Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Why Are the Nations Restless, and the People Muttering in Vain? - Psalm 2

The first two Psalms form such a fitting introduction to the whole series of Psalms. Psalm 1, of course, deals with your attitude toward God’s Word. This Psalm deals with your attitude towards God’s Anointed One, which is, of course, the meaning of the word Messiah and Christ (which come from Hebrew and Greek, respectively). Certain important and God-chosen figures in Israel such as prophets, priests, and kings were anointed when they were installed into office. Anointing meant having oil like olive oil poured over your head. This is akin to how for much of world history kings were crowned, or how knights in England are knighted with a sword by the queen (right?).

With the Psalms especially, it’s important for Christians to keep the different “Acts” of the Bible’s purposes in mind (see my page “About the Bible”). What I mean is, to understand them fully, you need to first ponder what it meant for the original audience. Only then can you fully appreciate and properly apply to the current time of the renewed covenant, and to Jesus the Messiah/Christ/Anointed One.

This Psalm is especially appropriate for the context of Ascension and Pentecost. I say this not just because Peter quotes it, but because it’s talking about how God exercises his rule over all the rulers of the earth through his Messiah.  

First of all, Acts 4:25 attributes this Psalm to David when it quotes the LXX in with the rulers in Jerusalem trying to squelch Peter and John’s announcement of Jesus risen from the dead as God’s vindicated Messiah, the very thing the Psalm regards as hopeless and foolish. And it wasn’t just used by the early Jerusalem Christians, but this Psalm is frequently referred to by the New Testament writers and early Christians as they pondered Jesus’ rule as Messiah over the world. More on that in a bit…

The line of thought is basically that the nations rebel against God’s rule through his Messiah. So Yahweh, then, affirms his son’s rule as king, and his immutable decision to give his son the nations and the ends of the earth as his inheritance and possession. And we see that the son’s rule will smash any opposition, so all nations are called to wise up and submit, or else…
Verse 4 has always been a favorite of mine. How often do we see God laughing in the Bible? It’s very vivid as God is in heaven (once again, pictured as his control room, and not eternal rest for his people) thinking, “What are these kings thinking? They really think they overpower the king I’ve chosen!?”

And verse 7 is profound. This Psalm seems to have been written initially for God’s king (an anointed figure, a “messiah”). A king in Israel could’ve claimed in a way to be God’s son, that is, God’s chosen person in some sense (look at Bar Kochba and other messianic movements!). However, clearly no king had fulfilled this role the way its described here until Jesus. And this is why, for example, there’s debate among Christians about the NIV2011’s decision to decapitalize Son (it’s pretty split among English translations).

But anyways, this talk of sonship and fathering (or begetting) is a key concept for many Christians truths, such as Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 13:33), Jesus’ superiority to angels (Hebrews 1:5), the legitimacy of Jesus’ position as high priest (Hebrews 5:5), and Jesus’ authority to judge the world (Revelation 2:27, 12:5, 19:15). And also the concept of Jesus’ being fathered from eternity, since the verb ילד more often than not talks of origin, and not office. All big ideas to be sure, and subjects for other posts when those passages mentioned come into play. 

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Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura