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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary

Psalms 2

Verse 1

Psalms 2:1

This Psalm belongs to the class called Messianic. It is a psalm full of that great national hope of the Jews concerning Him that was to come. The noblest kind of national hope, the highest idea of "manifest destiny," is not simply a great event, but a great character. It is the ideal of a great character that is to come to them, and then to create great character throughout all the people. The hope of the coming of such a being was the ruling idea of the Jewish people.

I. What is the philosophy of the Messianic psalms? There are three speakers and series of utterances. The first is the writer of the Psalm, who stands, as it were, to call the attention of the people to the two great Speakers. These two great; Speakers are, first, the Lord Jehovah, who stands behind everything done and said in Judaism, and, in the second place, the coming One, the Anointed, the King, the Messiah Himself. The writer stands as the chorus in the great tragedy. He sees God taking the sovereignty of the world, and bringing to the world its Saviour. He sees, looking down through the ages, that persecution is going to come. So he breaks forth in astonishment, "Why do the heathen rage?"

II. But God's great purpose of making Jesus King of the world is unchanged and unchangeable. And so He speaks: "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh." Jesus shall reign. That is Jehovah's determined purpose.

III. The third Speaker is Christ Himself. "I will declare the decree," etc. Christ is in the world, and He is sure of the world. Sitting upon the throne, recognising clearly who set Him there, He will never leave it until all the nations shall be His nations.

IV. At the close we come back to the writer of the chorus that tells us what the meaning of it all is. "Be wise now, ye kings," etc. There rings out the great voice of the Psalmist, which declares that in the end of things only he who is on the side of righteousness shall have place and power in this world. If we set ourselves against the Son of God and His righteousness, our force shall die out of the world.

Phillips Brooks, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix., p. 232.

I. We gather from this Psalm that there existed a various and widely spread opposition to Messiah's claims and kingdom. The hostility is said to be (1) general; (2) angry and determined; (3) organised; (4) the recoil from wholesome restraint and submission.

II. The second portion of the Psalm reveals to us the treatment of this opposition and its overthrow. "Thou shalt break hem with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."

III. We have the announced purpose in fulfilment of which our faith may be encouraged and our hope inspired. "I will declare the decree; the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee."

W. M. Punshon, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 118.

References: Psalms 2:1 . Expositor, 3rd series, vol. v., p. 305.Psalms 2:2 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix., No. 495.

Verses 1-12

Psalms 2:0

I. The Psalm opens abruptly; here is no prelude; it is an utterance of amazement, begotten in the soul and breaking from the lips of one who looks out upon the nations and generations of man. He discerns, in his widespread view, one perpetual restlessness, one ceaseless movement of discontent, the throbbing of a rebellion that cannot be appeased, of a vain, bitter, ceaseless revolt. That rebellion against God which in the vast ignorant masses of the world is half unconscious in their leaders finds utterance, assumes shape and formula. It is from these men of the sword, paper, tongue, and brain it is of these the wondering Psalmist challenges an answer. Why does the world fret against the government of God? Is there no better name for the laws of God and His Christ than "bands" and "cords"? If we study the aspects and explanations of the world's rebellion against God, they may be found in their clearest forms, at least in the example, and spirit, and teaching of those whom the multitudes blindly follow godless power, godless wealth, godless intellect. All these are represented among the kings and rulers of the earth.

II. "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision." What are we to say of the Psalmist's bold word here? Put it into our feeble prose, and it comes to this. The Psalmist sees the utter futility of revolt against God; he discerns the strength of the Almighty; the pillars of the eternal throne are before his soul; he sees from afar the strength and majesty of God, and looking down upon all the feeble, foolish wisdom of the world that sets itself against God, he can find no other words to express the vanity of man's revolt than to say, "The Lord shall laugh." God's answer to all the rebellion of the nations is a reaffirming of the sovereignty of Christ. "I have set My King upon My holy hill." "This is My well-beloved Son; hear Him."

F. W. Macdonald, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 81.

The second Psalm is a psalm of force and passion, which flows headlong in fury, until at the close it glides away in pleasant words. It is the overflow of a heart moved by the licence of sin, the indignation of a high-born soul, the movement in a human breast of Divine wrath the wrath of the Lamb.

I. Vers. 1-3. This is the first stanza in this Psalm of righteousness. It has in it the tone of challenge and scorn; it does not need an answer. "Why do the heathen rage?" What good can come of it? It is pure folly, this plotting against the Lord, and there is derision in the idea of its coming to anything.

II. Vers. 4-6. We have in the second stanza of the Psalm a daring attribution to God of human feelings, such as only Hebrew Scriptures venture on. All the people in the world are in league to have their will on earth, and God, in the calm above looking on, sees and takes knowledge.

III. Vers. 7, 8. The third stanza is put in the mouth of another. The king that is on Zion tells of the transaction and the understanding between him and God the Father. Here we have a strange foretelling of Him who came in the fulness of time.

IV. Vers. 10-12. This is the last stanza of the Christian Psalm. We now take the gentler running of the Psalm, making music over the enamelled stones. "Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings," etc. Laws take no account of ignorance. Even they who know them not will feel their power. Law is inexorable. With an unbending, unhesitating sceptre He will rule the nations. Be wise, therefore, and make friends with Jesus now.

A. Black, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 316.

Ver. 1. Why do the heathen rage? Because they are the heathen. The explanation of action is to be found in character.

Vers. 4, 5. It is interesting and instructive to remark how creation first laughs at and derides men who oppose it, and how in the next place it avenges the insults which are offered to its laws. So every attempt to rival the power of God is contemned; every insult offered to His holiness is avenged.

Ver. 6. There is but one King, and He is throned upon a hill that is, beyond all other characteristics, holy. So kings are to reign under the King, and power is to be established upon holiness.

Vers. 7-9. There is nothing in the economy of life and civilisation that is haphazard. Before all things, and round about them as a glory and defence, is the Lord's decree. Under all disorder is law. That law is first beneficent, and secondly retributive.

Vers. 10-12. The threatening of Jehovah is neither an empty taunt nor a lawless passion. God's threatening has a moral purpose in view, which is to turn the kings to wisdom, and the judges to instruction. His threatening is indeed an aspect of His Gospel.

Application. Inasmuch as moral qualities are the same in every age, and inasmuch as God's kingdom is one and His dominion unchangeable, (1) let us see the folly of all rebellion against God. (2) Notice specially the folly of those who ought to have known better (kings, and rulers, and judges) setting themselves in array against Heaven. (3) Let us measure and determine everything by the Divine decree. (4) Let us cherish the recollection that God's threatenings are intended to prepare the way for His mercy.

Parker, The Ark of God, p. 117.

I. The first thing that comes before us in this Psalm is the faith of Solomon. It was faith that he was on the side of right and progress, though he would not have used those terms.

II. It was faith in himself as God's messenger which made the youthful king so triumphant. He felt that he should feel himself great just because the times were evil.

III. On the day of Solomon's consecration God had spoken to his heart an oracle: "Thou art My son; this day have I begotten thee." For on that day he was born into a new life, with a higher range of duties, and therefore into a closer relation with God. This is God's demand from us: that increase of power and work should be met with increase of righteousness and love.

IV. The work of ruler, and of genius, and of prophet is one at root. It is (1) to destroy evil; (2) to set up good by being the interpreter of God. To such men do homage, for to despise their mission and deny their kinghood is to divide yourself from the revelation of God in them, and to bring misfortune on your character.

V. Christ was King because He was full of grace, of that love which draws all men to love it, because He was full of truth, of that truth which abides in the breast of God, and which will prevail till it conquers all the lies of earth. Be warned and do homage to Him with the worship of imitation, aspiration, and love.

S. A. Brooke, The Spirit of the Christian Life, p. 95.

This eloquent Psalm forms a drama, dividing itself into three acts, each act comprised in three verses, and the last three verses of the Psalm forming an epilogue to the entire drama.

I. The first act of this drama applies (1) to David himself, and (2) to the kingdom of the Redeemer and to the sterner opposition offered to the establishment of His reign. The principle of the text applies to the attitude of men and nations towards Christ's Gospel still, and in all past ages. The forces of the world are opposed to Christ. The kingdoms of this world are not the kingdoms of our God.

II. The scene of the first act of this drama is laid on earth; the scene of the second is laid in heaven. As we pass onward we must pass upward. Watching all the turmoil and rebellion, watching below and calmly surveying the most turbulent outbreaks of the heathen as they rage, there sits the King against whose rule this revolt is made. (1) We see in His attitude undisturbed repose and majesty. (2) He occupies a point of observation. (3) He occupies a judicial position.

III. The scene of the last act is once more laid on earth. It intimates the proclamation here of the secret decree there the proclamation on earth of the decree of Heaven. What, in point of fact, is this "declaring the decree" but the preaching of the Gospel? The declaration of the decree here takes the form of an address by the Father Himself to the Son, and a promise of the future glory of His kingdom. We see in it (1) an acknowledgment of sonship; (2) the enthronement of the Son. The expression "begotten" should be interpreted in the sense of "enthroned." (3) The Father not merely gives the throne, but He guarantees by covenant a large kingdom. The heathen are to be given for His inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession.

IV. The epilogue is full of mercy and remonstrance. "Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings; be instructed, ye judges of the earth." (1) The repentance must be real; (2) it must be prompt; (3) it must be attested by service.

A. Mursell, Lights and Landmarks, p. 177.

References: Psalms 2:0 I. Williams, The Psalms Interpreted of Christ, p. 86; S. Cox, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. iii., p. 13.Psalms 3:4 . Ibid., 3rd series, vol. v., p. 306.

Verse 6

Psalms 2:6

A king the prophet of Christ's kingdom.

The Hebrew monarchy presents a clear and unmistakable prophecy of a Divine and everlasting kingdom. We have to trace two distinct lines of thought rising in different ages, and gradually growing into one, till both are fully realised in that kingdom which embraces earth and heaven, and links time with eternity. The first thought is that God alone is the King of Israel, the second that David shall not want a man to sit upon his throne for ever.

I. The former belief is by far the more ancient; it was born with the people in their deliverance from Egypt, and became the one enduring foundation of the national polity. Out of this truth grows the national life, and on it are based morality, religion, and law.

II. Hardly less wonderful was the second thought, which sprang up in a later age: that in the little State of Israel a King should be born of the seed of David according to the flesh who should extend His dominion from one end of the earth to the other, and reign as long as the sun and moon endure. To bring this new hope into harmony with the ancient creed that seems so utterly opposed to it, to reconcile the perpetual reign of David's seed with the exclusive sovereignty of Jehovah, is the new task upon which prophecy now enters.

III. The first advance is clearly marked when the title "Messiah," hitherto applied only to "the priest that is anointed," is transferred to the promised King. Hannah is the first that so uses it, in her song of thanksgiving (1 Samuel 2:10 ). Observe how carefully the great truth of God's sole sovereignty is guarded in this first announcement of an earthly King. It is still Jehovah that shall judge the ends of the earth; He shall give strength to the rising monarchy; He shall anoint, and in anointing choose and consecrate, the human king as His viceroy on earth.

IV. In David we have a soul conformed to the ideal of a true king a soul ready to be quickened and illuminated by the Holy Spirit of prophecy, until, amid the kindling glow of thought, there should shine forth the image of a King like David himself, but fairer than the children of men, One in whom all gifts and graces of which man is capable should be combined with the perfections that belong to God only.

E. H. Gifford, Voices of the Prophets, p. 195.

References: Psalms 2:6 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 341; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. x., p. 151; W. Cunningham, Sermons, p. 351; Bishop Moorhouse, The Expectation of the Christ, p. 40. Psalms 2:6 , Psalms 2:7 . J. H. Pott, Sermons for the Festivals and Fasts, p. 295.Psalms 2:8 , Psalms 2:9 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi., No. 1535.

Verse 11

Psalms 2:11

Why did Christ show Himself to so few witnesses after He rose from the dead? Because He was a King, a King exalted upon God's "holy hill of Zion." Kings do not court the multitude, or show themselves as a spectacle at the will of others. They act by means of their servants, and must be sought by those who would gain favours from them.

I. It must be borne in mind that even before He entered into His glory Christ spoke and acted as a King. Even in the lowest acts of His self-abasement, still He showed His greatness. When He taught, warned, pitied, prayed for, His ignorant hearers, He never allowed them to relax their reverence or to overlook His condescension.

II. Observe the difference between Christ's promises stated doctrinally and generally and His mode of addressing those who came actually before Him. While He announced God's willingness to forgive all repentant sinners, in all the fulness of loving-kindness and tender mercy, yet He did not use supplication to these persons or those, whatever their number or their rank might be. He spoke as One who knew He had great favours to confer, and had nothing to gain from those who received them. Far from urging them to accept His bounty, He showed Himself even backward to confer it, inquired into their knowledge and motives, and cautioned them against entering His service without counting the cost of it.

III. In a Christian's course fear and love must go together. And this is the lesson to be deduced from our Saviour's withdrawing from the world after His resurrection. He showed His love for men by dying for them and rising again. He maintained His honour and great glory by retiring from them when His merciful purpose was attained, that they might seek Him if they would find Him.

J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. i., p. 295.

References: Psalms 2:11 . A. Mursell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 232.Psalms 2:12 . Expositor, 3rd series, vol. v., p. 305; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 133; Spurgeon, vol. v., No. 260; Sermons for Boys and Girls, p. 212.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Psalms 2". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/sbc/psalms-2.html.