Theme: Rebellion against the Lord
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
The outline of Psalm 2 is straightforward. It divides into four nearly equal parts, each uttered by a different speaker or speakers. In the first section, verses 1-3, the speakers are the rebellious rulers of this earth, introduced by the narrator. He asks why they engage in anything as useless as trying to throw off the rule of God’s Anointed.
Since the earlier years of the twentieth century, when European scholars such as Hermann Gunkel, Sigmund Mowinckel and Arthur Weiser published their influential studies on the psalms, it has been customary to look at Psalm 2 as a “royal” or “coronation psalm” of Israel. This means that scholars consider the psalm to have been written on the occasion of the ascension of a Jewish king, either David or one of his successors to the throne. It is only in a remote or secondary sense that it can be thought of as messianic.
But is this so? Is the one against whom the nations, people and kings of the earth rage so furiously really David? The chief arguments for this scholarly view are of two kinds. First, there have been studies of the coronation literature of other ancient peoples, and it has been argued that Psalm 2 matches this other material and must therefore be written of an earthly king, as the other poems have been. But that does not follow. The form of a psalm does not predetermine its meaning. In fact, nothing would be more natural than that the form of a hymn written to praise an earthly monarch should be taken over to praise one who is the King of kings. What verse form could be more appropriate?
The second type of argument is based on the supposed similarity between Psalm 2 and the promises given to David through Nathan’s oracle recorded in 2 Samuel 7:8-16. But the parallels are not all that great. And what is of maximum significance is that the oracle itself makes a distinction between the promises made to David, which are what might be expected of a merely human monarch (vv. 7-11a), and the promises which concern David’s great future descendent whose kingdom will be established forever (vv. 11b-16). Indeed, all the real parallels to Psalm 2 Occur in this second section, which itself proves that the psalm is not written of David or his merely human descendants but of the future divine Messiah. Promises of an eternal reign are false if they concern human beings only, as David himself recognized (cf. v. 19). They are appropriate only if they refer to the Messiah.
This means that we cannot understand this psalm until we realize that it is an expression of the rebellion of the human heart against God and not some limited revolt of some merely human Near Eastern king or kings against David or his successors. I admit, as I did in our last study, that there is danger of reading too many Christian allusions into strictly Jewish psalms. They are not all about Jesus. Nevertheless, in this case, we are right in saying that the righteous one of Psalm 1, who is the Lord Jesus Christ, is not wanted by these rulers. And since Jesus is God’s Son, their rebellion against him is actually a rebellion against God.1 Charles Haddon Spurgeon was right when he said, “We have, in these first three verses, a description of the hatred of human nature against the Christ of God.”2
Why do some scholars reject Psalm 2 as a messianic psalm? How is this view shown to be incorrect?
How does the psalm express the rebellion of the human heart against God? What is the result of the rebellion?
Reflection: In what ways do you see unbelievers expressing their rebellion against God in our own day?
1Arno C. Gaebelein, The Book of Psalms: A Devotional and Prophetic Commentary (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1965), p. 21.
2C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. la, Psalms 1-26 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1968), p. 10.