Theme: A Messianic Psalm
In this week’s studies we are reminded of the sinful folly and the tragic results that await all those who live in rebellion against God, and of the need to bow before the Lord Jesus Christ in grateful submission.
Scripture: Psalm 2:1-12
There is a debate among Old Testament scholars as to whether Psalm 2 can be considered messianic. That is, does it speak specifically of Jesus Christ? This is a complicated question which we will deal with again in our expositions of other psalms. But I say at the outset that if any psalm can rightly be regarded as messianic, it is this one. Psalm 2 speaks of the rebellion of the world’s rulers against God’s Anointed–the actual word is “Messiah”1–and of the Father’s decree to give his Son dominion over them.
This determination, plus the psalm’s ready application to the hostile circumstances of their day, made the second psalm the one most quoted by the writers of the New Testament. In the most extensive reference, the first two verses were cited by the believers in a thanksgiving prayer following the release of Peter and John by the Sanhedrin: “Sovereign Lord…you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.” In the next verses these early Christians applied this prophesied rebellion to the conspiracy of “Herod and Pontius Pilate…with the Gentiles and the people of Israel…against…Jesus” (Acts 4:25-27).
The author of Hebrews applied verse 7 to Jesus twice, saying, “For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father'” (Heb. 1:5)? And again, “So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father” (Heb. 5:5). Psalm 2 is also referred to frequently in Revelation (for example, Rev. 1:5; Rev. 2:27; Rev. 12:5, and other less specific references). Augustine called Jesus iste cantator psalmorum (“himself, the singer of the psalms”). That is explicitly true of Psalm 2, since this psalm is not only about Jesus, but he himself speaks in it.
The specifically messianic psalms are not numerous. They include Psalms 22, 45, 72, 110 and some others. But among even this relatively small number, Psalm 2 stands out dramatically. That is probably why it has been placed where it is, as the second introductory psalm to the Psalter. There is some evidence both in Jewish and Christian traditions that Psalm 2 was at one time joined to Psalm 1, both psalms together being considered the first psalm.”2
This throws light on how Psalm 2 should be taken. For if: 1) the psalm is messianic, and 2) it was originally linked with Psalm 1, then the doctrine of the two ways introduced in Psalm 1 is here carried forward but at a higher pitch. On the one hand, the way of sinners in Psalm 1 now becomes a cosmic revolt of the nations against God and God’s Anointed. It becomes an unfolding of the wrong path and its consequences. On the other hand, the righteous man of the opening psalm is now explicitly seen to be God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, which I suggested at the close of the earlier study on Psalm 1. It is only by taking refuge in Jesus that the judgment awaiting the wicked can be avoided by them.
Why is Psalm 2 the most quoted in the New Testament?
Look up the other messianic psalms. What do they teach us about the Messiah, and how did Jesus fulfill their teaching?
Review the doctrine of the two ways taught in Psalm l. How is that expanded in Psalm 2?
1Meshiach is Hebrew for “anointed” or “anointed one.” The Greek word is christos.
2 See Peter C. Craigie, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 19, Psalms 1-50 (Waco, TX: Word, 1983), pp. 59-60.