Posted by: duncandrews | October 3, 2011

Psalm 2 and the politically unreasonable hope of Israel

Psalm 2

1 Why do the nations conspire
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the LORD and against his anointed, saying,
3 “Let us break their chains
and throw off their shackles.”

4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them.
5 He rebukes them in his anger
and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
6 “I have installed my king
on Zion, my holy mountain.”

7 I will proclaim the LORD’s decree:

He said to me, “You are my son;
today I have become your father.
8 Ask me,
and I will make the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You will break them with a rod of iron;
you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;
be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the LORD with fear
and celebrate his rule with trembling.
12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry
and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

The universal, grandiose nature of Psalm 2 raises it to an eschatological level. The contrast between these promises and the political realities of the ancient Near-East is stark: for the king of a small nation, often threatened by powerful neighbours and internal strife, to say this psalm, was an act of faith. To declare Yahweh as the supreme Lord, who would one day subdue rebellious nations under his anointed royal son, was not politically reasonable. It was, however, based on the prior covenantal action and promise of Yahweh, and said in hope of an eschatological vindication in which Yahweh’s supremacy will be manifest and his king will rule in an uncontested way.

Significantly, the final stanza of the psalm indicates that this rule, while absolute, will fundamentally be one of blessing for all who take shelter in the anointed son, and leaves the reader with a final note of grace and hope held out to the nations.

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