“I read the news today. Oh boy.” — The Beatles
Sometimes, I wonder why I read the news at all. It’s just noise. And there’s already enough noise in my life without it.
But I keep reading it anyway. And I keep hearing all of the shouting, all of the posturing, all of the manipulating, all of the ego. It seems the only way to be heard is to turn the volume up yet another notch.
Psalm 2 questions the point of it all:
Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The nations excel at noise. But it’s a useless raging, like the ocean slamming against the coast — noise and foam and crashing and lots of expended energy, but none of it’s harnessed for good. Just waves banging against waves and making it dangerous.
But the noise, it turns out, actually has an object it’s pointed at: God and his anointed one.
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
To be God (and his anointed one) is to face opposition. Despite his everlasting kindness, people keep lining up against the Lord. Their goal? To throw off the chains he’s burdened them with.
But what chains are these? They’re phantom bonds which do not exist. God’s rule is no heavy handed despotism. It’s a kindly rule. He’s a fatherly King. But rebels only see chains, not the bonds of love. His embraces are misconstrued as assaults.
So, God laughs.
He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
Sadly, God’s laughter here is no kind parental laugh at a child getting dressed up in her mother’s clothes and makeup and trying to act all grown up, using big words she doesn’t understand as she preens before the mirror. No, this is mocking laughter, with a touch of sadness at the folly of plans for revolt that are misguided and have no chance for success. There’s a bitterness to this laughing, because this human foolishness will pull down so many others with it. The arrogance is both comical and dangerous.
Having heard human pretenders talk about chains, God talks about a king.
He rebukes them in his anger
and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
“I have installed my king
on Zion, my holy mountain.”
Psalm 2 is an enthronement psalm, a psalm which was composed and sung at the installation upon the throne of one of Israel’s or Judah’s kings, as verse 6 notes.
But these are odd words with which to launch a new kingship. God’s speech begins with words of sonship to himself — this was the typical language for a king in the ancient Near East, referring to him as a son of his god — and these words are beautiful and glorious. But what comes with them and follows them is sobering.
I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:
He said to me, “You are my son;
today I have become your father.
and I will make the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.
You will break them with a rod of iron;
you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”
It’s not just God’s people alone who are the Son’s inheritance. The ends of the earth are included too. This is a bold statement at the crowning of an Israelite king, who ruled a fairly small plot of land compared with other kings.
And along with his rule, the judgment of his scepter reaches far as well. Rebellion against him is met with fatal force.
Which ones of the kings of Israel and Judah could claim such authority? Wouldn’t the singing of such a song at a new king’s crowning raise more than a few eyebrows?
But the psalm continues with its seeming bravado.
Therefore, you kings, be wise;
be warned, you rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear
and celebrate his rule with trembling.
This raging alliance against God is given a stern warning. Judgment is passed. But even so, repentance is allowed for, is given time and space. Instead of rage and rebellion, service and celebration are offered as life-giving alternatives.
Ultimately, it all comes down to how we treat the anointed, the son.
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.
Kiss the son and you’ll find blessing and refuge. Refuse him and you’ll find your steps cursed, you’ll be walking headlong into destruction, fueled by his passion for justice. But the choice remains: What do you make of the son? What posture do you take toward him?
Again, these are bold, bold words to be said of any Israelite king. And though scholars are certain this song was sung at the enthronement of one of the kings of Israel or Judah, the brashness of it points to a “son” who was greater than those kings, most of which turned out to be less than mediocre.
This is why those who read Psalm 2 through the lens of the New Testament almost always see Jesus as the anointed king who is the true son of God. All of these beyond bold statements become reasonable when applied to Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the one anointed to be king.
It is Jesus who stills the raging of world leaders. It is Jesus who shows their posturing to be laughable. It is Jesus whose kingdom confronts their pitiful kingdom-building. It is Jesus who reigns from pole to pole. It is Jesus who has been given all authority in heaven and on earth.
It is Jesus we have to consider. What do we make of Jesus? Do we kiss him? Or do we walk away from him, turning our backs on him?
When we kiss the Son, all of the raging echoed in the news becomes sadly laughable and dies away to a distant buzzing. Our eyes are on the Son. Our ears are trained to hear any word he might speak. Our bodies are poised to move at his least command.