The Message of Psalm 2: Part One :: By David Reagan

“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth dismay among nations… men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:25-26).

We live in a world gripped by fear. Among all segments of society and all nations of the world, there is a foreboding sense that we are marching toward some cataclysmic consummation of history.

The news is filled with reports of increasing violence — muggings, kidnappings, child abuse, terrorism, wars, and rumors of wars. We seem to be bombarded by an endless stream of natural calamities such as earthquakes, famines, hurricanes, floods, and fires. And the increasing immorality continues to spawn new diseases that threaten Man’s very existence.

Significant too is the fact that all these frightful trends are taking place within the context of a world armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons. And to make things worse, these weapons of mass destruction are now spreading to irresponsible outlaw nations like Iran and North Korea. We have giant weapons in the hands of moral pygmies.

All the while, the nations of the world continue on their spending binge, piling debt on debt, preparing the way for a colossal worldwide economic collapse.

The Reality of Fear

In the midst of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt tried to rally a despondent nation by declaring, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” Those words ring hollow today as we face a multiplicity of very real and unprecedented fears.

It is no wonder that people are scared. They are afraid of losing their jobs, their homes, and their life savings. They fear for their personal well-being, the safety of their children, and the security of their nation. They are frightened by the prospect of menacing plagues and the potential for devastating civil disorder. And lurking in the background is always the possibility of nuclear holocaust.

People are desperately searching for security. They are buying guns and securing their houses with electronic devices. They are altering their lifestyles to protect themselves against the violence of muggers and diseases like AIDS. They are turning to Eastern religions and pop psychology to find solace for their souls.

Increasing Questions

As the world disintegrates before our eyes, even Christians are beginning to question the trends. Increasingly, Christians are asking: “Is God in control? Is evil going to triumph? Is there really any hope?”

The good news is that God, in His grace and mercy, gave the answers to these questions almost three thousand years ago when He spoke to the heart of a shepherd boy by the name of David ben Jesse. He gave the boy a poem that was short, sweet, powerful, and full of hope. It contains a message that a fearful world desperately needs to hear today.

The poem is found in the Hebrew Bible. It is called Psalm 2. Let’s take a look at it.

Rulers Scoff

Unlike most of the psalms, Psalm 2 does not have a superscription that identifies its author. But we know it was written by David ben Jesse because Luke, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, identified David as the author in Acts 4:25.

The psalm begins with the author lamenting the world’s condition:

“Why are the nations in an uproar, And the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand, And the rulers take counsel together Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!'” (Psalm 2:1-3).

The language of these verses is rather stilted in the English translation, so let me try to put the words into modern English for you.

The psalmist is asking: “Lord, why is it that everywhere I look in the world the nations are in turmoil? Why are they always devising some vain thing to the glory of Man — things like the tower of Babel, the Roman Empire, the League of Nations, and the United Nations? Why is it, Lord, that the presidents, and prime ministers, and kings of the earth are always conspiring against You and Your Anointed One, Jesus? Why is it that the world’s political leaders are always saying, ‘Let’s put aside the limitations of God’s Word and cast away His laws and do what we please!’

As you can see, nothing has changed in three thousand years. As in the time of David, the nations of the world today are still in full revolt against the Lord. And so it is that Psalm 2 is just as relevant as if it were written yesterday.

Probing Questions

One thing you must understand about Psalm 2 is that the questions which David poses at the beginning were not asked for the purpose of eliciting answers from God. David already knew the answers.

These are rhetorical questions, asked for the purpose of provoking thought. They are designed to motivate the reader to think about the nature of the world in which he lives, and to do so in response to what God’s Word reveals about that world.

I say David knew the answers to the questions because the answers are provided in the book of Genesis, and David must have been familiar with that book as well as all the Torah — the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures — if only by oral tradition.

A Phenomenal Gift

If you will think back for a moment to the opening pages of Genesis, you will remember that God presented an incredible gift to Adam and Eve shortly after their creation.

God gave them something on a silver platter that Hitler lusted for. He gave them something that Stalin dreamed of, that the Romans yearned for, and that Alexander the Great almost achieved. God gave them dominion over all the earth (Genesis 1:27-28).

But almost as soon as Adam and Eve had been given this gift, they lost it. When they rebelled against God, Satan stepped forward and stole the dominion that was intended for Man.

Satan became the prince of this earth. That is the reason Jesus referred to him as “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31). That is the reason that Satan could tempt Jesus by offering Him “all the kingdoms of the world” if Jesus would only worship him (Matthew 4:8-10). That would not have been a legitimate temptation if the kingdoms were not Satan’s to give.

Even after the Cross, the apostle John stated that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). The Cross sealed the ultimate fate of Satan, but that fate will not be experienced until Jesus returns and Satan is crushed beneath the feet of the Lord’s people (Romans 16:20).

God’s Sovereignty

The fact that Satan rules as the prince of this earth does not mean that God has lost control. Satan is not omnipotent. He has always operated within limits prescribed by God.

The oldest book in the Bible, the book of Job, begins by picturing Satan before the throne of God, asking permission to afflict Job (Job 1:6-11). God gives him permission to touch all that Job has but denies him permission to take Job’s life (Job 1:12).

Satan was further limited by the Cross, for since that time, believers have been indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and “He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

The book of Daniel makes it clear that God is the one who raises up nations and puts them down. As Daniel put it, “He [God] removes kings and establishes kings” (Daniel 2:21). Paul affirms this in the New Testament when he speaks of “governing authorities” and states that “there is no authority except from God” (Romans 13:1).

But the other side of the coin is the fact that the moment God puts someone in a position of governing authority, Satan comes against that person and attempts in every way possible to corrupt and compromise the person so that he ends up serving Satan’s purposes.

It doesn’t matter whether the person is a school board member, the governor of a province, or the president of a nation; Satan attempts to control all governing authorities. That is why we are so strongly urged to pray “for kings and all who are in authority” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

Satan’s Havoc

The Bible attests to this never-ending cycle of God appointing and Satan attacking. I think, for example, of the tragic story of Saul, the first king of Israel. He began with such promise, having received a special anointing of God’s Spirit that even enabled him to prophesy with the prophets (1 Samuel 10:1,6,9-11).

But Satan immediately encouraged Saul’s pride and attacked him with a spirit of melancholy that drove him into fits of depression. Out of pride, Saul began to “act foolishly,” assuming for himself the duties of the priests (1 Samuel 13:8-13). In depression, he turned to mediums and witches for advice rather than relying on the prophets of God. The tragic result was that the Spirit of God departed from him (I Samuel 16:14), and Saul committed suicide on the battlefield (I Samuel 31:4).

In like manner, Solomon began his reign on his knees before the Lord, receiving a special anointing of wisdom and knowledge (2 Chronicles 1:7-12). His future looked so bright.

But Satan came against him, tempting him with worldly riches. Solomon’s turning point came in the year when he received 666 talents of gold (I Kings 10:14). From that point on, he became obsessed with three things: riches, women, and military power (I Kings 11:1-8). He ended up doing “what was evil in the sight of the Lord” (I Kings 11:6).

The empire divided following Solomon’s death, and during the 209-year history of the northern kingdom of Israel, there was not one king who was considered good in God’s sight. The southern kingdom of Judah lasted a hundred years longer, but during its three hundred years, only 8 of its 20 kings were considered righteous by the Lord.

The Continuing Struggle

When the New Testament opens, we find the tug of war between God and Satan continuing. Satan inspires King Herod to slaughter all the babies of Bethlehem in an attempt to cut off the Messiah at His birth.

Later, Satan orchestrates a conspiracy between governing authorities who hated each other. He brings together the Roman governor and the Jewish Sanhedrin, and through their joint efforts, he accomplishes the murder of the Messiah.

Satan’s triumph was, of course, short-lived, for it was overcome by the victory of the Messiah’s resurrection. But Satan was not to be deterred for long. He renewed his relentless attacks on God’s sovereignty by launching an all-out persecution of the Messiah’s followers.

When Satan realized that this persecution of the church was only spreading it and increasing its strength, he shifted to a new strategy — the wedding of the church and the state so that the church could be compromised. This occurred around 331 A.D., and it marked the beginning of the dark ages when the church became subservient to the state. The church quickly became penetrated by the world, and its testimony for Christ became secondary to the pursuit of politics.

But, thank God, Jesus had made an important promise concerning His church. He had promised that “the gates of Hades shall not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18). So, even during the darkest years of the Middle Ages, there was always a faithful remnant preserved by the Spirit of God.

Finally, the day came when Martin Luther nailed his theses to the door and called for a return to God’s Word. Satan was put on the defensive once again as the church experienced reformation and began to send out missionaries all over the world.

The Conflict in Our Time

As the 20th Century dawned, Satan went back on the offensive. He orchestrated one of his greatest victories with the birth of Communism in Russia in 1917. Satanism became incarnate in the atheistic ideology of the Communists as they attempted to exterminate both the church and God’s Word.

Simultaneously, Satan launched an internal attack on the Western democracies by energizing the philosophy of Secular Humanism. The Judaic-Christian foundation of Western Civilization came under direct attack from within while the Communists hammered at it from without.

The Communist threat has collapsed from the weight of its own internal inconsistencies. But Satan has provided no breathing space. He continues to promote the advance of Secular Humanism, and he has brought about a resurgence of Islam.

The Focus of the Conflict

Perhaps the clearest example of Satan’s determination to exert his dominion in defiance of God’s will is to be found in his opposition to the re-establishment of the nation of Israel.

Throughout the Old Testament, God promises repeatedly that in the end times He will regather the Jewish people from the four corners of the earth to the land of Israel (see Isaiah 11:10-12 and Ezekiel 36:22-37:12). God reveals that His purpose is to do a mighty work in the hearts of the Jews that will result in a remnant accepting His Son as their Messiah (Zechariah 12:10, 13:1 and Romans 9:27, 11:1-6, 25-32).

Satan hates this purpose of God because he hates the Jewish people with a passion. His hatred is fueled by the fact that God has used the Jewish people as a vehicle to bless all the nations of the world. Through the Jews, God gave the world the Scriptures. Through the Jews, God gave the Messiah.

Satan is determined to destroy the Jewish people so that God cannot keep His promise to bring a remnant to salvation. This is the reason that Satan is orchestrating all the nations of the earth against Israel today. God has raised up a nation that Satan, as the prince of this world, is determined to destroy.

Rage vs. Laughter

I am personally outraged by Satan’s many attempts to frustrate and defeat the will of God in Israel and throughout the earth today. I often feel so frustrated that I want to shout, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging” by sending your Son back to reign in glory and majesty and righteousness and justice?” (Revelation 6:10)

The only way I am able to restrain my anger is to remind myself of what God is doing in Heaven while I fume over Satan’s plots on this earth. Do you know what the Scriptures say God is doing?

He is laughing! Yes, God is sitting on His throne laughing — not because He doesn’t care, but because He has the world’s events under control. This may be hard to believe, but I can prove it to you. Let’s return to Psalm 2.

God Laughs

“He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger And terrify them in His fury: ‘But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain'” (Psalm 2:4-6).

God laughs at Satan and all the politicians in league with him as they attempt to thwart God’s purposes in history. He laughs for three reasons.

First, the passage says, “The Lord scoffs at them.” The Hebrew here means literally that “the Lord has them in derision.”

In short, this means that no matter what Satan does, God sees to it that it backfires in his face to the glory of Jesus. Psalm 76:10 says that even “the wrath of Man” shall go to the praise of God.

Satan’s Frustration

In this regard, Satan has got to be the most frustrated personality on planet Earth. All his schemes ultimately fail. All his plots sooner or later unravel.

The Cross is the classic example. Satan thought he had gained his greatest victory. Instead, it proved to be a defeat. God took history’s most dastardly event and converted it into something majestic through the power of the resurrection.

In World War I, Satan managed to put together a conflict of unparalleled carnage, but God worked through the evil of that war to accomplish a spiritual purpose. He liberated the land called Palestine from the Turks and delivered it into the hands of the British, who immediately proclaimed it to be a homeland for the Jews.

Likewise, during World War II, God worked through the incredible evil of Satan’s Holocaust to prepare the Jewish people for their homeland. They came out of the Holocaust saying, “Never again! Never again! We are going to have our own land, our own nation, our own state.” Accordingly, they began to return to Israel by the hundreds of thousands.

God used World War I to prepare the land for the people. He worked through World War II to prepare the people for the land.

God sits in the heavens and laughs while Satan writhes in frustration.

A Day of Wrath

The second reason God is laughing is because “He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury” (Psalm 2:5). This statement refers to the fact that God has appointed a day when He will deal with all the kingdoms of the earth and their political leaders by pouring out His wrath through the return of His Son, Jesus the Messiah.

Paul spoke of this momentous day during his sermon on Mar’s Hill in Athens: “God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).

This day is often mentioned by the Old Testament prophets. They called it “the day of the Lord” (Joel 2:1). The prophet Zephaniah described it as “a day of wrath, trouble, distress, destruction, desolation, darkness and gloom” (Zephaniah 1:15). He said that the Lord will bring such distress upon people that they will reel about, walking like blind men (Zephaniah 1:17).

Satan’s False God

This day of wrath that God has reserved for the rebellious nations of the world and their leaders is one of the best-kept secrets in the universe. Satan doesn’t want anyone to know about it. In his attempt to cover it up, he has created a false image of God that has been bought by both Christians and unbelievers.

The false god Satan wants us to believe in is a pushover that could be characterized as “the cosmic teddy bear.” He is big and warm and soft and cuddly. And when we stand before him to be judged, he will put his arm around us, snuggle us up to him, and say, “I know you never accepted My Son as your Lord and Savior, but that’s okay, because you were a lot better person than the reprobate who lived down the street from you. So you just come on into My kingdom and enjoy eternal life with Me.”

No such namby-pamby god exists. He is a cruel hoax created by Satan. All of us stand condemned before the true God, for “all of us like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). Our only hope is through faith in Jesus (Romans 3:21-24). God does not grade on the curve, nor is He some patsy who can be easily hoodwinked. God cannot be deceived or mocked (Galatians 6:7).

Yes, God is full of grace and mercy (Psalm 86:15), and He does not desire that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9), but He is also a God of perfect righteousness, holiness, and justice — and as such, He cannot countenance sin.

God must deal with sin, and He does so with either grace or wrath. That is why John the Baptist declared that every person on earth is under either the grace of God or His wrath (John 3:36).

To be continued in Part Two.