Psalm 2:7-12: The reign of Christ (Psalm of the Day, 4/365)

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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.” 

Act 3: Christ speaks. The Word of the Lord is here recounted by Christ himself. According to Paul, this decree was fulfilled in Christ’s resurrection and enthronement in heaven (Acts 13:33). This “generation” of Christ does not have to do with his coming into existence, but with his coming into possession of a universal reign.

Confirming this are the subsequent words of the Lord which grant to Christ “every power … in heaven and on earth” (Mt. 28:18). Whether they want to or not, the very nations which opposed him will become subject to him. The imagery of the rod of iron that smashes earthen pots in pieces conveys the idea of decisive judgment in response to the rebellion of the nations. In terms of the whole sweep of the biblical narrative, however, this judgment ultimately serves to fulfill God’s redemptive purpose to bless all the families of the earth (Gen. 12:3, 49:10). The final goal of judgment is to put the world into order, and to this end it must sweep away all that contributes to disorder.

Incredibly, Christ will grant his saints to participate in his authority over the earth at the time of his return (Ps. 149:6-9; Rev. 2:26-27; 19:15). Meantime, those who are seated with Christ on his heavenly throne in virtue of their union with him can intercede on behalf of the nations, asking God to make them Christ’s inheritance in salvation (Eph. 2:6).

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.

Act 4: The worshipper speaks. With his final exhortations, the psalmist challenges our concept of worship. Remembering that this psalm, like all the psalms, is a song to be used in worship, we must conclude that worship such as this has teeth, playing a vital role in the spiritual warfare to which the church is called. This is worship that commands what it proclaims — worldwide submission of every creature in heaven and earth to Jesus Christ — and that warns of the judgment which will fall upon those who stubbornly refuse to do so.

At the same time, this is worship that announces the joyful message of salvation: he who judges is also our refuge from judgment. Far from being contrary to his love, God’s judgment revealed in Christ is a manifestation of his love. The wrath of God is the form that his love assumes when its loving purpose is threatened by sin. Judgment is God’s refusal to accept the refusal of humanity. He judges because he loves, and he loves by means of his judgment.

To a Lord such as this, the right response is twofold: rejoice with trembling! Paradoxical though it may seem, this is the only possible response. The fact that Christ is the only righteous man means that the rest of us are all unrighteous and deserving of judgment. Ma this fact also means that whoever takes refuge in him will be justified, shielded in the shadow of his own perfect righteousness.

Psalm 2:1-6: Why do the nations rage? (Psalm of the Day, 3/365)

As the second half of the entry point into the psalms, Psalm 2 indicates that the rest of the psalter is not to be interpreted simply as the words of God to his people or the words of the people in response to God, but primarily as the words of the One who embodies both: Jesus Christ. It shows this by recounting a cosmic drama that unfolds through a series of four acts.

1 Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?

Act 1: The nations speak. In contrast to the righteous who, according to Psalm 1:2-3, meditate on God’s Word (and thus prosper even in times of want), the nations “meditate” on vain things and are thus doomed to failure. Inasmuch as it is the “nations” and “peoples” that do this, we must conclude, as Psalm 14:2-3 will declare, that there is no one truly righteous, not even one. This casts new light on the interpretation of the righteous man of Psalm 1: ultimately there is only one.

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.”

Here we see both the vain things that the peoples meditate (represented by their kings and rulers) and those against whom they do so. They seek to mount a rebellion against Yahweh and his “Messiah” — his Christ — viewing their authority as bondage. Indeed, this rebellion recapitulates the entire history of humanity ever since the first sin committed in Eden. But such rebellious meditation is vain because no one can stand against God and his Christ. Even at the culmination of human rebellion when Christ seemed defeated, when “there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel” (Acts 4:27), even then the rebellious world did not triumph.

4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.

Act 2: Yahweh speaks. From the perspective of God in heaven, the self-vaunted plots of the peoples are ludicrous. God cannot be mocked; rather it is he who will mock those who attempt to do so! Though often derided, those who belong to Christ need never be ashamed (cf. Rom. 1:16-18), for the deriders themselves are those whom God holds 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 vain rage of the nations is further exposed in this: though they refuse to “meditate” on God’s Word (Ps. 1:2), they will hear it nonetheless, and they will have no choice but to bow in submission under its judgment. Those who try to rebel against God’s Word will nevertheless be terrified by it when it comes to them no longer as a promise of salvation (v.12) but of wrath. In one way or another, every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:10-11).

Psalm 1:3-6: At the Crossroads (Psalm of the Day, 2/365)

3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

The contrast in vv. 1-2 leads to a second: the “fruit” of these two ways. Those who delight in and meditate on the wicked’s counsel become unstable and unsubstantial like chaff, whereas those who delight in and meditate on the Word of God — and above all the Word that is Jesus Christ — become firmly rooted in the only source of all life and thus never cease to bear fruit, even in seasons of drought and famine. As Jesus said: “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

The third and final contrast reveals the final destination of these two ways. Those who follow the wicked’s counsel will be blown away in the judgment like the empty husks that they have become. Those who instead follow God’s Word walk the way that he “knows”, that is, the way of those whom the Lord approves, favors, and loves. Yet this “knowing” cannot be said to be earned, for indeed God’s “knowing” bespeaks a covenantal relationship that he himself establishes by grace alone. Confirming this is the fact that the “law” (torah) of v.2 is the instruction given specially to God’s covenant people, the people whom he has saved from slavery and to whom he has bound himself with a covenant: “I am the Lord who brought you out of Egypt” (Ex. 20:2). All of this is a gift of sheer grace.

Ultimately, then, it is from the very first step that everyone begins to walk either in the direction of salvation or damnation (vv.1-2). It is not possible to put off the decision of which road to take. “Choose you this day whom you will serve” (Josh. 24:15), because “today is the day of salvation!” (2 Cor. 6:2). It is today, this very day, that makes all the difference, and wisdom does not linger at the intersection between these two paths but knows to discern to right one and to begin walking in it immediately.

Yet in the greatest sense, the line of division between these two ways, the decisive crossroad between salvation and damnation, is Jesus Christ: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock…. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand” (Matt. 7:24, 26). He is both the divine Word that instructs and the blessed man who hears and obeys it. Thus, only those who “take refuge in him” (Ps. 2:12) receive the blessings promised in this psalm, because only Jesus is the one who has perfectly fulfilled every covenantal condition on our behalf.

Psalm 1:1-2: It All Begins Here (Psalm of the Day, 1/365)

Since acquiring a copy of the ESV Interleaved Bible inspired by Jonathan Edwards’s famous Blank Bible, I have been doing my Bible reading with a pen in hand to jot down my thoughts, prayers, and meditations. Although I originally intended these only for personal devotion and benefit, I realized that they might also be encouraging and JonathanEdwardsBlankBibleProbsedifying for others. So I thought that I would begin to share some of them, beginning with the book of Psalms. To keep these posts a bit shorter, I will split them up (for now) into 365 sections, one for every day. I won’t be posting them every day for reasons of time, but Lord willing at then end I will have written the equivalent of 365 days of devotional reflections on the psalms. They are written in more of a “commentary”, verse-by-verse form, but they are certainly not intended to be a commentary, but just my own personal reflections on these passages at a certain point in my walk with the Lord. If you find them helpful, then praise the Lord! If not, then have patience with me as I no doubt have a lot more to learn and further to go. So with all these preliminary comments, let’s look at the first two verses of Psalm 1 (ESV).

1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

Psalm 1 is the “gateway” to the entire book of Psalms which could also be entitled “the Bible in miniature”. This psalm, together with the following one, prepares us to understand and practice well all that the psalter has to teach us. Forming an inclusio with Psalm 2 as the introduction to the whole book which follows (indicated in 1:1 and 2:12 by the word “blessed”), the psalter begins by pronouncing a special blessing for those who heed its wisdom and learn from it how to walk the right path of life.

While in v.2 the psalmist will characterize these people in positive terms, here in v.1 he describes them by means of three negations that trace the gradual progression (or better, descent) of those who, by contrast, succumb to the influence of the wicked and end up becoming wicked themselves. First, they open their ears to the wicked’s counsel (to walk), then they start to follow and imitate their lifestyle (to stand in their way), and finally they join together with them as one of them (to sit in their seat).

2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

In contrast to those who meditate on the “counsel” of the wicked, the righteous (i.e. the “blessed”) are distinguished by their constant meditation, day and night, on the “counsel” (i.e. the torah, “law”) of the Lord, the word of his instruction. Such meditation is fruit not of duty but of delight. That in which we find our greatest delight is that to which we will dedicate ourselves day and night. Thus, the righteous who are blessed of the Lord are marked primarily by their delight in the word of God, and for this reason they walk, then stand, and then sit in the presence of God rather than in the company of the wicked.

Centuries after the writing of this psalm, the apostle John would identify Jesus Christ as the “Word” of God in the definitive sense, insofar as he was not simply the word about God but the Word that was God (Jn. 1:1). The greatest and perfect revelation of God is therefore Jesus, behind whose back there is hidden no other God. This is why we read Jesus declaring: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (Jn. 5:39). In other words, we cannot gain any benefit from the words of Scripture except that we meditate through them on the one Word of which they speak. In reality, it is in this Word that the blessed find their supreme delight, those who consider all things “loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:8).

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