1 Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”
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7 I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
The Whole World Rises in Rage
The psalm begins with an outraged question. The Gentiles rage, conjuring up vanities against God in their hearts. The uproar was not caused by the people alone; their leaders incited this rebellion. They organized themselves against God with determined hostility – not transient hostility, but deep-seated hatred. The leaders cunningly planned their warfare, using all their tricks, just as Pharaoh had done. They led the people to freely give vent to their hatred and to become their own gods, breaking free from all restrictions. The people and the leaders united against God and against Christ. Forming alliances, they aided and abetted one another.
They were ready to accept the idea of the kingdom of God and of the Messiah, as long as they could use it to support their own regime. If the Lord and his Anointed would make them rich and prominent, they would welcome his kingdom. But if the Messiah was to restrain their corrupt lusts and passions, they did not want him as their king. They raged against all faiths, but especially against the faith of Christ.
God Has Sent His King
Jesus Christ is the Great King. God the Father enthroned Jesus, because he is king of the universe, and the Father has entrusted him alone with the authority to rule and to judge. Jesus Christ is God’s ordained king, for he is beloved and pleasing to the Father. Christ did not appoint himself to receive this honor and glory, but was called to do so. This statement confirms his call: “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” (v. 6)
Jesus, the risen Savior, looked into the face of the King of rebellion and said: “If my gaze alone is not enough to silence you, then I will ‘tell of the decree.’” (v. 7) This divine decree is the opposite of the plots of men, for the purpose of the decree is to establish the rule against which the nations are clamoring.
What a mercy it is that our faith may rest in the divine Redeemer. Kings have a habit of letting their favored ones make requests, and of granting them whatever they ask. (v. 8) Jesus promises us that if we ask, we shall receive. Christ announced that decree. With his once-pierced hand, the Anointed One lifted up the rod, saying: “The Father has given me this rod of iron, and this scepter is more than merely the authority to reign.” No matter how great the power of the empire, when the iron rod is in the hands of the Son of God the Almighty, his enemies will be fragile like a potter’s vessel. Those who tremble with fear and do not wish to obey him will be dashed into pieces. (v. 9)
He Breaks the Power of This World
This verse was fulfilled to some extent when the Jewish nation, which stubbornly refused to believe Christ’s gospel and was an enemy of it, was destroyed by the Roman Empire. The prophecy was further fulfilled when the Christian faith was established and Gentile powers were destroyed. But the prophecy will not be fully fulfilled until all the rulers, authorities, and powers that oppose the Christian faith are fully destroyed.
Christ is called the Son, for God declared: “You are my Son.” (v. 7) Christ is God’s Son, eternally begotten, and he is worthy of our worship. In this passage, our duty to Christ is vividly expressed: “Kiss the Son.” (v. 12) This is not the kiss of betrayal, like the kiss Judas gave Christ, but the kiss of faith, of affection, of sincere love. Make a covenant of friendship with Christ. Consider him as precious and dear to you; love him more than anything else; love him sincerely; love him abundantly.
Every day the news media reports frightening stories about the “powers” in society, telling us obedience to God will bind and limit our freedom. Yet the truth is freedom can only come through service to the One who created us. One day, the people and powers that seem to govern the world will understand that they are all under God’s control. God still reigns in power; in him, we find refuge from all fears. Because he rules, being threatened by the fear of the world is the same as being attracted to the world. It is spiritually fatal to be threatened by fear of the world.
God’s response to human pride and bravado was to establish his Son in Zion. Establishing his Son goes beyond instating him as King of Israel. It points directly to Jesus, the true Son of God. To “kiss the Son” means to rest in him and live for him. If we do this, we are assured that, whatever happens to us, we will be safe. If we do not live for him, we will end up fighting against God. Apart from God, there is no refuge; in him alone is shelter.
Sister Bao En (a pseudonym) lives in a city in southern China. She loves to pray and to share the vision of prayer with others.
O Lord, who reigns over all! The world hates you for declaring your sovereignty over human life. I am afraid to mention you, for fear of being ridiculed or angering others. But as you are not threatened by the fear of the “powers” of the world, I should not be, either. Let me understand the joy of obedience to you, and the fearlessness that comes with it.
Father! You responded to the chaos and strife of the world with your Son, Jesus Christ. In the end, he will break through the brokenness, heal death, destroy ruin, and remove all sorrow. Teach me how to take refuge in you and to hide in your forgiveness through Jesus. Then I will be sure, in the wisdom of your will, that I have a glorious future. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Holy and righteous Father, your Son, Christ, was also once confined in the tomb. His resurrection brings us true hope. We pray that the Lord would use the church to preach and witness the gospel in the midst of worldwide pandemic and wars, and that more people would come to know the Christ who gave his life for us and rose from the dead.