Psalm 2 is a prophecy of Christ, that He would suffer and become King of the whole world. The New Testament is replete with citations and allusions to Psalm 2, showing that Jesus fulfills its prophecies and appears exactly as this psalm portrays Him.
The Greek word Christ, the English word Anointed and the Hebrew word Messiah all share the same meaning. They refer to the anointing by oil by which an Israelite king or priest, appointed by God, was installed into office. Jesus is the Christ, but His anointing was not with oil like the Israelite kings and priests. Jesus was anointed by God the Father with the Holy Spirit at His baptism (see Luke 3:22), as He shortly thereafter announced in Nazareth: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.” (Luke 4:18).
Unlike the Israelite kings and priests, Jesus holds both offices of King and High Priest, which in the Old Testament were held by separate men. He is Christ the King, as Psalm 2 portrays Him. He is Christ the High Priest, as Psalm 110 prophesies (see Ps 110:4; and Heb 5:10). Thus Jesus reigns as both Lord and Savior of the whole world.
In 2 Samuel Chapter 7, God made several promises to David through the prophet Nathan:
“I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’” (vv. 12-16)
David’s successor, Solomon, only partly fulfilled these promises: God was Solomon’s spiritual father; he ruled on David’s throne; and he built the temple as God’s house. However, Solomon died, his kingdom was divided and the temple he had built was destroyed.
The Prophet Isaiah also prophesied of the coming Christ: “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.” (Isa 9:7)
No earthly king could wholly fulfill these prophecies. They would be completely fulfilled only by Jesus Christ. During His earthly ministry, Jesus declared: “behold, something greater than Solomon is here.” (Matt 12:42) Referring to Jesus, the author of Hebrews connects the promises to David directly to the fulfillment of Psalm 2: “For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’ [Ps 2:7]? Or again, ‘I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son’ [2 Sam 7:14]?” (Heb 1:5)
With this background, let us begin our look into Psalm 2.
“1 Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
3 ‘Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.’ ”
The psalm opens with a prophecy that Jesus would suffer. His apostles, quoting verses 1-2, testified that Jesus’ fulfilled this prophesy (Acts 4:25:28). The “nations,” “peoples,”, “kings,” and “rulers,” are represented by “both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and peoples of Israel” (Acts 4:27).
The psalmist asks the question “why”? It is a question Christians frequently contemplate when encountering a family member or friend who, after hearing the Gospel, rejects Christ (i.e., who He is; why He came; how He rules; etc.). It is the “why” of astonishment, as in “Do you know who and what you are opposing? Please, do not be foolish!”
In verse 3, Christ’s adversaries speak: “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” They thought by killing Jesus they would prevent His Kingship and kingdom. What man or woman is there, who while Christ was suffering, would not have thought His adversaries had won? However, His installation as King was already accomplished; His kingdom is not of this world; and His adversaries accomplished nothing, except to further His kingdom by crucifying Him, which as the apostles recognized: “your hand had predestined to take place.” (Acts 4:28)
To human understanding and the senses, His kingdom looked undone, but according to the Word of Christ, His kingdom would come through suffering. Therefore, in the works of God, we must always cling to the Word, because His works in the world and in our lives are often contrary to all human understanding and the senses.
Today, there are many religions, even some which claim to hold Christ in some measure of esteem. There are also many masters and idols that people serve without admitting to having a “religion” or a “god.” As a result, many people are outwardly passive in their unbelief, but in every generation there are active unbelievers who rage, plot and take counsel against Christ and His Word and kingdom, and like in this psalm – they reside both inside and outside the church.
There are governments which attempt to break God’s bonds with violence and laws against Christians and the Church. There are also governments, peoples and, yes, church bodies, which attempt to break God’s bonds by denying or twisting the teachings of God’s Word. What they regard as freedom, in reality brings the very bondage they seek to break!
The psalmist asks “why?” The short answer is unbelief. We see pictured in Psalm 2 the stark contrast between faith, on the one hand, and unbelief, on the other. Faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1), whereas, unbelief only takes hold of what it apprehends with human understanding and the senses.
- Faith receives Christ, as the incarnate Son of God; whereas, unbelief sees only a man who could not save even himself.
- Faith receives Christ as sent from God the Father; whereas, unbelief sees Christ as a human blasphemer.
- Faith sees Christ as doing the will of the Father; whereas, unbelief sees rejecting Christ as doing the will of God.
- Faith receives Christ’s forgiveness and a kingdom of grace; whereas, unbelief rejects Christ’s judgment and sees no kingdom at all.
- Faith sees Christ’s reign as freedom from sin, death, Satan and hell; whereas unbelief sees Christ’s reign as “bonds” and “cords” (i.e., bondage and burdensome).
We will see as we read through the rest of this psalm that Christ will rule all people in one of two ways: His desire and reason for coming down from heaven and suffering the cross is to be our Lord and Savior and rule us by God’s grace through faith; however, for those who reject the grace of God in Christ, He will rule them by His wrath when He returns in final judgment. Amen.
Thank you for reading. Next week we will pick up Psalm 2 at verse 4, in which God sits in heaven laughing at the hubris of the unbelievers who plot against His Christ. Amen.