Coping with Wrath
(1) Why are the nations in a tumult and the peoples concocting worthless plans? (2) The kings of the earth take their stand, and the leaders plot together against Yahweh and against his Anointed One (saying): (3) “Let us tear apart their restraints and throw off their bonds from us.” (4) The one enthroned in heaven laughs in derision. The Lord mocks at them. (5) Then he will speak to them in his anger and terrify them in his wrath (saying): (6) “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.”
Psalm 2 is the first of several messianic psalms we encounter in the psalter. The word, “Messiah,” is a transliteration of a Hebrew word which means “to smear or anoint with oil.” In the Old Testament, anointing with oil was reserved for three offices: prophets, priests, and kings. The Messiah, literally “the Anointed One,” refers to God’s special, chosen ruler. He will one day come to earth to establish God’s rule over the world by serving simultaneously as prophet (spokesman for God), priest (mediator between God and humanity), and king (ruler over God’s people).
The New Testament clearly identifies Jesus as the promised Messiah (“christos,” in Greek). He was identified by John the Baptist as the Lamb of God, come to take away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29). He will someday appear a second time as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah who will rule over the earth (Rev. 19:11-16). Note that Psalm 2 is carefully structured like a drama with four scenes, each consisting of three verses. In today’s segment we consider the first two scenes.
SCENE 1 - Setting on earth; focus on the nations and their rulers. The nations on earth conspire to overthrow the rule of Yahweh and his Anointed One. (1-3)
SCENE 2 - Setting in heaven; focus on Yahweh’s response to the rulers’ rebellion. Yahweh mocks the futile opposition of the nations and proclaims the reign of his Anointed One from Zion. (4-6)
Those who resist the rule of Yahweh will inevitably face his derision and wrath.
God’s wrath is certainly not a popular topic in today’s world. We would much rather think about his grace, mercy, and love. However, we must never forget that both the Old and New Testament present us with a well-rounded picture of God’s character. This includes his wrath, God’s settled hatred for and opposition to the wickedness of those who resist his rule.
Paul described this aspect of God’s character in these words: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Rom. 1:18). In Psalm 2 we likewise find a vivid display of God’s hatred for sinful behavior, particularly when it involves the rejection of his beloved son.
Psalms 1 & 2 function like two doorposts of a doorway that ushers us into the entire Book of Psalms. Psalm 1 proclaims the importance of God’s written Word, the Scriptures, while Psalm 2 introduces us to a person, the living Word, God’s Messiah. According to these opening psalms, the way to please Yahweh and avoid his wrathful judgment begins with opening our hearts to his self-revelation found in the Scriptures, the written Word (the message of Psalm 1). This will in turn bring us into a vital relationship with his Son, the living Word. By submitting ourselves to the Anointed One we are made righteous in God’s sight (the message of Psalm 2).