Have you seen the news this past week! Like countless others through the millennia, the horror and heartbreak of world events has driven me to the Book of Psalms. A world running off the rails compels me to cast anchor in the prayerful ponderings of the ancient psalmists. When the world is on fire God’s people have instinctively turned to the prayer book of ancient Israel, the Lord Jesus, the Apostles and early Christians. Today my Bible falls open to Psalm 2. It is the psalm that the first Christians in Jerusalem sought refuge in when threatened with annihilation (Acts 4:23-31). It served them well, and it will serve us well.
There is evidence that Psalm 2 and Psalm 1 were originally one unit, placed at the beginning of the Psalms as an appropriate introduction. The promise of being “happy” appears at the start of Psalm 1 and, as a kind of enclosure, at the end of Psalm 2:
“Happy are those….” (Psalm 1:1)
“Happy are all who…” (Psalm 2:12)
The early editors of the Psalms chose these two psalms that begin and end as they do, as an introduction to the truly happy life. Happiness is found in God and only in God.
One good way to read Psalm 2 is to read it as though watching a play. We watch the curtain open and close, open and close. Each time the curtain opens we are watching a different scene play out.
The curtain opens in verse 1 as restless world powers are rallied against the Kingdom and the Anointed (i.e. the Christ).
1 Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and his anointed, saying, 3 ‘Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.’
The New Testament reads this first scene as the nations of the world throughout time are united against Christ and His Kingdom (Acts 4). They want to break free from the Gospel Message. With noise and clamor the curtain goes down.
The curtain opens on a change of scene in verse 4. We see God’s reaction to the puny nations rising up against His Christ:
4He who sits in the heavens laughs; the LORD has them in derision. 5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying…
Notice the Lord’s confident message to the nations:
6“I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.” “Hey! It’s Me you’re dealing with”, God says. It’s the Creator of the universe, the Lord of history, the coming Judge of the living and the dead. Don’t trifle with Me! The curtain goes down as the kings of the earth realize they have made a big mistake!
With verse 7 the curtain goes up on yet another scene, as we see God’s Anointed One, Jesus, speaking boldly:
7 I will tell of the decree of the LORD: He 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.”
In these verses Christ is quoting His Father’s words of “decree” to Him: “You are my son; today I have begotten you”. The New Testament tells us that this “decree” refers to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and His ascension into heaven (Acts 13:33). God the Father raised His Son from humiliation into glory and gave to Him absolute power and authority. All the power of the kings of the earth is as nothing. All their ranting is empty and meaningless. One day Jesus will ask His Father for the nations of the world and God will make them His possession. The curtain closes on God’s Anointed Son victorious over all world powers.
With verse 10 we see the curtain go up one last time. Here is the Holy Spirit speaking to all the kings, presidents, and rulers of the world. He gives them a solemn warning, and then a promise:
10Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11Serve the Lord with fear, with trembling 12kiss his feet, or he will be angry, and you will perish in the way; for his wrath is quickly kindled. Happy are all who take refuge in him.
The Holy Spirit’s warning is also for us: “Be wise…Be warned…Serve the Lord with fear”. The Holy Spirit’s promise is also for us: “Happy are all who take refuge in him”.
Psalm 2 begins the Book of Psalms with the awareness that there is trouble in the world. There are seemingly powerful forces aligned against Christ and His Kingdom. But they are not as they appear! All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Christ! “Happy are all who take refuge in him.” Keep praying. Don’t fret. Serve the Lord every day.
Grace and peace,
P. S. This summer I am writing a daily devotional book on praying with the Psalms. I will let you know when it is available.
photo by Andrey Korchagin