I’d like us to consider Psalm 2 from three perspectives. First, we’ll examine the message of the psalm. Second, we’ll look at how the New Testament uses it. Finally, we’ll ask how this psalm speaks to the task of world evangelization.
The Message of Psalm 2
Psalm 2 begins with a question: “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?” (verse 1). Verses 2–3 specify this futility: the kings of the earth reject Messiah’s right to rule. In response, God gives the nations the cosmic raspberry and ridicules their pride, claiming that he has set his king on Zion (verses 5–6). In verses 7–9, the psalmist recalls this coronation, noting especially God’s promise to make the nations his heritage. Armed with this confidence, he rebukes the rulers of the earth, telling them to serve Yahweh by bowing the knee to God’s anointed king (verses 10–12).
So if we were to summarize the message of Psalm 2, we could say that because God has enthroned his king, the nations of the earth should repent of their rebellion and take refuge in the Messiah.
The New Testament Use of Psalm 2
When we come to the New Testament, we find Jesus, the Son of David, encountering the very resistance that Psalm 2 describes (cf. Acts 4:24–28). This resistance culminates in his crucifixion, but — in true Psalm 2 fashion — God vindicates his authority by raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand.
Paul preaches in Acts 13:32–33, “And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’” Because of this vindication, Jesus has become the rightful heir of the nations (Matthew 28:18–20).
Psalm 2 and World Evangelization
So where does this leave us? How do we live in light of Jesus’ enthronement? To begin, Ephesians 2:6 teaches that we have been seated with Christ in the heavenly places. This is royal imagery. Believers share in Jesus’ kingly dominion over the peoples of the earth. For this reason, we should address the nations boldly in his name. By this I don’t mean that we should become piggish, throwing all tact to the wind and chewing with our evangelistic mouths open. There is a place for the gentle word, for the open ear, for the patient sowing. But let us not be timid.
The kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever (Revelation 11:15). Therefore, we should speak and act toward that end. This will look differently for each of us, but may God fill us with confidence in the everlasting dominion of his Messiah, so that we turn from fear and call the nations to take refuge in Christ.
Johnathon Bowers is Instructor of Theology and Christian Worldview at Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis, MN.
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