Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
(Psalm 2:1-3 ESV)
The above passage tells of how several kings of Gentile peoples who are vassals of the Davidic king propose a revolt to throw off Israelite rule. The scene depicted above echoes of how Adam and Eve rebelled against God, or how the people once gathered together to build the Tower of Babel. For the Gentiles to rebel against the Davidic heir is to rebel against the Lord who installed him. It is also to cut themselves off from their only hope of knowing the one true God, the very God who created them and seeks to redeem them.
The early Christians in Jerusalem understood the above passage as representing how Jews and Gentiles gathered together against Jesus, the Lord’s Anointed, and through Herod and Pontius Pilate, crucified the Lord Jesus (Acts 4:25-28). In so doing, the crucifixion of Jesus thus represents the ultimate example of how people refuse to submit to the lordship of Christ, which is essentially refusing to submit to God as our rightful King.
Thus from this small analysis, we can understand sin as refusing to submit to the authority of God, an authority which now manifests itself in our time as the supreme lordship of Jesus Christ. In other words, refusing to accept Jesus as Lord is tantamount to refusing God’s rightful rule over us.
He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”
I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
Even though people have conspired together against His Anointed, God is not in the least bit worried about the situation. He will humble them just as He did in the Tower of Babel episode. His purposes and His plans shall stand firm. Jesus shall return someday to reign in Zion and the nations have already been made His heritage and the ends of the earth His possession, in fulfillment of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants.
The death of Jesus did not signal the end of God’s purposes for the world, but rather it was the glorious fulfillment of a plan to renew the creation back to God’s original design. Jesus did not stay dead, but rose victoriously from the grave. In rising from the grave, Jesus entered His Davidic rule over the nations.
There is a sense in which legally speaking, Jesus is already ruling over the nations, but the reality has not yet caught up with the decree that has been made. The mission of the church is to live under Jesus’ reign, provide a watching world a glimpse of this new reality, and invite them to join us.
As the apostle Paul would later put it in his letters to the Romans:
…the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations (Romans 1:1-5)
Sadly there will be people who still reject the rightful rule of Jesus over their lives and so warrant God’s righteous wrath against their continuing sin and rebellion against Him.
The Psalm concludes with an invitation to take refuge in the Son lest they endure His wrath against their rebellion in verses 10 to 12:
Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
So whenever Christians talk about accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, this psalm certainly helps provide a concrete picture of what that entails.
Jesus is our rightful ruler, and to Him belongs the obedience of the peoples.
Those who continue their stubborn rebellion against Him since the days of Adam and Eve will reap the due consequences for their treason, unless they repent of their sins and take refuge in Him by believing in His life, death, and resurrection on their behalf and live in the light of His reign.