Psalm 2 (as I have translated it)
1 Why do the nations rage?
And why do the peoples keep plotting hopeless plans?
2 Why do the kings of the earth take their stand
and why do the rulers conspire together
—against Yahweh and against his Anointed King?
3 'Let us rip off their fetters
and let's throw off their cords.'
4 The One who sits in the heavens laughs!
The Lord mocks at them!
5 Then he speaks to them in his wrath,
yes, he terrifies them in his hot anger:
6 'But I have installed my king on Zion, my holy hill.'
7 Let me tell about the decree;
Yahweh said to me:
'You are my son; I have begotten you this very day.
8 Ask me, and I will give nations as your inheritance,
and the ends of the earth for your possession.
9 You will break them with an iron rod,
you will smash them to pieces like a clay pot.'
10 And now, you kings! Wise up!
Accept instruction, you rulers of the earth!
11 Serve Yahweh with fear
and rejoice—with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son, lest he become angry
and you perish in your tracks,
for his wrath ignites quickly.
Oh, the joy of all who take refuge in him!
Paul Tripp tells of a birthday party for one of the little girls in a kindergarten class he was once teaching. The girl's mother had decorated the room, provided favors, and so on, but one kindergarten boy—jealous because the gifts and main attention were not his—was well on his way to making an obnoxious nuisance of himself and a near disaster of the party. Then one of the mothers walked over and knelt down beside this lad, turned his chair so that he had to look directly into her eyes, and said, 'Johnny, it's not your party!' Funny how we can be so provincial (and sinful) that we can't see beyond our own nose and interests.
And Psalm 2 wants to correct this problem; it says to us, 'You need to get the big view of things.' The position of the first two psalms at the beginning of the Psalter is deliberate. Psalm 1 deals with the most urgent individual matter; you must know where you are going and must be sure you belong to the congregation of the righteous. Psalm 2 says that you must know where history is going; you must see the whole show; you must understand that the world has been promised to the Messiah. So what do you see and hear in Psalm 2?
The world that hates
First, you see the world that hates (vv. 1-3). Here is a hostile world—nations rage, peoples plot, kings and rulers conspire against Yahweh and his Anointed King. Whether congresses or parliaments, whether democracies or dictatorships, the root attitude of nations and of the head knockers of this age is: 'We do not want this man to reign over us' (Luke 19:14). This is Psalm 1:1 to the second power and writ large; this is what it looks like when the counsel of the wicked and the way of sinners and the seat of scoffers goes international.
The early church tells us that the premier example of this rebellion occurred in the crucifixion of Messiah Jesus (Acts 4:23-31). The Jewish brass had threatened the apostles; they came back and reported it all to the gathered believers, who then gave themselves to prayer and quoted Psalm 2:1-2 in that prayer and filled in the blanks of the latest and foremost king and ruler—Herod and Pontius Pilate, 'along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel' (v. 27). And here the church declares that the hostile world Psalm 2 describes is also a persecuting world—'And now, Lord, look upon their threats …' (v. 29). The hostility and enmity directed at Jesus is also, willy-nilly, directed at his people. And so the Psalm implies the Messiah's people will pay a huge price for belonging to him. This enmity may vary in intensity from time to time, but on the whole history runs red with the blood of Messiah's members.