Jean’s Gospel: Psalm 2: Jesus Christ Reigns! – Part 2
“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.’ ”
This is Part 2 of a four part series on Psalm 2. It is a prophecy of Christ, that He would suffer and become King of the whole world. Regarding the psalms of prophecy, Luther taught:
“They speak, for example, of Christ and the Church or what will happen to the saints. This class includes all the psalms that contain promises and warnings – promises for the godly and warnings for the ungodly.”1
In Part 1, we examined verses 1-3. Psalm 2 opens with the nations, peoples and kings of the earth raging, plotting and taking counsel together against God and Christ. Of course Pilate, Herod, Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin, the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel were ignorant of the fact that by opposing Jesus, they were opposing God, because they believed neither that Jesus was God’s Son nor that He was sent by God. They thought by crucifying Jesus, they were honoring God and the cause of freedom, but in reality they were rejecting God and the real freedom which God in Christ offered to them.
The psalmist, who believes the promises of God and that His will cannot be thwarted, asks in astonishment: “why?” Crucifying Jesus would not burst the bonds of Christ’s reign as King. To the contrary, Jesus’ death on the cross for the sins of the world would burst the bonds of sin, death, Satan and hell for everyone who believes in Him. Therefore, “the peoples plot in vain.”
Thus we are given an example of how the works of God in the world and in our lives often are contrary to all human understanding and our senses. In the midst of suffering or when it looks as if sin and evil have the upper hand, Christ is reigning and will deliver His people according to His Word, despite all appearances to the contrary.
We pick up this week at verse 4:
“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.’ ”
The mismatch between the power of God and that of the tyrants, whether men or devils, is so vast and the outcome in God’s favor so certain, that the psalmist portrays God laughing at his adversaries, holding them in derision (i.e., scoffing, ridiculing, mocking, making fun of them). For what God decrees will most surely comes to pass!
Although who would have thought, while Christ was suffering and His adversaries triumphing, that God was seated in the heavens laughing at them all the while? Similarly, when we are oppressed or afflicted, how will we believe that God is holding our adversaries in derision, when it seems to ourselves that we are the ones held in derision both by God and men?
Faith, therefore, must hold fast to the Word and promises of Christ, and join with the psalmist: “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.”
Pharaoh imagined that by drowning the Israelite males, he had found a way to diminish them. But at the same time, Pharaoh’s own daughter, in his own court, gave a prince’s education to Moses, their deliverer. Did not God laugh and hold Pharaoh in derision?
Similarly, the Jews and Gentiles imagined that by crucifying Jesus, they could eliminate Him and His kingdom. But did not God hold the whole world in derision by raising Jesus from the dead, taking what began as a kingdom among one people and making it into a worldwide eternal kingdom?
In the midst of oppression and affliction, unbelief sees God as nonexistent, absent, disinterested, or uncaring; whereas faith sees Christ caring for His people and reigning over His enemies. The psalmist encourages us to rise up by faith and hope above all our tribulations to Him who sits in the heavens. From this perspective, we will bear the evils of the world and hold them in derision. Of this the Apostle Paul also wrote: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:4-6); and “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3:3)
“Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury”
God’s laughter is no joke, nor does he take the suffering of His people lightly. God will “speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury.” Caiaphas had prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation: “it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” (John 11:50)
God held the vain meditations of Caiaphas in derision until: first, He raised Jesus from the dead; and second, not many years later, He destroyed both Jerusalem and the temple by the hand of the Romans. They killed Jesus, but God set Him up as King! They withdrew themselves from under Jesus, but God placed His holy hill of Zion and all the kingdoms of the earth in subjection to Him! Thus, they are laughed at and held in derision, and openly shown to have meditated vain things.
“I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”
The Church of Christ is called “Mount Zion” because it began in Jerusalem by the sending of the Holy Spirit. Though it is not confined to any particular place, it began there. From there it has spread throughout all the earth, that the words of Jesus might be fulfilled: “the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” (John 4:21)
It is a “Mount” because God has highly exalted her above all power, wisdom and righteousness of men, not in riches and influence, but in faith, hope and love, and all those virtues that despise the riches and power of the world.
It is His “holy hill” because the kingdom of Christ is the people who are made holy by faith in Christ, who alone by His cross sets us apart from sin, the world, Satan and our own flesh, and makes of us His holy hill. Amen.
Thank you for reading. Next week we will pick up Psalm 2 at verse 7, in which Christ proclaims the Father’s decree: “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.” Amen.
1 Concordia Publishing House. Reading the Psalms with Luther. 2007. Print. p. 14.