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.” 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.
A few thoughts for meditation:
1) This Psalm begins with a question: why do the nations rage? But it’s asked from the perspective of one standing by God’s throne and seeing what God sees. Worldly rulers are plotting and scheming against the Lord and trying to toss away the restraints he has put upon them. They reject the Lord and his moral design for mankind. They try to create kingdoms of their own free from the moral restraints and acknowledgment of God and rule as if God does not exist. At some level, the wicked conduct of rulers should be no surprise. What else should you expect when sinners are given so much authority? We should expect men with no respect for God to use their power to gratify their own lusts. But from the perspective of God’s throne, it seems utterly foolish to oppose him. Even the wildest among them cannot shake off the cords of accountability to God forever. No one can stop God’s plans for mankind. No one can truly throw off the restraints of God. No one can oppose his Anointed One without some consequence. Even the most wicked leaders in the world will one day meet their maker and give an account for how they ruled. Tyrants have risen and fallen throughout history to harass the people of God in different ways, but God remains, and therefore so do his people.
2) And how does God respond? First, God “laughs” at them. That should make any leader tremble. Take the most powerful ruler, with the most powerful nation and the most powerful weapons, and the most ambitions plans for the world, and the other nations of the world may tremble in fear. But God simply laughs at him for the fool he is. The world may treat such a ruler like a god, but to God he is just a court jester. It’s like children playing king of the mountain on a dunghill while God stands with a nuclear missile pointed at them. It is a comical scene to imagine a proud little man thinking himself so powerful and important as to challenge the all-wise, all-powerful Creator, Sustainer, and Judge of the Universe. That picture should put a check on the pride or self-importance of any leader.
3) The second response of God to wicked rulers is that he appoints his own Son as king over them. The kings set themselves against God. But God sets his Son against them. It’s like a chess match, where one side thinks he has the other’s king trapped, but suddenly the other brings out the queen and traps him with a surprise checkmate. No one can stop the appointed Son. It is futile. He has been invested with the authority and power of God. He has been given the whole world as his inheritance. And he has been given permission to crush all who oppose the living God.
4) The Psalm then ends with a call for these rebellious rulers to submit to God and his chosen king. “Kiss the Son.” At one level this is remarkable. Why doesn’t God crush them all at once? Because he intends to save some of them. He delays his judgment and offers mercy to those who would repent and bow to the rightful king. He offers them a life of true blessing, “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” This is a tremendous act of mercy, in light of the fierce rebellion they committed. Whoever submits to Christ as his king will be blessed with salvation and become part of a kingdom that will never be shaken and will endure forever, a kingdom ruled by perfect wisdom, righteousness, and love. But those who continue to oppose Jesus will eventually be destroyed. It’s not a matter of “if” but “when”. Christ offers mercy now. But when his patience is complete then his wrath is “quickly kindled” and your time will be up and he will strike without mercy.
There are many ways to respond to this psalm. First, is Jesus your king? Is he your Lord and Savior? He offers a pardon to you now, paid for by his own blood. Take it while you can. For those suffering under oppressive rulers this gives hope. King Jesus only allows such rulers to continue in so far as it serves his plan of redemption. Then they will quickly fall. Just consider all the tyrants buried in the ash heap of history while the Church endures from one generation to the next. Thankfully, some rulers have answered the call to repentance and submitted to Christ in the past. Pray our rulers today would do that too and provide a safe environment for the Church to thrive (1 Tim 2:1-2). This psalm also warns leaders to remember who their true king is and to serve in their positions of authority in the fear of the Lord, not for personal ambition. God will hold them accountable for how they have ruled. They must recognize they are merely stewards and use their gifts and opportunities to rule wisely and sacrificially for the good of the people God put into their care. Ultimately, we look forward to a time when the redemptive plans of the King will be finished and he will return to establish his kingdom of righteousness with his people forever.