Our world is not getting any better. Indeed our Western world seems to be increasingly wrecking itself on the rocks of unadulterated selfishness. Where do we turn for hope?
The Book of Psalms reminds us that in the midst of the day-to-day realities of life, our only hope is to turn to the Lord God for his help and to his Word for his wisdom.
Psalm 2, the second of the two foundational psalms (Psalm 1 is the first) jumps straight in with a question: ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain against God and his king?’
And, in setting the scene for the whole Book, it continues with words that speak of the futility of humankind: 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 2:2-3).
Why is it that men and women, created beings, plot against their creator? And in anticipation of the events that led to Jesus’ death, why is it that kings and rulers – Herod and Pilate – conspire together to bring down God’s elect king? And why is it that men and women speak of God’s instruction as bonds to be broken and cords to be cast off? Hosea 11:4 speaks of God’s cords of kindness, and Jesus invites us to come to him for his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:30).
With this beginning, Psalm 2 introduces a theme that bubbles through the psalms – namely the plotting of men and women against their creator. At the same time we are introduced to two other characters we find in the Psalms, God and his anointed King.
We then read God’s response: 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” (Psalm 2:4-6).
And in verses 7-9, God’s king now speaks: I will tell of the decree: The Lord (that is, God) 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.” At Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration, God the Father proclaimed him his Son in words drawn from this verse – and also from Isaiah 42:1. When Jesus commissioned the apostles, he emphasized the nations and the ends of the earth, taking up this promise concerning God’s King.
In the final verses the Psalm-writer comes back with words of warning for the nations, the kings and rulers: 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 (2:10-12a).
Derek Kidner (Psalms 1-72: Tyndale) comments, ‘God’s patience is not placidity, any more than His fierce anger is loss of control, His laughter cruelty or His pity sentimentality. When His moment comes for judgement, in any given case, it will be by definition beyond appeasing or postponing’.
And, in words that draw us back to Psalm 1, the psalm-writer concludes: Blessed are all who take refuge in him – that is, the Son. As Kidner sums up, ‘There is no refuge from Him: only in Him’.
© John G. Mason – www.anglicanconnection.com