scriptural proof of his assertions. The raising up of Christ in the nation as a Prophet, Saviour, Redeemer, King, and so much more, is foreshadowed in Psalm 2, as a day arrived when the eternal Son was begotten in manhood to fulfil these roles. In Paul’s sermon there is a transition of thought to take in the fact of the resurrection in verse 34 of Acts chapter 13 when he said, “And as concerning that He raised Him up from the dead …” To establish that he cites other Scriptures, most notably Psalm 16, another of the Messianic Psalms.
It appears that the “this day have I begotten Thee” relates to the Incarnation of the Son, rather than to His resurrection. Our Psalm places a great emphasis on His kingship, and the writer to the Hebrews is at pains to demonstrate that “the world to come”, the Millennial earth, will not be subjected to angels, but to a Man, Heb.2.5-9. It seems fitting then to introduce the thought of His Incarnation in a Psalm that anticipates His coming reign. In the New Testament, the word “begotten” is linked to the Divine activity that occasioned the virgin birth of the Lord Jesus. In addressing Joseph, the angel of the Lord expressed it thus: “that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost” Matt.1.20. The word “conceived” is translated “begotten” in the margin of the Authorised Version, the margin of the Revised Version, and by J.N. Darby and Thomas Newberry. It is never wise to go beyond what Scripture declares in a matter so delicate as that of the virgin birth and the Incarnation; suffice to say that by a miraculous activity of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary, Jesus was begotten. There came a day when the eternal Son became a real man, the day when God sent “His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh” Rom.8.3.
Before leaving the theme, it should be stressed again that it was neither His being nor His sonship that commenced at the Incarnation, and that the term “the only begotten Son of God” has no connection with His Incarnation. On five occasions John describes Him as “the only begotten”, and the phrase is employed only once elsewhere, when the writer to the Hebrews uses it of Isaac’s relationship with Abraham, Heb.11.17. That usage gives us the clue as to the significance of the phrase. Abraham had begotten many sons, a notable example being Ishmael, Isaac’s senior by around fourteen years, and yet Isaac is designated his “only begotten” and it indicates his uniqueness among all the sons of Abraham. Similarly, when the Lord Jesus is described as the “only begotten” it is a reference to His solitary uniqueness, His distinctive being, His equality and His transcendence. Sonship and equality go hand in hand, a fact that Jewish minds grasped without difficulty, Jn.5.17,18. Among all those described in Scripture as being “sons of God”, there is One Who is distinct from them all, “the only begotten Son of God”.
Similarly, when He is described as the firstborn (first begotten), it is not a temporal term, but rather an indication that in rank He is superior to all others. Even in the Old Testament, the usage of the word conveys that thought: for example Ex.4.22 and Ps.89.27. Like “only begotten”, “first begotten” has no reference to the Incarnation.
“Ask of Me …” Ps.2.8. The Father now invites the Son to claim His inheritance. He is the appointed “heir of all things” Heb.1.2, and included in the “all things” are “the nations” Ps.2.8, R.V., every country to the extremities of the planet, “the uttermost parts of the earth”. The devil professed to be patron of these “kingdoms of the world” and claimed to have the prerogative to commit their administration to the man of his choice, and so he offered the power and glory attached to them to the Lord Jesus, Lk.4.5,6! His scheme was to see Him installed on the throne without being impaled to the cross, to experience sovereignty without suffering, to wield power without pain. The emphatic rejoinder to the temptation was, “Get thee behind Me, Satan” v.8. The Lord Jesus was resolved to face “the sufferings”, before receiving “the glory that should follow” 1Pet.1.11.
Satan had said, “All this power will I give Thee”. It was a bogus promise. Now, legitimately, the Father says, “I shall give Thee …” In heaven, the title deeds of the planet had been extended on the palm of His hand with the angelic challenge, “Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?” Rev.5.2. There was silence, a silence broken only by the sobs of the apostle John. Will the devil hold sway for ever? Will his baneful influence be permanent? Will evil triumph perpetually? Then the Lamb steps forward, claims the title deeds, and in due course breaks seal after seal to introduce succeeding phases of Divine judgment that result in “the kingdoms of this world [becoming] the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ” Rev.11.15.
The time had now come for Him to occupy His throne and exert universal authority: “Ask of Me”. Psalm 72 is the great Millennial Psalm, and there the language equivalent to “the uttermost parts of the earth” is “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth” v.8.
- Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
- Doth his successive journeys run;
- His kingdom stretch from shore to shore
- Till moons shall wax and wane no more.
- (Isaac Watts)
Divine indignation against the rebellious planet will be at full intensity as the Lord Jesus claims His inheritance, witnessed in the uncompromising language of v.9: “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” This is another of the verses of the Psalm that is quoted in several places in the Book of Revelation (2.27; 12.5; 19.15). It is a clear indication that the Kingdom will be introduced subsequent to the violent subjugation of His enemies. Apparently, in some quarters in ancient times it was a custom before a battle for chosen warriors to pound some pottery into fragments, working up enthusiasm for the task on hand, a ritual calculated to stir courage and create the right mood for the advance on the enemy. Obviously, the ruse was not always successful. As far as the Lord Jesus is concerned, this Warrior-King will smash resistance, and the rod of iron that will be utilised to introduce the Kingdom will be retained throughout His reign to maintain standards of righteousness and justice that dare not be challenged: He will “rule all nations with a rod of iron” Rev.12.5.
For centuries there has been a notion that God will establish His Kingdom in this world by the spread of the gospel. That idea has now been embraced by large sections of the evangelical world, the expectation being that the gospel will saturate the earth, and triumph until the whole of mankind has been ‘christianised’. That concept is not true to life, but, more importantly, it is not Biblical. The Word of God consistently demonstrates that He will vanquish His foes by Divine power and introduce His Kingdom in the wake of military conquest and terrible carnage. The violent end of “the times of the Gentiles” Lk.21.24, is foretold in the Lord being depicted as “a stone … cut out without hands” pulverising the mighty image which represents various phases of Gentile supremacy, bringing it to an abrupt and ferocious end, Dan.2.34,35,44,45. There is a very graphic description of the event in Rev.19.11-21, with a massive emphasis on bloodshed. The vultures are called upon to gorge themselves on the corpses of the slain, warriors cut down by just a word from Christ; that word is depicted as “a sharp sword … which sword proceeded out of His mouth”. Having smitten the nations with that sword, “He shall rule them with a rod of iron”, an echo again from our Psalm. So, there will be no benign transfer of power from the Gentile authorities to the Theocracy, but rather it will be introduced by force, when “the Son of man [comes] in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” Matt.24.30.
In Scripture, threats of impending judgment are often accompanied by a way to avoid it. Daniel foretold Nebuchadnezzar’s humbling, but counselled him to “break off” his sins. In other words, repentance would have cancelled the predicted punishment, Dan.4.27. Thus it is in Psalm 2. The rebels of the world have united in their opposition to God. They have been told that their feeble strategy to marginalise the Lord and His Messiah will fail spectacularly. The Son will be installed as king, and in establishing His authority they will be crushed mercilessly. That fate can be avoided, and so an appeal goes out as they are summoned to “be wise”, to “be instructed”, to “serve” and to “kiss” vv.10-12. As has been noted, other prophetic Scriptures will show that the summons will be disregarded, but as a general principle these overtures are perpetual features of God’s gracious ways with mutinous humanity.
In particular, both the executive and the judiciary of world states are called upon to “be wise” and to be “instructed” v.10. The Psalm has shown that to plot against God is to “imagine a vain thing” v.1. That folly could be discarded and replaced with the wisdom of submission and loyalty. They are called upon to “serve the LORD”. Often, men in such positions serve their own interests. One group lusts for power; for them the ‘feel-good factor’ comes with a sense of having absolute control. For the other group, filthy lucre is a constant temptation, as in the days of Amos when one of the gross social injustices was the fact that judges could be bribed and the poor were disadvantaged, Amos 5.12. Samuel’s sons were offenders in this area too, 1Sam.8.3. The call here is for kings and judges to abandon self-interest and serve the Lord. In the coming Tribulation period depicted in the Psalm, these kings will certainly be under immense pressure to be totally subservient to the Beast. They are called upon here to renounce him and serve the Lord. That demand will fall on deaf ears, for at Armageddon the Beast’s confederates will be “the kings of the earth” Rev.19.19.
The fear of God would have to accompany the willingness to serve Him. There must be reverence for the Adonahy and Jehovah of the Psalm, the One Who sits in the heavens. This majestic Being Who sits in the heavens and has the prerogative to confer authority over the nations must be held in awe. Strangely, this subservient attitude accompanied by the physical “trembling” of v.11 will engender joy, for it is a Biblical principle that the only route to real joy and lasting contentment is to give God the place that He ought to have in our lives. While these kings and judges will ignore that call, throughout the centuries countless thousands have experienced the joy that issues from the trembling of true repentance. The jailor at Philippi is a notable example: he “came trembling”, but ultimately he “rejoiced, believing in God with all his house” Acts 16.29,34.
“Kiss the Son” v.12. There were those who kissed Him during His time on earth. The woman in the city who was a sinner kissed His feet; it was a kiss of affection, for having been forgiven much, she loved much, Lk.7.36-50. A kiss was the sign that Judas used to identify the Man to be arrested in Gethsemane; it was a kiss of aggression, Matt.26.48,49. Here in Psalm 2, what is called for is the kiss of allegiance, as when a subservient subject would kiss the hand of his sovereign. The hand that will be stretched out to receive the kiss of loyalty will be a hand still bearing the mark of the nail, Jn.20.24-29. Samuel placed the kiss of homage on the newly anointed Saul, 1Sam.10.1. Although seven thousand demurred, thousands of others in the northern kingdom of Israel kissed Baal as a token of their respect, 1Kgs.19.18. Here the command is “Kiss the Son”. As noted earlier, the word for “Son” here is the Aramaic Bar, because this edict from heaven is not for Israel only. People of diverse tongues would know that they are included in the command.
Non-compliance will stir His anger, resulting in offenders “[perishing] from the way”. Possibly the idea is that these rebels will be stopped in their tracks and dealt with summarily even as they rush to make war with Him. It is anticipating a day when His wrath will be “kindled”; it will burst out in a torrent to quell man’s reckless opposition to all that pertains to God. Reference has already been made to the audacious attitude of the Beast and his confederates even in the face of the overwhelming evidence of irresistible Divine power, as seen in the Rider emerging from heaven on the white horse, Rev.19.11. His wrath will engulf them; having refused to kiss the Son, they will experience the full force of His fury.
An alternative is still on offer in the last sentence of the Psalm: “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him”. Just as Psalm 1 commences with a beatitude, the blessedness of the man with the separated walk, so Psalm 2 concludes with a beatitude, the blessedness of those, all those, who put their trust in Him. Ruth experienced that blessedness, having encountered “the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings [she had] come to trust” Ruth 2.12. Daniel experienced it, being delivered from the savagery of the lions “because he had trusted in his God” Dan.6.23, R.V. New Testament believers knew that blessing too, whether it was Jewish believers like Paul who had anticipated the coming of the Messiah, or Gentiles who trusted Him when they heard the gospel, Eph.1.12,13. Faith, trust in God and Christ, has been the principle upon which God blesses in every age. Thus, believers of this age are said to be “blessed with faithful Abraham”, the man who is deemed to be the prototype of those who are justified by faith, Gal.3.9. It will be the same in those days and years just before the Millennium.
Embedded in the word “trust” is the idea of taking refuge, and as with Ruth, here and there throughout the Psalms the writers are said to take refuge under the wings of Jehovah. Ps.57.1 is an example, when at the cave of Adullam, David trusted, taking refuge “in the shadow of [His] wings”. It is a beautiful concept, and refuge will be available in that coming day of tribulation. When human wickedness will be at fever pitch and opposition to Christ at unprecedented levels, it will still be open to the world’s rulers, and indeed to any of their subjects, to divorce themselves from that spirit of insubordination and distance themselves from the devotees of the Beast by putting their trust in the Son. Thus they will be blessed despite the high cost of being non-conformists in an age of religious and political ‘clones’.
So the Psalm ends on a happier note than it began. We have heard the voice of raging nations in a cacophony of rebellious slogans against God and His Christ. We have listened to the voice of God as He speaks in His wrath and affirms His intention to establish His King. The Son has spoken, with a reminder of His invitation to request the world’s kingdoms. Finally, the Spirit has spoken, urging men to abandon their seditious intentions and own allegiance to the Son and put their trust in Him.