Psalm 2 – God Reigns Over the Nations

Psalm 1 counseled wisdom. Worshippers, as they pray, mediate and sing the Psalms, align themselves with the way of righteousness. Psalm 2 assures these worshippers that Yahweh reigns and even the nations must ultimately submit to the God of Israel. Psalm 2, then, as a further introduction to the Psalter, grounds the worship of and prayers to Yahweh in God’s universal reign. Yahweh provides wisdom through the Torah (Psalm 1) and Yahweh rules the cosmos (Psalm 2). With these themes in hand, the door is open to walk through the hills and valleys of the Psalter.

Psalm 2 offers its theological vision in four strophes. The first depicts the nations in rebellion (1-3) while the second identifies Yahweh as the true locus of sovereignty in the world (4-6). The third affirms the role of Yahweh’s king among the nations (7-9) while the fourth offers some advice for the kingdoms of the earth (10-12). The outer strophes focus on Yahweh’s relationship to the nations while the inner two strophes focus on Yahweh’s own sovereignty.

This is the voice of faith. Israel royal history gives no evidence that other nations (especially empires) should fear Yahweh’s king. Israel (and later the much smaller Judah) are surrounded by vast empires like Egypt, Assyria and Babylon. Their power dwarfs that of Judah. Like Jerusalem (Zion), the nation itself is a small ridge surrounded by higher mountains. In the larger scheme of things, Jerusalem is nothing but a small regional power. Judah’s territory would easily fit between Nashville and Knoxville, TN!

The Psalm’s boldness is profound. It is little wonder that the nations mock Yahweh’s anointed. The nations will simply throw off whatever shackles that Israel might suppose enslaves them. There is no contest.

But the Psalmist, and Israel’s gathered worshippers, see the world through the lens of faith. They envision Yahweh enthroned in the heavens. God reigns over the nations. Eyes of faith can see this when Israel is gathered for worship. Singing and praying the Psalms they see the world as faith envisions it. Yahweh is enthroned and the nations will serve Israel’s God.

Yahweh’s enthronement also means that God’s anointed represents the reign of God in the world. Yahweh anoints a king, calls him “Son,” and gives him an inheritance which is the whole earth. The reign of the king in Israel, then, is a sign of hope; it is the covenant faithfulness of God. The king symbolizes God’s commitment to the Abrahamic promises. Consequently, the enthronement of the king is something to celebrate, and that may be the origin of this Psalm originally. It is one of the “royal Psalms.”

The nations will be judged by how they treat God’s anointed. Cautioned and warned, the nations should serve Yahweh and “kiss the son.”

An Assyrian general or an Egyptian Pharoah must have laughed at such language. Perhaps they were enraged by such claims. In either event, Israel, they must have thought, has lost touch with reality.

Yet, someone placed this Psalm at the beginning of the Psalter. It reminded Israel that as they sang and prayed these Psalms they do so with the confidence that God reigns over the nations and that God’s anointed will inherit the earth itself. Such faith is only nurtured through worship.

It is the kind of worship we find in the Apocalypse. Marginalized in a hostile culture, dwarfed in size by Roman religions, and surrounded by magnificent temples dedicated to Roman gods, goddesses and Caesars, the seven churches of Asia Minor envisioned God and the Lamb, the Messiah, on thrones in heaven. The climax of the Apocalypse (pictured in both 11:18 and 19:19) embraces the vision of Psalm 2 as the Lord’s Anointed defeats the powers of evil in such a way that the earth itself becomes the kingdom of the Lord (11:15). The nations become the heritage of God’s Anointed.

The language of Psalm 2 is our language. We worship the one who sits on the throne and the Lamb (God’s Messiah). We confess that God reigns even though evil and chaos still abound. We hope for the coming of the kingdom of God when the meek will inherit the earth. We live those moments by faith and when we gather to worship God and the Lamb we see it with the eyes of faith, just like Israel in Psalm 2.

So, we boldly pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Come, Lord Jesus!

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