We continue our journey through the psalms with this famous Christological psalm, which foretells the coming of Jesus Christ and the fulfillment of his kingdom.
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.”
(Psalm 2:1-3 ESV)
I love the opening of this psalm. Questions abound. Who are these nations? Why are they raging? Why are the peoples plotting? Interestingly enough we are not provided an explicit answer to this question but we do know there is a war going on. And the way this is phrased (in the present tense) it is as if this war is a current and perpetual war; as if, until Jesus Christ returns, there will always be nations raging and peoples plotting in vain. Who is the head of this perpetual conspiracy? Satan (see Matthew Henry’s commentary).
My read of this psalm is that these “kings” and “rulers” stand both for the kings of the earth and the demonic “kings” in the spiritual realm (as alluded to in Daniel 10:13), as the natural is in many ways a shadow of the spiritual. So we see that there is a war and the nations and peoples and rulers, at least those which are the sons of the Devil, are in a conspiracy against the Lord and his anointed ones. This is nothing new, as we have already seen a vast conspiracy of the wicked attempting to rise up against the Lord when the tower of Babel was constructed (Genesis 11:1-9). This also foreshadows the persecution of Jesus Christ by the “kings” of his time: Herod the king of Judea, his son Herod and Pontius Pilate (who entered into an alliance with Herod in connection with the crucifixion of Christ whereas before they were enemies) in addition to the heads of various synagogues and Jewish elders.
What did these rulers desire? To be free of the bonds and cords of God, of his righteous demands on them. I would venture that they desired to be their own Gods and not be under subjection to the Lord and his commandments (see Henry id). But as Paul tells us we are slaves either to righteousness or to wickedness but we must subject ourselves to one or the other. Those who are not servants of righteousness by default are in bondage to wickedness (which is a cruel taskmaster that seeks the destruction of its prisoners as Egypt sought to destroy the Israelites with hard labor).
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.”
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.”
(Psalm 2:4-9 ESV)
So while there is much rabbling and conspiracy going on down below, up in the heavens we see the Lord only looking on bemused (see C.H. Spurgeon commentary). Moreover, he has rendered judgment on all their efforts, he “holds them in derision.” They have been weighed in the balances and been found wanting. And so now we see the Lord, faced with this impudence, has prepared a retort and finishing salvo. He has established a king, the “spiritual David” per C.H. Spurgeon to rule over all those who would seek to rebel against his godly cords and bonds. And so now David provides the report of the Lord God’s heavenly proclamation and foreshadows the coming Christ who will inherit all nations and destroy all those who would oppose him.
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.
(Psalm 2:10-12 ESV)
What is wisdom? Obedience to the Lord Almighty and his son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We should serve the Lord with fear, we should be in awe of him and give him the honor and respect he deserves. Moreover this should be a joyous occasion and so to our “trembling” we add “rejoicing.” What is this act of obedience? A simple kiss. Commentators discuss the implications of a kiss. It may signify fellowship, submission, adoration, love, loyalty and other qualities (Henry and Spurgeon’s commentary have a more in depth discussion on this). When I think of the kiss (and recall Saul’s admonition to greet the brothers with a holy kiss (Romans 16:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:25)) I think of it as symbolic of communion. It is an act of intimacy, trust and love (outside of its romantic connotations). And so what is Jesus asking us to do? I may be oversimplifying it but I think he is simply saying to the rebels to love him and serve him. For if we do not there will be consequences “for his wrath is quickly kindled.”
And how do we end? With a blessing for those who receive his love and give to him in return, who trust him and “take refuge in him.”
Lord Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, may we kiss you with a kiss of love and obedience and submit to your wise counsels and tender mercies. For you are our refuge and will protect us from the raging and plots of the ungodly. May we bear witness to you to all the nations and tell of your decree to all the peoples and may they serve you with rejoicing and trembling.
*ESV=English Standard Version