Ps 2:1 Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?

vv1-3 This is a surprising question. Many people ask, ‘Why do the nations conspire and plot against each other?’ But here is still more important question: ‘Why do the nations conspire and plot against the Lord?’ Yet who asks this question?

‘Acts 4:25-28 sees Calvary itself predicted here, with the roles of kings and rulers fulfilled by, respectively, Herod and Pilate, and those of nations and peoples by “the Gentiles and the peoples” (plural, as in this psalm) “of Israel,” united against the Lord’s anointed, or in Greek, his Christ. That passage points out the quiet sovereignty of God, (Ac 4:28) and 1 Cor 2:8ff the obtuseness of man. Every grand alliance against heaven will show, in time, this double pattern.’ (Kidner)

The question-form suggests the astonishment that they should plot against their Creator (cf. Jn 1:11) and crucify ‘the Lord of glory’, 1 Cor 2:7f.

There is a sense of astonishment here, and the senseless rejection of God’s rule and ruler. ‘It is surely but little to be wondered at, that the sight of creatures in arms against their God should amaze the psalmist’s mind.’ (Spurgeon)

Ps 2:2 The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed one.

‘Nikita Khrushchev once boasted that he would exhibit the last Soviet Christian on television by 1965. Khrushchev has since gone to give account of himself to the Judge of all mankind, and his deadline for the extinction of Christianity in Russia has also passed. Throughout history, so-called big men and little men have strutted across the stages of life defying God. But as Ps 145:13 promises, “Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.”‘

Ps 2:3 “Let us break their chains,” they say, “and throw off their fetters.”

‘A typically blind reaction to God’s easy yoke and “cords of compassion”.’ (cf. Hos 11:4) (Kidner)

‘Resolved they were to run riot, as lawless, and aweless, and therefore they slander the sweet laws of Christ’s kingdom as bonds and thick cords, which are signs of slavery. Jer 27:2,6,7. But what saith our Saviour? “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” It is no more burden to a regenerate man than wings to a bird. The law of Christ is no more as bands and cords, but as girdles and garters which gird up his loins and expedite his course.’ (John Trapp)

Ps 2:4 The one enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.

Note the complete contrast between the tumult of the plotting nations (1-3) and the bold figure of God laughing at them.

‘He has not moved even to rise from his throne’ (Leupold).

‘What a great measure of faith is necessary in order truly to believe this word: for who could have imagined that God laughed as Christ was being oppressed and the Jews were exulting? So, too, then we are oppressed, how often do we still believe that those who oppress us are being derided by God, especially since it seems as if we were being oppressed and trodden under foot both by God and men?’ (Luther)

‘Let us now turn our eyes from the wicked council-chamber and raging tumults of man, to the secret place of the majesty of the Most High. What doth God say? What will the King do unto the men who reject his only-begotten Son, the Heir of all things?

‘Mark the quiet dignity of the Omnipotent one, and the contempt which he pours upon the princes and their raging people. He has not taken the trouble to rise up and do battle with them – he despises them, he knows how absurd, how irrational, how futile are their attempts against him – he therefore “laughs” at them.’ (Spurgeon)

W.R. Inge once commented, ‘I have never understood why it should be considered derogatory to the Creator to suppose that he has a sense of humour.’ See also Ps 2:4; 59:8; Jn 4:10-11. However, the laughter here is heavily ironic, as the NIV ‘scoffs’ indicates. The emotion ascribed to God is not so much amusement, as derision.

John Stott says: ‘There is no need for us to be offended by this anthropomorphism.  God’s ‘laughter’ and ‘contempt’ are highly dramatic imagery for his imperturbable sovereignty against which all the violent antagonism of men is ridiculous in its impotence.’ (Authentic Christianity, p18)

Psa 2:5  Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,

Ps 2:6 “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

‘The “I” is emphatic; the opening is best translated “But as for me, I have set….” After the bombast of v3 this is the neglected voice that has the final say.’ (Kidner)

‘After he has laughed he shall “speak;” he needs not smite; the breath of his lips is enough. At the moment when their power is at its height, and their fury most violent, then shall his Word go forth against them…Is not that a grand exclamation! He has already done that which the enemy seeks to prevent. While they are proposing, he has disposed the matter. Jehovah’s will is done, and man’s will frets and raves in vain…Look back through all the ages of infidelity, hearken to the high and hard things which men have spoken against the Most High, listen to the rolling thunder of earth’s volleys against the Majesty of heaven, and then think that God is saying all the while, “Yet I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.” (Spurgeon)

Ps 2:7 I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: he said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.”

‘Sonship’ here denotes elevation to a position of favour and love. God lifted David to such a relationship with him, 2 Sam 7:14, but this was a mere reflection of Christ’s relationship with the Father, most plainly declared in the baptism, Mt 3:17, transfiguration, Mt 17:5; and resurrection, Acts 13:33; cf. Rom 1:4.

“Today I have become your Father” seems to refer to the day when David entered this special relationship – his coronation. In the same way, Christ’s Sonship, although eternal, is declared in terms of his life of obedience, his death and his resurrection, cf. Php 2:5-10.

‘The decree enlarges on the pledge of adoption given to David’s heir in 2 Sam 7:14…The words here may have been spoken as an oracle by a prophet or read out by the king (“I will tell…”) in the coronation rite, as the word “today” suggests, to mark the moment when the new sovereign formally took up his inheritance and his titles. The connecting of this announcement with the resurrection, in Acts 13:33 (cf. 1:4), is doubly meaningful against such a background. For any earthly king this form of address could bear only the lightest interpretation, but the New Testament holds us to its full value which excludes the very angels, to leave only one candidate in possession. (Heb 1:5) At Christ’s baptism and transfiguration the Father proclaimed him both Son and Servant in words drawn from this verse and from Isa 42:1. (Mt 3:17 17:5 2 Pet 1:17)

Ps 2:8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.

This has some application to David, 2 Sam 7:9-11, but finds a full completion in Christ, whose intercession secures the triumph of the gospel, Lk 22:31-32; Heb 4:14; 7:25; Jn 17:20. However, v9 shows that God victory over the wicked is still very much in view, Php 2:10-11.

‘There are signs within Israel’s scriptures that the land itself was seen as an advance signpost for something much greater. “Ask of me,” says God to his anointed king, “and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession” (Ps. 2: 8). This explicit expansion of the “promised land” to include the entire world is repeated, at more length, in Psalms 72 and 89, and prophetic passages like Isaiah 11 fill in the picture with a visionary sketch of creation renewed. Other psalms and other prophetic writings insist that the divine purpose is eventually to bring the whole world under the rescuing and rehumanizing rule of Israel’s God. Once again, the scriptural vision is not of human souls “going to heaven,” but of a promised new creation for which the promised land is a sign and symbol.’ (Wright, The Day the Revolution Began)

‘It was a custom among great kings, to give favoured ones whatever they might ask, Es 5:6; Mt 14:7. So Jesus hath but to ask and have. Here he declares that his very enemies are his inheritance.’ (Spurgeon)

Ps 2:9 “you will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

‘The Lord has a golden sceptre and an iron rod. Those who will not bow to the one, shall be broken by the other.’ (Thomas Watson)

The Christian’s share in subjugating the nations to Christ is expressed in 2 Cor 10:3 ff.

Psa 2:10  Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth.

Psa 2:11  Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling.

Ps 2:12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

‘The quick anger may sound like the touchiness of a despot, but the true comparison is with Christ, whose wrath (like his compassion) blazed up at wrongs which left his contemporaries quite unruffled. This fiery picture is needed alongside that of the one who is “slow to anger,” just as the laughter of verse 4 balances is not placidity, any more than his fierce anger is loss of control, his laughter cruelty or his pity sentimentality.’ (Kidner)

‘This delightful contrast of salvation and perdition, at one and the same view, is characteristic of the Scriptures, and should teach us not to look ourselves, and not to turn to the eyes of others, towards either of these objects without due regard to the other also.’ (J.A. Alexander)

‘The NT conceives of a heavenly Jerusalem as the dwelling place of God, the true homeland of the saints, and the dwelling place of “the spirits of just men madeperfect,” Heb 12:22; cf Gal 4:26 Php 3:20. While this heavenly Jerusalem is represented as the dwelling place of the departed saints, heaven is not their ultimate destiny, but only the temporary abode of the saints between death and the resurrection, Rev 6:9-11 2 Cor 5:8 Php 1:23. In the consummation after the resurrection, 20:4, the heavenly Jerusalem will descend from heaven to take up its permanent location in the new earth.’ (Ladd)