A Study of Psalm 2
Never have we seen the world in such jeopardy. Our problems are beyond human imagination and beyond human solution.
One of our many threats is coming from the Chinese Communists. This nation is emerging as the greatest threat in the history of America. President Xi Jinping has created an electronic surveillance state that offers no privacy or independence for his billion citizens. The millions of Christians in China are at particular risk. He and his government know where everyone goes, what everyone says, and how everyone lives. He has turned Hong Kong into a prison, and he wants to do the same for Taiwan.
Truth be told, he wants to do that to America too. The Communist government of China is buying up thousands of acres of American farmland near our military bases; they are hacking into our computers; stealing our secrets and intellectual property; flooding us with dangerous drugs; buying up our debt; undercutting our economy; producing our medicines; and dominating the world market of rare minerals necessary for modern technology. At the same time, the Chinese are developing the most advanced military machine the world has ever known.
Dr. John Mack wrote an article about all this, and it was published by the U.S. Army War College last month. He said:
The U.S. military strategy to combat China cannot be sustained…. U.S. military forces are too small, their supply lines are too vulnerable, and America’s defense industrial capacity is far too eroded to keep up with the materiel demands of a high-intensity conflict….
China is now what the United States used to be, in terms of economic power and industrial capacity. Unlike the Soviet Union, the United States and most Western nations are economically reliant on China. China has built a capacity to sustain a protracted war of any type. More directly, China is well-postured to sustain a protracted high intensity war of attrition. The United States is not currently capable of doing so.
We can debate the underlying reasons an increasingly unfit and nationally ambivalent generation of Americans does not worry about the threat of war; however, it is evident that many Americans take their security for granted and do not likely consider that the horrors of war could be visited upon them directly….
The United States is at one of its most vulnerable positions in history.… History shows Americans can be reluctant to act until war forces them to. With respect to China’s threat, that may then be too late to protect the U.S. Homeland or the Western liberal international order.
Yet China is only one of the threats facing the United States. We are living on a planet that is facing multiple existential crises. What is our world coming to? It’s very important for every Christian on earth to know the truth contained in Psalm 2. Scarcely any Scripture is more relevant to our situation in the world today than the second Psalm. It gives us a theology of world history and current events, and I want to study it with you. It says:
Why do the nations conspire
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
3 “Let us break their chains
and throw off their shackles.”
4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them.
5 He rebukes them in his anger
and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
6 “I have installed my king
on Zion, my holy mountain.”
7 I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:
He said to me, “You are my son;
today I have become your father.
8 Ask me,
and I will make the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You will break them with a rod of iron;
you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”
10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;
be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear
and celebrate his rule with trembling.
12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry
and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
This is a very unusual Psalm because it’s composed from the perspective of five different speakers. If we were doing this Psalm dramatically, I would have five different people on the stage reading the four paragraphs. Or if you were listening to this on the radio, you might hear five different voices. In my own Bible, I have taken a pencil and put these five speakers over the four paragraphs. Each of the speakers adds something to our understanding of what in the world is going on and what it means to us. Let’s analyze it by looking at these five speakers and what they want to say.
1. The World Has Something To Say
The first speaker is composed of the current rulers of this world, people like Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin.
Verses 1-3 tell us what these rulers have to say: Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against His anointed, saying – and here is what the nations of the world say: Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles. That is, Let us rebel and break free from God and His restraints and His rules and His sovereignty.
Our astronauts who go into space, especially those who have gone to the moon, have looked back at the earth and it appears to be a little blue marble dangling in the dark void of space. And almost without except, they have come back saying something like this: “When I look at our little planet with the only known life in the entire universe—8 billion of us on a small marble—it seems inconceivable that for thousands of years all we have been doing is waging war against each other, developing weapons to kill each other. How can that be?”
Well, the answer is in verse 2. The agitation of this world represents at its core a rebellion against the God who made us and against His Messiah: The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against His anointed….
The world is in rebellion against the Lord God Almighty and against His Anointed One, or, in Hebrew Mashiach [pronounced Ma-shee’-ak], or, in English, Messiah. The question is: Who is this Messiah? Who is the Lord’s anointed? The world is rebelling against God and His Anointed One. Who is that?
There are two answers. In the immediate context of David’s writing this, He is talking about himself. The prophet Samuel anointed David as King of Israel, and David was ruling as the Anointed One or Mashiach under the authority of almighty God. In this context, the nations of the world were rebelling against the God of Israel, and God has anointed David as king and placed him on the throne to maintain the kingdom of Israel in a hostile world.
But David was also speaking prophetically. How much of this he understood at the time we don’t know, but the Holy Spirit was directing him to write about the ultimate Messiah who was to come.
We see this clearly in Acts 4, where the Jewish Sanhedrin had placed Peter and John on trial because of their faith in Jesus. The Jewish leaders bullied and threatened and persecuted the disciples. And when they were released, Peter and John went back to their friends. Look at what it says in Acts 4, beginning with verse 23:
On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David [and now they quote directly from Psalm 2]:
“‘Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord and against his anointed one.
27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
Psalm 2 is Messianic. The Jews and Gentiles, in their leadership, rebelled against God and His Messiah. They went so far as to crucify Him. To this day, the whole world is in rebellion against God, except for the followers of God and His Mashiach, Messiah, Anointed One—the Lord Jesus Christ. According to Psalm 2, verse 3, the nations want to break free from the influence and rules and righteousness of God and this is what they have to say: Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.
The world rulers say: “Let’s get rid of God and do whatever we want.”
2. God the Father Has Something to Say
Now we come to the second speaker of Psalm 2. While the world conspires in rebellion, the Lord has something to say. God the Father speaks in the second paragraph. He laughs in ridicule. Look at verse 4: The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. He rebukes them in His anger and terrifies them in His wrath, saying, “I have installed My king of Zion, My holy mountain.”
Most commentators say the laughter here is anthropomorphic language. The Lord may not literally laugh, but this is the writer’s way of using human responses to tell us how ridiculous it is to God that anyone or any nation could successfully rebel against Him. The Lord looks down at Xi Jinping and laughs at him. He looks down at Kim Jong-un and scoffs at him. He looks down at Vladimir Putin and has something to say to him. He looks down at America and is not in the least intimidated by godless secularity.
What does He say? He says, I have installed My King on Zion, My holy mountain.
The Anointed One is also a King. When he wrote this, David was thinking of himself. He was saying, “The nations around me think they can destroy Israel, but the Lord laughs at them. He has established me as His king and we will win the victories.”
But the Holy Spirit was thinking beyond David, to David’s great descendant, Jesus of Nazareth. The Lord God says, “I have an answer for all the turmoil on earth. I am going to put My Messiah, My King, on the throne in Zion.” God’s answer to the turmoil of the world is to place Jesus Christ over the arc of history.
3. God the Son Has Something to Say
Now in verse 7 we come to the third speaker. The Anointed One Himself speaks. This is subtle but unmistakable.
The Anointed One, who is the King, says: I will proclaim the Lord’s decree. I will tell you what My Father told Me: He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.”
Here again the immediate application is to David. He was going back to what God had told him in 2 Samuel 7 when the Lord had made a covenant with him. The Lord said to Him in 2 Samuel 7, in my paraphrase: “I am making you into a dynasty that will produce an ultimate King, and with this covenant I am saying to you and to your descendants: ‘You will be my son and I will be your father.’”
But now look at Paul’s sermon in Acts 13, beginning with verse 32: We tell you the Good News: What God promised to our ancestors, He has fulfilled to us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: “You are My Son; today I have become Your Father.”
The book of Hebrews says the same thing. Hebrews 1 says, in effect, “God wasn’t speaking to angels but to Jesus Christ when He said, “You are My Son; today I have become Your Father.”
And the Father invites His Son, the Anointed One, the King to ask Him for something. Psalm 2: 8 says: Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will break them with a rod of iron; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.
This will be fulfilled when Jesus comes again. This passage about Jesus breaking them with a rod of iron is alluded to in Revelation 19, which is a description of the return of Christ:
11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”
Our Lord came the first time to offer salvation to the world. He is coming again to close that opportunity, to judge the world, to rule the nations during the Millennium, and to usher in His eternal kingdom.
Now, we come to the final speaker.
4. God the Holy Spirit Has Something to Say
The world says, “Let us break free from Almighty God.” The Lord laughs and says, “Not so fast. I have installed My Anointed One as King in Zion.” The Messiah says, “He is My Father, I am His Son, and He has given Me the nations as My inheritance and I am going to come as King of kings and rule both heaven and earth.”
And now the Psalmist, inspired by the Holy Spirit, adds his own voice, beginning in verse 10: Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate His rule with trembling. Kiss His Son, or He will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for His wrath can flare up in a moment.
In other words, Almighty God through His Son, Jesus Christ, is the ruler of Heaven and Earth. The Most High rules in the affairs of men. God is in total control, and these little potentates and autocrats and dictators and presidents and premiers rise and fall. They come and go. They live and they die and they stand before God and are condemned. If they had any real sense, they would bow down right now and embrace the Son of God and kiss Him and serve Him and celebrate His rule. A single flareup of His wrath, and they are no more.
So the world says: Let us break free from God. The Lord says, I have anointed my Son as King. The Messiah says, I am God’s Son and He is My Father and He has given Me the nations as My inheritance and I am going to rule them with an iron scepter. The Psalmist says: If you are smart, you will bow down and celebrate His rule.
Now we come to the crowning final sentence of the Psalm. After we hear what the world has to say and what the Lord has to say and what the Messiah has to say and what the Psalmist has to say, what is our great conclusion as the children of God and the followers of Jesus? What do we say? What do you have to say?
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
This Psalm ends where Psalm 1 begins—with the word “blessed.”
Blessed are those who take refuge. That’s a very common word, and it shows up over forty times in the Psalms. Isaiah also used this term a lot. What does it mean?
I was in Oklahoma recently, and on my first night there tornados erupted all around the area I was staying in. They didn’t come directly toward the hotel I was at, but a nearby town was almost demolished. The next day I was visiting a bank. It was First United Bank in Moore, Oklahoma. They had sponsored my visit. We began talking about the storms the night before, and the lady who was showing us around told us of a time when she and her fellow bankers had fled for the safest place one could possibly be during a tornado—in the vault of a bank.
I looked it up later, and the newspaper had reported the story. It was during the terrible outbreak of tornadoes that nearly destroyed this town some years before. On this day, the tornadoes came so quickly and powerfully there was almost nowhere to hide. There were 22 people in that bank—both employees and customers. The youngest was a ten-year-old boy. They all fled to the vault for refuge. It was encased in concrete and steel. They stayed there until the storm passed them by.
When they finally opened the door and ventured out, nothing was left of the bank. Nothing was left of the entire block. Everything was gone, in a junkyard of debris. Only the vault had survived.
And I thought of Jesus Christ. In Him are all the riches of glory, and He is our hiding place. In a perilous world, we find safety in Him. Blessed are all those who find refuge in Him.
- He is our spiritual refuge, for He died to keep us connected with God through His precious blood. He redeems us, saves us, and protects our souls.
- He is our emotional refuge, because He strengthens us every day by His Spirit and by His promises.
- He is our eternal refuge, for He has promised us an eternal Home described for us in Scripture.
The only answer to a dangerous and hellbent world is found in our King, our Messiah, the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. He alone is our refuge from the tornadoes of this tempestuous world.
Jesus Shall Reign Where’re the Sun
Doth its successive journeys run;
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.