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Psalm 2: Messiah Reigns

J Gibson, Derby

The second Psalm glorifies God as supreme ruler of His universe. It was written by David, but as with all Scripture it is at the same time the words of God (Acts 4.25). Perhaps more than any other Davidic Psalm its historical references to David’s life fade as its Messianic connotations stand out. While the multiple end points of its prophetic utterances – whether Christ’s suffering at His first coming, His resurrection, or even His return to reign – add to its complexity, its frequent New Testament citations help to unearth its meaning (Acts 4.24-27; 13.33; Heb 1.5; 5.5; Rev 2.27; 12.5; 19.15). Nevertheless, there are depths to this Psalm, especially in relation to Christ’s eternal Sonship, which cannot be fathomed. It unites the titles Son, Anointed (Christ), and King, and may have been in the mind of Nathaniel when he exclaimed, "Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel" (Jn 1.49). It may even have influenced the thoughts of Israel’s high priest when he challenged the Lord Jesus: "I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God" (Mt 26.63). Christ affirmed that it was so with the words, "Thou hast said", even referencing Daniel’s prophecy as a description of His future coming. "Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven" (Mt 26.64; Dan 7.13). As we study this Psalm may we bow in adoring worship before our glorious Lord.

Anarchy (vv.1-3)

In his early life David faced severe opposition. His brothers despised him (1 Sam17.28), and Saul the king made repeated attempts on his life (1 Sam 18.8-11,25; 19.1,10,11; 23.14; 26.1-2). Twice the Ziphites betrayed David (1 Sam 23.19; 26.1); the Amalekites captured his family (1 Sam 30.1-5); and even later, when David was established on the throne, Ammonites waged war against him (2 Sam 10.6). But truly any resistance experienced by David pales into insignificance in comparison to the violent opposition Christ felt at His first advent (Acts 4.27) and will confront at His second, when men will oppose God and His appointed ruler on a global scale. A confederacy of hostile forces will converge on the Holy Land in a massive attempt to throw off the rule of God. Thus will they exclaim: "Let us break [NATAQ - to tear off1] their bands asunder, and cast away [SHALAK - throw, cast, hurl] their cords from us" (v.3). Oblivious to their enslavement to Satan – the driving force behind this penultimate rebellion (Rev 16.12-16) – and finding the benign rule of God restrictive, the heathen will rage [phruasso - to snort2] and the kings of the earth stand up in open defiance against God and Christ (Acts 4.25-26). This will not be a spur of the moment decision, but the result of careful deliberations and extensive planning: "the peoples meditate…and the princes plot together, against Jehovah and against his anointed" (vv.1-2, JND). But although this rebellion by puny men brings to a suitable climax to the ongoing enmity between Satan and God, it will be in "vain" (v.1; Gen 3.15; Rev 16.12-16; 17.12-14; 19.11-21). Christ will squash the uprising and establish His Kingdom.

Anger (vv.4-6)

The wild bravado of earthly kings does not frighten God, but it does anger Him. The eternal Throne-Sitter will laugh in derision at the audacity of sinful rebels (v.4; Ps 59.8). The highest Judge will speak "unto them in his wrath [AP - nostril or face3]" (v.5), the Hebrew words picturing an angry facial expression. The phrase "sore displeasure [CHARON - burning4]" (v.5; cp. 2 Thess 2.8) emphasises the irresistible force of God’s wrath, a wrath that will "terrify them" (v.5, JND). Even at the beginning of the tribulation period men will be powerless when challenged by the might of omnipotence. "And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" (Rev 6.15-17). No earthly rebellion can possibly stop God’s plan to enthrone His beloved Son over all nations. Thus He declares, "Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion" (v.6).

Authority (vv.7-9)

The writer to the Hebrews linked this second Psalm to the covenant God made with King David (Heb 1.5; 2 Sam 7.14). This covenant is fundamental to understanding Christ’s legitimate claim to rule. God in His sovereignty "took [David] from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over [His] people, over Israel" (2 Sam 7.8). And when established as Israel’s King David longed to build a house for God (2 Sam 7.1-3). God answered this desire by promising David, unconditionally, that his descendants would sit forever on Israel’s throne: "And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever" (2 Sam 7.16). And so, "Whatever its changing form, temporary interruptions, or chastisements, the line of David will always have the right to rule over Israel and will, in fact, exercise this privilege".5 As far as this second Psalm is concerned, it is highly significant that the Davidic covenant connected kingship with sonship, for David’s son was also deemed the son of God on account of being anointed king over Israel (2 Sam 7.13-14; Ps 89.26-27), a nation which was itself viewed as Jehovah’s firstborn (Ex 4.22).

But how does this covenant with David relate to Christ and in particular to the second Psalm? Since Jesus Christ is the son of David He can justifiably lay claim to David’s throne (Mt 1.1). But there is more to it than this. Christ, God’s anointed King, will declare, "The Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee" (Ps 2.7). The Hebrew word translated "begotten" is YALAD which "in its narrowest sense…[describes] the act of a woman in giving birth to a child (e.g. Ex 1.19; 1 King 3.17,18)".6 However, it is also used figuratively, in this case applying to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus (Acts 13.33), "this day" speaking about God bringing forth Christ from the dead and declaring Him to be His only begotten Son (Rom 1.4). As the eternal Son of God, as well as son of David, Christ is doubly entitled to reign.

His rule will be absolute (vv.8,9). All resistance will be shattered with an iron rod and dashed "in pieces like a potter’s vessel" (v.9). There will be bloody carnage throughout Palestine as Christ crushes His enemies. Jerusalem will be affected (Zech 14.1-5), as will Edom in the south-east (Is 63.1-3) and Armageddon (mountain of Megiddo) to the north (Rev 16.12-16). The prophecy of the Revelation speaks about "blood [coming] out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs" (Rev 14.20). This is a distance of about 200 miles, the length of the land of Palestine. And then, having vanquished His foes, the mighty conqueror will enter Jerusalem the city of the great King to the words, "Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle" (Ps 24.7-8).

Appeal (vv.10-12)

The Psalmist has allowed the chief participants to speak for themselves – the rebellious nations (v.3), the eternal God (v.6), the ruling Son (vv.7-9). He now closes with a timely appeal to world leaders to be wise and instructed (v.10). "Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling" (v.11), a healthy balance. Honour the Son, lest "ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little" (v.12). Finally, and heart-warmingly, after such warnings of destructive judgment from God the Psalm finishes with a promised blessing for all who "put their trust [CHASA - to flee for protection7]" in Christ (v.12).


1 James Strong. A concise dictionary of the words in the Hebrew Bible; with their rendering in the authorized English version.
2 James Strong. A concise dictionary of the words in the Greek Bible; with their rendering in the authorized English version.
3 Harris R L, Archer G L, Waltke B K. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament.
4 Harris R L, Archer G L, Waltke B K. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament.
5 Walvoord J F, cited by Pentecost J D. Things to Come
6 Harris R L, Archer G L, Waltke B K. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament.
7 James Strong. A concise dictionary of the words in the Hebrew Bible; with their rendering in the authorized English version.


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