We’re going to do a little time traveling today. Picture a ceremony back in ancient Jerusalem. There is a lot of pageantry and fanfare going on. Thousands of people are gathered at the front of a palace. There is a huge platform out front on which are seated all sorts of officials.
At the center of attention is a man who is kneeling before another man dressed in priestly garb. This priest is holding up a horn of a ram as in prayer before God. If you could see inside, you’d find that it is full of olive oil. The kneeling man is saying a vow to serve God, advance His kingdom, and take better care of God’s people.
When he’s done, the priest pours the horn full of oil out upon the head of this kneeling man, and the crowd cheers. Israel has a new king! It’s coronation day. The kneeling man stands and is hailed as the anointed one of God. As God’s son, as God’s messiah. Then a special song begins to play. It is Psalm 2, our scriptural text for today.
Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and his anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.”
The first verse of this song describes turbulence, trouble, opposition, and hostiles talking in hushed tones among themselves. They are plotting a rebellion against God and His king, the new anointed one. “Let us break this yoke that is upon us.”
The cords that are described in the first verse of this song are taken from agriculture. It talks about a yoke like the kind put upon oxen. “Let us break this yoke,” they say.
The verse has a rather mocking tone to it, as if asking, why? Why do these adversaries even bother to do this? I am sure as the audience hears this first verse, they smile and shake their heads. “You’re right. It’s ridiculous.”
Why would this conspiracy seem so ridiculous to them? Well, the next few verses tell us.
He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord has them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.”
This is a picture of God in his heaven, watching all this take place. He is amused by their plotting and is chuckling to himself. “Do they really think they can pull it off?”, God wonders. “You have got to be kidding!” Then he speaks to these conspirators in his wrath. (And when God speaks, it is terrifying.)
“I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.” In other words, God is saying here, “You mess with my chosen king, you mess with me. You take me on thinking you are gods along with your little wooden idols, are going to have a chance. In the end you will find out you are going to lose. I am the One and the Only God. I am in charge.”
Then the king who has just been anointed speaks. Hear what this verse announces to the people:
I will tell of the decree of the Lord: He 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.”
These are hopeful words, picturing a bright picture. The king says, “Don’t anyone worry. God is going to take care of us. God is in charge.”
The last verse is a warning to those who are conspiring against God and his king. “Now kings be wise and be warned: Don’t take on God.”
Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, with trembling kiss his feet, or he will be angry, and you will perish in the way; for his wrath is quickly kindled.
This reminds us of a verse from Proverbs: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” You take on God and his anointed one, but don’t even think about it. Instead, “serve the Lord,” the verse says. Worship him. Kiss the king’s feet in submission and homage to God’s king. Because if you don’t, God will be angry and you will perish, for his anger is quickly kindled.
And then we get to the very conclusion and climax of where this Psalm is trying to point us.
Happy are all who take refuge in the Lord.
Take refuge by surrendering yourself to God’s care; submit to his rule, his yoke in your life.
The theme for this song is that God is in charge. Surrender to him.
Scholars in the past have referred to Psalm 2 as a royal psalm with a confident, majestic tone about it. It was sung when Israel’s kings were being installed into leadership over Israel. It was intended to rouse people’s trust in God and their confidence for the future, and it points them toward a new day with an ideal king when God would remove all the enemies of Israel and there would be peace and prosperity in the land.
This psalm became all the more important to God’s people as history moved on. After King David, came disappointment after disappointment when it came to the kings, beginning with David’s son, Solomon. One writer states, “The actual state of the kingdom of Israel at any age was at best a pale representation of the ideal kingdom being described here. The prophets looked for a day when Israel and Judah would be ruled by a davidic king. And the nations would be subject to him.”
As king after king was anointed into office, this song continued to be sung, most likely with hope in mind. Perhaps they were thinking, “Maybe this will be the one, that ideal king who will usher in that ideal kingdom, when God will bring about the reverence and respect from other nations of the world that his king deserves. Maybe this will be the ideal king Ð that Messiah to whom God will hand over all things.”
However, those dreams never fully materialized, and the people of Israel were taken away to a foreign land. They had no more kings. Their hopes sagged and the song was sung no more.
Then one day, many many years after this song was originally written, in the town of Bethlehem, a child was born. His parents and shepherds in the field heard an angelic announcement of a king. The messiah!
Years later the child, now a man, was anointed. It was not in front of a palace, or by a temple priest, but by a strange-looking prophet named John out in the wilderness, in a stream called the Jordan river. As He came up out of the water, he heard these same words from Psalm 2: “You are my Son, my begotten, and with you I am well pleased.” It was the song!
Later on, this same man would hear that kingly affirmation again as he stood on a mountaintop with a few of his followers. Enveloped in a cloud, he became dazzling bright and heard God’s Word speak, “This is my beloved son.”
Of course, we are talking about Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah. He was of the davidic line and was the Son of God in a most unique way. True God and true man. He had come to subdue all enemies under his feet. However, it was not with an army as the people dreamed; not with the power and might of a military leader, but at a cross and a grave. Where he will suffer, die, and rise to rescue his people Ð to rescue you and me.
Christ conquered all our worst enemies He conquered the power of sin, the power of death, and the power of the devil.
This song continued to be sung in the midst of the early Christian church’s persecution. In Acts 4:25, after Peter and James and John came back after being beaten and told to be quiet about the gospel, all the people in the church gathered and sang this song: “Why do the nations conspire against the Lord’s anointed.” They prayed Psalm 2 confidently reminding themselves that the Lord is in charge, and surrendering themselves to his care. The message was about their king, King Jesus.
Years later a fellow named Martin Luther wrote a song. And in this song he wrote these words: “Though hoards of devils fill this land, all threatening to devour us. We tremble not, unmoved we stand. They shall not over power us. Let this world’s tyrant rage, in battle we’ll engage. His might is doomed to fail. God’s judgment must prevail. The kingdom’s ours forever.”
The kingdom is ours forever. The song has been realized. And even though the plotting against our king Ð Jesus Christ Ð continues, the battle goes on, and the people of God face persecution in places around the world, and sometimes even in our own land, we have this assurance from our God Ð from our king Ð that one day this song will be fully realized when he returns Ð not in a manger, but in power and in glory upon the clouds. Every knee will then bow to him and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
People of God, the Lord is in charge. God is faithful to his own. God has given us a king. His name is Jesus, the Christ. Bow your knee, kiss his feet in worship, and surrender your heart to him, for this king promises, “Take my yoke upon you, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
The message of Psalm 2 is the same yesterday, today, and forever. No matter how bad things may look like in this world, God is in charge. Earthly kingdoms rise and fall, earthly rulers come and go, but one constant remains: the earth is the Lord’s, and God is in charge.
Psalm 2 is a powerful song. It is our song. Hang on to it. Happy is the one who takes refuge in God’s care, who follows God’s King, Jesus Christ.