Christianity should always perplex secular authorities. Since the Lord told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36), the rulers of this age shouldn’t be able to reduce Christianity to a political program or platform. On the other hand, whether it is the apostles’ words to the Sanhedrin or Paul’s words to Felix (Acts 5:29, Acts 24:24-27), Christians have always reminded them that they are accountable to an eternal and righteous Judge for their own judgments. In this month’s psalm, we see both of those truths.
The first observation to make about Psalm 2 is simply how important it is. Psalm 2 is like part two of the introduction to this large book of the Old Testament. Jews sang this song repeatedly for centuries. Unlike the vast majority of chapters in the first book of Psalms (chapters 1-41), Psalm 2 is not ascribed to David, which implies the Holy Spirit inspired someone later to write the psalm as an introduction to the truths we see throughout the Psalms. The New Testament authors quoted Psalm 2 about four times and alluded to it about 14 times (see Hebrews 1:2, 5; Acts 4:25; and Acts 13:33 for a few examples).
What is Psalm 2 about? The chapter begins with a taunt against the powers of the earth for trying to rebel against God’s authority. Instead of seeing God’s commands as the life-sustaining power of the river for the tree, as in Psalm 1, the kings of the earth see His law as “bonds” and “cords” that they hope to break. The next three verses show the focus of God’s earthly authority: the King He has appointed. In verses 7-9, we hear from the King: He is God’s Son. He owns the earth and will destroy all rebellious powers. The last three verses are a call for those rebellious powers to repent and submit to that Son.
The New Testament shows us that this psalm is not only important for the book of Psalms; this psalm is vital to the essential message of the gospel. In both the Baptism and Transfiguration of the Lord, the Father’s voice announces the central message of Psalm 2:7 (see Matthew 3:17 and 17:5). The early Christians spoke of those truths in light of Psalm 2 when they explained the resurrection to Jews (Acts 13:33), understood the resistance to their message and movement (Acts 4:25-26), reflected on the superiority of Jesus to angels (Hebrews 1:5), and described the coming worldwide judgment (Revelation 19:15).
The New Testament fills out the picture of the Son of God that Psalm 2 announced, but it doesn’t revoke or repeal the truths we see there. Jesus Christ loved us, died for us, and rose from the dead, and He’s still the worldwide King. One day, all humankind will recognize that truth (Philippians 2:9-11). To refer back to the two truths of the first paragraph, Christianity in itself isn’t a political platform formulated by “the kings of the earth” (Psalm 2:2). At the same time, we announce to them that they must submit to and worship God’s King or face His wrath (Psalm 2:11-12).
When we believe in and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are also saying that all earthly power is ultimately grasping sand. This world belongs to Jesus, and He will come to claim His own and destroy all resistance. As Derek Kidner notes, “What fear and pride interpret as bondage [Psalm 2:3] is in fact security and bliss. And there is no refuge from Him, only in Him.”