Recently I did some work from Psalm 2 as a part of our church’s annual Global Missions Month emphasis. I felt led to speak one week on the role of prayer in the missionary enterprise, and came to Psalm 2. I was already familiar with verse 8, but what I found in the rest of the chapter was a huge blessing.
Psalm 2 is often quoted in the New Testament, both for its high claims for the person of God’s anointed and for its vision of the universal Kingdom of God. It clearly takes delight in God’s dominion here and now. It is the first of several coronation Psalms (aka Royal Psalms), which were compositions primarily concerned with the human kings of Judah who understood themselves to be uniquely authorized and empowered to rule as God’s own adopted sons. These coronation Psalms give some helpful insights as to how the kings of Israel understood themselves, their authority, their roles, and their expectations.
Like the other coronation hymns, Psalm 2 has layers of interpretation. In its most direct context, Psalm 2 speaks to the kings who were situated in Old Testament history. But there are also many allusions to the Messiah. What the human kings had been unable to do in Old Testament history, God would accomplish through the Messiah. Jesus, who would come in the future, would be fully empowered to usher in the Kingdom of God. But Jesus didn’t complete the work. He handed off the ongoing process of implementing and extending the Kingdom of God to the Church. So even though we are seperated by thousands of years, we can identify with Psalm 2 and see ourselves as the believing community of faith participating in the sentness described in this Old Testament text.
Psalm 2 begins with a cry of disbelief at the disbelief of the nations. “Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile plans? The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the Lord and against his anointed one. ‘Let us break their chains,’ they cry, ‘and free ourselves from slavery to God.'” (Psalm 2:1-3, NLT)
The nations are presented as ones who have gathered in international conspiracy against the God of the universe. In their resistence they demand freedom and autonomy from God, insisting on their rights to self rule. Notice the astonishment of the author! Why?! Why can’t the nations see the goodness of God? Why can’t they observe his blessed ones? Why do they refuse to acknowledge God’s rule? Why can’t they see their resistence is futile?
Sometimes we want to share in that same disbelief as we look at our own world today. We scratch our heads and are, at times, admittedly confused at the rejection of God. But careful reading of the text reveals that the Psalmist answers his own question.
I recently read an interview that was conducted by one of our box office heroes. In the interview, the gentleman discussed his conservative religious upbringing and his fidelity to the church and its beliefs. He then went on to say that as he matured he found Christianity to be too “constrictive,” citing, “When I broke away from faith, I discovered myself.”
What the Psalmist is saying makes total sense: Disbelief is not just the rejection of God’s rule, its exaltation of one’s own self rule. That is why the nations rage.