The Confidence of Christ
He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them. 5 Then He will speak to them in His anger And terrify them in His fury, saying, 6 “But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”
In the gospels Jesus is on a mission that is governed by an all important hour, the hour of His passion and glory (cf. John 17.1). This was the hour that the Son of God would face the evil powers of darkness converging upon Him and persecuting Him to death. And yet, we are struck by Jesus’ unflinching resolve to face that hour and submit to the powers of this present darkness (cf. Is. 50.7; Mt. 16.21). Here in Psalm 2 we see what drove Jesus and what He anticipated in His earthly life for His confidence was ultimately rooted in God’s absolute commitment to vindicate and exalt the Son whom He appointed as King. In these verses we can see the confidence of Christ in three ways, God’s sovereignty, wrath and kingdom.
The Infinite Sovereignty Of God
The sovereignty of God is usually a doctrine that is used to discuss soteriology. We believe that God is sovereign in His dispensation of His sovereign grace and mercy (Rom. 9.18); however we also understand the sovereignty of God in terms of God’s absolute dominion and power over all things. This of course would include the feeble anti-Christ rage of the nations. Because God possesses absolute dominion and sovereignty, the only proper response to the rebellion of earthly powers is mockery, “He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them” (2.4).
This divine laughter and mockery is first rooted in God’s enthronement as He is described as, “He who sits in the heavens” (יוֹשֵׁ֣ב בַּשָּׁמַ֣יִם) (2.4a). This should cause people to pause and consider who it is that they are offending and with whom they must contend and to who they will give an account (Mt. 12.36; 16.27; Acts 17.31; 1 Pet. 4.5). The imagery of the psalm depicts God on His royal throne in the “heavens” (שָּׁמַ֣יִם). Think of it, from heaven God is completely out of reach. The last time man attempted to ascend to the heavens on their own God cursed them with confusion at Babel (cf. Gen. 11.1-9). From heaven God also has a perfect vantage point from where to judge the world (cf. Mt. 26.64). The “heavens” also represent God’s kingdom reign, where His law is always exacted and His rule is unmitigated so that His sovereignty is supreme. From heaven God also executes His sovereign will on the earth:
Psalm 115:1–3 1 Not to us, O Lord, not to us, But to Your name give glory Because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth. 2 Why should the nations say, “Where, now, is their God?” 3 But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.
God’s laughter is also based on His authority and Lordship, “the Lord scoffs at them” (אֲ֝דֹנָ֗י יִלְעַג־לָֽמוֹ ) (2.4b). These are parallel ideas that tell us that the One who sits enthroned is the Lord himself. As Lord He not only has absolute authority and power ascribed to Him, but He also occupies the very station that man so enviously desires. The “kings” and “rulers” of this world crave the authority that only God possess. They crave absolute authority and absolute autonomy. But this is a ‘pipe dream’ that will never be attained and this is why God laughs. Only God is the true and final authority and Lord of all. As Lord, God’s laughter is a laughter that is full of irony paradoxical jest for in fact, for God to laugh at you is for God to judge you. And this is what He will do to all nations who reject Him and His Anointed:
Psalm 59:5–8 5 You, O Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel, Awake to punish all the nations; Do not be gracious to any who are treacherous in iniquity. Selah. 6 They return at evening, they howl like a dog, And go around the city. 7 Behold, they belch forth with their mouth; Swords are in their lips, For, they say, “Who hears?” 8 But You, O Lord, laugh at them; You scoff at all the nations.
In one sense there is no sweeter sound in all of Scripture than God laughing. The laughter of God after all speaks to God's absolute authority His absolute power and absolute dominion over all of our enemies. God laughing at the nations means God saving, protecting and delivering His nation and His people. In this way the Church can take comfort in the fact that God mocks His enemies to honor His children. The infinite sovereignty of God over the nations secures the safety and destiny of His people (cf. 2 Thess. 1.6-10; 2.11-12).
The Infinite Wrath Of God
In one sense Psalm 2 is something of an emotional roller-coaster; God going from funny to fury from mocking in laughter to speaking in “anger” (אַף), “Then He will speak to them in His anger And terrify them in His fury” (2.5). Notice the language there, “anger”, “terrify”, “fury.” What a sobering reminder that when God laughs He is not joking! From infinite sovereignty to infinite wrath. God’s absolute sovereignty is not fatalistic, it is not that God simply has control of all things; He is working out His eternal plan in the salvation of the elect and in the condemnation of the wicked. The reason why God laughs is because they cannot escape His wrath and fury (cf. Rev. 6.15-17). In fact, they cannot even contend with the God they so detest. Isaiah exalts in God’s power, sovereignty and wrath over the nations:
Isaiah 40:15–17 15 Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, And are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust. 16 Even Lebanon is not enough to burn, Nor its beasts enough for a burnt offering. 17 All the nations are as nothing before Him, They are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.
Isaiah 41:1–4 1 “Coastlands, listen to Me in silence, And let the peoples gain new strength; Let them come forward, then let them speak; Let us come together for judgment. 2 “Who has aroused one from the east Whom He calls in righteousness to His feet? He delivers up nations before him And subdues kings. He makes them like dust with his sword, As the wind-driven chaff with his bow. 3 “He pursues them, passing on in safety, By a way he had not been traversing with his feet. 4 “Who has performed and accomplished it, Calling forth the generations from the beginning? ‘I, the Lord, am the first, and with the last. I am He.’ ”
Much in the same way that Israel was to take courage from these words as they saw Egypt, Assyria and Babylon taking aim at them to destroy them, to a much greater degree God’s Church should be comforted that God still has total control over the nations who hate His people. How else are the persecuted churches around the Muslim world going to take courage as they see their churches burned, their pastors crucified, and their fellow believers slaughtered? How else do we cope with the encroaching liberalism in our own post-modern context that is conditioning our culture to think fundamentally in a God-hating, Christ-rejecting, truth-minimizing way? We take good courage and hope in the same reality that the psalmist did; the God of absolute sovereignty will deliver us and destroy His enemies in His infinite wrath and vengeance.
Many people make the juvenile mistake, that God’s wrath from the OT has been abated and that the world need not worry as if God is going flood the world again like with Noah, or rain down fire and brimstone like with Sodom and Gomorrah. But this is fundamentally wrong. Judgment is coming, retribution is coming and vindication will take place for God’s elect:
2 Thessalonians 1:6–9 6 For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,
Its important to point out that here in Psalm 2 God’s wrath begins not with fire and brimstone but with His speech! God’s word is known for its epiphanic terror:
Exodus 20:19 19 Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.”
Deuteronomy 5:25 25 ‘Now then why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer, then we will die.
Deuteronomy 18:16 16 “This is according to all that you asked of the Lord your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.’
The anticipation of God’s judgment-voice is a terrifying oracle, the sound of God’s voice is unbearable, and the outcome of the judgment-voice of God spells destruction for the wicked along with all rulers of the present evil age (cf. Rev. 19.11-16).
The Infinite Kingdom Of God
Verse 6 is largely resumptive since it finally answers the protest of verse 3, “let us tear their fetters apart, and cast away their cords from us.” Now Yahweh speaks and His speech is terrifying if a person identifies with the kings and rulers of this earth. As Yahweh speaks we learn why He laughs and mocks at the wicked. It is because God’s infinite kingdom cannot be stopped. To use the words of Hebrews, “we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken” (Heb. 12.28). The covenant LORD of Israel says, “But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.” We need to pause and consider several things that are displayed in God’s kingdom. Three things are displayed in God’s infinite kingdom.
God’s Sovereignty Displayed In The Kingdom
On a typological level, David was a sign to the world, that God’s kingdom was a display of His sovereignty. By installing the king of Israel the world would know that God’s final ambitions are that His kingdom would rule forever. It was and is a reminder that God’s purposes are unstoppable. The nations may have attempted to destroy Israel, to wipe out her king, bring Jerusalem to ruin; but God’s decree would stand nevertheless. On God’s part, “but as for Me”, He will move forward with building His kingdom through His King. This after all is the overarching purpose of the plan of redemption (cf. 2 Sam. 7.13; 1 Chron. 28.7; Ps. 45.6; Dan. 4.34).
God’s King Displayed In The Kingdom
At the heart of the kingdom is the King. Psalm 2 reminds us that the apex of the kingdom revolves around the glory and beauty of the great King (cf. Is. 33.17). He is called the “King of kings”, “the Lord of lords” (Rev. 17.14; 19.16). He is higher than all of the kings of the earth (Ps. 89.27). His royal lordship towers over all of the rebellious wicked kings of this age, the rulers of this age that did in fact crucify the King, “the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2.8). God’s King is there by God’s installation, God’s choice, and God’s decree (2.7). From the typological level, when David was installed as God’s king, it was a symbol to the world of God’s unshakable kingdom that would come in His ultimate King— His Son. This would spell doom for the rulers of the pagan nations surrounding Israel which were merely symbolic not of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict over a strip in Gaza today, but of the cosmic forces that are at work to oppress and afflict all of God’s elect people from the four corners of the earth. God’s King speaks of God’s triumph.
God’s Realm Displayed In The Kingdom
If the king of Israel was a logo for the holy King of God, Zion is a logo of the supernal holy realm of God’s kingdom. Not only is Zion the location of the reign of God’s King, it is also an eschatological code for understanding God’s kingdom throughout Scripture. Zion represents earthly typological Jerusalem in the OT (2 Sam. 5.7; Ps. 51.18), the epicenter of God’s glory-temple (Ps. 132.13), salvation hope for true Israel (Ps. 14.7), the people of God themselves in general (Lam. 2.8), and the eschatological glory-realm of heaven (Ps. 9.11; Heb. 12.22). Many of these themes are used in the Psalms. For example Psalm 48:
Psalm 48:1–3 1 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, In the city of our God, His holy mountain. 2 Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, Is Mount Zion in the far north, The city of the great King. 3 God, in her palaces, Has made Himself known as a stronghold.
Everything that is resplendent and luminous about God, His King and His glory is there in Zion:
Psalm 50:2 2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God has shone forth.
It is God’s chosen holy realm:
Psalm 132:13–14 13 For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation. 14 “This is My resting place forever; Here I will dwell, for I have desired it.
It is where God has chosen to dwell with His people:
Psalm 78:68 68 But chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion which He loved.
Ultimately, Zion is not just indicative of a place but of a state of existence. It does not just represent heaven it also represents eternal life in God’s glory-kingdom. That is what Psalm two is ultimately pointing to. The King installed in Zion is ultimately directing us towards the eschaton-age where Jesus Christ will reign in His unshakable kingdom, the kingdom of heaven. Revelation gives us the total picture and captures the message and eschatology Psalm 2:
Revelation 11:15–18 15 Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” 16 And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying, “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. 18 “And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.”
CONNECT TO CHRIST
1. Jesus Exhibits Confidence In The Face Of The World’s Hostility
As we connect to Christ, we take comfort in the Messianic application and fulfillment of this psalm. Jesus’ confidence was not only prophesied, it has practiced. Jesus had total confidence in God’s sovereignty over the world powers (cf. John 18.36; 19.11). Jesus knew that the hostility that He faced was in fact part of His covenant mission of redemption. The hostility that Jesus faced in His earthly ministry fulfilled prophecy down to the minute details:
John 18:8–11 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am He; so if you seek Me, let these go their way,” 9 to fulfill the word which He spoke, “Of those whom You have given Me I lost not one.” 10 Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave’s name was Malchus. 11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?”
Here we see the complete awareness and trust of Jesus in God’s sovereign will. Not only in His arrest knowing that this would work toward the end of marking out God’s people given to Him by the Father. By asking Peter to put His sword away He reveals His total awareness and acceptance of the suffering He would face as “the cup which the Father has given Me.” Jesus had absolute confidence in the face of the world’s hostility because His Father was working in the details His perfect sovereign plan (cf. Acts 4.25-28).
2. Jesus Trusted In The Sovereignty Of God
Knowing the impending hour of betrayal, trial and prosecution was coming where He would be delivered over to the present darkness (cf. Lk. 22.52-53); Jesus remained resigned under the sovereignty of God and it was into God’s hands that He committed himself even in death:
Luke 23:44–49 44 It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 because the sun was obscured; and the veil of the temple was torn in two. 46 And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Having said this, He breathed His last. 47 Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent.” 48 And all the crowds who came together for this spectacle, when they observed what had happened, began to return, beating their breasts. 49 And all His acquaintances and the women who accompanied Him from Galilee were standing at a distance, seeing these things.
Christ reminds us that even as He trusted in the sovereignty of God; so too we should be ready and resolved to commit our way to our faithful Creator (cf. 1 Pet. 4.19).
3. Jesus Believed In The Final Triumph Of The Kingdom Of God
The theology reflected in Psalm two is the same theology reflected in the life of Jesus. Jesus understood that every meticulous detail of His life was working towards the establishment of God's kingdom. Even the opposition that he faced in this world was part and parcel of how God was going to establish the kingdom of His Son. God's kingdom was always meant to be established through the suffering of the sun and the vindication of His glory.
Matthew 26:62–64 62 The high priest stood up and said to Him, “Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?” 63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Jesus had complete and total confidence in the coming kingdom. The kingdom of God meant that every opposition that Jesus faced in and from this world was not in vain and neither is ours (cf. 1 Cor. 15.58). The church today faces many adversaries everything from false religion, world cults, global persecution, cultural oppression, and internal division. But in the face of all of these things, if we desire to walk like Jesus, we will learn that God's kingdom will come and His will, regardless of what we see before us, will be done.