Why do the nations rage, and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”
Psalm Two is known as a royal psalm. It is sung as a tribute to, and a reminder of, the king who is chosen by God to lead His people. It emphasizes the fact that God is active in the lives of His people – to bless them and prosper them through the reign of a good and God-fearing king.
But it begins by pointing out that there is always going to be opposition! The nations will rage… the people will plot… there will be talk (as driven by a common cause) of being free from any “bonds” or “cords” that God establishes through His anointed king.
This is one of those Psalms that is quoted in the New Testament, by God’s people under a newly Anointed King (Christ Jesus!). In Acts 4, we read the account of Peter and John who, after healing the “man lame from birth,” (chapter 3) were called to account before the “rulers, elders, and scribes” to answer for their “offenses.” The end result: Peter and John were commanded, by the ruling council, “not to speak or teach at all in the Name of Jesus.”
After being released, the whole church gathered together to discuss their plan of action. In the course of discussion, their prayer is lifted and the basis of their prayer is from these verses in Psalm 2. In short, God was moving. God had anointed Jesus as King over His people. And God had work to do, based on the rule of this new King. The resistance against Jesus and His Church was seen as a rebellious resistance to the rightful rule of the New King – the Lord’s Anointed One… Jesus, the Christ!
But this is nothing new. It continues to this day. Perhaps no more blatantly than in our culture today. We tend to be the worst kind of people… we think we are good, decent, and God-pleasing – but we stubbornly (often openly!) resist God’s leadership and direction for our lives. Think of all the ways our culture virtually ignores the laws of God – and fights so hard to be a law unto themselves. We refuse to submit to the rulership of God because we believe He is only interested in ruining our fun, or shackling us with a bunch of suffocating rules, or keeping us in the moral dark ages.
But the message of the new King is totally different than what we have thought. It is about unconditional love. It is about releasing us from the anxieties and burdens of this life. It is about boundaries that keep us safe from ourselves – not because God delights in taking away our fun, but because a loving King only wants what is best for us.
As in David’s day, the true hope for any people is found in submitting to the rule of the rightful King – and in the discovery that His rule is righteous, it promotes justice, and is centered in a true love and compassion for all people.