A Sermon on Psalm 2 by Johnathan Arnold
One does not need to read the Bible for long to discover that Christ has a Kingdom. The phrase “Kingdom of God” occurs seventy-five times in the New Testament. Matthew refers to the Kingdom of Heaven over thirty times.
Christ’s Kingdom is so central that the New Testament often refers to the gospel as the gospel of the Kingdom. The gospel is a proclamation about the Kingdom: the King came to earth and made a way for everyone to get inside the safe walls of the Kingdom. For a little while, He has gone away, but He is coming again in judgment.
The message of the Kingdom separates people into two categories.
First, there are the rebels. They hate the King and reject his authority. The rebels belong to another kingdom — the kingdom of darkness (Colossians 1:13). They are enemies of the Kingdom of God. When the King comes the second time, He will destroy His enemies, and the doors to the Kingdom of Heaven will be closed forever.
Second, there are the sons. The sons of the Kingdom are heirs to everything that belongs to the King. They love the King. They kiss the King. They serve the King with fear and rejoice with trembling (Psalm 2:11-12).
People are either in the Kingdom or not in the Kingdom. There is no middle ground.
Psalm 2 and the Gospel of the Kingdom
The Gospel of the Kingdom is not only a New Testament idea. In Psalm 2, the author has a kingdom perspective. In verses 1-3, we read about the rebels who oppose the King — the Lord’s anointed. Then, in verses 4-9, we read about the Lord’s decree: the reign of the Lord’s anointed cannot be overthrown. Finally, in verses 10-12, the Lord warns the rebels to submit and be saved from destruction when the King comes in judgment.
Read Psalm 2.
Messianic Texts in the Old Testament
Before we scrutinize each verse and subsection of this Psalm, we need to keep in mind an important principle about the Old Testament writings. When the Old Testament teaches us something far-off about Jesus — either through prophecy, foreshadowing, or typology — it often does so in terms of something that is near.
For example, King David, the hero of Israel who defeated Israel’s enemies, is a type of Christ. (Typology is when God uses people, events, or institutions to make a point about something else that is coming in the future.) Jesus is the ultimate King David who is without sin, defeats all of God’s enemies, and will reign over His covenant people forever. Old Testament writers will often speak about David and at the same time, make a statement about Jesus; or they will speak about David one moment then suddenly switch gears — without any warning — and talk about Jesus.
Reading the prophetic books or the Messianic Psalms, like Psalm 2, can often be confusing, but if you keep this in mind, it will help you to make sense of the close connections between what is happening in the here-and-now of the Biblical text and the future happenings of Jesus Christ.
Human Rebellion (v.1-3)
With that in mind, look at verses 1-3. The first four lines describe an alliance between several military nations:
“The heathen rage” — they make a lot of noise as they assemble together.
“The people imagine a vain thing” — a plot hatches in their minds. (The Psalmist calls it “vain” because he knows that God will never allow it to come to pass.)
“The kings of the earth set themselves” and “the rulers take counsel together” — they rally together around a common cause.
Then we read the purpose for this alliance: it is to rebel “against the Lord, and against his anointed.” The rebels say, “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.”
“The Lord’s anointed” refers to the King of Israel. Whichever kings and nations were forming an alliance against him were evidently under the control of Israel at this time in history. They were subjects of the Kingdom, but in their hearts they were rebels. They hated being under God’s authority. They refused to submit to His rule. They wanted to break God’s cords and bands.
In Hosea 11:4, God talks about these cords and bands; He says, “I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them” (emphasis added). The boundaries that God established for His people were for their own benefit; His laws were a testament to His covenant love.
The kings who were resisting God’s authority didn’t see it that way. They wanted to be in full control of their lives. They thought that true freedom was a life without rules. They didn’t want to answer to anyone.
Scholars have debated to which King of Israel and to which group of rebels this Psalm refers. Many have concluded that it refers to 2 Samuel 5 when the Syrians, Phoenicians, and Philistines joined together against King David. Regardless, we can already feel the tension between what is happening in the here-and-now of the Biblical story and what the Psalm is telling us about Christ. The kings arise against “the Lord’s anointed,” and the word "anointed" means “Messiah” or “Christ.” In the near sense, we read about a king of Israel; in the ultimate sense, we read about Christ the King.
New Testament Connection
To see the connection more clearly, we turn to Acts 5:23-28. Peter and John had just been arrested and “charged not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” After they were threatened and released, the believers prayed for boldness.
“And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. “And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ [anointed]. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done" (emphasis added).
In Psalm 2, there is an actual event happening: there are present kings and present nations allying against the Lord’s anointed, the King of Israel. But the disciples recognized that the Psalmist also had in mind future kings and future nations — Pilate and Herod, Jews and Gentiles — plotting together against the Lord’s anointed, Jesus Christ whom they crucified.
The story of mankind is one of rebellion against God’s authority. The crux of human history was when men killed the King of glory. Hebrews 6:6 says that, even to this day, those who walk away from Christ "are crucifying once again the Son of God.”
God's Response (v.4-6)
In verse 4, we read God’s response: “He that sits in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord holds them in derision.” God isn’t threatened by man’s rebellion. In His perfectly balanced anger, He looks down from heaven at man’s plans, schemes, academic institutions, scientific achievements, technological advancements, and political structures; and He regards them with mockery.
The Psalmist knew what the apostles spelled out in Acts 5: the rulers of the earth can do nothing more than “whatsoever God’s hand and God’s counsel has predetermined should be done.” No matter how powerful and secure man feels, he is never more than clay in the hands of the Potter.
In verses 5-6, we read the Lord’s decree: “Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.” The Lord God has established His anointed One, and no one can overthrow Him. God’s anointed king will reign forever on Mt. Zion. God has said that it will be so, and it is as good as done. There is nothing that the rebels can do about it. God’s anointed cannot be defeated, even by a thousand armies.
The Son’s Kingdom Established (v.7)
In verses 7-9, the Psalmist goes into more detail about the decree that His anointed will reign. Verse 7 is especially precious: “I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” Again, we see a near and a future fulfillment.
In 2 Samuel 7, the Lord promised David, “When [you pass away], I will raise up your offspring after you, [your own son]…and I will establish his kingdom…I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.”
The Lord’s decree that the anointed will reign is in keeping with His promise to David that the throne of his son Solomon will be established. But the Psalmist is also speaking of the ultimate Son, God’s own Son, Jesus. Jesus is the ultimate Solomon, who will reign forever on the throne of His Father in heaven.
When the author of the New Testament book of Hebrews is writing about the preeminence of Jesus, he quotes from this verse; he says, “to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you' Or again, ‘I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son’?”
Psalm 2:7 is the first clear Old Testament reference to the Father-Son relationship in the Trinity. Jesus is God’s only begotten Son, the Second Person of the Trinity. He is not “begotten” in the sense that He is created; Jesus has existed forever and ever. Rather, Jesus finds His life in His union with the Father. He is eternally begotten.
Jesus, the son of God; Solomon, the son of David. In both cases, the son’s kingdom will be established. The Lord’s anointed will reign.
Crushing His Enemies (v.8-9)
In verses 8-9, the God the Father is still speaking directly to His Son. He says, "Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.”
The Son shall break His enemies. There is no doubt about whether or not it will happen. He is the supreme Sovereign, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Revelation 2:7 says the same thing of Christ when foretelling His 1000-year reign: “He shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to [small fragments].”
Handel said it well in his famous work, The Messiah: “The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. And He shall reign for ever and ever. King of kings forever and ever…And lord of lords forever and ever, hallelujah, hallelujah.”
Daniel 7:14 confirms, “There was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”
Kiss the Son (v.10-12)
Psalm 2 concludes with a solemn warning to those who would try to oppose the Kingdom of God’s anointed. Everyone who is not part of God’s Kingdom will be utterly destroyed by God’s wrath when He cleanses the earth in judgment. The rebels will be crushed, and only God’s Son and His obedient subjects will remain.
The only wise thing to do is to heed God’s warning, repent of our rebellious ways, and turn to the Son of God. Those who want to be sons of the Kingdom will do several things:
First, they will “serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” There is both fear and joy — reverence and rejoicing — to motivate our submission to the Lord’s anointed.
Hebrews 12:8-9 says, “Let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire”; at the same time Romans 14:17 says that “the kingdom of God is…joy in the Holy Ghost.” We rejoice because we are safe in Christ! We are secure under the blood! But our confidence is not careless. This is why Paul tells the Corinthians to “examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.”
Second, they will “kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little.”
The Old English of the King James translation is not very clear to modern readers: “his wrath is kindled but a little.” The idea is that “his wrath is quickly kindled.” This does not mean that God is temperamentally angry, for the Bible tells us repeatedly that the Lord is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” What the Psalmist means (when he says that the Son’s anger is kindled suddenly) is that when rebels persist in their rebellion, they will be surprised when his wrath breaks out in swift and terrible judgment.
God is jealous for His Son. Just as the curse is terrible on those who rebel against the Son, the blessings overflow to those who kiss the Son — receive the Son, adore the Son, love the Son, and worship the Son.
The Psalm concludes, “Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” “Blessed are the poor in spirit…Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (emphasis added). The sons of the Kingdom are blessed because they have come to the Son with nothing to offer, put their trust in Him, and will endure to the end.
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