Psalm 2: Awaiting the King
Anyone else into watching Netflix’s The Crown?
There is something beautiful and captivating getting this inside look into the monarchy. I been on a bit of a kick reading about the Queen.
Not gonna lie, it has made me a big fan of Queen Elizabeth.
Queen Elizabeth as a female leader to me has captured my deepest respect. All her speeches and public actions show her to be a person that is both gentle yet unwavering in resolve.
Did you hear her Christmas speech? The queen of England openly said that she believes wholly in Jesus Christ and she set out to live her life by his teachings and she called on all English people to turn back to Christ and not to forget God in these dark times.
I’ll be honest I have often questioned Canada’s connection to the British monarchy, whether or not it is useful or represents who we are as a nation, but in that moment I was glad we have a figure head of such conviction and decency.
Our Queen has done significant work to advance liberty and equality in the world. While her predecessors wanted an Empire in which the “sun never set,” She was instrumental in granting the independence of over 20 countries.
Our own prime minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, while having no love of the role of the monarchy, praised her for the “grace she displayed in public” and “the wisdom she showed in private.”
Later she was asked what she thought of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, and she let it slip that she found him, “rather disappointing.” I thought that was funny.
She was instrumental in ending apartheid in South Africa. She has worked for stability and good governance of many commonwealth nations that were in turmoil during her reign.
There is a powerful scene in the Crown that symbolizes the influence she would exert, the coronation scene: You can only imagine what it would be like to be in that cathedral, the leaders of the free world in attendance, the head of the church of England presiding, choirs singing angelically as the jewel encrusted crown is placed on your head.
The splendor and magnitude of that moment would have been overwhelming.
Think of what the crown signified at that time. It does not quite mean the same thing today where the monarchy is more of a figure.
The monarch represented political stability, hope. The monarch, especially Queen Elizabeth perhaps the last Christian monarch, represents the moral resolve of the nation. With that mindset we turn to the psalms.
You see for Israel, God’s nation in the Old Testament, they had a similar view of their king, and the Psalm we are meditating through this morning is actually very likely the coronation Psalm of King David or the Kings of David’s line.
We are going to read this look at what this meant for God’s people in the old testament but then as a psalm of God’s people that point to the fulfillment of Old Testament in King Jesus, and what that means for us as citizens of the kingdom of heaven.
Why do the nations conspire[a]
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
3 “Let us break their chains
and throw off their shackles.”
4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them.
5 He rebukes them in his anger
and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
6 “I have installed my king
on Zion, my holy mountain.”
7 I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:
He said to me, “You are my son;
today I have become your father.
8 Ask me,
and I will make the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You will break them with a rod of iron[b];
you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”
10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;
be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear
and celebrate his rule with trembling.
12 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.
Like I said, this is very likely a coronation song for the king. You can imagine that being sung as the king has his crown placed on his head.
The song signifies the place of the king to both ensure the stability of the nation and to be a person of close connection to God. David is seen as a cherished child of God.
But to read this Psalm in the context of the Old Testament is to understand that the Psalm if it merely looks forward for a human king to be these things, falls short of God’s kingdom.
Does God really want a human king to subjugate all the nations around them?
Does God want God’s people to build idolatrous empires?
Can a human king really claim the title of being God’s true son?
When we read this Psalm, like many passages in the Old testament, it leaves us uneasy, yearning for God to say something more.
Human kings were not really what God originally wanted, we find.
1. Israel’s Quest for a King
The Hebrew people saw the power of human kings and they wanted one themselves, rather than being a loose collection of tribes depending on God for guidance. They grew jealous of the nations. God nevertheless concedes and the first king, Saul is anointed.
This did not work out well. Saul proved arrogant and selfish. He only was interested in serving God if it served himself.
So the Prophet Samuel goes and anoints a boy named David.
All his older brothers were soldiers. At the time Israel and Philistia were at war. The Philistine warlord Goliath openly mocked God and the Israelites, and the people were scared since Goliath was a giant of a man. Goliath challenged the Israelite army to a one-to-one battle, and no one accepted.
David shows us and hears Goliath’s scorn for God, and he decides he will take on the giant himself.
This puny boy walks up to Goliath and as Goliath mocking him and God and the people, David drew a smooth stone – does anyone remember what he called it? It called it the Ebenezer, which means “Thus far the lord has helped me.”
He takes that, puts it in his sling-shot, and hits the Giant, striking him dead.
David became a hero. He later became leader of the armies of Israel. Then jealous Saul tried to get rid of him, and David had to live on the run. Finally, Saul died in battle, and David was enthroned as king.
As King, David was known for his military prowess, defeating the surrounding nations in battle, bringing a level of security to the land. The nations became the inheritance of the throne of David as this Psalm longs for. David, the anointed king, became a holy emperor over the nations around Israel.
But the question is does God really want an empire? We will see that this caused trouble in the line of kings. David himself was told by God that he could not build the temple in Jerusalem because the temple was to be a place of holiness, which David could not do since he was such a man of war.
Nevertheless, David was also a man of deep piety and love of God. God saw him as a man after his heart. It is the reason so many of the Psalms bear his name.
This did not mean he was perfect or even at times good. David later in life had an affair with one of his general’s wives and he tried to cover it up by having that man killed in battle. An act of terrible dishonor. The fact our scriptures report this misdeed is important. One scholar remarked that Israel’s scriptures contain the most honest history of the leaders of any nation of its time. For Israel, it was so important to understand the failures of God’s people in order to have a sense of moral responsibility and hope.
After David, the line of Kings slowly fell. Solomon despite his extraordinary wisdom refused to serve the Lord alone. His rule plunged into idolatry. It had something to do with the fact that he had hundreds of pagan wives.
His son, Reheboam, a foolish king, sundered the nation apart. While righteous kings still continued in the line of David, kings like Hezekiah and Josiah, inevitably their refusal to walk in the ways of God lead to the exile of Judea, the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians for over 70 years.
When the exiles returned, they remembered the prophets speaking about how God would raise up another king like David, the true messiah.
The true king that would bring an end to the destruction on their land. The faithful remnant would be safe.
The true king that would rebuild Zion. The true king that would make Jerusalem a place of peace again.
But left as an expectation for a human king to do all this, this Psalm sounds highly nostalgic and imperialistic. Surely God does not want the nations of this world in shackles. Surely God does not love Israel more than other nations. Surely the king is not God’s son just by the power of his office.
The king must be more than that.
The true king must rule not with force and war, but is the prince of peace, whose rule would undo the need for war itself, reconciling all nations to God.
A true king that would not merely be just, but is justice itself, righteousness embodied.
A true king that would be able to prevent not just enemy nations from conquering them, but their sins from corrupting them. A messiah that could forgive sins.
This longing suggests that the only King that could do this was not in fact a human king, but God himself, the true king.
In the Psalms we see this move where the Psalm begin singing about the human kings of Israel, then lament their failure then a turning to God as true King.
And so, from the time this was written, for several hundred years, the people were left praying: God when will the messiah come? When will all that has gone wrong in this world be made right? When will righteousness reign.
2. God did show up as this king.
Jesus is the true king. Jesus is true anointed one, the messiah, the true son of God, the true ruler of the nations.
But here is the thing: In fulfilling this Scripture God shows us a powerful provocative new vision of what it means to rule. How does Jesus fulfill this Psalm that looks to the messiah to conquer the nations?
He chose to be born in humble circumstances like David. He chose to be born to a poor girl named Mary, in the poverty of a manger. A poor king, a king for the poor. What an idea?
This Psalm is the most quoted Psalm in the New Testament. It is quoted at his baptism, transfiguration, death, and in Revelation, twice.
It is quoted at Jesus baptism. “This is my son, in whom I am well pleased.” Think of the Baptism of Jesus as his coronation. While the kings of the earth are enthroned in palaces by the powerful, Jesus is enthroned in the wilderness, in a lake, by a prophet.
While the kings of the earth are blanketed in jewels, Jesus is blanketed with the Holy Spirit.
From there, Jesus set out to conquer the enemies of God, but these turns out aren’t actually humans.
Jesus sets out to cast out demons, the radical evil in our world.
Jesus sets out to forgive sins, the real thing that shackles us.
Jesus sets out to heal the sick, the real things we are suffering from.
Jesus sets out to teach true obedience, the real path to freedom.
He starts talking about what his kingdom is actually like, how God chooses to rule,
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they are citizens of this kingdom.
Blessed are those who are sad and in morning, because God’s kingdom is their to comfort them.
Blessed are the humiliated and meek, the oppressed, because they are the ones that will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those that hunger and thirst for justice, for they will get it.
Blessed are the merciful and the pure in heart.
Blessed are not those that try to conquer their enemies, but the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those that are persecuted for righteousness sake, those that do not conform to partisan lies or the status quo, for these are the true citizens of God’s kingdom.
This message of Jesus the king about God’s heavenly kingdom is one that in a turn of sinful irony, God’s people are the ones that ended up rejecting and conspiring against him.
When Jesus claimed to be the messiah, they called him a blasphemer.
The nations conspired and sadly, Israel was one of those nations. The Temple priests plotted to have Jesus arrested.
Jesus’ disciples betrayed and abandoned him.
He was brought before a roman dictator and sentenced to death in order to satisfy a mob.
The conversation between the Roman Governor Pilate and Jesus is so telling:
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate.
One rules a kingdom of this world, the other rules a kingdom not of this world
One rules a kingdom with force; the other a kingdom of non-violence.
One rules a kingdom with a sword; the other with sacrifice.
One rules a kingdom of apathy, the other rules a kingdom of truth.
This drama has its climax in the cross, where in that dark moment, Jesus is shown as the king God chooses to be.
They give him a crown of thorns and write “King of the Jews” over the cross. The narratives have these kinds of ironies to it.
Here is the king, not making himself first but last.
Here is the king, lifted up not in exaltation but in crucifixion.
Here is the king, conquering, not with violence but with forgiveness
Here is the king, fully obedient to God the father, such that he is shown to be God’s true son.
“Surely this man is the Son of God” says the soldier, unwittingly quoting Psalm 2.
The rule of the nations was broken that day, not be military power or legislative acumen, but by the humble faithfulness of Jesus Christ, obedient unto death, even death on a cross.
That day the wrath we deserved he gladly bore upon himself in order to show that this king, this God, is a God of love.
One the third day Jesus rose again, completing the victory, ascending to heaven to rule at the right hand of the Father, sending the Spirit to commission his disciples to go out into all nations.
Death and despair, disobedience and the devil were defeated, so that all people include his enemies, including us, can be apart of his kingdom.
Christ as died, Christ has risen, and Christ will also come again
3. Our king will return
The victory of the resurrection points forward to the victory of Christ’s second coming. Psalm 2 is quoted several times in Revelation. One day Christ will return and he will set right all that has gone wrong. He will return to judge the nations with justice and truth and mercy.
Therefore, you kings, be wise;
be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear
and celebrate his rule with trembling.
That day will be like the confusion of tongues at Babel. Where we create empires of uniformity, God will break our plans apart with diversity. God will show he is that God of all peoples, all nations, all humanity.
That will be a terrible day like that day Pharaohs army drowned in the sea, all that power will be nothing compared to the glory of our infinite God.
That day will be like the destruction of the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Empires come and empires go, crushed by the sweeping power of the Rock.
And let us not go arrogant as we – God’s people Israel – have in the past. That day will be like the destruction the Temple because we turned their religion into an idol of power and control.
But for those whose hearts are sincere and ways are just and merciful, we await that day with hope. We long for the day when all that was wrong in this world will be put right, death will be no more. Tears will turn to joy.
We await the day his kingdom reigns fully and visibly over our world, but in the meantime, as Jesus says, the kingdom of God is within us. It is within us as we turn our hearts over to King Jesus.
How do we live this kingdom out? We chose to live as citizen not of this world. 1 Peter talks about how the early Christians lived as if strangers in a foreign land. We live like we don’t belong. We live like we don’t want to be a part of these corrupt discourses.
There is a better way 1 Peter talks about it: it is called being holy, set apart.
It be a Christian today show give us a kind of culture shock, the way an immigrant might feel, a fish out of water. As our culture continues to more away from God, as our leaders grow more and more depraved and greedy, we will continue to live as citizens of heaven.
While the nations rebel, we will obey.
While the kings of this world look for war, we will walk in peace.
While the kings of this world delight in perversion, we will walk in purity.
While the kings of this world deal in oppression, we will promote liberty.
While the kings of this world take care of the rich, we will take care of the poor.
While the kings of this world speak lies, we will speak honesty.
While the kings of this world further division, we will walk in reconciliation.
While the kings of this world see themselves as gods, we worship the one true God, the one true king.
And one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Christ is Lord and king to the glory of God the Father.
In the meantime, we will bow and confess. We will never stop confessing Christ is Lord.
But the question is not what the rulers of nations recognize God as king. Right here, right now, are you ready to make Jesus the king of your heart?
Are you ready to say, “King Jesus, I submit to your rule; I want to be a part of your kingdom. I repent of my sin and resolve to walk in your ways.”
So the Psalm ends: blessed are all who take refuge in him.