Morning Pages: Psalm 2
Psalm 2 is one of those that I can find myself reading and then just checking the box. I may read it, but I don't necessarily find it compelling or see its relevance. It confronts me with a fearsome God that I cannot understand or control and one that I rejected for a long time. But the process of lingering and wrestling with each psalm is fruitful, even if it doesn't initially feel enjoyable or encouraging.
This psalm appears to be a psalm of exhortation—a warning for the listener to hear and heed.
There are three key players:
Those who elevate themselves above YHWH and plot against him and his Anointed
The Lord’s Anointed
The psalmist may have been referring to himself as the Lord’s anointed King over Israel and addressing those that plotted against him. But this psalm is also a prophecy of Jesus, the Lord’s true Anointed king and only begotten Son.
The psalm begins with a question,
Vs. 1-3 “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.’”
This first section addresses those who elevate themselves above and conspire against the Lord and his anointed. They oppose what YHWH is doing through his appointed king rather than aligning themselves with him. They rage, plot, and take their stand against him, but it’s all in vain—empty schemes that will amount to nothing. They are proud, arrogant, and haughty—thinking themselves wise and powerful. And the Lord laughs.
Vs. 4-6 “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.”
These rulers have either never acknowledged or have forgotten that God created them; they are mere creatures. Rather than aligning with God, they have aligned with one another as if their combined efforts can destroy what God established. And the Lord laughs at their foolishness and arrogance. It amounts to nothing in his eyes. He is the true ruler over nations and the only one with the power to build up and tear down, break yokes, and tear apart. He is sovereign and will have the final word no matter their plans.
When I think about the Lord laughing in verse 4, a scene plays out in my mind of a child playfully believing he can overpower his dad. He lunges with all his might, but the dad has a hand on the child's forehead, making it impossible for him to reach him. They swing away and never make contact; all the while, the dad never breaks a sweat. But the child is determined and believes he can take his dad down. And the dad laughs because he knows how ludicrous it is.
The nations, rulers, and peoples plot and plan and scheme and believe they can land their blows, but the Lord laughs. Because, in the end, they are powerless compared to him. All their blows amount to nothing.
But he doesn’t just laugh; he takes their insolence seriously. And he will hold them accountable. The psalmist says that the Lord will speak—and it will be severe. His wrath is contained only for a time, and when he does unleash it, it will be terrifying. He will make it known that he is the Lord, the one who has set—appointed—his king on his throne, and no efforts against him will stand.
Vs. 7-9 “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.’”
God repeatedly delivered nations into Israel's hands through military might. But this goes beyond that and looks toward a future king. In 2 Samuel 2:16, God told King David, "And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever." God promised David that his throne, through his descendant, would reign for all eternity. This is prophetic of Jesus—who came through the lineage of David and who is God’s only begotten son. God delivered all things into Jesus’s hands not through military might but a cross. And now Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, enthroned as King over all creation for all eternity, and the nations will be his footstool (Hebrews 10:13).
With all of this in view, the psalm concludes,
Vs. 10-12 “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.”
This is a warning and a clear call from the psalmist to repent and turn to the Lord, who alone is king. He is the one who sets kings in place and removes kings (Daniel 2:21). This is important for all of us to remember—especially those in positions of leadership, influence, and authority over others. The psalm calls these rulers to:
Serve the Lord with fear (not just reverence and respect in view here, but terror and dread). This fully recognizes the Lord’s incredible power, justice, righteousness, and fierceness.
Rejoice with trembling
Kiss the Son (which seems to be an act of submission, acknowledgment of his rule and reign)
The wrath is swift and severe for those who refuse to acknowledge God’s anointed. But those who take refuge in YHWH will be blessed.
As I read this morning, I was struck by the corruption of earthly power and rulers—their vanity, rage, plotting and scheming, arrogance, and overall posture against the Lord. They are self-deceived, thinking they have power and using it for their own gain. Meanwhile, the Lord laughs. He is the Creator of all that exists—including them. And they have no power apart from what he allows.
The psalmist warns them to be wise and not to be deceived about the source of their power—they only have what they’ve been given from the Lord’s hand. Therefore, they are to be servants of the Lord—to treat their power with reverence/fear and trembling, to rejoice that they were to be counted as servants, and to receive/submit to the Son. There are serious, terrifying consequences for those who refuse, but those who take refuge in Yahweh will be blessed.
It would be easy to skim past this psalm and think it doesn't apply to me. Even though the context is set in a specific time and place, there are transcendent principles.
I've held positions of organizational authority before. And I recognize the relevance of the psalmist's words. But we are all given our plot of land to tend and people over whom we have tremendous influence. And so it is an ominous warning for all of us to heed—especially in a power-hungry culture. Have I aligned myself with the Lord and what he is doing? Do I recognize that I am still subject to God no matter what earthly power or authority I have? Do I utilize power as a humble servant or to advance my agenda? Do I view myself as better, wiser, and more righteous than others, or am I quick to see others as better than myself?
If we find that we've become enamored with power and influence or have used it to further our own agendas, now is the time to repent and turn toward the Lord. Acknowledge his rule and reign. Serve with great fear and trembling. God cares greatly for those under your charge. He knows every one of them by name, and he hears the cries of their hearts.
I'm also subject to those in power—in governments and organizations, both religious and not. I flourish when this power is exercised with self-awareness, care, love, humility, and service. But I've also been hurt by people in authority when they lack those things. All of us live under authority. And likely, we've all seen abuses of power and authority.
This psalm offers great hope for those who have suffered under oppressive, unjust, ungodly rulers. Jesus is a benevolent ruler who cares deeply for the oppressed, downtrodden, cast out or overlooked. He cares that rulers and authorities rule for the good of the people and that they rule as servants of their kingdoms. He will hold them accountable for any misuse of power and authority. So the hope for any who have suffered is that Jesus sees you; he sees what you endure; he knows what oppression and injustice you experience. And it matters deeply to him.
Finally, the psalmist reminds us that all who seek refuge in the Lord are blessed. And this is a promise which has been fulfilled in Jesus. Though Jesus was in his very nature God—the all-powerful Creator—he emptied himself of his power and took on the position of a lowly servant. He entrusted himself to corrupt earthly rulers and oppressive spiritual authority to the point of death on the cross. Because he was faithful, God elevated him to the place of ultimate power. Jesus is the good shepherd who cares for his sheep. And he takes the abuse, misuse, and careless use of power seriously. While that doesn't immediately alleviate the pain or resolve the circumstances, it does enable us to entrust ourselves to his care.