Jesus, Messianic King
Preached by Jason Abbott, senior pastor
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.”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”
7 I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
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.
1. This Psalm focuses on the coronation of a Davidic king.
It’s necessary for us to understand this psalm historically before we begin to try to understand this psalm prophetically. We must first ask ourselves: What does this psalm express about God and his view of kingship? What was Israel’s understanding of a king’s place?
a. Israel’s kings (and all kings) were and are under God (vv. 1-6).
“In the ancient Near East, ‘the kings’…considered themselves to be ‘divine’ monarchs….1” Thus, in Egypt for example, “the tendency was for the king or pharaoh to be regarded as identical with the god….”2 Such thinking was common among the nations that surrounded Israel.
However, this psalm ponders the ridiculousness and the futility of such a view. The psalmist wonders at this comedy of the absurd:
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” (vv. 1-3).
Basically, the psalmist asks, “Why do the kings bother trying to defeat God? Why are the nations so dumb?” Such attempts to usurp God’s power or purposes won’t work. For:
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” (vv. 4-6).
Such plots to defeat God and his purposes are merely crazy talk! They are mere delusions of grandeur! They cannot succeed!
When I was teaching high school English, I had a student named Justin Smith. He was a pretty good football player and eventually played defensive end for the Missouri Tigers and was then selected 4th overall in the NFL draft. He currently plays for the San Francisco 49ers and is a regular selection to the pro-bowl team. So, he’s pretty good.
Well, while he was still in college, I played a pick-up, tackle football game with him. (Yeah, I’m dumb!) Basically, the game went this way: If he was on your team, you won; if he wasn’t on your team you lost (and likely got hurt). It was futile to try and defeat the team for which he played.
I still remember catching a pass in the flat and looking up at the open field in front of me with just Justin to beat for a touchdown and thinking: “I’ve got a speed advantage! He’s too big! I’ll just juke one way and run around him the other.” Good plan! Except, it didn’t work because while he did indeed weighed 100 pounds more than me he was also way faster than me! Why did I plot in vain?!
Like me playing football against Justin Smith, so too are the kings of the earth plotting to overthrow God’s reign. There is no victory in it. The only hope is to submit to and play for God.
However, for the faithful king whom God chooses, there is a certain and victorious promise. There is a privileged position.
b. God’s reign will come through God’s chosen Davidic king (vv. 7-9).
So here the ordained Davidic king boasts:
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” (vv. 7-9).
First, notice the difference between the attitude of Israel’s kings and the attitude of the kings of the surrounding nations. Notice the contrast.
- The kings of the surrounding nations flouted their personal power.
- The kings of Israel were to flout the power of Yahweh.
- The kings of the surrounding nations boasted about their divine status.
- The kings of Israel were to boast that, even though they weren’t divine, nonetheless the Divine fought on their side.
Second, I want to highlight how very interesting the arrangement being celebrated here is! This is the most bizarre thing a king could say at his coronation ceremony! Why? The reason is that it’s an incredibly dependent thing for someone to admit who is about to rule a nation!
The Davidic kings are to ask of God if they are to receive. The Davidic covenant being summarized here spells out from where the kings’ authority and power actually comes. It spells out who is really king—God! Thus, one commentator explains: “The authority of the king is derived from God….”3 There is no authority apart from him!
So it is that God’s reign will be extended through his work in the lives of his kings! He is no man’s debtor! Finally, because this is the reality of the situation:
c. The nations’ kings should submit to God’s chosen king (vv. 10-12).
Here we have a warning to close the psalm. It is both a compassionate and yet firm warning to the rulers of the nations:
Now therefore, O kings, be wise; / be warned, O rulers of the earth. / Serve the Lord with fear, / and rejoice with trembling. / 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 (vv. 10-12).
So far the psalm has proclaimed that it is futile to rage against God, and that God will ultimately win through the establishment of his kingdom under the reign of his chosen kings. Now, because of these two truths, it cautions the rulers of the nations to rule wisely. In short, it proclaims that because of the coming day of God’s wrath, people must make wise decisions, especially the nations’ leaders. 4
The story that’s being told here is one that would have been familiar to the people of the ancient Near East. When a nation dominated a region, a suzerainty treaty was often established. It was an agreement between unequal parties. Basically, a powerful king would make a treaty with a less powerful king.
Under such agreements, the subject king would continue to rule but beneath the supervision of the powerful king. If the vassal king didn’t rule well or operated outside of the boundaries of the agreement, that had been established, then the great king would intervene and judge the lesser king for not being faithful to the covenant stipulations.
This is what’s being touched upon here. So one commentator notes:
Submission is the only acceptable response to the Great King (v. 11). Submission is expressed by “service,” which connotes a willingness to become a vassal and thus to recognize God’s suzerainty (“lordship”).5
In this way, Psalm 2 is touching upon the unseen reality of life on this earth. There are human rulers, but they are not the Ruler. They are simply vassal rulers in charge of a domain that God has allowed them to govern. Therefore, they must answer for how they discharge their duties. They must give an account of their kingship to God the King.
This is as true today as it was in the times of Israel’s kings. In fact, each of us rules a domain over which God has placed us. We are called to govern it well! If we do not, we will answer for our mismanagement. We should long to hear God’s King say, “Well done good and faithful servant!” as Jesus explains in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). So, how are you ruling your domain?
- Do you manage your family affairs in a way that pleases the King?
- Do you manage your work affairs in a way that pleases the King?
- Do you manage your ministry affairs in a way that pleases the King?
(Note: This doesn’t mean that you’re perfect but that you’re conscientious and faithful and rightly motivated in discharging such duties. Christ is our perfection nonetheless we’re called to serve well!)
2. This Psalm finds its fulfillment in the coronation of the Davidic King.
Israel’s king was supposed to “respond to the interests and desires of [God, who was reckoned] his father [at coronation] and represent the will of God to his people.”6 Faithfully serving God in such a task would then result in kingdom prosperity and God’s furthering of the king’s kingdom (vv. 8-9). However, any common Israelite would have recognized that no king had ever represented God faithfully in such a way. They had all failed!
Yet, despite the kings’ repeated faithlessness, “the promises of God to Israel and her rulers were unconditional.”7 In other words, God would fulfill his repeated promise to establish his anointed King and to see his kingdom extended to the ends of the earth. Consequently the Israelites anticipated just such a kingship! They looked forward to the day when the anointed king (the Christ King) would come!
Following Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, the early Church understood Jesus to be the fulfillment of this prophesied anointed king. So we find the disciples applying Psalm 2 to the risen Christ. They pray:
“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… (Acts 4:25-28).
Two weeks ago I mentioned that we could not simply take the words of Psalm 22 on Jesus’ lips as he hung on the cross as a certain indication that Jesus was the fulfillment of Psalm 22. He is that! But, we had to dig deeper into Psalm 22 to see him as the fulfillment. We had to see that he was the solution to the problem of the psalm’s plotline. He is the hero the protagonist needed!
Such plot resolution is not needed here! For, God’s inspired Word directly indicates that Jesus fulfills Psalm 2. The Bible bluntly tells us that Jesus is the Anointed King who succeeds where all other kings failed and will continue to fail!