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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Psalms 2

 

 

Verses 1-12

Psalms 2:1-12

Why do the heathen rage?

The prophetical element in the Psalm

But though the poem was occasioned by some national event, we must not confine its application to that event, nor need we even suppose that the singer himself did not feel that his words went beyond their first occasion. He begins to speak of an earthly king, and his wars with the nations of the earth; but his words are too great to have all their meaning exhausted in David, or Solomon, or Ahaz, or any Jewish monarch. Or ever he is aware, the local and the temporal are swallowed up in the universal and the eternal. The king who sits on David’s throne has become glorified and transfigured in the light of the promise. The picture is half-ideal and half-actual. It concerns itself with the present, but with that only so far as it is typical of greater things to come. The true King who, to the prophet’s mind, is to fulfil all his largest hopes, has taken the place of the visible and earthly king. The nations are not merely those who are now mustering for the battle, but whatsoever opposeth and exalteth itself against Jehovah and His anointed. Hence the Psalm is in the nature of a prophecy, and still waits for its final accomplishment. It had a real fulfilment, no doubt, in the banding together of Herod and Pontius Pilate against Christ (Acts 4:25-27). But this was not a literal one. It may be said to have an ever-repeated fulfilment in the history of the Church, which is a history of God’s kingdom upon earth, a kingdom which in all ages has the powers of the world arrayed against it, and in all ages the same disastrous result to those who have risen “against the Lord and against His anointed.” And so it shall be to the end, when, perhaps, that hostility will be manifested in some yet deadlier form, only to be overthrown forever, that the kingdoms of this world may become the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ. (J. J. S. Perowne.)

A magnificent lyric

The true basis of this Psalm is not some petty revolt of subject tribes, but Nathan’s prophecy in 2 Samuel 7:1-29, which sets forth the dignity and dominion of the King of Israel as God’s son and representative. This grand poem may be called an idealising of the monarch of Israel, but it is an idealising with expected realisation. The Psalm is prophecy as well as poetry; and whether it had contemporaneous persons and events as a starting point or not, its theme is a real person, fully possessing the prerogatives and wielding the dominion which Nathan had declared to be God’s gift to the King of Israel. The Psalm falls into four strophes of three verses each, in the first three of which the reader is made spectator and auditor of vividly painted scenes, while, in the last, the Psalmist exhorts the rebels to return to allegiance. In the first strophe (verses 1-3) the conspiracy of banded rebels is set before us with extraordinary force. All classes and orders are united in revolt, and hurry and eagerness mark their action, and throb in their words. Verses 4-6 change the scene to heaven. The lower half of the picture is all eager motion and strained effort; the upper is full of Divine calm. God needs not to rise from His throned tranquillity, but regards, undisturbed, the disturbances of earth. What shall we say of that daring and awful image of the laughter of God? The attribution of such action to Him is so bold that no danger of misunderstanding it is possible. It sends us at once to look for its translation, which probably lies in the thought of the essential ludicrousness of opposition, which is discerned in heaven to be so utterly groundless and hopeless as to be absurd. Another speaker is now heard, the anointed king, who in the third strophe (verses 7-9) bears witness to himself, and claims universal dominion as his by a Divine decree. In verses 10-12 the poet speaks in solemn exhortation. The kings addressed are the rebel monarchs whose power seemed so puny when measured against that of “my King.” But all possessors of power and influences are addressed. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The holy war

A vivid picture of the revolt against Messiah.

I. The extent of the revolt. Nations, People, Kings, Rulers. Christ has encountered this opposition--

1. In all nations.

2. In all ranks.

3. In all generations. Christ was rejected by His own age (Acts 4:27).

II. The determination by which this revolt was characterised. It is--

1. Deliberate.

2. Combined.

3. Resolute.

III. The secret cause of this revolt. They rebel against the laws of God in Christ.

IV. The vanity of this opposition to Christ.

1. The unreasonableness of it. “Why do the heathen rage?” No satisfactory answer can be given.

2. The uselessness of it. It is “vain,” because useless.

V. The conclusion. The Psalmist gives--

1. An admonition: “Be wise now.”

2. A direction: “Serve the Lord.” Do Him homage. (W. L. Watkinson.)

The Messiah King

I. The King (Psalms 2:6-7).

1. Divinely appointed. “I have set.” The Father speaking.

2. Divinely anointed. The name Christ or Messiah signifies anointed.

3. Assured of universal rule (Psalms 2:8). The world belongs to Him. He has created it. He has redeemed it. He shall ultimately possess it.

II. Messiah’s foes (Psalms 2:1-3). The citadel assailed because of its Sovereign; the Church the target of malice and mischief because of the kingly Christ. Crowned heads in general have been sworn enemies of the Lord’s anointed. The hostility of these foes is--

1. Deliberate. They “imagine,” rather “meditate.”

2. Combined. “They take counsel together.”

3. Determined. They “set themselves,” as fully resolved to accomplish their object.

4. Violent. They “rage.” Nothing has ever excited so much hostility as Christ and His Church.

III. Messiah’s victory (Psalms 2:4-5). Fourth verse is strikingly metaphorical. The Victor is in the heavens--watching the plots, reading the thoughts, hearing the decisions of His enemies, and He “sitteth” there, serene as the march of stars and suns, calm as the glassy lake locked in the embrace of summer morning. Shall “have them in derision.” Their efforts shall result in self-defeat and self-destruction, and help to the realisation of God’s own purposes. The devil and his agents often outwit themselves; they mean extinction, but God overrules it for permanent extension. No decree of the Divine government can be frustrated. Truth must prevail. He shall “speak in wrath.” His wrath is not vindictiveness, but the recoil of His love; not revenge, but retribution.

IV. Messiah’s message (Psalms 2:10-12). This is a call to--

1. Teachableness. “Be instructed.” Learn your folly in opposing the Lord.

2. Service. “Serve the Lord.” Do His bidding. Be governed by His laws.

3. Homage. “Kiss the Son.” The Eastern mode of showing homage to a king.

4. A call backed by the most weighty reasons: “lest He be angry.” (J. O. Keen, D. D,)

The King in Zion

Two contrasted topics, the King and the rebellion of His subjects.

I. The King.

1. The dignity of His person. Not a King, or the King, but my King. One able and worthy to represent me.

2. The extent of His dominion. The nations of men measure not the realm of Christ. All grades of intelligences throughout the universe owe Him allegiance.

3. The greatness of His power. Wide as is His kingdom, His power is adequate to hold and govern it. Spiritual supremacy involves supremacy of every name. To secure it, upheavals and overturnings are inevitable. Under the pressure of spiritual forces, all other forces must give way.

4. The blessedness of His sway. The prophetic representations of the Messiah’s reign are glorious and happy. All blessings come down upon the people.

II. The rebellion of His subjects.

1. Its universality.

2. Its wickedness. Men’s treatment of Christ is more gratuitously wicked than anything else. He came, self-moved, to do them infinite good.

3. Its impotence.

4. Its folly. This rebellion is misery in its progress, and ruin in its result. It fills the soul with wretchedness and fear in time, and leaves it under the wrath of God in eternity. (Monday Club Sermons.)

Messiah’s rule

I. The determined hate of the people (Psalms 2:1-3). The word “rage” suggests the idea of Oriental frenzy and excitement of a tumultuous concourse of crowds of people, all wildly angry. “Imagine” is the same word as is rendered “meditate” in Psalms 1:2. While the godly meditate on God’s law, the ungodly meditate a project which is vain. Let us not be in league with the world, for its drift is against the Lord.

II. The Divine tranquillity (Psalms 1:4-6). The scene shifts to heaven; God is ever undismayed.

III. Messiah’s manifesto (verses 7-9). Standing forth, He produces and recites one of the eternal decrees. Before time was, He was the only-begotten of the Father. The world is His heritage, but the gift is conditional on prayer. For this He pleads, and let us plead with Him. The pastoral staff for the sheep; the “iron rod” for those who oppose.

IV. Overtures and counsels of peace (verses 10-12). “Kiss,” the expression of homage (1 Samuel 10:1). (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

The reign of Christ

The Psalm is full of Christ. It is referred to six times by New Testament writers, and applied to Christ. It is a beautiful dramatic prophecy, in which several personages alternately speak momentous truths, to animate the Church of God in her conflict with sin and the powers of hell. The two leading thoughts are--the powerful opposition, but total discomfiture of Christ’s enemies; the certainty, universality, and blessedness of His reign.

1. The opposition would be universal, and characterise all classes of men.

2. It is intense. The heathen “rage.”

3. It is organised. They consult to find pretexts to justify their hostility. It is violent and aggressive. The restraints of the gospel are irksome and hateful. When argument and oratory failed, force was employed. It was foretold that all the crafty counsel and all the violent opposition should fail. Vain to imagine that human craft can contravene omniscience, or human power overcome omnipotence. It is the potsherd striving with his Maker. If God’s expostulation be disregarded, then He speaketh in judgment. While adverse nations perish, the kingdom of Christ shall continue and become universal. When the Son says, “I will declare the decree,” He has respect to future revelations as well as to the one then announced. He intimates that henceforth there shall be brighter and more ample discoveries of the Divine purpose. And the promise was verified by fact. The decree is not only declared, it is confirmed by the resurrection, the intercession and the enthronement of Messiah. The universality of the Redeemer’s kingdom is certain, but do existing facts look towards its consummation? Wonderful preparations are indicative of this. The great programmes of discovery and of instrumentality nearly complete. The great programme of prophecy is nearly accomplished. (W. Cooke, D. D.)

A great national hope

This Psalm belongs to the class called Messianic. It is full of that great national hope of the Jews concerning Him who was to come. A nation without hope is like a man without hope. Cut off hope from any man, or any group of men, and at once you paralyse the worth of everything. The Jewish nation was full of vitality. 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. A character is always nobler than any event that is going to happen. A great nature remains as a perpetual inspiration. Every Jewish child that was born might be the Messiah; every king might hold in his hand the Messianic sceptre. Through all their life there ran this great anticipation, this inextinguishable hope. We do not know of whom this second Psalm was written; we do not even know by whom it was written. What is the philosophy of the Messianic Psalms? Shall we say that back in those distant days men anticipated just what was going to come when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and did His work in Galilee? There was nothing so monstrous as that. The whole of the Bible is much more natural than we are apt to make it. This Messianic Psalm was taken and applied in its completeness to the Messiah, who had really revealed Himself at last. The words then found a kingship worthy of them, and were sung of Christ. There are three speakers, or 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 are the Lord Jehovah, and the Coming One, the Anointed, the King, the Messiah Himself. The writer stands as the chorus in the great tragedy. It is a great cry of astonishment from one who sees a great mercy coming to the world of guilt, bringing in redemption to the world, and the world setting itself against it. It is the everlasting wonder of the soul that knows Jesus Christ, that this world, with Jesus Christ waiting at its doors to save it, can set itself against Him, and not let Him in. But God’s great purpose of making Jesus King of the world is unchanged and unchangeable. Whether the world will have Him or not, Christ is to be King of the world. The world has heard that, and it has brought a certain deep peace into the soul of mankind. The third speaker is Christ Himself. He says, “I will declare the decree.” 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. Among the wonders of these last nineteen centuries has been the quiet certain confidence of Christianity. It cannot be crowded out and lost among the multitudes of mankind who are careless or hostile. It possesses Divine grace, which some day will be sufficient for the healing of the nations. At the close we come back to the writer or the chorus that tells us what the meaning of it all is. The Messianic Psalm presses itself into the lives we are living, and declares that if we are wicked we shall be powerless. If the most humble man puts himself upon the side of righteousness in company with Christ, if in his own little lot he does things pure and good and kind, he shall have a part with Christ in His great conquest of the world. He whom we worship as Christ is the centre of the world. Everything is verging to Him. All the past, however unconsciously, is ruled by Him; and all the future, however little it may now know its Master, will ultimately recognise Him. He who is everything, sanctification, redemption, in the fortunes of the individual soul, is the world’s redemption. (Phillips Brooks, D. D.)

Imagine a vain thing.--

The opposition to God and His Christ

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 locks out upon the nations and generations of man. He discerns, in all the widespread view, one perpetual restlessness, one ceaseless movement of discontent, the throbbing of a rebellion that cannot be appeased, of a vain, bitter, and ceaseless revolt. It is a revolt against God and His Christ running through the centuries, underlying human history, breaking out in fresh manifestations age after age, finding new utterance from the kings and rulers and wise men of this world. Why does the world fret against the government of God? Why does the world resent and resist the rule of the righteous God, and of the redeeming Lord Jesus Christ? Whether it be the sins and sorrows of one city that come within your range; whether it be the notes and tones of the very last phase and stage of philosophic speculation; whether it be the problems that vex and chafe and worry the civilised world; whether the spectacle of our exaggerated, over-developed militarism, under which the whole continent of Europe groans and bleeds; or whether the vexed problems that lie in our own streets and houses, alike the question arises--Why does the world, in things great and small, chafe against the rule of God--God the Source of wisdom, the Giver of all good? against Christ, the. Redeemer of human nature! against Christ, man’s true King, Leader and Guide and Friend and Shepherd and Bishop of souls? “Why do the heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing?” (F. W. Macdonald, M. A.)

Authorship and meaning of the Psalm

The thoughts of the Psalm are so fresh and bold, and the poetical elevation so great, that the thoughts here seem to have for the first time taken hold of the writer, who is one, whom they directly concern.

1. Some young king, entering upon the rule of God’s Kingdom, has borne in upon his mind, from his very position, those strange and unprecedented words of Nathan--words of inexhaustible meaning, and yet quite fresh from their novelty--and entering into their spirit as, to a pure and thoughtful mind, they opened up regions of contemplation interminable in extent and full of wonders, and combining them perhaps with some show of opposition to his rule at home, or some threatened defection from his authority by tribes abroad,--the young king east his thoughts and aspirations into this hymn.

2. And what young monarch was in such a condition except Solomon? Every one of the conditions of the problem suits him. He was the seed of David, and therefore the Son of God. He was appointed king on Zion Hill. His rule tended to universality, and his aspirations, being those of a profound intellect and, at the same time, of an uncorrupted youth, must have aimed at conferring on all peoples the blessings of God’s Kingdom.

3. If we could realise to ourselves the thoughts and emotions of those early Davidic kings--standing, as all of them did, to Jehovah as His anointed, bearing all of them the title of His Son, and pointing forward to such a heritage, even all peoples; and yet so surrounded with darkness, and having but such imperfect instruments in their hands wherewith to realise their ideal, and so circumscribed on every side--what aspirations must have filled their hearts as they stood thus before so high a destiny! And yet, as all things seemed to make it impossible for them to reach it, what perplexities must have tormented them till, wearied out by the riddles of their position, some of them turned wilfully aside from the true path!

4. But if we can ill fathom the thoughts of these great creative minds, how much less those of the true theocratic King, the true Messiah and Son of God, when entering upon His kingdom, and standing at its threshold with all the possibilities of it clear before Him, and the way needful to be trod to reach it also clear! We know that He was sometimes troubled in spirit, and sometimes rejoiced greatly, alternating between a gloom more dark than falls on any son of man and a rightness more luminous than created light. But with full view of His work He entered on it, and with full view of the glory He prosecuted it to the end.

5. The Psalm, if a typical Psalm in the mind of its human author, referred to the installation of the theocratic king on Zion, who took God’s place over His kingdom, and stood to Him in all the endearing relations expressed by the name of Son. The writer to the Hebrews finds in it the statement of the manifestation of the true theocratic King and Son in power from His resurrection and ascension; and His principle is just. The one was a rehearsal of the other. All this Old Testament machinery, and this calling one who was king by the name Son, and the like, would never have been but for the other; it was only in order to suggest the other and prepare for it. It was a prophecy of the other. It contained the same ideas. And its having been imperfect, as it was, implied that the other--that which was perfect--should also be. Only, that which the Old Testament writer had not yet foreseen had now taken place; the material embodiment of the ideas of the kingdom had passed away, and all things had become spiritual in Christ. (Professor A. B. Davidson.)


Verses 1-12

Psalms 2:1-12

Why do the heathen rage?

The prophetical element in the Psalm

But though the poem was occasioned by some national event, we must not confine its application to that event, nor need we even suppose that the singer himself did not feel that his words went beyond their first occasion. He begins to speak of an earthly king, and his wars with the nations of the earth; but his words are too great to have all their meaning exhausted in David, or Solomon, or Ahaz, or any Jewish monarch. Or ever he is aware, the local and the temporal are swallowed up in the universal and the eternal. The king who sits on David’s throne has become glorified and transfigured in the light of the promise. The picture is half-ideal and half-actual. It concerns itself with the present, but with that only so far as it is typical of greater things to come. The true King who, to the prophet’s mind, is to fulfil all his largest hopes, has taken the place of the visible and earthly king. The nations are not merely those who are now mustering for the battle, but whatsoever opposeth and exalteth itself against Jehovah and His anointed. Hence the Psalm is in the nature of a prophecy, and still waits for its final accomplishment. It had a real fulfilment, no doubt, in the banding together of Herod and Pontius Pilate against Christ (Acts 4:25-27). But this was not a literal one. It may be said to have an ever-repeated fulfilment in the history of the Church, which is a history of God’s kingdom upon earth, a kingdom which in all ages has the powers of the world arrayed against it, and in all ages the same disastrous result to those who have risen “against the Lord and against His anointed.” And so it shall be to the end, when, perhaps, that hostility will be manifested in some yet deadlier form, only to be overthrown forever, that the kingdoms of this world may become the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ. (J. J. S. Perowne.)

A magnificent lyric

The true basis of this Psalm is not some petty revolt of subject tribes, but Nathan’s prophecy in 2 Samuel 7:1-29, which sets forth the dignity and dominion of the King of Israel as God’s son and representative. This grand poem may be called an idealising of the monarch of Israel, but it is an idealising with expected realisation. The Psalm is prophecy as well as poetry; and whether it had contemporaneous persons and events as a starting point or not, its theme is a real person, fully possessing the prerogatives and wielding the dominion which Nathan had declared to be God’s gift to the King of Israel. The Psalm falls into four strophes of three verses each, in the first three of which the reader is made spectator and auditor of vividly painted scenes, while, in the last, the Psalmist exhorts the rebels to return to allegiance. In the first strophe (verses 1-3) the conspiracy of banded rebels is set before us with extraordinary force. All classes and orders are united in revolt, and hurry and eagerness mark their action, and throb in their words. Verses 4-6 change the scene to heaven. The lower half of the picture is all eager motion and strained effort; the upper is full of Divine calm. God needs not to rise from His throned tranquillity, but regards, undisturbed, the disturbances of earth. What shall we say of that daring and awful image of the laughter of God? The attribution of such action to Him is so bold that no danger of misunderstanding it is possible. It sends us at once to look for its translation, which probably lies in the thought of the essential ludicrousness of opposition, which is discerned in heaven to be so utterly groundless and hopeless as to be absurd. Another speaker is now heard, the anointed king, who in the third strophe (verses 7-9) bears witness to himself, and claims universal dominion as his by a Divine decree. In verses 10-12 the poet speaks in solemn exhortation. The kings addressed are the rebel monarchs whose power seemed so puny when measured against that of “my King.” But all possessors of power and influences are addressed. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The holy war

A vivid picture of the revolt against Messiah.

I. The extent of the revolt. Nations, People, Kings, Rulers. Christ has encountered this opposition--

1. In all nations.

2. In all ranks.

3. In all generations. Christ was rejected by His own age (Acts 4:27).

II. The determination by which this revolt was characterised. It is--

1. Deliberate.

2. Combined.

3. Resolute.

III. The secret cause of this revolt. They rebel against the laws of God in Christ.

IV. The vanity of this opposition to Christ.

1. The unreasonableness of it. “Why do the heathen rage?” No satisfactory answer can be given.

2. The uselessness of it. It is “vain,” because useless.

V. The conclusion. The Psalmist gives--

1. An admonition: “Be wise now.”

2. A direction: “Serve the Lord.” Do Him homage. (W. L. Watkinson.)

The Messiah King

I. The King (Psalms 2:6-7).

1. Divinely appointed. “I have set.” The Father speaking.

2. Divinely anointed. The name Christ or Messiah signifies anointed.

3. Assured of universal rule (Psalms 2:8). The world belongs to Him. He has created it. He has redeemed it. He shall ultimately possess it.

II. Messiah’s foes (Psalms 2:1-3). The citadel assailed because of its Sovereign; the Church the target of malice and mischief because of the kingly Christ. Crowned heads in general have been sworn enemies of the Lord’s anointed. The hostility of these foes is--

1. Deliberate. They “imagine,” rather “meditate.”

2. Combined. “They take counsel together.”

3. Determined. They “set themselves,” as fully resolved to accomplish their object.

4. Violent. They “rage.” Nothing has ever excited so much hostility as Christ and His Church.

III. Messiah’s victory (Psalms 2:4-5). Fourth verse is strikingly metaphorical. The Victor is in the heavens--watching the plots, reading the thoughts, hearing the decisions of His enemies, and He “sitteth” there, serene as the march of stars and suns, calm as the glassy lake locked in the embrace of summer morning. Shall “have them in derision.” Their efforts shall result in self-defeat and self-destruction, and help to the realisation of God’s own purposes. The devil and his agents often outwit themselves; they mean extinction, but God overrules it for permanent extension. No decree of the Divine government can be frustrated. Truth must prevail. He shall “speak in wrath.” His wrath is not vindictiveness, but the recoil of His love; not revenge, but retribution.

IV. Messiah’s message (Psalms 2:10-12). This is a call to--

1. Teachableness. “Be instructed.” Learn your folly in opposing the Lord.

2. Service. “Serve the Lord.” Do His bidding. Be governed by His laws.

3. Homage. “Kiss the Son.” The Eastern mode of showing homage to a king.

4. A call backed by the most weighty reasons: “lest He be angry.” (J. O. Keen, D. D,)

The King in Zion

Two contrasted topics, the King and the rebellion of His subjects.

I. The King.

1. The dignity of His person. Not a King, or the King, but my King. One able and worthy to represent me.

2. The extent of His dominion. The nations of men measure not the realm of Christ. All grades of intelligences throughout the universe owe Him allegiance.

3. The greatness of His power. Wide as is His kingdom, His power is adequate to hold and govern it. Spiritual supremacy involves supremacy of every name. To secure it, upheavals and overturnings are inevitable. Under the pressure of spiritual forces, all other forces must give way.

4. The blessedness of His sway. The prophetic representations of the Messiah’s reign are glorious and happy. All blessings come down upon the people.

II. The rebellion of His subjects.

1. Its universality.

2. Its wickedness. Men’s treatment of Christ is more gratuitously wicked than anything else. He came, self-moved, to do them infinite good.

3. Its impotence.

4. Its folly. This rebellion is misery in its progress, and ruin in its result. It fills the soul with wretchedness and fear in time, and leaves it under the wrath of God in eternity. (Monday Club Sermons.)

Messiah’s rule

I. The determined hate of the people (Psalms 2:1-3). The word “rage” suggests the idea of Oriental frenzy and excitement of a tumultuous concourse of crowds of people, all wildly angry. “Imagine” is the same word as is rendered “meditate” in Psalms 1:2. While the godly meditate on God’s law, the ungodly meditate a project which is vain. Let us not be in league with the world, for its drift is against the Lord.

II. The Divine tranquillity (Psalms 1:4-6). The scene shifts to heaven; God is ever undismayed.

III. Messiah’s manifesto (verses 7-9). Standing forth, He produces and recites one of the eternal decrees. Before time was, He was the only-begotten of the Father. The world is His heritage, but the gift is conditional on prayer. For this He pleads, and let us plead with Him. The pastoral staff for the sheep; the “iron rod” for those who oppose.

IV. Overtures and counsels of peace (verses 10-12). “Kiss,” the expression of homage (1 Samuel 10:1). (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

The reign of Christ

The Psalm is full of Christ. It is referred to six times by New Testament writers, and applied to Christ. It is a beautiful dramatic prophecy, in which several personages alternately speak momentous truths, to animate the Church of God in her conflict with sin and the powers of hell. The two leading thoughts are--the powerful opposition, but total discomfiture of Christ’s enemies; the certainty, universality, and blessedness of His reign.

1. The opposition would be universal, and characterise all classes of men.

2. It is intense. The heathen “rage.”

3. It is organised. They consult to find pretexts to justify their hostility. It is violent and aggressive. The restraints of the gospel are irksome and hateful. When argument and oratory failed, force was employed. It was foretold that all the crafty counsel and all the violent opposition should fail. Vain to imagine that human craft can contravene omniscience, or human power overcome omnipotence. It is the potsherd striving with his Maker. If God’s expostulation be disregarded, then He speaketh in judgment. While adverse nations perish, the kingdom of Christ shall continue and become universal. When the Son says, “I will declare the decree,” He has respect to future revelations as well as to the one then announced. He intimates that henceforth there shall be brighter and more ample discoveries of the Divine purpose. And the promise was verified by fact. The decree is not only declared, it is confirmed by the resurrection, the intercession and the enthronement of Messiah. The universality of the Redeemer’s kingdom is certain, but do existing facts look towards its consummation? Wonderful preparations are indicative of this. The great programmes of discovery and of instrumentality nearly complete. The great programme of prophecy is nearly accomplished. (W. Cooke, D. D.)

A great national hope

This Psalm belongs to the class called Messianic. It is full of that great national hope of the Jews concerning Him who was to come. A nation without hope is like a man without hope. Cut off hope from any man, or any group of men, and at once you paralyse the worth of everything. The Jewish nation was full of vitality. 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. A character is always nobler than any event that is going to happen. A great nature remains as a perpetual inspiration. Every Jewish child that was born might be the Messiah; every king might hold in his hand the Messianic sceptre. Through all their life there ran this great anticipation, this inextinguishable hope. We do not know of whom this second Psalm was written; we do not even know by whom it was written. What is the philosophy of the Messianic Psalms? Shall we say that back in those distant days men anticipated just what was going to come when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and did His work in Galilee? There was nothing so monstrous as that. The whole of the Bible is much more natural than we are apt to make it. This Messianic Psalm was taken and applied in its completeness to the Messiah, who had really revealed Himself at last. The words then found a kingship worthy of them, and were sung of Christ. There are three speakers, or 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 are the Lord Jehovah, and the Coming One, the Anointed, the King, the Messiah Himself. The writer stands as the chorus in the great tragedy. It is a great cry of astonishment from one who sees a great mercy coming to the world of guilt, bringing in redemption to the world, and the world setting itself against it. It is the everlasting wonder of the soul that knows Jesus Christ, that this world, with Jesus Christ waiting at its doors to save it, can set itself against Him, and not let Him in. But God’s great purpose of making Jesus King of the world is unchanged and unchangeable. Whether the world will have Him or not, Christ is to be King of the world. The world has heard that, and it has brought a certain deep peace into the soul of mankind. The third speaker is Christ Himself. He says, “I will declare the decree.” 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. Among the wonders of these last nineteen centuries has been the quiet certain confidence of Christianity. It cannot be crowded out and lost among the multitudes of mankind who are careless or hostile. It possesses Divine grace, which some day will be sufficient for the healing of the nations. At the close we come back to the writer or the chorus that tells us what the meaning of it all is. The Messianic Psalm presses itself into the lives we are living, and declares that if we are wicked we shall be powerless. If the most humble man puts himself upon the side of righteousness in company with Christ, if in his own little lot he does things pure and good and kind, he shall have a part with Christ in His great conquest of the world. He whom we worship as Christ is the centre of the world. Everything is verging to Him. All the past, however unconsciously, is ruled by Him; and all the future, however little it may now know its Master, will ultimately recognise Him. He who is everything, sanctification, redemption, in the fortunes of the individual soul, is the world’s redemption. (Phillips Brooks, D. D.)

Imagine a vain thing.--

The opposition to God and His Christ

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 locks out upon the nations and generations of man. He discerns, in all the widespread view, one perpetual restlessness, one ceaseless movement of discontent, the throbbing of a rebellion that cannot be appeased, of a vain, bitter, and ceaseless revolt. It is a revolt against God and His Christ running through the centuries, underlying human history, breaking out in fresh manifestations age after age, finding new utterance from the kings and rulers and wise men of this world. Why does the world fret against the government of God? Why does the world resent and resist the rule of the righteous God, and of the redeeming Lord Jesus Christ? Whether it be the sins and sorrows of one city that come within your range; whether it be the notes and tones of the very last phase and stage of philosophic speculation; whether it be the problems that vex and chafe and worry the civilised world; whether the spectacle of our exaggerated, over-developed militarism, under which the whole continent of Europe groans and bleeds; or whether the vexed problems that lie in our own streets and houses, alike the question arises--Why does the world, in things great and small, chafe against the rule of God--God the Source of wisdom, the Giver of all good? against Christ, the. Redeemer of human nature! against Christ, man’s true King, Leader and Guide and Friend and Shepherd and Bishop of souls? “Why do the heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing?” (F. W. Macdonald, M. A.)

Authorship and meaning of the Psalm

The thoughts of the Psalm are so fresh and bold, and the poetical elevation so great, that the thoughts here seem to have for the first time taken hold of the writer, who is one, whom they directly concern.

1. Some young king, entering upon the rule of God’s Kingdom, has borne in upon his mind, from his very position, those strange and unprecedented words of Nathan--words of inexhaustible meaning, and yet quite fresh from their novelty--and entering into their spirit as, to a pure and thoughtful mind, they opened up regions of contemplation interminable in extent and full of wonders, and combining them perhaps with some show of opposition to his rule at home, or some threatened defection from his authority by tribes abroad,--the young king east his thoughts and aspirations into this hymn.

2. And what young monarch was in such a condition except Solomon? Every one of the conditions of the problem suits him. He was the seed of David, and therefore the Son of God. He was appointed king on Zion Hill. His rule tended to universality, and his aspirations, being those of a profound intellect and, at the same time, of an uncorrupted youth, must have aimed at conferring on all peoples the blessings of God’s Kingdom.

3. If we could realise to ourselves the thoughts and emotions of those early Davidic kings--standing, as all of them did, to Jehovah as His anointed, bearing all of them the title of His Son, and pointing forward to such a heritage, even all peoples; and yet so surrounded with darkness, and having but such imperfect instruments in their hands wherewith to realise their ideal, and so circumscribed on every side--what aspirations must have filled their hearts as they stood thus before so high a destiny! And yet, as all things seemed to make it impossible for them to reach it, what perplexities must have tormented them till, wearied out by the riddles of their position, some of them turned wilfully aside from the true path!

4. But if we can ill fathom the thoughts of these great creative minds, how much less those of the true theocratic King, the true Messiah and Son of God, when entering upon His kingdom, and standing at its threshold with all the possibilities of it clear before Him, and the way needful to be trod to reach it also clear! We know that He was sometimes troubled in spirit, and sometimes rejoiced greatly, alternating between a gloom more dark than falls on any son of man and a rightness more luminous than created light. But with full view of His work He entered on it, and with full view of the glory He prosecuted it to the end.

5. The Psalm, if a typical Psalm in the mind of its human author, referred to the installation of the theocratic king on Zion, who took God’s place over His kingdom, and stood to Him in all the endearing relations expressed by the name of Son. The writer to the Hebrews finds in it the statement of the manifestation of the true theocratic King and Son in power from His resurrection and ascension; and His principle is just. The one was a rehearsal of the other. All this Old Testament machinery, and this calling one who was king by the name Son, and the like, would never have been but for the other; it was only in order to suggest the other and prepare for it. It was a prophecy of the other. It contained the same ideas. And its having been imperfect, as it was, implied that the other--that which was perfect--should also be. Only, that which the Old Testament writer had not yet foreseen had now taken place; the material embodiment of the ideas of the kingdom had passed away, and all things had become spiritual in Christ. (Professor A. B. Davidson.)


Verse 2

Psalms 2:2

Against the Lord, and against His anointed.

Taking counsel against Christ

Anointed here means the same as Messiah, and both words the same as Christ in the New Testament. How literally were the words of this verse fulfilled, when Herod and Pontius Pilate, and the rulers of the Jews combined together to put Jesus to death! How cordially they hated each other; and yet how cordially they united in persecuting Jesus! This has been the history of our religion from the beginning. Men who would take counsel together in nothing else have taken counsel together against the Lord and against His anointed. Christianity has been opposed by every form of religion beneath the sun. The civil ruler has opposed it with the sword; the bigot with the screw, the wheel, and the stake; the philosopher with sophistry and derision; and the multitude with lawless violence. All have been alike eager to nail it to the cross, thrust a spear into its side, and place upon its head a crown of thorns. And when asked to spare it the language of all has been, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” This feature of heterogeneous opposition to our religion is conspicuous in all modern and liberal and infidel conventions, where men of all beliefs and of no belief, ignoring for the time being all their differences, unite heart and soul in a crusade against the Word of God. They care little what stars occupy a place in the religious heavens of the world, provided the Star of Bethlehem be not of the number. They will tolerate any other form of religion sooner than the religion of the Lord and of His anointed. (David Caldwell, A. M.)


Verse 3

Psalms 2:3

Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

Sinners vainly attempt to dissolve their obligations

I. The obligations sinners are under to God.

1. Natural obligations. Their nature, as dependent creatures, forms an intimate connection between them and their Maker. They cannot exist a moment without the immediate exertion of Divine power. Their dependence is absolute and universal. It respects all their natural powers and faculties, whether corporeal or mental. They are not sufficient to think, or speak, or act of themselves, independently of the presence and efficiency of God.

2. Moral obligations. God is a Being possessed of every natural and moral excellence. He will never do anything contrary to the perfect benevolence of His heart. Every sinner is capable of knowing that God is perfectly good, so he is under moral obligation to love Him for His goodness.

3. Legal obligation. God’s absolute supremacy gives Him an independent right to assume the character of a lawgiver. It properly belongs to Him to give law to all His intelligent creatures.

II. Sinners endeavour to free themselves from all the obligations which they are under to God. They wish and endeavour to break His bands, and cast away His cords.

1. This appears by their mode of speaking upon this subject.

2. By their mode of reasoning as well as speaking. They endeavour to reason away all their obligations to God.

3. It appears from their mode of acting, also, that they desire and endeavour to free themselves from all obligations to become reconciled and obedient to God.

III. All their endeavours to get loose from their obligations to God will be in vain.

1. They cannot destroy the existence of God.

2. Or their own existence. Improvement.

Tendency of the young to infidelity

1. From their limited views. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, as it too often encourages self-conceit and lays the foundation for many a hasty conclusion. A slight and imperfect view of the subject is taken as the whole. Judgment is rendered without even hearing the evidence. A few second-hand objections are suffered to cover the whole ground. Bacon says, “It is true that a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds back to religion;--for while the mind of man looketh upon second causes scattered, it may sometimes rest in them, and go no further; but when it beholdeth the chain of them, confederate and linked together, it must needs fly to Providence and Deity.”

2. From their defective training. In the religious education of youth the principal things have not always been made prominent. The youth perhaps knows no other Christianity than that which belongs to his own denomination, or some idle ceremony or some doubtful tenet has been inculcated with all the solemnity of religion and all the sanctions of eternity. The result is a narrow-minded, bitter bigotry. When the charm is broken, and its influence destroyed, the mind, left loose, too often swings at once to infidelity. The training is often defective in another way. That the mind may be free from unfounded prejudice and sectarian predilections, nothing is taught. To escape one evil they run into another and more fatal one. The native soft brings forth thorns and briars.

3. Another source of infidelity is the conduct of too many called Christians.

4. Another is an uneasiness of restraint. The spirit of wildness and wilfulness is manifest in the first dawn of intellect. The earliest period of childhood shows restlessness and hatred of restraint. Thousands are infidels because they dread the inspection of God and hate the restraints of religion. Their lives require such an opiate to their fears.

5. A love of distinction--an ambition to appear above the vulgar. Young men and boys affect infidelity for the same reason that they learn to swear or to chew tobacco. It gives an air of spirit and independence that spurns old traditions and vulgar prejudices.

6. Some are infidels in self-defence. They were once, perhaps, not far from the kingdom of God--it may be, deemed themselves citizens of that kingdom. But the world spread its charms before them. And they have found shelter from scorn and reproach in blank infidelity. Combine all these causes which are continually at work and is it wonderful that in the face of all the light of truth there should still be infidels? (D. Merrill.)

Bands that cannot be broken

The yoke that our Saviour would lay on this world is not a galling and exasperating code of laws, but a yoke in which humanity would be renewed, transformed, uplifted to the highest and eternal joy. It is of that “yoke and burden” that the world’s proud captains say, “Let us break their bands asunder and cast away their cords from us.” Bands and cords! It is an invidious description of “the yoke that is easy and the burden that is light.” What can be the issue of the effort to break the bands and cords of the Almighty? What can come of it? “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.” The Psalmist is very bold: the laughter of God! the derision of the Most High! What a figure to use! It is a poet’s phrase, but it is a prophet’s truth. There is a spendthrift who is resenting the bands of economics and arithmetic; who says in regard to a plain and accurate cash statement, “I will break these bands asunder,” and in his foolishness he makes the attempt; but he cannot divert from their inflexible proportions the laws of parts and quantities, of plus and minus considerations. He may wish that ten amid ten should make twenty-five, but they will not. “He that sitteth in the heavens”! Great fixed proportions!--they won’t bend to amuse a prodigal; they won’t break to gratify a spendthrift. They claim their value and issue their writ, and the man who has lived and spent as though two and two made fifty is the object of the laughter of arithmetical law, and is by it had in derision. (F. W. Macdonald.)


Verse 4-5

Psalms 2:4-5

He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh . . . and vex them in His sore displeasure.

First a laugh then a smite

The heathen and the people, the kings and the rulers are answered with contempt, they are laughed at and derided; and if this be not enough to change their spirit and their purpose, they will be spoken to in wrath, and vexed in sore displeasure. 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 that are offered to its laws. When Canute rebuked the waves the sea laughed at him, and the waves had him in derision; had he remained upon the position he had chosen, laughter and derision would have been changed for vengeance and overthrow. Let a man attempt to put down the wind, and the only possible answer is derision; let him attempt to defy the lightning, and he may perish under its stroke. There is but a short distance between the derision of nature and its penal judgments. So every attempt to revile the power of God is contemned, and every insult offered to His holiness is avenged. A very curious process is indicated by these two verses. The laughter is expressive of an eternal law; things are not so constituted that they can be turned about at the pleasure of the wicked, nor is the purpose of the universe so fickle that the wrath of man can affect its fulfilment; great strength can afford to deride; infinite power can best express its own consciousness of almightiness by smiling upon all the hosts which array themselves against it. But this answer of contemptuous laughter must not be the only reply, for contempt can seldom have any moral issue of a really substantial and blessed kind; there must come a time when law must avenge itself upon those who would insult its majesty or mock its power. First, laughter, as a proof of the utter impossibility of injuriously affecting the standards and purposes of God; after laughter must come the judgment, which shows how dangerous it is to trifle with fire, and how awful a thing it is to defy the wrath of righteousness. It is for every man to consider under what particular phase of the Divine regard he is now living. For a period he may be amused, as it were, at certain phases of the opposition of nature, or the awkwardness of life; but let him not suppose that he sees the whole of the case: such opposition and awkwardness may suddenly be displaced by judgment, and vengeance, and destiny irrevocable. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)

The laughter of God

They scoff at us. God laughs at them. Severe Cato thought that laughter did not become the gravity of Roman consuls, and is it attributed to the majesty of heaven . . . Pharaoh imagined that by drowning the Israelite males he had found a way to root their name from the earth, but when at the same time his own daughter in his own court gave princely education to Moses, their deliverer, did not God laugh? Is Dagon put up in his place again? God’s smile shall take off his head and his hands and leave him neither wit to guide nor power to subsist He permitted His temple to be sacked and rifled, the holy vessels to be profaned and caroused in; but did not God’s smile make Belshazzar to tremble? Oh, what are His frowns if His smiles be so terrible? (Thomas Adams.)


Verse 6

Psalms 2:6

Yet have I set My King upon My holy hill of Zion.

The sovereignty Zion’s King

Christ is King in Zion, the alone Sovereign of His Church by his Father’s appointment and ordination.

I. This sovereign prince. The sovereignty and royalty appears--

1. From Scripture prophecy.

2. From types.

3. From titles.

4. From the concurring testimony of enemies and strangers.

5. From the badges of sovereignty everywhere, ascribed to Him.

See what happy persons the true and loyal subjects of Christ are. See the dangerous risk they run that invade His government and contemn His authority. Who are these? They that turn the authority derived from Him, to the hurt and prejudice of His kingdom and interest. They who venture to model His visible kingdom in the world after their own fancy. They who walk willingly after the commandments of men, in opposition to the commands of Christ. They will be found equally guilty who stand by and see those injuries done to the King of Zion by others, and are silent without witnessing against those things.

II. This kingdom and the administration of it. The kingdom of the Son of God is two fold: it is either essential or personal. His essential kingdom belongs to Him as to His Divine nature. His personal or mediatory kingdom belongs to Him as Immanuel, God-man. In this He acts by a delegate authority or a power committed by the Father for the salvation of the elect that were given Him. The mediatory kingdom is either more general or special. His general mediatory kingdom extends itself over heaven, earth, and hell. The kingdom or Church of Christ is sometimes called His “body” and His “flock.” This Church is either militant on earth or triumphant in heaven. Why is this Church called the “holy hill of Zion”? The literal Mount Zion had two heads, one called “Moriah,” the other “the City of David.” Zion was the place of public worship. All the sacred things of God were kept there. In Scripture an opposition is stated between Mount Zion and Mount Sinai. Consider some of the properties of Christ’s kingdom.

1. It is spiritual.

2. Of large extent.

3. Not populous. It is--

4. A kingdom of light.

5. A heavenly kingdom.

6. A regular and well-governed kingdom.

7. Much hated by the devil and the world.

8. A stable, firm, and everlasting kingdom.

9. A holy kingdom.

Consider the actual execution and administration of this kingdom. By the royal authority of Zion’s King He overrules and governs all creatures and all their actions, yea, the most dark and cloudy dispensations for Ills own and His Father’s glory. With respect to His invisible kingdom of believers, there are these acts of His royal power that He puts forth.

1. He subdues them to Himself.

2. He writes His law on their hearts.

3. He enforces subjection to His laws.

4. He casts a copy of obedience unto all His subjects, and calls them to imitate Him.

5. He actuates and excites all His subjects to obedience to Him by His own spirit.

6. He meekens the hearts of His subjects to a due regard to all the intimations of His mind and will.

7. He corrects and chastens His subjects.

8. He commands peace, quiet, comfort, and deliverance to them.

Prove that Christ has a visible Church from these considerations. He Himself is visible as to His human nature. The laws, ordinances, and officers of Christ are all visible. There is a visible difference between the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of the devil. The charge that is given to ministers in the dispensation of the solemn ordinances of the New Testament proves that Christ has a visible Church. And there is a visible and open war betwixt the seed of the woman and the serpent. Notice some acts of the royal authority of Christ ill His visible kingdom. Giving the lively oracles of His Word to His visible Church. Appointing the form of its government. Appointing its officers, and the way in which they are to be chosen. Appointing ordinances, such as preaching. Appointing censures for good discipline and order in His kingdom. Authorising the officers to meet in a judicative capacity in His name for the better and joint regulating of the affairs of His kingdom. Bounding and limiting all the courts and officers of His kingdom to govern His subjects, and to teach them no other thing than He has commanded. Giving express orders unto all His subjects to examine all spirits, doctrines, laws, impositions at the bar of the Word, and to contend earnestly for the purity of His truth and worship, ordinances and institutions.

III. Why has God the Father set and ordained Him to be King in zion? This flows originally from the sovereign love and good pleasure of God. It was for the Father’s glory and honour to set Him upon the throne. It was that He might bring about salvation to His mystical body, the Church. Because His shoulders alone were able to bear the weight of the government. Seeing Christ bought the Church to Himself with the price of His blood, it was fit that the government of the Church should be committed to Him. Application--

The royalty of the Son of God

I should question whether there could be produced from either sacred or profane literature a more remarkable instance of the power of putting a great deal into a few words than this Psalm. Its theme is “the glory of the Son of God.” But that is not set forth in abstract sentences that would be crude. This is a great poem, and the theme is painted pictorially. There is not one picture, but four. They are different, yet all closely connected, and at the end are brought together into dramatic unity. The artistic balance is perfectly kept, the same number of words being given to each picture. There is no hurry or overcrowding. Every picture is painted broadly and freely, and even with a great deal of elaboration, and yet the whole Psalm only contains twelve verses. Look at the four pictures.

I. Revolt. Painted in the first three verses. The nations crowded about the Holy Land have become restive under the yoke; a spirit of disaffection has spread. The movement has come to a head, and there has been effected an immense combination of insurgent states. The second verse takes us into the council tent. At last they come to a unanimous resolution (verse 8), “Let us break their bands asunder.” That was the form of the truth; but the truth itself is perfectly modern. It is the resistance of the world to the gospel of Christ; it is the attempt of the persecutor and the traditionalist to arrest the progress of the kingdom of light and love; it is the natural enmity of your heart and mind to God and His Christ.

II. Derision. At this point the poetic originality of this Psalm reaches its climax. This second scene is in heaven. Up in heaven there is seated One who is observing all this which is going on on earth. It is a very bold stroke of imagination to represent the Deity as laughing. It is not, however, unexampled. I want to say that we do not laugh enough; we do not sympathise enough with God’s laughter: we take some things too seriously, we tremble too much for the ark of God. When someone begins vainly to give us his opinions about religion, of which he has no experience, we ought to see the ludicrous side of the matter; we should not become too angry about it.

III. Interpretation. At this point the words of the poet become most pregnant and shorthand, so to speak. The scene is again changed. We are not in heaven now. Not among the insurgents, but in the opposite camp, because it is the Anointed, the Leader of the army, who is the speaker. He says, “I will declare the decree,” and then He begins not to repeat it in the exact words, but to give the drift of it and its meaning both to it and to them. “It means this,” He says, “The Lord hath said unto Me, Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee.” Among the Hebrews the reigning sovereign was sometimes called God’s Son. No doubt all this referred originally to some Hebrew king and some crisis in his history. But beneath the words is a far more comprehensive reference to another. The reign of Christ is a reign of love. His kingdom is set up not upon the bodies, but in the hearts of men, and yet at the name of Jesus every knee must bow.

IV. Admonition. Who is speaking now? Probably the poet himself. Like the chorus in a Greek play, he draws the moral of the whole. He urges the leaders of the insurgents to pause and be admonished. They can see themselves that this enterprise of theirs is hopeless, and that it may be fatal to themselves. Therefore it pleases them to kiss the Son, that is, to give Him the sign of allegiance. It should be, “for His wrath is kindled at a little.” It is kindled by the affront shown to His Son; that He will always terribly avenge. (James Stalker, D. D.)

Christ’s kingly office

I. Christ is a King.

1. He was prophesied of in the Old Testament under this character (Genesis 49:10; Isaiah 11:1-3).

2. He was of old promised to His people under this notion.

3. He has all the ensigns of royalty, Sword, Sceptre, Crown, Escutcheon (Revelation 5:5), Throne.

4. He sealed this truth with His precious blood.

II. The nature of Christ’s kingdom. Christ has a two-fold kingdom. An essential kingdom, and an economical or mediatory kingdom. The administration is either external (general or particular) or internal in the hearts of. His people.

III. The acts of Christ’s kingly office. Subduing sinners to Himself, ruling and governing them, defending and protecting them, restraining His own and their enemies, and conquering them. Christ exercises His kingly office in ruling and governing His subjects: both externally, by laws, officers, and discipline; and internally, writing His law in their hearts, and persuading them by His spirit.

IV. Properties or qualities of Zion’s King. He is of ancient, glorious, and honourable extract. He is an absolute King, who makes laws for His subjects, but is not bound by any Himself, His will is His law. He is a wise, powerful, just, merciful, meek and patient, beautiful, opulent, everlasting King. Improvement.

1. The kings of the earth have no ground to grudge the kingdom of Christ its freedom in their dominions, seeing it is a spiritual kingdom.

2. There is a government of the Church distinct from and independent of the civil government.

3. The government of the Church is not alterable by any power on earth, civil and ecclesiastical.

4. The Church shall ride out all the storms that can blow upon her, whether from earth or hell. (T. Boston, D. D.)

Christ, King of Zion

Christ as Redeemer executes the offices of prophet, priest and king. As a king He applies the redemption He has purchased so as to secure the full and eternal blessedness of those for whom it was designed. There is a principle of aversion to the, truth that Christ is king in the heart of every regenerate man--a dislike of Christ’s spiritual authority.

I. The kingdom described as God’s holy hill of Zion. Zion was one of the hills on which Jerusalem was built. The name came to be appropriated to the temple and its courts. It is also applied to the worshippers in the temple if not to the whole inhabitants of Jerusalem. It is used to signify the Church of God. Sometimes it is applied to the visible Church, sometimes to the invisible, as Hebrews 12:22. In the text the whole Church is to be understood. The visible Church is as much Christ’s Church as the invisible. It owes its existence to Him. Christ is King of Zion, and as King of Zion He is head over all--exalted above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion.

II. The title by which He holds the kingdom. He reigns by the Father’s appointment. His dominion as King of Zion is delegated and official. It is not the dominion that belongs to Him essentially as God that is here spoken of, but the power with which He is officially invested as Mediator by the act of the Father. His dominion in this respect is the Father’s gift; bestowed on Him in fulfilment of the conditions of the everlasting covenant, as the recompense of His obedience and sufferings, as His reward for finishing the work which His Father gave Him to do. The dominion with which He is entrusted supposes His essential dignity as a Divine Person; for we cannot imagine that such dominion would ever have been committed to a mere creature. His appointment to His mediatorial throne was formally made when the covenant of grace was entered into in the counsels of eternity. It was not till His resurrection and ascension to heaven that His claim to royal dignity was fully recognised. But He exercised this authority from the beginning of time, in virtue of that atonement which He was to offer for the sins of men.

III. The administration of the kingdom. This may be viewed, either in reference to the outward organisation and arrangements of His Church or in reference to that spiritual power--that Divine resistless energy, by which He effectually accomplishes the great ends for which His kingdom has been set up, and is maintained in the world. Christ prescribes the laws and institutions of His Church, and appoints its office bearers. But outward arrangements would be ineffectual without a Divine efficacy--without the power of that Spirit who is sent by Christ, and acts in accordance with Christ’s commission.

IV. The peculiar properties of this kingdom.

1. It is a spiritual kingdom. The great design and purpose for which it has been erected is spiritual and heavenly. Human government views man in connection with this world. The kingdom of Christ views Him in connection with eternity. Its ultimate end is the advancement of the glory of God; its immediate end is the salvation of sinners.

2. It is destined to be universal. All adverse power and authority will be overthrown, all enemies vanquished, and nothing left which is not put under Him.

3. It shall last forever. It will not only continue while the earth exists; it will last through the endless ages of eternity. (James Ewing.)

Christ, the King of nations

I. Christ as King of kings, and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16). In these words we have an important part of Christ’s mediatorial character brought before us. When this name is applied to Christ we are to understand that power which Christ, as King and Head of Zion, has acquired over the nations and kingdoms of this world, The Church and the State being distinct institutions--the one being positive, expressly revealed, and exhibited in the Word of God; the other being founded on natural principles, and not on scriptural revelation--it is evident that as the rulers in the one hold their appointment directly from Christ as Mediator, so the kings and rulers in the other hold their appointment primarily from God as the Moral Governor of the world. But, whilst recognising this distinction, it does not follow that the powers which be and are ordained of God have no relation whatever to Christ as Mediator. Christ not merely the King and Head of Zion, but Christ the King of nations, by virtue of that power with which He is invested by the Father. Thus it is written, “The Father hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be Head over all things to the Church.” Christ has power over all things. He has power and authority over societies and communities, and also over nations, which occupy so important a position in the social scale. Thus kings and rulers are spoken of as holding their appointment from the Father, but in subordination to Christ the Mediator, and subject to His control--“By Me kings reign and princes decree justice” (Ephesians 1:20-21). It is true that Christ, in a very special sense, is the King and Head of Zion, but it is no less true that, in a very important sense, He is King of kings and Lord of lords. Standing in so important a relation to the Church, it is on her behalf that He takes to Himself this universal power and reigns. Holding this appointment from the Father, Christ is now exalted to the right hand of glorious power and majesty in the heavens. There He is seated on the throne, and wears the crown and sways the sceptre of universal dominion, and we are assured that all kings shall yet fall down before Him, and all nations shall serve Him. But where, it is asked, is the practical importance or application of this truth? We look abroad upon the world, and we see many nations and peoples who have never been brought to the knowledge of the truth, and who are therefore ignorant of the homage which they owe to Christ. We still say the truth is here, and must remain forever. It remains not only an unchanging truth in the Word, but shall yet become an accomplished fact in the history of every nation. What a blessed theme is here set before us for our contemplation! The kings of earth no more combining and conspiring against the Lord and His anointed, but coming with Christian loyalty to pay their tribute at the feet of King Jesus (Philippians 2:10-11). The fulfilment of these words may be in the far distant future, but of their certainty we are assured by prophecy already fulfilled in the history of those nations that had to make way for the coming of Christ.

II. Duties devolving on nations under the kingship of Christ.

1. Christian nations are bound to frame their laws in accordance with the Word of God. Every nation ought to act according to that degree of religious knowledge which it may possess. The very claims of morality and justice, the best interests of society, the welfare of kings and rulers and of all classes of their subjects, and the claims of God, the Moral Governor, demand that the laws of nations should be regulated by the Word. Was the law to be honoured under the Old Testament dispensation by one solitary nation under a theocratic government, much more shall it be honoured under the New, by many nations under many forms of civil government, but all subordinate to Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords. By obedience to the laws of the King eternal shall righteousness be promoted, and righteousness exalteth a nation.

2. Christian nations are to be interested in the advancement of Christ’s spiritual kingdom.

III. By way of improvement of the subject, let us see its great importance.

1. It is of the highest importance, because it is frequently and clearly revealed in the Word. Its certainty does not rest on a few solitary passages of Scripture, but large and consecutive portions are employed to describe the power and glory of Christ, the King of nations.

2. It has been important in the past history and contendings of the Church.

3. Nor is the truth of less importance in the present day. The Kingship of Christ over the nations has become a present truth. There is undoubtedly a spirit abroad in the land in opposition to it. Men in Church and State have condemned the very principle.

4. But in a word, it is of growing importance. It will become still more important when its certainty has been established and its application fully and gloriously carried out. As we have already seen, it is frequently the theme of prophecy. And so, fathers and brethren, believing as we do in the faithfulness of God and in the fulfilment of His Word, we must believe His own prediction--“In His times He shall show who is blessed and only potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords.” The works of nature, the discoveries of science, the achievements of art, the efforts of earth’s mightiest nations and of the Church universal, shall yet combine to promote the interests of King Jesus. And in prospect of this happy period, shall we say the subject is of no importance? If we are to be indifferent to it, what is to become of the Church’s prayer, “Thy kingdom come,”? (C. S. Findlay.)

Christ’s kingly office

I. The nature of Christ’s kingly office.

1. It is not simply as God, but as Mediator--as God-man--that Christ executes the kingly office, and exercises supreme dominion, and is entitled to the profoundest homage and the most implicit submission. Christ’s kingship as Mediator is different from His eternal and unchangeable dominion as God, and rests upon a different foundation. We are to regard Christ’s kingly office as properly and fully developed at the time when God raised Him up, and gave Him glory, and seated Him at His own right hand. Christ has been invested with the uncontrolled administration of the moral government of the world. He exerts and displays His kingly power--

II. Practical application. To receive Christ in His different offices is just to act in the manner in which the contemplation of Him in His different characters is fitted to lead us to adopt. Advert to the encouraging and consolatory reflections which the contemplation of Christ’s supreme dominion is fitted to call forth with reference to the general state of His visible Church, and the interests of religion in the world. (W. Cunningham, D. D.)

The King and the kingdom

I. The character of this King.

1. His sovereignty; as appears from prophecy, types, titles, enemies, and strangers.

2. His attestations of royalty; His enthronement, throne, coronation, sceptre, laws, courts, officers, power, and His universal sway.

3. His characters and qualifications. An ancient, wise, righteous, gracious, sympathising, rich, present, invisible and immortal, independent, warlike, glorious King.

II. The Kingdom. “My holy hill of Zion.” It denotes a place of safety; a place of society, of unity, of commerce; a free orderly, peaceable, warlike, beautiful kingdom. It is called Christ’s kingdom, because dwells there; He built it; He governs it; it is His property, and the inhabitants are His.

III. Why the Father constituted Christ the King of His zion. This springs out of His sovereign love to Him; to advance His own glory; to save His own people. Because Christ could sustain it, and when lost He redeemed it.

IV. The improvement intended.

1. To the inhabitants. Follow the example of your Prince. Trust your all in His care. Constantly surround His throne. Rejoice in His presence. Obey His commandments; and rest always in His love.

2. To His enemies. You oppose Him, but He will subdue you. You reject Him and He will reject you. You are miserable in this life, and will be in the next, unless His Spirit gain the victory over you. (T. B. Baker.)

Christ’s kingdom

Jesus is King as well as Saviour. He requires subjects. They must know something of the nature, as well as the duties, of His kingdom. Two important questions call for consideration: What are the characteristics of Christ’s kingdom, and what relation do we individually sustain toward it?

I. Christ’s kingdom enjoys the approval and sanction of God. He declares, “Yet have I set My King upon My holy hill of Zion.” Jesus comes to the throne in an orderly way. He is no usurper. He rules in harmony with the will, and by “the decree” of Him who is Lord of all.

II. Christ is King by inheritance. He is God’s “Son,” His “only begotten Son,” and so is entitled to rule,

III. Christ, as King, proclaims His authority: “The Lord hath said.” he administers the affairs of government as one divinely endowed. He is Divine, and so possessed of omniscience and omnipotence.

IV. His is an extensive kingdom: “The heathen,” or the nations, “are given Him for an inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for a possession.”

V. His is a judicial, as well as a saving kingdom: His enemies shall be broken with “a rod of iron,” and dashed “to pieces like a potter’s vessel,” which, made of clay, cannot withstand forced contact with the hard ground.

VI. Earth’s forces antagonise Christ’s kingdom.

1. The heathen rise up in opposition to it.

2. It is subject to popular machinations for its overthrow.

3. Men in high station and leaders in public opinion conspire against it.

VII. Christ’s is a victorious kingdom. “The Lord” and His “anointed,” or the Messiah, are independent of hostile agencies. “He that sitteth in the heavens shall have them in derision.” He, however, gives them reminders of His presence and power, speaking at times to “them in His Wrath,” and at other times vexing “them in His sore displeasure.” A kingdom so Divine, so potential, so extensive, and so gracious is not to be treated with indifference. It bears upon every person in the wide universe of God. It concerns man’s weal or woe. Its proper consideration demands of us personally--

1. Wise action.

2. Due enlightenment.

3. Judicious service.

4. Considerate delight.

5. Timely subjection.

6. Implicit trustfulness. (H. M. Patterson, D. D.)

The King in Zion

The following points determine the principal features of the picture which the Psalmist draws for us. In the centre is the King of Zion. All around Him is the raging crowd of rebels and conspirators, who have set themselves against high heaven, and who will overturn His throne if they can do it. In His struggle with these enemies of righteousness He is to exercise a double power: a power of blessing and a power of condemnation. By the exercise of this dual power He is at length to conquer completely. It does not require a very vivid imagination to find in the history of the past eighteen hundred years the colours and the figures which are wanting to fill out, in part at least, this prophetic sketch of the progress of Christ’s kingdom here upon earth. Take, for example, the conflict which Christ has been waging against evil. It is evident that the Church has emerged from her darkest days into the first clear shining of her millennial glory. How has the King in Zion achieved His triumph? He was endowed at the outset with a power to bless and a power to destroy. His office was to be not only that of a Saviour King, but a kingly Judge. This is the dual character in which they who look for His second coming have always expected He would appear. With Christ came a new sense of sin and evil. Christ flashes His light into the soul, and there comes the discrimination between the good the bad. We are receiving approval or condemnation for every act done in the body now. The parable of the sheep and the goats is being enacted now, every day: Judgment is one of the most solemn facts of this present life. (C. A. Dickinson.)

The enemies of Christ

I. The enemies of Christ. Great men described here partly from their wickedness, and partly from their weakness. They imagine vain things, but cannot carry then: out.

II. Christ the Lord. The prophet brings in God the Father speaking, and the Son answering. The words of the Father are, “I have set My King”; where we have the inauguration of Christ, or His calling to the crown: the answer of the Son, “I will preach the law,” which sets forth His willing obedience to publish and proclaim the laws of the kingdom: the reply of the Father, containing the reward that Christ was to have upon the publication of the gospel; which was an addition to His empire, by the conversion and access of the Gentiles, and the confusion of His enemies.

III. Admonition to the princes and judges of the earth. What are they taught? To know their duty, and to do it. And the time for doing it is now. The reason is double, drawn from His wrath and the consequent punishment, and from the happy condition of those who learn to know Him, and fear, and serve, and adore Him. (William Nicholson.)

Christ the fulfilment of prophecy

On an artist’s table some colours are lying. You glance at them, and that is all, for to you they have no meaning. A month after you come in, and you are attracted by a beautiful picture. The picture has been painted with the colours you saw before, but how different it is now when they are harmoniously blended. So Jesus Christ gathers into harmony in Himself the before ill-understood prophecies and types of the Old Testament; only then we see what they fully rueful.

Christ the King

Dean Stubbs says, “When I was in Florence a year or two ago I saw on the outside of the town hall the sacred monogram, marking the spot where in former days were the words, ‘Jesus Christ, appointed by the Senate the King of the Florentines.’ And on the battlements of the tower I could still read the Latin inscription referring to the same event, ‘Jesus Christ, the King of Glory; He conquers, He reigns, He rules.’” By a solemn civic act the old Florentines chose Christ as the King of their city, and we shall never know personal, social, or civic progress until we too give Him the preeminence.


Verse 7

Psalms 2:7

I will declare the decree.

The Lord’s decree

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. The law is first beneficent, and then retributive. It is beneficent because it contemplates the recovery and sanctification of the heathen and the uttermost parts of the earth. It is retributive because if this offer of enclosure and honour is rejected, those who despise it shall be broken with a rod of iron, and dashed to pieces like a potter’s vessel. In the study of the world’s constitution and movement, look first of all at the Lord’s “decree,” the Lord’s idea and purpose. Settle it that the decree is good, merciful, redemptive, and then judge everything in the light of that fact. If you were judging of a national constitution you would not pronounce it bad became of its prisons; you would, on the contrary, pronounce it good for that very reason. You would know that there was a strong authority in that land, and that the authority was good, because it imprisoned and rebuked the workers of evil. So the rod of iron attests the holiness of God, and hell itself shows that virtue is honoured of heaven. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)

The Lord hath said unto Me, Thou art My Son.--

Demonstration of sonship

At the beginning of the Book of Psalms God gave to the Church a vision of the triumphs of Messiah before that of His sufferings and death. The prospect cheers as we enter the gloom. “My King” was also “My Son.” This was determined by the resurrection, as the crowning act of redemption. It was the resurrection which made manifest to the world that Jesus of Nazareth was the Eternal Son of Jehovah.

I. The resurrection of the blessed Lord was the final attestation of His Divine mission and in one sense the strongest. Proof after proof was afforded that He was the Son of God; but without the resurrection the chain of evidence was not complete. The life was restored, not through the instrumentality of a prophet, but because He was the Son of God.

II. The resurrection is the life of the Church. The disciples were scattered by the storm of the crucifixion. The dispersion would have been final had it not been for the word He had said, “The third day He shall rise again.” A new departure was taken at the sight of the living Lord. The commission of the apostles was given in the light of the resurrection. They were to be accompanied by both His power and His presence. There must be the living Christ in the sermon, to make the truth effectual; in the ordinances, to render them spiritual; in the services, to inspire them into life; and in the conduct, to cause its light to shine on a dark world.

III. The resurrection of the blessed Lord is the Christian’s strength and hope. A very exalted conception of redemption should be entertained. It is the gift of God to the Eternal Son. When the living Saviour is at our side we have power to carry our burdens, and to resist the devil. (Weekly Pulpit.)

Preaching the law

I. The general matter of the sermon. It is a law. What manner of law? A law to be preached, as other laws used not to be. A law concerning what God said. Which is the reason why it is to be preached. Not a law at large, but a statute law (Elchok), which but by publishing none can take notice of.

II. The text itself. Or the body of the law. In these words, “Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee. The points in it are five. Of a son. Of My Son, (that is) the Son of God. Genui, the Son of God begotten. Hodie, the Son of God this day begotten. And “dixit genui,” (that is) “dicendo genuit,” begotten only by saying. Only said the word and it was done, and the word became flesh.

III. How can this (Thou art My Son) be called a law? It does not look like one. There be but two laws--

1. Lex fidei; a law limiting what to believe of Him: of His person, His nature, and His offices.

2. Lex factorum; setting out first, what He doth for us; and then, what we are to do for Him. What He doth for us is, convey all filial rights. What we are to do for Him is, return to Him all filial duties. (Bishop Andrewes.)


Verse 8

Psalms 2:8

Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance.

The Church aroused to the missionary work

I. The Lord’s intercession, in reference to missionary enterprise. The great object of missionary enterprise is the subject of our Saviour’s intercession. The object is the diffusion of the knowledge of Christianity throughout the world; that by means of the knowledge of Christianity, accompanied by the influence of the Divine Spirit, mankind of all nations may be converted to the faith and obedience of Christ, and be made wise, and happy, and good through Him. It is but natural to suppose that what was the leading design of our Lord in becoming incarnate, and suffering, and dying should be a subject of His intercessory prayers. Missionary enterprise, in the grand means by which these objects are to be effected, is one of the principal subjects of our Lord’s intercessions. Secondary means are varied; the primary means is the Divine influence. In proportion to the degree in which this is communicated, missionary enterprise is prosperous; in proportion to the degree in which it is withheld, it languishes. And the communication of Divine influence was a leading object of our Lord’s atonement, and must be a leading subject of His intercession.

II. The dignity and importance of missionary enterprise. It is a clear proof of the estimation in which our Lord holds missionary enterprise, that it is the subject of constant intercession with His Father. In endeavouring to promote missionary enterprise we are doing something that is very pleasing to our Lord and Saviour. We may be sure that we shall have all the assistance that is necessary in order to perform our duty in reference to this undertaking. And the fact of our Lord’s intercession gives us the most abundant assurance that this undertaking will ultimately be completely successful. (John Brown, A. M.)

Prayer glorified by Christ’s example

It became Jesus to ask. Though He was a Son, yet learned He obedience. Many objections are made to prayer. Some of them are specious, but all are founded on ignorance. The best way to meet them is to take our stand on the Scriptures. God did not dispense with prayer, even in the ease of His Son. Therefore, how much more not with us. But how was He to ask? On earth He prayed like us. In heaven He continues His prayer. And here, through His people, He prays. And His prayers and ours rest on His atonement. Therefore He asks in His own name, and we in His. Let us be encouraged to pray. But let our prayers lead us to active endeavour. We cannot labour in vain. (W. Jay.)

The heathen for Christ

Here is a wonderful donation. The giver is Jehovah, the receiver is the world’s Redeemer, and the gift is the heathen world--mighty populations lying outside of the Judaean realm. What an inheritance is this, and it is given to Christ!

I. This vast inheritance is given Him to cultivate.

1. This inheritance is worth cultivation. It is most prolific, its potential value is immense. It will grow the highest wisdom and the noblest virtues. Sages, poets, orators, apostles lie there by millions.

2. The cultivation of this inheritance has been sadly neglected. The fences are destroyed, the surface is crusted and overrun with thorns and thistles and noxious weeds.

3. Christ alone is able to cultivate it. Others have tried, but failed.

Christ gives to the soul of heathendom that which it wants, and that which none other can give--

1. A Deity in which all hearts can unite in supreme love.

2. A creed in which all intellects can repose with unwavering confidence.

3. A law which all consciences can approve without suspicion.

4. An enterprise in which all souls can work without hesitancy or lack of interest.

II. This vast inheritance is given Him to enjoy. It is a possession of immense value. It will be His as the reward of His mediatorial work. When its vast wildernesses will bloom as Edens, “He will see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied.” What a joy will be His! Think of the joy of the husbandman surveying in autumn his fields bearing the richest crops of golden grain. Think of me joy of the patriot when he beholds the rebellious provinces bowing again in loyalty to the sovereignty of his country. Think of the joy of the philanthropist in seeing his benevolent efforts crowned with success in the removal of diseases that afflict the body or tyrannies that crush the man. (Homilist.)

Christ’s inheritance

I. Christ is decreed to be the Son of Jehovah. As such He is both Priest and King. “Christ toward us,” says Gurnall, “acts as a King, but toward His Father as a Priest.”

II. As the Son He is promised an inheritance. This inheritance includes all the nations of the earth.

III. But though He is a King and has a promised inheritance, yet His government is to be established by the use of means.

1. These means are the means of grace.

2. These are to be offered to every creature on the earth.

3. We live in that epoch of the world’s history when the Church is actively engaged in having all men reconciled to the Son through the preaching of the gospel.

IV. The time will come when His enemies will be subdued.

1. The Church, therefore, should be diligent in the performances of its present duties.

2. The world should heed the offers of grace ere it be too late.

3. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.

4. Let us wait upon God in prayer for the fulfilment of His promise to give the Son the heathen for His inheritance. (L. O. Thompson.)

The uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession.--

Final triumph of Christianity

This assured--

I. By the promises of the Bible, which are many, explicit, positive, and world-embracing.

II. By the Divine origin and character of Christianity. Christianity is on trial; if it fails to fulfil its promises, then it will be demonstrated that it is not of God.

III. By the measure of success which it has already achieved. There is nothing comparable with it. It saves “the chief of sinners.” It transforms savages, demons, into saints. Christianity thus stands committed to the achievement of universal dominion. (J. M. Sherwood, D. D.)

Prayer for missions

I believe I am speaking to the right people when I ask you to pray. Unprayed for, I feel very much as if a diver were sent down to the bottom of a river with no air to breathe, or as if a fireman were sent up to a blazing building and held an empty hose; I feel very much as a soldier who is firing blank cartridge at an enemy, and so I ask you earnestly to pray that the gospel may take saving and working effect on the minds of those men to whose notice it has been introduced by us. (James Gilmour.)

Universal dominion of Christ

The boldest thought ever suggested to the human mind is Christ’s proposition to convert this world to Himself. For originality of conception, simplicity of method, and certainty of result it has no parallel in the world of thought. Bolder than the dream of the Macedonian to conquer all kingdoms by his sword, than the purpose of the Roman to unify all governments into one, than the hope of Leibnitz to create a universal language for this our babbling race, it stands forth sublime in its isolation, to excite our admiration, inflame our zeal, invite our cooperation, and inspire our faith in the future of mankind. (J. P. Newman.)


Verse 9

Psalms 2:9

Break them with a rod of iron.

Jehovah’s iron rod

This cannot mean that Messiah’s sway is a kingdom of force, but only that His enemies can no more withstand His power than an earthen vessel can withstand the blows of an iron rod. His only weapons of assault are truth and love; and if human power and institutions crumble at their touch and pass away, it is because there is something radically evil and defective in them. The northern oceans are often filled with mountains of ice, reaching not only far down into the deep, but towering also to the very clouds, and threatening to crush to atoms everything with which they come into collision. Nevertheless, how soon do a few days of the light and heat of the sun rob them of their strength, leaving the frailest barque to speed on its way over unobstructed waters! It is in this way that the Sun of Righteousness operates. By light and heat and truth and love He clears the way over the frozen oceans of human life, for the onward progress of the ark of His salvation to the haven where it would be. The only way in which Messiah can be said to break His enemies with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel, is His leaving them to the natural and fearful destruction that flows from resisting truth and love, the two great laws of His kingdom, and indeed the two great laws of all well-being. (David Caldwell, A. M.)

Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.

The power and triumph of the kingdom of Christ

All things are at God’s disposal--all nations, all men, collectively and individually. It is God who plants and destroys; it is He who builds up and pulls down. We learn from the Psalm that all things are at the disposal of God the Son. God the Father has given to Him the heathen for His inheritance,. . .and He shall break them with a rod of iron, He shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. In Isaiah it is said (Isaiah 60:12), “For the nation and kingdom that shall not serve Thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.” The Canaanites, the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans would not serve God, and they have perished. Kingdoms which will not serve Christ must be destroyed to make way for those who will serve Him. The kingdom of Christ will, sooner or later, swallow up all other kingdoms. The power of Christ’s kingdom, the power of His Word, is in a measure conferred upon His believing people. Christ has given to His believing people great power and influence in the earth. The Word of God is powerful; it is irresistible. If the Word of God be once deeply rooted in the hearts of a people it there abideth forever. God has wonderfully shielded England from danger ever since His Word became deeply rooted ill the land. God breaks the power of ungodly nations that He may break men’s hearts of stone. He destroys the kingdoms of this world in order to establish and enlarge the kingdom of this dear Son. To change the heart is the work of God. He must go with the missionaries. But much depends on our faith--our faith in God’s promises. (R. Bickerdike, M. A.)

The powers of evil broken

Rods of iron crashing down upon the heads of men, dashing them in pieces like a potter’s vessel, are figures of speech that seem to be very unlike the merciful methods of entreaty and persuasion by which Christ’s kingdom is advanced on the earth; but we have need to remember that the Saviour is also the Judge. Not only in the future world, but also in this, history shows that the fate of nations has been determined by their attitude to Christ. While with individuals force is never to be employed as an instrument to conquer opposition, it is equally certain that in the providence of God antagonism to God’s will inevitably leads a nation ultimately to its destruction. Though the hand that smites it is hidden behind political movements, in which perhaps nothing can be seen save the passions of men urging them into conflict, yet when the smoke of the battlefield has rolled away, and the strife has ended, there stands out this great truth: “Thou dashest them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Nothing that sets itself against the Christ of God can ever last. (E. R. Barrett, B. A.)


Verse 10

Psalms 2:10

Be wise now therefore, O ye kings.

Heavenly wisdom

Wisdom is the mind’s eye, by which she wyeth into all the secrets of nature and mysteries of State, and discerneth between good and evil, and prudently guideth all the affairs of life, as the helm doth a ship. She is the chief of the four cardinal virtues; and may rightly be termed the hinge that turns them all about. There are these four virtues--wisdom to direct, justice to correct, temperance to abstain, fortitude to sustain. Wisdom giveth a good relish to virtue. Discretion is the salt of all our actions, without which nothing that is done or spoken is savoury. What doth pregnancy of wit, or maturity of judgment, or felicity of memory, or variety of reading, or multiplicity of observation, or gracefulness of delivery, speed a man that wanteth wisdom and discretion to use them? In Scriptures a fourfold wisdom is mentioned. Godly wisdom is piety. Worldly wisdom is policy. Fleshly wisdom is sensuality. Devilish wisdom is mischievous subtlety. Of this heavenly light, this godly wisdom, we will display four beams--

1. To begin with our end, and to provide for our eternal estate after this life, in the first place.

2. To inform ourselves certainly how we stand in the court of heaven: whether God’s countenance shine upon us, or there be a cloud betwixt it and us.

3. To consider what infirmities or maladies of mind our natural constitution, state, place, or profession, or course of life maketh us most subject unto, and to furnish ourselves with store of remedies against them. To mark where we lie most open to temptation, and there to have our watch ready.

4. To observe the carriage of all affairs in this great city of the world, and to set a mark upon God’s wonderful protection and care over the godly, and His fearful judgments upon the wicked. (D. Featley, D. D.)


Verse 11

Psalms 2:11

Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

Antagonistic forces

The scientist tells us that the laws of nature are arranged on the principle of antagonistic forces; and it is somewhat thus with the laws of the Christian life.

I. The two states of feeling referred to.

1. Fear. There are two kinds, servile and filial. The latter is indicated here. A noble sensitiveness, an anxious consciousness, a salutary apprehensiveness.

2. “And rejoice with trembling,” that is, with diffidence.

II. These two states of feeling are not incompatible. They are only apparently so. How often in nature contradictory materials and forces blend--hydrogen and oxygen, nitrogen and oxygen. Attraction and repulsion are really complementary, and not contradictory.

III. They are essential to the security and development of the Christian life. They not only may, but ought, to exist together.

1. We ought to fear. The brighter the star the more it trembles.

2. And we ought to rejoice. “Fear without joy is torment, and joy without holy fear would be presumption.” (W. L. Watkinson.)

The reverence due to Divine Providence

Fear, very necessary for us all. Yet not inordinate fear. Religion regulates it and God’s Word cautions us against superstitious terrors (Jeremiah 10:2-3). But we are to take notice of what He does and learn His will thereby. Many fail to do this by the common events of His providence; hence special and extraordinary ones are, at times, sent to us. Men avoid the lessons of them. They say “They did not do us harm.” But others may come and destroy you. And is not the fact of such forbearance a reason for not despising them? “But they are natural,” say others, And are not life and death natural? Terror alone is of no use, but generally the first motive of reformation. “But our dangers do not proceed from our sins: we are no worse than others”--so speak some. Are we sure that we are not greater sinners than others? Think of our national sins. Some would fly away from God’s judgments. Fly from your iniquities, if you would be safe. Some are afraid to express their convictions lest the world despise them. But take care lest our Lord’s words concerning them who deny Him before men apply to you. You are not called to forsake your proper duties, nor even relaxations, but your absorption in these things. Fear not man. The good will not shun you. Let the rest do so. Examine your state of heart. All is well if that be right with God. If not, humble yourself before Hint. (T. Secker.)

Divine service

I. The universal obligation. “No man liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.” We cannot even die without affecting others, much less can we live without influencing to a greater or less degree the condition and character of those by whom we are surrounded. This is not merely a fact, it is a law. There may be individual unwillingness, as in the case of a miser; or the principle may be socially counter-wrought. All classes unite in working for the common good; knowing it or not, whether they be willing or not, all serve the state-unity which they compose. In the language of the text, the business of all created life is to “serve the Lord.”

II. Particular obedience.

1. To serve God consciously.

2. To serve God reverently. Think how great and how good a Master! Our particular place and work may be humble; yet the whole is sublime. Angels, free from all distraction in the sinless world, are working at the grander parts; our work and theirs are yet to be brought together. Ours, therefore, must be our very best, or better be left undone.

3. To serve God fearfully. As having failed, and yet having been forgiven. As having promised better things, and yet as knowing ourselves weak; and finally, as bearing in mind the testing time. (J. M. Stott, M. A.)

Christian reverence

In a Christian’s course fear and love must go together. In heaven, love will absorb fear. No one now can love God aright without fearing Him. Self-confident men, who do not know their own hearts, or the reasons they have for being dissatisfied with themselves, do not fear God, and they think this bold freedom is to love Him. Deliberate sinners fear, but cannot love Him. But devotion to Him consists in love and fear, as we may understand from our ordinary attachment to each other. No one really loves another who does not feel a certain reverence towards him. It is mutual respect which makes friendship lasting. So again in the feelings of inferiors towards superiors. Fear must go before love. Till he who has authority shows he has it and can use it, his forbearance will not be valued truly: his kindness will look like weakness. We learn to contemn what we do not fear, and we cannot love what we contemn. So in religion also, We cannot understand Christ’s mercies till we understand His power, His glory, His unspeakable holiness, and our demerits; that is, until we first fear Him. Not that fear comes first, and then love; for the most part they will proceed together. Fear is allayed by the love of Him, and our love sobered by our fear of Him. Thus He draws us on with encouraging voice amid the terrors of His threatenings. Are we in danger of speaking or thinking of Christ irreverently? We may not be in danger of deliberate profaneness, but we are in danger of this, namely, of allowing ourselves to appear profane, and of gradually becoming irreverent while we are pretending to be so. Careless language cannot be continued without its affecting the heart at last. Men become the cold, indifferent, profane characters they professed themselves to be. (J. H. Newman, B. D.)

Rejoice with trembling.

The mixture of joy and fear in religion

Joy and fear are two great springs of human action. The mixed condition of this world gives scope for both. Each of them possesses a proper place in religion. Under the present imperfection of human nature each of these principles may be carried to a dangerous extreme. When the whole of religion is placed in joy it is in hazard of rising into unwarrantable rapture. When it rests altogether on fear it degenerates into superstitious servility. Joy tempered with fear is the proper disposition of a good man.

I. Joy is essential to religion. Religion inspires joy. It confers the two most material requisites of joy, a favourable situation of things without and a proper disposition of mind within. It infuses those mild and gentle dispositions whose natural effect is to smooth the temper of the soul. Benevolence and candour, moderation and temperance, wherever they reign, produce cheerfulness and serenity, The consciousness of integrity gives ease and freedom to the mind. As religion inspires joy, so what it inspires it commands us to cherish. Religious obedience, destitute of joy, is not genuine in its principle. We serve with pleasure the benefactor whom we love. Exclude joy from religion and you leave no other motives to it, except compulsion and interest. As religion destitute of joy is imperfect in its principle, so in practice it must be unstable. In vain you endeavour to fix any man to the regular performance of that in which he finds no pleasure. Bind him ever so fast by interest or fear, he will contrive some method of eluding the obligation. Estimate, therefore, the genuineness of your religious principles; estimate the degree of your stability in religious practice, by the degree of your satisfaction in piety and virtue.

II. When we rejoice we should rejoice with trembling.

1. Because all the objects of religion which afford ground for joy tend to inspire, at the same time, reverence and fear.

2. As joy, tempered by fear, suits the nature of religion, so it is requisite for the proper regulation of the conduct of man. Let his joy flow from the best and purest source, yet, if it remain long unmixed, it is apt to become dangerous to virtue, It is wisely ordered in our present state that joy and fear, hope and grief should act alternately as checks and balances upon each other, in order to prevent all excess in any of them which our nature could not bear.

3. The unstable condition of all human beings, naturally inspires fear in the midst of joy. Vicissitudes of good and evil, of trials and consolations, fill up man’s life. Whether we consider life or death, time or eternity, all things appear to concur in giving to man the admonition of the text, “rejoice with trembling.” (Hugh Blair, D. D.)


Verse 12

Psalms 2:12

Kiss the Son, lest He be angry.

The symbol of the kiss

I. Our duty. “Kiss the Son.” An expression of love. To whom? The Son of God. The testimony of our love to this person is the kiss. This outward act has been diversely depraved and vitiated amongst men. It hath been ill-used. See cases of Joab with Amasa, and Judas with Christ. Treachery often, but licentiousness more, hath depraved this seal of love; and yet God stoops even to the words of our foul and unchaste love, that thereby He might raise us to the heavenly love of Himself and His Son. In innocent and harmless times persons near in blood did kiss one another. There is no person so near of kin to thee as Jesus Christ. The kiss was also in use as a recognition of sovereignty and power. There is the kiss of reconciliation. They kissed in reverence, in the olden times, even false gods.

II. Our fear. “Lest He be angry.” Anger and love, in God, are not incompatible. Anger consists with love. If God gave me nothing for my love I should not love Him, nor fear Him if He were not angry at my displeasing Him. Even the Son, whom we may kiss, may be angry. (John Donne.)

An earnest invitation

I. The command. A kiss has divers meanings in it, progressive meanings--

1. It is a kiss of reconciliation, a sign of enmity removed and of peace established.

2. A kiss of allegiance and homage. It is an Eastern custom for subjects to kiss the feet of the king. Christ requires of every man who would be saved that he shall yield to His government and rule. Salvation cannot be cut in twain, If you would have justification you must have sanctification too. If your sins are pardoned they must be abhorred. You must give Him the kiss of fealty, of homage, and loyalty, and take Him to be your King.

3. It is the kiss of worship. It was the custom for idolaters to kiss the god which they foolishly adored. The commandment is that we should give to Christ Divine worship.

4. There is another meaning which is the sweetest of all. It is the kiss of penitent love; of deep and sincere affection.

II. The argument. “Lest He be angry,” etc. When He is angry it is anger that none can match. What a fearful conjunction of terms--“the wrath of the Lamb.”

III. The benediction. “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.”

1. They are really blessed. It is no fiction, no imaginary blessing. It is a blessing that will stand the test of consideration, the test of life and the trial of death.

2. They have a conscious blessedness. They know what it is to be blessed in their troubles, for they are in their trials comforted; and they are blest in their joys, for their joys are sanctified.

3. They are increasingly blessed. Their blessedness grows. They are blessed the more their experience widens, and their knowledge deepens, and their love increases. They are blessed in the hour of death, and best of all their blessedness increases to eternal blessedness--the perfection of the saints at the right hand of God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

A timely remonstrance

The words were spoken, to those who had wilfully opposed the reign of our Saviour, the Son of God, the Lord’s anointed. They had determined to reject Him. Hence the warning--“Be wise now, therefore; be instructed; do listen a little.” Every wise man, before he commits himself to defend or withstand a policy, would make quite sure, as far as human judgment can, whether it be right or wrong; to be desired or to be deprecated. These words were spoken to those who ought to have been wise--to kings and judges of the earth. We are none of us so wise but we may profit by a little more instruction. He that cannot learn from a fool is a fool himself. The text has an especial reference to those who are thoughtless and careless about their best interests. People do not think. Some of them bold to the religion of their ancestors, whatever that may be. Not conviction, but tradition shapes their ends. Others are of the religion of the circle in which they live. Man seems to think of everything but of his God, to read everything but his Bible. Oh, when will men consider? The advice given in the text is--“rebel no more against God.” You have done so some of you, actively and wilfully, others of you by ignoring His claims and utterly neglecting His will. It is not right to continue in this rebellious state. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Here is the pith of the advice--“Kiss the Son, pay Him homage; yield the affectionate fealty of your hearts to the Son of God.” Between you and the great King there is an awful breach. God will deal with you through His Son. You must have an advocate. This advice is urgent. How is this advice pressed home upon us. The vanity of any other course is made palpable. The claims of the Son are presented. The exhortation is backed up with bright and beautiful congratulations for those who yield to it. “Blessed are all they who put their trust in Him.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The soul’s kiss (to children)

The first three verses give a life-like picture of a great mob or riot. The kings of the earth become unkingly, and join the rabble against the Lord and His anointed. From the tenth verse Jehovah gives advice to all on the earth.

I. What it is to kiss the Son. When you kiss your mother it is a sign of love. When a friend brings you a present, you speak your thanks with a kiss. A kiss, then, is a sign of grateful love. A kiss is in some countries a sign of loyalty. In England the hand of the sovereign is kissed. To kiss the Son means much. You thereby give Him your all, and get it back with His goodwill. True loyalty is without selfishness, and without stint. Loyalty never means, how little can I do for my king? It asks only how much?

II. Why you should kiss the Son. Because Christ’s foes are under God’s wrath. In this Psalm David shows us the terrors of God, so that fear may drive us to Him. And because Christ’s friends are blessed. Blessed every way and blessed always. It is as plain as day that if all kissed the Son the most of our miseries would straightway cease. Count up all the ills of life, and then ask how many of them could continue if the Spirit of Christ ruled in every heart. But the true subjects of the King are not all blessed in the same way. God does promise that, come what may, all who kiss the Son shall be blessed. The curse and the blessing unite to add force to the appeal, “Kiss the Son.” (James Wells, M. A.)

Christ’s wrath kindled

You have heard of the prairie burning. The traveller has lit his fire and dropped a spark--the fire is kindled but a little, and a small circle of flame is formed. You cannot judge what will be the mighty catastrophe, when the sheet of flame shall cover half the continent. But mark that when it is kindled “but a little,” it is enough to utterly destroy, for they shall perish from the way. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Blessed are all they who put their trust in Him.

The blessedness of trusting in God

Whether this Psalm has a primary respect to David, and the establishment of his kingdom on Mount Zion, or should be entirely referred to Messiah, is a point on which expositors are not agreed. The passage is quoted and expressly applied to Christ by the whole college of apostles, after they had received the plenary inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The act of trust is so familiar to all that it requires no explanation. Two things are implied in trusting. A conviction of need and a sense of dependence. A persuasion of the goodwill, ability, and fidelity of the person in whom we trust. The exercise of a saving faith is not more frequently expressed by any term than by trust. Man is so dependent on Providence for the common blessings of this life that trust in God for these is the state of mind which is becoming. In regard to spiritual and eternal blessings, our dependence is still greater; for man has already lost the favour of God, and has fallen under His dreadful curse. The inability of his heart and will, so far from furnishing any excuse to the sinner is the chief ground of his criminality. A three-fold misery is common to all the children of Adam--blindness, deadness, guilt. To qualify himself as a physician to cure the threefold malady, Christ has assumed as Mediator a threefold office, namely--of a prophet, priest, and king; and in this threefold office the sinner must trust in Him for salvation. All men need a refuge to which they may flee for safety; and happy are they who have been so made sensible of their danger and misery that they are anxiously seeking a place of safety. They cannot escape by their own wisdom or power, and no other creature has ability to rescue them from ruin. Whither, then, shall they turn? There is no hope but in the gospel of salvation. Sin cannot escape punishment in the just government of a holy God. But sin may be punished in an adequate substitute. It has been punished in our Divine Surety. The satisfaction is complete. Trust in the Redeemer supposes that He has manifested in some way a willingness to save us. In order that trust have a firm foundation it is requisite that there should be explicit promises of relief. Such promises are especially necessary in the case of the sinner. We find the gospel full of kind invitations and gracious promises to all who will come and receive salvation as a free gift. The first views of faith are not always clear; commonly the first light is like that of the dawn, which gradually increases. They who have once found Christ, and trusted in Him, however they may be tossed with temptations or distressed by doubts of their acceptance, never think of any refuge but Christ; they never attempt to build on another foundation. The believer also trusts in Christ for future help and future good. As to the blessedness of those who trust in the Redeemer, we note--

1. They have received the forgiveness of sin.

2. They have the indwelling of the Spirit of God.

3. They are the special care of Divine Providence.

4. They enjoy inward peace.

5. When they leave the world they shall be blessed in the open vision of God’s glory.

They shall be perfectly cleansed from the pollutions of sin, and when they shall see their Saviour they shall be like Him, for they shall see Him as He is. (A. Alexander, D. D.)
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Psalms 3:1-8

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 2:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/psalms-2.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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