Psalm 2: A World in Chaos and Tumult

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,
“Let us break their chains
    and throw off their shackles.”

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
    on Zion, my holy mountain.”

I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:

He said to me, “You are my son;
    today I have become your father.
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.”

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.
    Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

– Psalm 2 (NIV)

If Psalm 1 conjured up a pastoral idyll with its fruit laden tree by the riverbank and the quiet flowing waters then Psalm 2 transports us to a very different world.  Psalm 2 confronts us with a world in chaos, a word in tumult.

Verses 1 to 3 picture world leaders in outright rebellion against God, throwing off their fetters to pursue their own agendas, agendas which in reality are nothing more than thinly disguised power grabs.  And the fetters that they are so keen to throw off are in fact the life-giving commandments of the previous Psalm.  It is a depressing picture that is as familiar to us as it was to the Psalmist.

Where is God in the midst of all this upheaval?  The answer comes in verse 4, ‘Heaven-throned God breaks out laughing’ (The Message). Into a world of chaos God announces the advent of the Messiah, his anointed king who will reign upon the earth.

The remaining verses of the Psalm are an assurance of God’s victory won through the Messiah, they speak of the defeat of God’s enemies and all that would mar the goodness of his creation.  It is an extended commentary on the last verse of Psalm 1, ‘the way of the wicked will be destroyed’ and God’s good purposes will win out.

The Psalm clearly points to Jesus and verse 7 is echoed at Jesus’ baptism, perhaps surprisingly along with Isaiah’s prophecy of a suffering servant. The writer of Hebrews also refers to verse 7 in connection with Jesus being our great high priest (Hebrew 5.5). God’s enemies will be defeated, God’s purposes will prevail but that victory will be through Christ offering himself upon the cross, taking the very worst that rebellious humanity can throw at him and triumphing over them so in the risen Christ we might know the truth that the Psalmist could only glimpse, ‘Blessed are all who take refuge in him’ (verse 12).