The World in Conflict with Jesus (Psalm 2)
By Pastor Mike
1 Why do the nations conspire
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
3 “Let us break their chains
and throw off their shackles.”
4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them.
5 He rebukes them in his anger
and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
6 “I have installed my king
on Zion, my holy mountain.”
7 I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:
He said to me, “You are my son;
today I have become your father.
8 Ask me,
and I will make the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You will break them with a rod of iron;
you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”
10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;
be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear
and celebrate his rule with trembling.
12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry
and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
Today's psalm is known as an "enthronement psalm," or a song written on the occasion of a new king in Israel/Judah. For anyone familiar with the New Testament, it is also a prophetic text about the true King, Jesus Christ the Son of God.
What is striking, especially as we read this text with Jesus in mind, is the theme of conflict. The nations "conspire," "plot," and "rise up" not only against God but against God's "anointed" (his Messiah). The people are encouraged to "kiss the Son, or he will be angry." Clearly the nations, the people of the world, have no love for God or his Son. They do not want to live according to his ways or be under his authority. And, in return, the Son has "wrath" and demands loyalty, as any rightful king would in the ancient world. The threat of war hangs over the air, and both the nations and God's Son seem willing to fight.
Read through the lens of the New Testament, of course, we don't want to read this psalm as endorsing military conquest in the name of Jesus. As the apostle Paul tells us, "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood" (Ephesians 6:12). Similarly, we cannot read this psalm as though there were no gospel in it, no Good News. The offer of the gospel, of salvation and rest, is in the very last line of the psalm: "Blessed are all who take refuge in him [i.e. the Son]." Everyone who takes refuge in Jesus Christ finds themselves blessed, "happy," or "fortunate." When we bend the knee to Jesus willingly in this life, we find our sins forgiven and ourselves accepted into the family of God. Certainly we cannot overlook such a beautiful promise!
Nevertheless, the dominant theme of our psalm is conflict, and conflict between "the nations" and "the Son." It can be extremely popular nowadays for people to speak very highly of Jesus but very critically of the church or of Christians. And of course, the church (and individual Christians) are not above criticism by any stretch. At times we really deserve it! But the picture painted today is often of a Jesus who completely endorses and agrees with the values and causes of the world and who would side with the world against the church "if he were around today" (note that these pictures of Jesus never depict him as the incarnate Son of God, but rather as a socially sensitive but merely human religious figure).
However, while the gospel accounts make it clear that Jesus by no means sides with the outwardly religious versus the outwardly sinful, this psalm reminds us of a truth seen throughout the Bible - and particularly the New Testament - that those who have not been born again through faith in Christ are naturally hostile to God and the ways of God. Without the new birth, people have no love for the real Jesus. Without coming to a place of confession and repentance, the message of the cross is foolish and offensive. The world is in conflict with God. The world does not actually love Jesus. They love a domesticated version of Jesus they can use to bash God's people.
This does not mean, of course, that we should return hostility for hostility. Rather, we should "bless those who curse [us] and pray for those who mistreat [us]," as Jesus taught in Luke 6:28. It reminds us that "when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil" (Luke 6:22-23), it is not because they find following the real Jesus so appealing.