By Kyle Pope
The Old Testament is filled with prophecies that pointed to the coming of Jesus. The first preserved in the book of Psalms is the second in the collection of inspired songs of praise to God. It begins with a question and a hypothetical quote from the mouth of the
“Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us’” (1-3). The Law of Moses commanded the anointing of priests, declaring—“You shall anoint them, consecrate them, and sanctify them, that they may minister to Me as priests” (Exod. 28:41b). These are the first identified in Scripture as those “anointed (mashiach)” (Lev. 4:3, 5, 16; 6:22). The word Messiahis derived from this Hebrew word meaning “anointed one.” Christ is the Anglicized form of the Greek translation of the same word. But, Psalm 2 does not seem to speak of the nations’ response to priests.
The Old Testament primarily identified kings as the Lord’s “anointed (mashiach)” (cf. 1 Sam. 24:10; 26:9; 2 Sam. 22:51; 23:1; Ps. 18:50; Isa. 45:1; et al.). When Samuel anointed Saul to be the first king of Israel he was commanded, “Tomorrow about this time I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him commander over My people Israel” (1 Sam. 9:16a, NKJV). When the Lord allowed Samuel’s conception, his mother Hannah, prophetically declared God’s protection of His future kings. She prayed, “The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken in pieces; from heaven He will thunder against them. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth. He will give strength to His king, and exalt the horn of His anointed” (1 Sam. 2:10). Psalm 2 echoes these words.
“He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the LORD shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure: ‘Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion’” (4-6). All who would stand against the one God has chosen will come to nothing. The “thunder” of Hannah’s prophecy becomes laughter from “He who sits in the heavens.” Although His enemies “plot a vain thing,” He will “speak to them in His wrath.” While they might hope to “break their bonds in pieces,” in reality all “adversaries of the LORD shall be broken in pieces.” Yet, Psalm 2 expands promises of Divine protection beyond merely the provision given to earthly kings. The Lord proclaims:
“I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession” (7-8). What earthly king of Israel or Judah was ever offered “the ends of the earth” for his possession? In Hannah’s prophetic prayer, it is the Lord who will “judge the ends of the earth.” In a general sense, angels were called “sons of God” (cf. Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7), but the Hebrew writer quotes Psalm 2, asking, “For to which of the angels did He ever say: ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You’?” (Heb. 1:5a). He clearly saw Psalm 2 as more specific than the general sonship of angels. The Hebrew writer continues, “And again: ‘I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son’?” (Heb. 1:5b). This is a quote from 2 Samuel 7:14, when God promised to be with David’s heir who would sit on his throne. While the Hebrew writer argues that this too was not said to angels, Psalm 2 seems to attribute Sonship in an even more direct sense than earthly kings ever enjoyed.
The New Testament records that on two occasions God spoke directly from heaven declaring of Jesus, “This is My beloved Son” (Matt. 3:17; 17:5). Who has ever more fully fulfilled the Divine proclamation of Psalm 2, “You are My Son”? The Hebrew writer will later quote Psalm 2 again, arguing that “Christ did not glorify Himself” (Heb. 5:5)—God the Father identified the Divine Sonship of Jesus. When Paul spoke in the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch, he taught that the resurrection of Jesus was fulfilment of Psalm 2. He told them, “And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the fathers. God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You’” (Acts 13:32-33). No earthly king ever conquered death. The Lord’s “Anointed” in Psalm 2 foreshadowed a king, but a King who would be God’s only begotten Son (cf. John 1:18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9). This becomes clear in the closing words of Psalm 2. Of this “begotten”Son the Holy Spirit proclaims:
“You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel’” (9). We noted above that in Hannah’s prophetic prayer it is the Lord who will “judge the ends of the earth.” Why is it utter foolishness to resist and oppose the Lord’s “Anointed”? Because He stands as Judge of all the earth. Jesus paraphrases Psalm 2 in speaking to the church in Thyatira:
But hold fast what you have till I come. And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations—‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’—as I also have received from My Father (Rev. 2:25-27)
This figure of Jesus Christ ruling the nations with a “rod of iron” is used twice after this in John’s revelation (Rev. 12:5; 19:15). The Messiah of Psalm 2 would be Ruler and Judge of all creation. Recognition of who the subject of this psalm truly is leads to the closing words of advice to any who would oppose Him:
“Now therefore, be wise, O kings; be instructed, you judges 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, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him” (10-12). Since the Lord’s “Anointed” is more than a mere earthly king, but in fact one whom God identifies as “My Son” possessing the “ends of the earth” and ruling the nations with a “rod of iron,” the Holy Spirit advises all potential opponents to “serve the LORD with fear.” Why doesn’t He say “serve the Anointed with fear”? Because, the point is made clear in this psalm that the Anointed Messiah, against whom it is a “vain thing” to plot is God’s Son, God in the flesh, the Lord Himself. So, the adversary is warned “kiss the Son, lest He be angry.” The picture here is a kiss of reverence and submission. Not a kiss of betrayal and infidelity, like Judas (cf. Matt. 26:48; Mark 14:44; Luke 22:47-48), but a gesture of adoration, devotion, and obedient subservience recognizing one’s utter helplessness in the face of such power.
This is the message for us today. Far too many souls imagine that they can reject the will of God and ignore the mercy and patience of the Lord demonstrated in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Lord’s “Anointed,” on our behalf. Although we may plot and rage, all resistance to the One who “sits in heaven” is foolishness. He laughs at such futile resistance and warns of the time when He will “speak to them in His wrath.” Having identified Christ as His Son, to whom belongs “the ends of the earth” and a “rod of iron” with which to rule and judge, the only prudent course is to “kiss the Son”—that is, worship Him, serve Him rather than “perish in the way.” To do so is not mindless servitude, but a reasoned, and rational recognition of exactly who Jesus is. “Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.”