Why do the nations rage[a]
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”
7 I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break[b] them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him. – Psalm 2
More than most, this Psalm is so blatantly and obviously about the Lord Jesus Christ, as Matthew Henry says, “…the kingdom of the Messiah, the Son of David, is prophesied of, which is the primary intention and scope of the Psalm; and I think there is less in it of the type, and more of the anti-type, than in any of the gospel Psalms…”
As a song that Israel would sing, and the Church today ought to continue to sing, the Psalm is structured into four stanzas, with three verses per stanza, thus twelve total verses. This will be our guide.
The Nations’ Rage, v. 1-3
The Psalm opens with a questions to the nations as to why the rage and plot against the Almighty. The question itself shows the foolishness of such schemes. The nations here seem to be so enraged against the Lord that they have lost all common sense. Not only did the nations set themselves against King David, but continued all the way to the Lord Jesus Himself, as noted in Acts 4:23-28.
In Acts 4, the apostles directly apply Psalm 2 to Jesus. For nearly all of history the nations have been raging and scheming against Jesus Christ. From the Pharaoh of Egypt putting to death baby Hebrew boys, to all the attacks against Israel, and the captivity of Israel, wherein surely it was the serpent influencing these governments trying his best to snuff out the seed of the woman that would crush his head. But it was in vain. Even when the Pharisees seethed in anger and raged against the Lord Jesus, accusing Him before Herod and Pontius Pilot, and having Him put to death. For a moment they may have thought that their schemes succeeded, but they were proven vain when the Lord Jesus rose again from the dead on the third day. When the governments and the peoples literally and directly raged and schemed against Jesus, this was the greatest fulfillment of Psalm 2, and the triumphant resurrection of Christ was the greatest fulfillment and proof of the vanity of such rage. Not the most powerful governments in all of history can successfully plot against the Lord. The divine poetry of it all this is that what they thought was a success, was actually God’s necessary plan in order for sins to be forgiven and Jesus Christ to have his inheritance – he had to die. When the people thought they were plotting against the Lord and His Anointed they were actually fulfilling His will and purposes as Acts 4:28 tells us. Even in their plotting against Him, they are doing exactly as the Lord has decreed. Thus evermore proving the vanity of what they seek to do.
I want to point this directly at you, individually, boys and girls, parents, young people. Maybe you aren’t a king or ruler of the earth. But maybe in your life, you have raged against God, you have sought to plan against His will. As an unbeliever, you certainly fall into the peoples who rage against the Lord’s Anointed. Is there an anger or a hardness in your heart towards Jesus Christ? If so you must see the vanity of such a thing. You cannot prevail against God! How foolish you would be to think so! If you are a true Christian, you are not who the Psalm categorically speaks of. However, we can draw out the application to your life. Maybe there is an area of your life that you have been fighting against the Lord in. Is there any part of your life that you have harbored anger or resentment, or bitterness against God for? Or an area of your life, that you a striving against submitting to Him in. Maybe it’s circumstances of your life that are out of your hands and control that you need to turn over to Christ and trust Him and rest in Him and quit taking the plotting into your own hands and trust in providence. Or maybe there is a truth in Scripture which you have come to see and it demands a change in your life, but you’re striving against it because you do not want to change or submit. While we think about the category of the raging of the nations, let us examine our own hearts as well.
But you see, the raging of the nations does not stop there with Jesus Christ over two thousand years ago. They rage on today against the Church of Jesus Christ. The nations continue to hate God, and they continue to persecute the people of God, in various places and times throughout history. (Hey check out this Rich Mullins Song)
Despite the rage against the people of God, just as with Christ, it has been proven vanity. Wicked rulers, governments, and empires always come crashing down eventually. They are blinded by their pride and hatred of God to see clearly the foolishness they do. I like how Charles Spurgeon puts it, “Where there is much rage there is generally some folly, and in this case there is an excess of it.”
Not only this, but the rulers of the earth see the righteous rule of God as a binding restriction on them, thus they seek to break the bonds of God’s law, thus plotting in vain against the Lord. This is why, throughout history, governments have been the worst abusers and persecutors and rebels toward God and His people. They seek to be god – and they recognize that Christianity and God’s laws written on their hearts, and the rules of nature are a direct threat against their rule, because they testify that they are not god, but that Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and that all the nations of the earth are ruled from Zion by He who sits on God’s holy hill. And that is to whom they must bow before and answer to. I believe in a one world central government, and that is the central governing of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This universe is ruled by a Sovereign Creator King and governed by His standards of morality and nature. And when the nations attempt to defy those things they will sooner or later be dashed to pieces like a potter’s vessel. This is God’s world and it runs a certain way. You cannot change that. The world cannot run according to the vile and immoral standards of secularism. You cannot throw out God’s law like its nothing. Sooner or later transgenderism, sodomy, and all the rest will come crashing down. Sodom and Gomorrah did not have a happy ending. They went insane and fell into God’s judgment. And the nations cannot continue to murder millions upon millions of babies and continue on as is. The nations cannot continue to soak God’s land with innocent blood and nothing to happen. Sooner or later the land will vomit this wickedness out. In Leviticus 18, it says that the land vomits out the pagan nations who practiced gross sexual immorality and offered their babies to Molech. The land itself is not neutral. It is God’s. It operates by His laws. They soaked God’s land with innocent blood and the land had enough. It revolted against them. I don’t know how much longer we have.
The Church of God does not go the way of the world on this. We stand our ground, which is the ground of God’s Word. No matter the fear or the pressures or the real persecution that may come, we do not give in, we do not give an inch, we double down on God’s Word. As Luther penned in the face of persecution in the great hymn, A Mighty Fortress, “Our bodies they may kill, God’s truth abideth still…”
But I want to ask you again to examine your heart. Maybe you haven’t gone the way of the world in these extreme ways. But maybe there are certain smaller or more hidden areas of your life, where you find the law of God to be a restraint upon you and you’ve tried to throw of God’s rule in some certain area. Kids, maybe for you, you see obeying your parents as a bind or restriction on you, and you have rebelled against that. That too is rebellion against God, and it must be repented of.
The Lord’s Laughter, v. 4-6
So how does God respond to all this? What does He think or do when He looks down at all the nations fuming against Him? He laughs and mocks them! So if you want to make the Lord laugh all you need to do is rage, and plot, and set yourself against Him, for that is divine comedy to God! This is not often how think of God, yet there is clearly a rightness of laughter and mockery toward those described in the first stanza. I’ll say more on this in a moment; but I want you to notice the contrast here. God who sits in heaven is contrasted with the kings on the earth, displaying the vast superiority of the Lord.
So why does the Lord laugh? Because anyone who thinks they can plot against the Eternal Creator and God of the universe deserves to be laughed at – at least by God. It is divine comedy and utter foolishness. Yet people keep trying it, proving why they are worthy of mockery. The Lord laughs as parents would laugh at their toddlers who want to overthrow their parents and become the parents. You can’t even take that seriously, it’s so silly and foolish. It’s so much more vast of a difference with the God of heaven and earth.
Why does God setting His King on Zion terrify the kings of the earth? Because there is no higher throne. It is indestructable and eternal. The term “Zion” was once used to refer to the “city of David,” or Jerusalem. “Zion” also refers to the “dwelling place of God.” “Zion” is no longer meant to refer to the geographical Jerusalem, but points to the New Jerusalem – or the dwelling place of God – where Christ dwells and reigns in the hearts of His people.
The nations are terrified of Christians, because Christ reigns in their hearts. Why has so many governments throughout history, and to this day persecute Christians? Because they hate God and they are terrified of Christians. They are terrified of Christianity because Christianity subverts a government who puts itself in the place of God, and says, “No, Jesus Christ is King. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And that is who we are to obey. That is who rules you and who you are to obey and who you must bow the knee to one day, obey Him or not.” They can’t stand that. That is why we must not lose or back down from these great doctrines of the reign of Christ.
The Lord’s Decree, v. 7-9
Here we have the Lord’s decree, thus showing His superiority again to that of the counsels of the nations.
In verse 7 we have the term “begotten” used and applied to the Son, the Lord’s Anointed. There is something very fascinating about the way this passage is referenced in the New Testament in Acts 13:32-34 by the Apostle Paul. In Acts 13 Paul is teaching that Psalm 2:7, at least in part, is speaking to the resurrection of Jesus! Truly this enlightens us to see what is being said here and how this flows with what we have said. As the plotting against the Lord’s Anointed is a reference to the death of Christ, this reference to the resurrection of Christ in verse 7 proves to us, in the very Psalm itself, the vanity of plotting against the Lord’s Anointed. The nations conspired against Christ, put Him to death, but He rose again – thus the backfiring and vanity of their plotting and scheming.
Furthermore, if verse 7 is a reference to the resurrection, we see how it flows into verse 8, with verse 8 showing the reward of what Christ earned upon His death and resurrection – His people, the nations, the ends of the earth, the Father has given to the Son. They are His. The earth and all that is therein belongs to Jesus Christ. He earned it!
We see the rewards that are the possession of Christ, but in this we also see the extent of the reign of Christ. Jesus Christ is not just the king of His people. He is not just the Lord of the those who willingly choose to submit to Him. He is not just the ruler of His Church. But His reign and dominion extend to the ends of the earth. Any king who rebels against God has no right to because it is not their land, it is God’s. This is the message the rulers of the earth need to here and have imprinted upon their consciences.
So we see the extent of Christ’s reign, and then in verse 9 we see the severity of Christ’s reign in the severity of judgment towards His enemies who go on raging and plotting against Him and do not heed the warnings.
The imagery of the smashing of Potter’s vessels shows us the place of man – clay in the hands of the Potter – creatures subordinate to the Creator. And sometimes the Potter makes vessels fit for destruction. I like what Calvin says here, “The Psalmist exposes to shame their foolish pride by a beautiful similitude; teaching us, that although their obstinacy is harder than the stones, they are yet more fragile than earthen vessels.”
Every single empire, wicked regime, dictator, and communist nation throughout history has come crashing down. Why? Psalm 2. It is a vain thing to set yourself against the Lord who reigns.
The Nations’ Warning, v. 10-12
In verse 11 God tells the kings and rulers of the earth to “serve” the Lord. How is that they are to serve Him, as kings and rulers. In Romans 13, Paul calls the government, the “servants of God” who have been given the power of the sword to carry out God’s wrath on the evil doer. So how do the kings and rulers and governments of the earth serve the Lord? By upholding righteousness in their land. And by having laws that reflect this righteousness of which they are to uphold. That is the command warning and if they do not serve the Lord in this way, then God’s wrath will be turned upon them. That is why they are told here to serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
But secondly here, they are to “Kiss the Son” as verse 12 says. The term “kiss” refers to the solemn token or sign of honor which subjects were wont to yield to their sovereigns. And this is how the kings and rulers of the earth are to serve the Lord, by submitting to Jesus Christ, honoring Him as King and giving Him His proper due. And this is the warning to all the rulers of the earth: kiss the Son, or you will perish. And what a contrast kissing the Son is with that of raging against the Lord’s anointed. They must love Jesus Christ, and cherish Him and Honor Him and serve Him and worship Him. He is worthy of it all. Jesus Christ is the hinge upon which every individual and every nation rises or falls. Oh what a blessing it is when God gives a nation rulers who embrace the Lord Jesus Christ in faith and honor Him in their conduct. And what destruction awaits the nations that spurns Christ. You can see how ghastly Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was. He used the sign of a loving and honoring greeting as a method of betrayal. What a plot it was. What vanity it was.
To be sure, there have been times and places throughout history that have been blessed by having godly rulers. Indeed our own nation comes from a history of godliness and reverence for the Word of God, although we are rapidly being given over to our sin, as God’s restraining hand seems as if it is being removed. Though of course, the United States with all it’s various levels of government is a bit of a mixed bag. There are some godly people in office, and there are many who hate God. And that is evident by the many wicked laws we have. However, I say that to say that when we have godly rulers, whatever position they may be in, we ought to be ever grateful for them, not all people have been so blessed. It is a great blessing and benefit to society to have rulers who fear God and honor His Word.
Again, none of us are kings or rulers here today. We are just common citizens. And yet, behind every government is individual people who stand as individuals before God on judgement day. And so will each one of us. And this warning can be applied to us as well. Be wise, be warned, serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling! Embrace the Lord Jesus Christ with the warm kiss of faith, that loves and cherishes Him as Savior and Lord, and all. The beauty of the gospel is that Jesus Christ has first come to sinners, He embraced suffering and death, kissed by the wrath of God, that He might embrace us with a warm kiss of love and acceptance, having paid our debt and our sin. And we are warned here that we must embrace such a sweet Savior in warm faith, giving our lives unto His rule and reign. You must embrace the Lord Jesus in faith or you will perish and be dashed to pieces.
Jesus Christ is your only refuge from God’s wrath. For He was struck with the Iron Rod of God on the cross and dashed to pieces for our sin and rebellion and rage. Though He was crushed by God for our sins, He crushed death for us, rising again, to claim His inheritance and possession – His people – the nations – the ends of the earth! Would you be His today? Would you be conquered by Christ today? The only way to be saved by Christ is to be conquered by Christ! Raise your white flags of surrender, and embrace His Lordship. Jesus Christ subdues His enemies and either converts them to His ranks or dashes them to pieces forever. Would you be converted to His ranks? Would you find refuge in Him? In Jesus Christ your rage is turned to rejoicing, your hatred to happiness, your schemes to surrender.
I want to end here with eight practical comforts for the Christian that we receive from Psalm 2. 1) We don’t have to fear any government. Christ reigns; 2) Justice will be done; 3) We get a bigger and more majestic view of Jesus; 4) We are safe from His wrath, for we have refuge in Christ; 5) The nations and the earth belong to Jesus; 6) We belong to Jesus; 7) God is not threatened in the slightest; and 8) We will be vindicated.