The Lord’s Day
February 22, 2004
Psalm 2 Missions and the Universal Reign of Jesus the Messiah
If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with me to Psalm 2. We take a break from our series on 1 John as we come now to Missions Conference Week, and today we’re going to be looking at the 2nd Psalm. The Missions Conference Committee has chosen Psalm 2 and verse 8 as the theme verse for the conference this year: “Ask of Me and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance.”
As we’ve already mentioned this morning in the announcements, our conference begins today and runs through the next Lord’s Day. And it’s a time in which we welcome missionary guests and speakers and turn our hearts and minds to a focused attention and reflection on the task of carrying out the Church’s Great Commission from our Lord Jesus Christ, and this is a marvelous text to reflect on for that very purpose.
Psalm 2 is a divine declaration of the Heavenly Father to His only begotten Son, and it is the very heartbeat of missions. And we’re going to look at it today. In fact, if you look at how the Psalm outlines, you’ll see the first section in verses 1-3, where we see the king and God reflecting on the rebellion of the nations against God’s rule. And then the second part of the Psalm is in verses 4-6 where we see the response of God to this rebellion against Himself and the king and their rule. In verses 7-9 we see God’s declaration about the King. And then, finally, in verses 10-12 we see a warning concerning those and their response to the King. So in each of these four parts we see what is really the Old Testament foundation for Jesus’ Great Commission in Matthew 28. One of the things we learn as we study the Old Testament is that missions is something which is grounded in the Old Testament and not simply in the New. When Jesus calls His disciples to “go to the nations,” this is not a new call; it is an old call. And it is based upon things not only which happened during the era of the Old Testament, but things which stretch far back into the past, into the very beginnings before there was time and space, and in the eternal counsels of the Triune God. So as we prepare to hear God’s word read and proclaimed, let’s look to Him in prayer. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your word. It is a lamp to our feet; it is a light to our way. You also have appointed Your word to be profitable, to correct us, to instruct us, to train us in righteousness. And in Your word, O God, above all You reveal Yourself and Your Son and Your will and way of salvation. We ask, O God, that these things we would learn by Your Spirit. Help us to behold wonderful truth from Your word and to respond to it with believing hearts, and not only hearts which embrace it, Your truth, by faith and trust in Your Son and in Your gospel, but also who respond in obedience by Your grace. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Hear God’s holy word.
1 Why are the nations in an uproar / And the peoples devising a vain thing? 2The kings of the earth take their stand / And the rulers take counsel together / Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, 3“Let us tear their fetters apart /And cast away their cords from us!” 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs, /The Lord scoffs at them. 5 Then He will speak to them in His anger / And terrify them in His fury, saying, 6 “But as for Me, I have installed My King /Upon Zion, My holy mountain.” 7 “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, / Today I have begotten You. 8 Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, /And the very ends of the earth as Your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron, /You shall shatter them like earthenware.’” 10 Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; / Take warning, O judges of the earth. 11Worship the LORD with reverence /And rejoice with trembling. 12 Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, /For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!
Amen. And thus ends this reading of God’s holy, inspired, and inerrant word. May He write its eternal truth upon our hearts.
Commentators debate about the actual setting of this Psalm. When you read the first three verses, it seems that this Psalm is being written and sung in the context of some rebellion against the king of Israel. But when you look at verses 6-9, it seems that this Psalm is being written at the time of the coronation of the king of Israel. Which is it? Is this a coronation or is this a time of rebellion against the king? Well, there are other difficulties to this Psalm too. As you read through it the voice keeps changing. Is it God speaking? Is it the king speaking? Is it an announcement of a herald to the people on behalf of the king? Is it the nations speaking? You have to watch carefully who’s speaking in the different parts of the Psalm.
And when you consider this Psalm, it becomes very apparent that no event in the history of Israel’s kings and no coronation in the history of Israel’s kings can do justice to all the things which are said here. For instance, the idea of the nations rebelling against the king of Israel upon the date of his coronation–who in the history of Israel could that possibly refer to? When David came to the throne, there were no kings and nations doing homage to Israel. David was just happy that there was an Israel when he came to the throne of Israel. He was happy to have rest from the enemies of Israel and some peace within Israel after the long civil war. There were no nations doing homage to Israel. Of course, there’s the event in 2 Samuel 10 when Ammon and Aram join themselves against David and his forces, and David defeats them, but it’s not a coronation event. David’s coronation has occurred all the way back in 2 Samuel 7. Well, then what about Solomon? Solomon ruled over other nations and had great influence in the region. That’s true, but they weren’t at war at the days of Solomon’s coronation, and there was no rebellion on the part of the nations against God. And even Solomon didn’t claim to be the universal king of the world.
Now this Psalm must point forward to a greater King, David’s Son who is David’s Lord. And sure enough, five times at least, the New Testament quotes this Psalm and says that the realities of this Psalm are fulfilled in no king of Israel but the great King of Israel, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of David who is David’s Lord, the One who is the true Messiah, the anointed King of God, the One who is the Mediator on behalf of His people come into this world to shed His blood for our sins and to reign forever and ever. The Messiah is the Person about whom this Psalm speaks. But this Psalm also gives us the very grounds of the work of missions. I’d like to look at it with you in its four parts today.
I. Rebellion of Nations against God and Davidic King (1-3) – The Cross is the epitome of this rebellion
First, in verses 1-3 where we see this rebellion of the nations against God and against His king. And then we hear the voices of the nations speaking this rebellion, “Why are the nations in an uproar / And the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand / And the rulers take counsel together / Against the LORD and against His Anointed.” It’s as if a narrator sets the stage by talking about a rebellion against God and against His appointed king. And then they switch to the voice of the nations themselves in verse 3, “Let us tear their fetters apart /And cast away their cords from us!”
You see this person is indignant that the nations would rise up against God’s appointed king. He’s appointed by God; He’s God’s anointed man; He’s God’s chosen man. How could the nations arise against him? But as we say, there’s no event in the history of the coronations of Israel’s kings that squares with this. What is this speaking about? Well, Acts 4:25-28 says that these words are fulfilled in a very important event in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. Turn with me there. Acts 4, beginning in verse 25: “The Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said, ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples devise futile things? The kings of the earth took their stand,and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ. For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.’”
You see what the early Church is saying: that it was in the death of Jesus that Psalm 2:1-3 was fulfilled as Herod and Pilate, representatives of the various kings of the Jewish and Gentile world, and the peoples of the nations and the peoples of Israel, all together in a consolidated rebellion, rejected the Messiah of God.
A lot of people are asking the question, “Who killed Jesus?” There are two movies that are out there raising question. There are great concerns about anti-Semitism that are floating around in our culture. The early Church has the answer: Who is to blame for this rebellion against the sinless Messiah? The answer: Herod, Pontius Pilate, the kings of this earth, all the Jewish people, and all the Gentile peoples of the world–the whole world is to blame! But it is the Heavenly Father who decreed it. Notice how it ends. Look at verse 28, “To do whatever Your hand [God…whatever] Your purpose [God] predestined to occur.” Jesus Christ was a victim of no one, though we are all responsible. Though we are all accountable, though we are all to blame, His death was the part of the stratagem of God. And so the New Testament tells us that this rebellion of which Psalm 2:1-3 speaks was fulfilled in the death of Jesus, the anointed Messiah-King of God.
II. The Response of God (4-6) – The sovereignty of God and His response to come
Now what’s the response to this? Well, if you look at Psalm 2:4-6 we see God’s response. Now we find the voice of God speaking in Psalm 2:4-6: “He who sits in the heavens laughs, /The Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger / And terrify them in His fury, saying,‘But as for Me, I have installed My King /Upon Zion, My holy mountain.’” There’s a two-part response here. First of all, the Lord scoffs at the nations. He is so sovereign that He needs not worry about the rebellion of the nations. But second of all, He responds by an announcement, an announcement that He has installed someone as King. Who is it? When does this enthronement happen? When was this installation made? In the bringing of David to the throne? No. In the bringing of Solomon to the throne? No. In the bringing of some of their successors to the throne? No! No, you find out who was installed and enthroned and when in verses 7-9. Look at them with me.
III. The Messiah’s Announcement of the Decree of God (7-9) – The King manifested by resurrection, for universal rule
Here we see the announcement of the decree of God, the King who is manifested for universal rule. Verses 7-9: “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, / Today I have begotten You.Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, /And the very ends of the earth as Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, /You shall shatter them like earthenware.’” Isn’t it interesting, the voice change again? Now it’s not God the Father speaking from heaven; now it is the Messianic King declaring the Lord’s declaration of a special relationship to Him and a special office. The relationship is revealed here in verse 7, “You are My Son.” And the special office is also revealed here, “Today I have begotten You,” although it’s already been mentioned in verse 6. What does He say there? “I have installed my King.”
Now who is this King and when was He installed? Well, the New Testament says this King was Jesus in Hebrews 1:5. This verse is quoted, and the author of Hebrews says, “To which of the angels did He ever say, ‘Today I have begotten You,’ ‘You are My Son’?” And the answer that the author of Hebrews expects is, ‘To none of the angels did God say that! Only to Jesus did God say that word.’ But then in Acts 13 we’re not only told that it’s Jesus who is the King whom God is putting on the throne in fulfillment of Psalm 2:6,7 and 8, he tells us there when Jesus was enthroned. Turn with me to Acts 13:33. “God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘You are My Son, / Today I have begotten You.’” What is this enthronement? It is the enthronement of Christ. When does it occur? In the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus dies for the sins of His people. In His resurrection He is publicly declared to be the anointed, appointed Messianic-King, the only Savior of God’s people, the Savior of the world. That’s why Paul can say in Romans chapter 1 that “[He] was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.” Psalm 2:7-9 is fulfilled in Jesus Christ and in His resurrection. “Today I have begotten You.” “You are my Son.”
And then this promise is given from the Father to His Son: “Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, /And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.” There Jesus is saying that His Father has promised from before the foundation of the world to give Him the nations, a multitude that no man can number from every tribe and tongue and people and land, and they are His for the asking. He has said to Me, “Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, /And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.”
You see, my friends, the origin of Jesus’ Great Commission is not in Matthew 28 in the New Testament, and it’s not even in Psalm 2 in the Old Testament, or in Genesis 12 in the Old Testament, or in Genesis 6 in the Old Testament–the origin of the Great Commission is in the eternal councils of God when the Father promises to His Son that He will give Him the nations for His asking.
Now this is astonishing, my friends. This is absolutely mind-boggling. And I want to suggest that it’s mind-boggling in at least three ways. First, it’s mind-boggling in that for some unfathomable reason God has chosen us as part of His inheritance to give to the Lord Jesus Christ. If you are here today, believing, trusting, resting by faith alone on Jesus Christ for your salvation as He is offered in the gospel, then you are a gift promised to Jesus by His Father from before the foundation of the world. Now every single one of us would have to say, why in the world would He want to give me to Jesus? And the Bible’s answer is simply, ‘Because He did because He loved you.’ That’s it. That’s all there is to say: ‘Because He did because He loved you.’ But He’s chosen you as a gift to His Son for an inheritance.
But the second thing which this great truth points us to is this: Jesus is not simply the Savior of the Jewish people; He is the only hope and Savior of the Gentiles too. He is the Savior of Jew and Gentile. He is the Savior of the world. That’s why the New Testament over and over says, “He’s the Savior of the world.” But right there in the Old Testament in the book of God given to the Jewish people of old, what does He say? “Ask of Me and I will give you the nations, all of them, not just Judea and Samaria but the ends of the Earth.” “I will give you the nations for your inheritance. Just ask Me.” That’s why the New Testament constantly reminds us that Jesus is the Savior of the world. When Jesus turns to His disciples and He says, ‘Go, make disciples for Me among all the nations.’ He is saying to His disciples, ‘You will now participate in the joyful task of being the instruments of my Father in fulfilling a promise that He made to Me from before the foundation of the world to give Me the nations.’ That declaration was not something new breaking forth; it was the fulfillment of a promise which had not only been inscripturated in Psalm 2 a thousand years before, but was given before there was time. And the Father says to the Son, “I will give you the nations as Your inheritance.”
And my friends, thirdly, this declaration ought to build in every believer an insatiable desire to see every knee bow and every tongue confess that Jesus the Messiah is Lord. That is the heartbeat of missions. When we are called to pray for and give to, and for some of us to go short-term and forever in the work of missions, we are being called up to participate in a story which began before time in a promise which was given before time, in a promise which was made from the Father to the Son. And when the Son tells us to go, it is to go as the instruments of the Father in fulfilling a pledge which He has made to His own Son. There’s no bigger story that you could be involved in. There is no bigger story out there. God is saying to us…When He says, “Go make disciples of all the nations,” He’s saying, ‘I have in My mercy chosen you to participate in the joyful enterprise of bringing about the fulfillment of My promise to My only begotten Son.’ That’s what missions is. Do you realize the staggering glory that it is not only to be chosen to be the inheritance given to the Son, but to be given the privilege of participating in bringing other sons and daughters who are also His inheritance into His family? That’s what you’re being called to do. That’s the work of missions. That’s the heartbeat of missions. You are doing the work of the heavenly Father in the pledge which He has made to His Son. It’s absolutely staggering.
IV. The Call to Repentance (10-12) – Longing for the nations’ repentance/Knowing there are only two options
But this Psalm ends with a warning, my friends. The warning you see in verses 10 through 12, “Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; / Take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the LORD with reverence /And rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, /For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!” It’s made clear at the ending of this Psalm that there are only two options in responding to King Jesus: there’s either destruction or blessing. You either love Him and believe in Him and worship Him, or you’re indifferent to Him and you neglect Him and you reject Him. And if you do the latter, you are destroyed; you are cursed; you are judged; you are condemned. If you trust Him, you are blessed. The old King James puts it this way, “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry.” That’s not a kiss on the cheek, mind you. That’s not the holy kiss at the end of the New Testament epistles. That is the kiss of subjection. That is, they picture this: the conquering King has come into your territory; your armies have been wiped out. He now brings before you all…before himself all his conquered peoples and says to them, ‘Here’s your option: you do homage to me or you die. That’s your choice today. To do homage to me you will do it this way: you will prostrate yourself in the dust then you will kiss my feet. “Kiss the Son, lest He become angry.”
Do you remember Doug Kelley’s sermon on this passage some ten-twelve years ago right here at First Presbyterian Church? He said, “You know, there are some of us that kind of get our hackles up when we’re told, ‘Do homage to the Son,’ ‘Kiss His feet.’ But,” he said, “You know it’s very interesting that when you bow to kiss His feet you notice something strange: there are nail prints in those feet because the way He has conquered is in His own death, and He has died that you might participate in eternal bliss.” He has conquered for the sole purpose of bringing glory to His Father and freeing you to everlasting enjoyment of communion and fellowship with His Father. This King has conquered not for His own self-interest but for the interest of everyone whom He conquers by grace. Kiss the Son, acknowledge Him, embrace Him, trust in Him, and you will find that you have been made the gift of the Father to the Son, and that gift is sweet. And that is the call: that we have to go to the world and share this message of the One who has conquered through His death, that all those who have been given to Him by the heavenly Father might come to Him and fellowship with Him forever. Let us pray.
Our Lord and our God, we pray that You would give us a sense of the largeness of this calling and of its greatness so that we are ready to give and to pray and to go and to sacrifice for Your glory, for the honor of Christ, for the good of the nations. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus, the Messiah. Amen.