In light of the present world situation, many thinking men and women are asking a critical question. They are asking it with increased frequency and greater intensity. They are asking it of statesmen and educators, scientists and economists, generals and philosophers. The question may be framed with some variation, but it’s the same question. The shallowness, the uncertainty, the chaos, the fear, the cracking of familiar and secure foundations, the insanity of the present hour – these have become the catalysts for the question.
Men sense that the planet Earth is on a collision course – like Humpty Dumpty, it’s heading for a big fall. And so repeatedly the question is asked: “WHERE IN THE WORLD IS THE PLANET EARTH GOING?”
Tragically, people are asking the wrong seers for answers. However educated, however noble, however well-intended, the unregenerate man cannot lead his fellows out of twentieth-century quicksand. Only the true servant of God can do that. But it’s not in vogue to inquire of the servant of the Lord – not in the sophisticated eighth decade of the twentieth century. The voice of the true servant of the Lord has not been relegated to the back burner – it’s off the stove! Few today speak for God with the thunderous authority of the prophets of old. And among the multitudes, only a remnant heed these words.
But for those who are willing to listen, God still speaks – His Word is timeless truth.
It is good to have light for the day. Perhaps it is even better to have a song in the night. Three thousand years ago the inspired penman was moved of God to write Psalm 2. It is neither exaggeration nor hyperbole to say that no modern word spoken, no urgent word written – no utterance of twentieth-century man, by whatever method, is as contemporary or important as the truth in this glorious Psalm. It was written, in the view of many, by a shepherd lad who became a king and the sweet psalmist of Israel. His name was David.
I. THE NATIONS SPEAK OF PRIDEFUL HUMANISM (vv. 1-3)
“Let us [the nations] break their [the triune God’s] bands asunder, and cast away their [the triune God’s] cords from us [the nations] ” (v. 3)
The psalmist begins with a question of wonder and horror: “Why do the nations rage, and the peoples imagine a vain thing?” (v. 1). The nations that rage (tumultuously) are the Gentiles who presume to think they can thwart the plan of God to restore and rebuild Jerusalem in preparation for the coronation of His Son, the coming King. The peoples who imagine a vain (empty) thing are the Jews who are so foolish as to think that they can go it alone – that without divine power, that without the aid of their greatest Son, they can restore Israel and Jerusalem to her past greatness. The former think to oppose God, the latter to ignore Him. This ultimate opposition to God will occur during the Tribulation Period. But is this not an amazingly accurate description of our day? One after another, the nations of the world are lining up against Israel. And still this elect people refuse to be reconciled to their God. They have not acknowledged their sin nor fled to Calvary for grace and refuge. And neither the nations nor Israel realize that it is not a tyrant against whom they are leagued. It is Jehovah himself who is assailed in the person of Jesus, whom God the Father has set on His throne.
And why this opposition to God and His Christ? The answer is found in that man wants to be his own god. William Ernest Hanley expressed it aptly when he wrote, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” But hear men speak for themselves in this Psalm: “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” This metaphor is borrowed from restive animals which break the cords and throw off the yoke. Man wants no restraint from God and no accountability to God. The word that describes this philosophy of life is HUMANISM. Its major tenets are: (1) There is no God; and (2) therefore man of necessity evolved; and (3) since man evolved (and is evolving) there can be no absolutes; and so (4) there are no standards of morality. From this mentality comes an amoral lifestyle epitomized in current cliches like, “Do your own thing,” or “Let it all hang out,” and again “If it feels good, why not?”
It is precisely this attitude that the psalmist applies to unregenerate humanity in its puny, futile, doomed-to-defeat opposition to the enthronement of the Son of God and His direct rule over mankind.
II. THE FATHER SPEAKS OF SUCCESSFUL SOVEREIGNTY (vv. 4-6)
“Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion” (v. 6)
And now from all of this wild tempest and confusion on earth, from the trampling of gathering armies, and the pride of kingly captains, and their words of haughty menace, the psalmist turns his eyes Heavenward to hear the Father speak. There He sits, the One in whose sight all nations and kings are but as a drop in the bucket.
He has not taken the trouble to rise up and do battle with them – He despises them – He knows how absurd, how irrational, how futile are their attempts against Him. First, in calm contempt He laughs at them (v. 4a); secondly, He brings their counsels to nothing and baffles their purposes (v. 4b); and thirdly, with the thunder of His Word He discomforts them (v. 5). The pride and folly of man – how utterly absurd it is!
And now in verse 6, with the words, “Yet have I,” the central truth of the Psalm is reached. Never mind the opposition of men. In spite of their best efforts – when their plotting is done, their energy exhausted, and all avenues of resistance closed – when all that man can say or do is done, God says, “Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.” “God is not a man, that he should lie . . .” (Num. 23:19). No statement in all of Scripture is to be understood more literally than this one. To underscore the absolute, irreversible certainty of the future enthronement of Jesus, God speaks of it as though it had already occurred. “Yet have I set my king” is in the past tense.
To Satan God said, “. . . he shall bruise thy head . . .” (Gen. 3:15). To Abraham God said, “. . . in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen, 12:3). To King David God said, “And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee; thy throne shall be established forever” (2 Sam. 7:16). To a Jewish maiden named Mary God said, “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father, David” (Lk. 1: 31-32).
The enthronement of Jesus upon the throne of Israel with the scepter and crown of the Davidic line is the foundation upon which the above statements will find fulfillment. When Jesus sits upon the throne of David in the city of Jerusalem in the land of Israel, the holiness, justice, truth and power of God will be vindicated and demonstrated. This awaits His Second Coming. He is sovereign in His universe, and none can oppose His will. He will rule over man.
III. THE SON SPEAKS OF HEREDITARY HEIRSHIP (vv.7-9)
“. . . The Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee” (v. 7)
With the commencement of verse 7, a new speaker is introduced. In verses 1-3, the voice of unregenerate mankind is heard; in verses 4-6, the voice of God the Father is heard; and now the Son, the anointed King, appears and proclaims His Father’s counsel concerning Himself (vv. 7-9). He will reign as King of kings, not by the will of man but by the decree of His Father.
The statement, “. . . Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee” speaks not so much of origin and time but of position and power. What is in view is the right of primogeniture or heirship. As the firstborn among the new creation, Jesus inherits all that His Father possesses. Therefore, the invitation is extended by the Father to the Son, “Ask of me . . . ” (v. 8). This is a poetical figure by which is represented God’s willingness to give to His only begotten Son the kingdoms of this world. But were not the kingdoms of the world and their glory the very thing which Satan offered to Jesus in the wilderness temptation (Mt. 4:8-9)? In other words, he was offering to the Son of God what was already rightfully His. In effect, Satan was saying, You can have the kingdoms of this world without Calvary – You can have the glory without the suffering. Had Jesus succumbed, there would have been no redemption of a lost humanity, and all men would be dying in their sins. But Jesus endured the shame and suffering of Calvary to bring many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10). Is it any wonder then that after we have been there ten thousand years we will have no less days to sing His praise than when we had first begun?
It was customary in ancient days among great kings to give to those in a favored position whatever they might request (Est. 5:6; Mt.14:7). So Jesus has but to ask and possess. And because of who He is and what He has done, the Father’s love will withhold nothing from the Son.
The “rod [or scepter] of iron” entrusted to Christ speaks of His right and power to judge. With that rod He will dash those who reject His grace, refuse His mercy, and spurn His love. Concerning this judgment, Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, has well written, “Those who will not bend must break, Potters’ vessels are not to be restored if dashed in pieces, and the ruin of sinners will be hopeless if Jesus shall smite them.”
Ye sinners seek His grace,
Whose wrath ye cannot bear;
Fly to the shelter of His cross,
And find salvation there.
IV. THE SPIRIT SPEAKS OF SENSIBLE SUBMISSION (vv. 10-12)
“Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling” (v. 11)
Drawing a conclusion from what has preceded, the Spirit of God makes an appeal to the rebels – it is both sensible and gracious. It offers blessed hope on the one hand or certain, irreversible judgment on the other. All revolves around one’s relationship to the Son. First, there is the appeal to wisdom: “Be wise now, therefore . . .” (v. 10). The idea conveyed is: Delay no longer, but let good reason characterize your thinking. Your warfare cannot succeed. Resist no longer, but yield cheerfully to Him who will make you bow if you refuse His yoke.
Secondly, there is the appeal to service: “Serve the Lord with fear . . .” (v. 11). The greatness of God is incomprehensible and inexhaustible. “For he spoke, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast” (Ps. 33:9). It is only to the degree that man understands God’s greatness that he will understand how puny and undone he is in and of himself. A heightened sense of God’s holiness will bring a heightened sense of personal sin. Reverence and humility should therefore be mingled with true service.
Finally, there is an appeal to “Kiss the Son . . .” (v. 12); that is, to do Him homage. The Apostle Paul wrote that one day, “. . . every knee should bow . . . and . . . every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God, the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11). Men bow the knee to Jesus now by choice and know eternal blessing, or then by force and know eternal judgment.
The voice of the NATIONS is the voice of PRIDEFUL HUMANISM – it speaks of release from divine restraint. The voice of the FATHER is the voice of SUCCESSFUL SOVEREIGNTY – He speaks of His Son’s certain rule. The voice of the SON is the voice of HEREDITARY HEIRSHIP – He speaks of His Father’s decree that He be enthroned. The voice of the SPIRIT is the voice of SENSIBLE SUBMISSION – think right, work right and act right toward the One to whom all men must give an account.
This glorious Psalm ends with a benediction of hope: “. . . Blessed [lit. happy or living] are all they who put their trust in him” (v. 12). Put into the vernacular of the New Testament, the psalmist is saying, “. . . Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved . . .” (Acts 16:31).
Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Does his successive journeys run,
His kingdom spread from shore to shore
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.