Psalm 8 Commentary

Psalm 8

Psalm 8 Commentary: Psalm 8 is a reflective or meditative psalm. That just means, the author wrote it to reflect and meditate on something. In this case, the author is David, and he’s reflecting on nature. And in particular he’s meditating on man’s place in relation to nature.

Psalm 8 Commentary: Structure

Body of Psalm 8

The structure of this psalm includes three parts. The body of the psalm is probably the easiest to see. It basically consists of a meditation in Psalm 8:3-8. The psalmist is considering God’s creation. And in light of that, he’s struck with the smallness of man. And yet at the same time, he’s equally effected by the thought of man’s special place in God’s creation. So, that’s the body of Psalm 8.

Closing Meditation of Psalm 8

The closing meditation is found in the last verse — Psalm 8:9.

Introductory Meditation of Psalm 8

And so that leaves one last part: Psalm 8:1-2. This is where the psalmist introduces his meditation on the excellence of God’s name — or his reputation. And even here in the introduction you see a microcosm of the rest of the psalm.

Psalm 8:1 starts out speaking of God’s establishing his glory above the heavens. So, he’s thinking about creation – the heavens. And then he zooms in on two groups – very young children and God’s enemies. We’ll get into who these two groups are why the psalmist is focusing on them at this point, but briefly now we can at least recognize that the psalmist’s mind is – for lack of a better term – wandering from God’s general universal creation to his specific creation and sustaining of humans.

Do you see how that’s a microcosm of the rest of the psalm? Remember the main section of the psalm? The psalmist’s meditation in Psalm 8:3-8 – where he’s looking at the sky – at God’s vast creation – and then he focuses in on man within that creation. The same general thing is happening in both the introduction and the body of this psalm.

Psalm 8 Commentary: Implied Situation

So, now let’s focus on the implied situation of Psalm 8.

I think it’s nothing more than the psalmist looking up into a cloudless starry sky. Because it’s really the psalmist’s meditation of the heavens that get him pondering man’s place in God’s creation. He speaks of God’s glory ABOVE the heavens. Then he says “When I consider YOUR HEAVENS…” So, he’s considering or looking at the heavens. That’s what he was doing that resulted in him writing this psalm.

And wouldn’t David have had plenty of opportunities to look up at the night sky while he was shepherding his father’s flocks out in the pasture lands surrounding Bethlehem? And of course this was a day when there surely wasn’t much light pollution – you know, the kind you see from your home in the direction of a brighter city – where the light from that other city lights up the sky over your own head. There was – I’m fairly confident in guessing – no such thing back then.

So, anyway, that’s what motivated the psalmist to write Psalm 8 – looking up into a cloudless night sky.

Psalm 8 Commentary: Topic and Theme

Now, on to the topic and theme.

Topic of Psalm 8

While God’s creation is definitely in view all over Psalm 8 – I think the main issue is man’s place in that creation. So, I suppose that would be the topic of the psalm – Man’s Place in Creation.

Theme of Psalm 8

But then David expands on that a bit. He introduces some paradoxical facts about man’s place in creation. Like, somehow what comes out of the mouths of babies – weak as they are – is able to silence grown men. That seems absurd or self-contradictory. But it’s true. Or like the fact that God created vast galaxies and yet – to the psalmist’s amazement – God is concerned with such small creatures as ourselves. And these seemingly contradictory facts cause amazement in the Psalmist – “How majestic is your name!

So the theme of Psalm 8 could be Amazement at Man’s Place in God’s Creation.

Psalm 8 Commentary: In the New Testament

Now, last thing before we get into the details of Psalm 8 – parts of this psalm are referenced several times in the New Testament. And at the end of the message we’ll review those.

But before we do that, we’ll attempt to explain the details of this psalm.

So, let’s start by reading Psalm 8:1-2 – the introduction of Psalm 8.

8:1 For the music director, according to the gittith style; a psalm of David. O LORD, our Lord, how magnificent is your reputation throughout the earth! You reveal your majesty in the heavens above! 2 From the mouths of children and nursing babies you have ordained praise on account of your adversaries, so that you might put an end to the vindictive enemy. (NET)

Psalm 8 Commentary: Superscription

So, we have a superscription that we’ll just deal with quickly. This psalm was used as a song. It’s written to the chief musician. He apparently was the director or supervisor of the music – probably at the Temple. And this psalm or song is to be played upon the Gittith, which is likely some sort of musical instrument. It’s lastly a psalm of David. Literally, it’s “to David”. But this most likely means that it was a psalm that David wrote.

Alright, so that’s the superscription to this psalm.

Psalm 8 Commentary: Introduction

Now for the introduction.

Now, the way that the intro starts sounds a little redundant in English – “Oh Lord, Our Lord.” But it isn’t redundant in Hebrew. Look at that first “Lord”. It’s in all caps. That’s the translation’s editors’ way of translating the Hebrew word that consists of four Hebrew letters. In English it would be: Y, H, W, and H. We’d pronounce it like YAH-WEH. Sometimes it’s translated into English as “Jehovah”. This is the name that God used to reveal himself to Moses at the burning bush. It’s also been said to be his covenant name. The name means something like “I AM” and it testifies to God’s eternal and never-ending existence.

And it’s that God that’s being addressed in this psalm. David is speaking directly to this eternal covenant-keeping God.

Next, David recognizes his relationship with YAHWEH. That’s the second “Lord” we see in this psalm. It’s the word “Adon”. You may have heard the word Adonai. It means “my master”. So, David is recognizing that this YAHWEH who keeps covenant and always has been and always will be – he holds authority over David. He’s David’s “Lord” or “Master”. And not only DAVID’S Master – but do you see the pronoun? “Our” master. But he’s the master of ALL Israel. And really, by extension he’s master of the entire universe and all that’s in it – as we’ll hear through the rest of this psalm.

And so, it’s to this God that David expresses amazement. He says “How excellent is thy name!” in the King James Version. The “how” there isn’t indicating a question – right? The “how” is a note of exclamation and wonderment. It’s amazing to David that God’s name is so excellent.

Let’s think about that statement. What is God’s name? Well, if we’re talking about what God is called, then it would be YAHWEH like we just saw. But that’s not what David’s talking about here. In this context, God’s name is his “reputation” or “renown”. He’s known universally for certain acts and characteristics – or at least he should be to anyone who has eyes to see.

And this reputation – this name of his – is “excellent”. That word is used elsewhere in the Old Testament of the waters that consumed Pharaoh and his army as they chased Israel through the Red Sea after the Exodus. Those waters were mighty, strong, powerful.

This word is used of kings – who are typically known for their strength and power.

Or like a mountain in Psalm 76 – mighty, powerful, unmoveable.

Or like a massive tree – again, unmovable, strong, powerful.

That’s God’s reputation and renown in all the earth. He has a reputation of strength and power and might. That’s what he’s known for.

Well, let’s ask ourselves – is he worthy of such a reputation? The answer to that question starts in the second line of verse 1. He has set his glory above the heavens.

So, in other words, God has put something somewhere. What then has he put or established? It says his glory. There’s a word for God’s glory that’s typically used — KABOD. This word though is different — HOD. This word is what Moses transferred to Joshua when Moses was passing off the scene. It was his authority. It’s also what the Lord gave to King Solomon. Again, authority is in view there. So, God has established his authority.

And he’s done so “above the heavens”. There are a few things that the word “heavens” can represent. We see it used at least two different ways in this very psalm. It’s used later in this psalm as the area in which birds fly – or the atmosphere of the earth. It’s also used of the place where the moon and stars reside. And those are two different realms – wouldn’t you agree? But Psalm 8:1 is speaking of a place BEYOND those two areas. God has established his authority ABOVE those regions. In a place that the human eye cannot even see.

Let me ask you – does God live in outer space? Does he live in the earth’s atmosphere? This statement here in Psalm 8:1 and others throughout the Scripture indicate that there’s a place beyond even the vast and measureless expanse of what we know as the universe. And it’s in this place that’s unseen to the human eye – that’s above the heavens – where God’s authority is established. And you know that if it’s established there, no power anywhere is going to be able to throw it off.

I’d say that earns him a reputation of strength and power and might!

Psalm 8 Commentary: God’s Authority on Earth

And it’s clear that God’s authority and power and might reach down even to this lowly earth from Psalm 8:2.

Now, I’ll say at the outset that this verse is really hard to interpret. Several resources I consulted mentioned Psalm 8:2 and had a note along the lines of “this verse is very difficult to understand”. I read several commentaries. And they had things to say about this verse. So, I read them. But I came away with no greater understanding of what this verse meant. The commentaries tend to discuss the verse but don’t really do a great job of explaining what it means. I just want to let you know what we’re up against.

But, here we go!

God is pictured as doing something in this verse. He’s “ordaining strength” in the King James Version. “Ordaining” is like “establishing”. You could picture it like laying a foundation – firm and established solidly in the ground. It’s not going to move from its present location. That’s the way this word is used elsewhere.

And so, God is “laying” something or “firmly establishing” something unmovable.

What is it? It’s “strength”. Like a strong solid tower to which people go and flee for safety. That’s what God is doing – firmly laying down strength.

How is he doing this? He’s using the most insignificant of human creatures. Babes and sucklings. The youngest and most helpless – the most feeble of human creatures.

And he’s viewed as using a particular part of the bodies of these young children – their mouths. Now, the mouths of babies don’t usually produce anything noteworthy. Maybe some spit-up. Usually things are actually going INTO their mouths – like milk. And at best, what’s coming out of their mouths is babbling or crying.

And yet in some way, that babbling or crying is pictured as something that God uses against his enemies. In particular he uses what comes out of babies’ mouths to cause the enemy and the avenger to “be stilled” or to “cease”. That’s a word related to the Hebrew word “Sabbath” – which speaks of rest and ceasing from labors.

So, this firmly-established strength causes these guys to cease or stop or rest from their opposition to God. Somehow.

So what does this mean? What’s in view here?

I think it’s something like this. God has a reputation for strength and power. He’s sovereign over everything. That authority of his is untouchable – higher than the heavens. And that authority that he wields over his creation from outside of his creation allows for even the smallest most insignificant things – babblings and cryings of babies – to confound and cause to cease the fiercest of his enemies. In other words, God is so powerful, that if he wants to stop his opponents, he could use the unimpressive mouths of the weakest of his human creatures to do so. That’s how strong God is. That’s the extent of his authority. It’s sort of hyperbolic, but I think that’s what it’s saying.

And in case you’re wondering, I’ll remind us that I’ll talk at the end about this verse and how it’s used in the New Testament.

Psalm 8 Commentary: Main Meditation

Now, with the introduction dealt with, let’s go on to the main meditation of this psalm in Psalm 8:3-8.

8:3 When I look up at the heavens, which your fingers made,
and see the moon and the stars, which you set in place,
4 Of what importance is the human race, that you should notice them?
Of what importance is mankind, that you should pay attention to them,
5 and make them a little less than the heavenly beings?
You grant mankind honor and majesty;
6 you appoint them to rule over your creation;
you have placed everything under their authority,
7 including all the sheep and cattle,
as well as the wild animals,
8 the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea
and everything that moves through the currents of the seas.

Psalm 8 Commentary: Verse 3

Now, the psalmist relates what he was doing that led to the writing of this psalm. He was “considering the heavens”. He was simply “looking” up into the heavens. That’s the simple meaning of the word “consider” in the KJV. He was merely looking at the heavens from his low vantage point on the earth.

Now, these heavens are not simply THE heavens. They’re said to be GOD’S heavens. They’re uniquely YAHWEH’s. They belong to him.

Well, why’s that? It’s because they’re pictured as the “works of God’s fingers”. Obviously, God created the heavens. And so it’s as if he fashioned them with his very fingers. God doesn’t have physical fingers of course, but we’re given this very picturesque image of God’s relation to the heavens. He crafted them like an artist would a painting. And isn’t that what it looks like when you peer into space? These pictures that the Hubble Telescope give us – for example – they’re beautiful. Now, I doubt David could see these far-off galaxies and other features out far into space, like we can. But what he could see caused him to marvel at God’s craftsmanship in relation to the heavens.

And then he thinks particularly of the things that God put in those heavens. The moon and the stars. God “ordained” them. This is a different word than we had of what God did through the crying and babbling mouths of babies. This action that God took with the moon and stars isn’t like “laying a foundation”. It’s like “establishing a regular order of things”. From our perspective the moon and the stars appear in regular orderly patterns in our night sky. They’ve been “ordained” in that manner.

Now, I mean, really think about this. Let’s not be unaffected by this psalm. Think about how awesome the moon is. The fact that it’s out there. That it’s just the right distance from earth to affect tides and other things – but not too much. The fact that much of the time it provides light to the earth at night. It was used by ancient cultures to mark months and seasons. Now, for a human, how much work would it take to create the moon? How many dollars would you need to raise to create a moon? What kind of technology or equipment would you need to construct it? Yeah, we can’t make a moon.

Not to mention the stars! Most of them are so far away that you could never even hope to reach one in several lifetimes, even in our modern spacecraft. Stars appear in various areas of the universe, they come in different colors, different chemical makeups. I think they all give off their light by burning. How did that happen? What natural secular explanation can there be for a countless multitude of balls of burning gas all over the universe? Each so unique. Each so far away – and yet we can see many of them. How would you make a star? That’s an absurd question. It can’t be answered. Only God could do it.

This is all very awesome. God surely is very powerful. Truly, his reputation of power and might are well-founded. There’s nothing outside of his strength to accomplish. His creation is truly awesome.

Psalm 8 Commentary: Verse 4

And then the psalmist turns his focus downward. And that’s the direction this psalm takes, after all. We start by thinking of what’s ABOVE the heavens. Then we look AT the heavens. And now the psalmist ponders what’s on the earth – BELOW the heavens. Man, in particular.

In light of the expansive mighty heavens, what is man? Of what significance is this puny creature that we are? The creature that – at its best – is pictured as being brought to nothing by the weak unimpressive mouth of weak unimpressive babies. What is man?

Why is God mindful of us? He remembers us – like he remembered Noah in the ark. He doesn’t forsake us and leave us all to our own in the midst of this overwhelmingly vast creation of his. And he could, couldn’t he? He could leave us all alone. But he doesn’t. He doesn’t forsake us.

So, he remembers man – Enosh, is the word. And he visits “the son of man” – or the Ben Adam – the son of Adam. That’s you and me, the children of Adam – his descendants. God visits us – like he visited Sarah and fulfilled his promise of a child to her. He doesn’t leave us alone. He comes and helps us in our need. He’s constantly reaching out to redeem his fallen creation. And those whom he has redeemed, he’s constantly checking up on and helping and leading and meeting our needs.

Psalm 8 Commentary: Verse 5

But it’s not because we’re so great. No. We’re nothing. We’re helpless in this vast creation.

He’s made man a little lower than the angels. Literally, than “Elohim”. That’s a word for God, but it’s also used of heavenly beings – angels, in particular. So, YAHWEH has created man to be just a little lower than God himself – or at least than his angels.

And you might think – boy, we’re missing out on something. We’re a little LOWER than God. Well, remember – it’s just a LITTLE lower. Which is actually quite a privilege, given how high and exalted YAHWEH truly is.

And it’s even more clear that this statement is meant to express the true privilege that is ours as humans made in God’s image with the next statements that David makes of man. He’s crowned us with glory and honor – or weightiness and fruitfulness. He makes us fruitful and productive in all areas of life – generally-speaking for mankind.

Psalm 8 Commentary: Verse 6

Further, God’s caused us to rule over the works of his hands.

Isn’t that quite a deal? He made it. He did all the hard work – the work we couldn’t possibly do. And now, we rule over it. And this word “works” is the same as in Psalm 8:3. There it was talking about the heavens and all the things in them. But now here, included with those works are what David will talk about in the next several verses.

And it’s very interesting that we’ve gone from hands to feet. The works of God’s HANDS – which we’ll see in the following verses – he’s appointed to be under our FEET. That’s quite a privilege!

Psalm 8 Commentary: Verse 7

Well, what has he put under our feet or under our authority? What has he given mankind the right to manage and control and dispose of in the way he sees fit to do?

Sheep and oxen, to begin with. These are domesticated animals in the first line of Psalm 8:7. And not only the DOMESTICATED ones, but also the WILD ones – the bests of the field. The ones in the open field. The wild untamed beasts. They’re ours as well.

Psalm 8 Commentary: Verse 8

Then Psalm 8:8 – the highest AND lowest of creatures, speaking in regard to altitude. Birds in the high heavens and fish in the low deep sea.

By the way, this guides us in thinking about environmental issues, doesn’t it? And this guidance is from YAHWEH, so it’s completely balanced and correct. Ruling over the works of God’s hands requires us as mankind to not abuse his creation. At the same time, it also flies in the face of the more extreme views of certain people calling themselves environmentalists. We are given divine authority for elevating mankind over other creatures. We’re not to abuse the creation. But at the same time we’re not to elevate the place and importance of anything else in the creation above mankind – those made in God’s image and given dominion over what he himself created.

Psalm 8 Commentary: Verse 9

And the last verse – Psalm 8:9 – is simply the second half of an envelope that encompasses all of Psalm 8:1-9. It’s the conclusion to the matter. YAHWEH, our Master, what a reputation of strength, power, and might you have – and with good reason!

Psalm 8 Commentary: In the New Testament

Now, let me briefly cite the places where this psalm is used in the New Testament.

Matthew 21:16

Jesus references Psalm 8:2 when he comes into Jerusalem and the children are singing to him. The Pharisees tell Jesus that it’s not right for the children to be calling him the Son of David – the coming king. And then Jesus references this verse as justification for what they’re doing. Only, Jesus references the way the Septuagint translates this verse. In the Septuagint, it says that God has “perfected praise” – rather than “ordaining strength” – through the mouth of babies.

Hebrews 2:6-8

Then we have Hebrews 2:6-8. Here, the author of Hebrews is just coming from chapter one where he’s made a big deal of Jesus’s not being an angel – of being better than the angels. Of being “the son”. He then makes an application and exhorts his readers to pay attention to what they’ve heard. And then in Hebrew 2:5 it seems like the author is getting back to his drawing a distinction between Jesus and angels. He says that God hasn’t subjected the world to come to ANGELS. But instead – and then he references Psalm 8:4-6, speaking of the dominion which God gave to man. Only, in Hebrews, it seems like the author is speaking of not this world like Psalm 8 has been pretty obviously discussing. He’s talking about I think the new heavens and the new earth. And it’s not just man in general that’s viewed as having dominion over this new creation. Rather, it is the son of Adam – the second Adam – who will with his human believing brothers and sisters – so to speak – rule over this new creation of God.

Psalm 2 Commentary

Psalm 2 Commentary
Explaining the Book of Psalms

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Psalm 2 Commentary: As we study Psalm 2 we’ll be seeing the psalmist’s wonder and amazement at the fact that this world is constantly and actively rebelling against God’s plan and at the same time they show heated antagonism to God’s national representative – the nation of Israel and – in particular in Psalm 2 – to Israel’s Davidic king.

Psalm 2 Commentary: Illustration

So, last Tuesday (March 17, 2015) marked the election for the Israeli Prime Minister. You did know it was an election for ISRAEL’S Prime Minister, didn’t you? If you didn’t, I can understand. Our national media doesn’t give that much coverage to most elections for our own congressmen or governors!

And I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say that most of the media – and even our own president and other world leaders – weren’t happy about who won. And why are they not happy? The thing that bothers them the most is Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent rejection of the idea of dividing the land of Israel up in order to make a separate Palestinian state within Israel’s borders.

Wow – remember the question that Pastor Fuller sought to answer in his sermon last Sunday? “Whose is the Land?” What’s God’s answer? If you were listening, I think you’d have to conclude that the land belongs to the nation of Israel. Why? Because God promised them that land. And yet, everyone is up-in-arms about them solely living in that land. Interesting.

Well, world-wide anger towards God and his national representative, Israel, is not something new. In fact, this kind of universal upheaval against God’s plans regarding Israel is something that’s contemplated in Psalm 2.

Psalm 2 Commentary: Genre

Psalm 2 is considered to be a royal psalm. In other words, it’s a psalm about the king of Israel – the ruler who either was David himself or one who descended from David. The psalm itself doesn’t explicitly tell us whether it’s speaking of David or one of his descendants. But actually, Peter in Acts chapter 4 and verse 25 reveals that it was in fact David who wrote this psalm. At any rate, it’s a royal psalm.

Psalm 2 Commentary: Divisions

The structure of Psalm 2 is made of three parts. Verses 1 through 3 tell us about this near-universal rejection of the Lord and the king whom he’s anointed to rule his nation Israel – the Davidic ruler. That’s the first section.

The second section runs from verse 4 trough verse 9. This is where we’re given the reaction of the Lord to this international uprising against his reign. So, that’s part two of three.

And finally we have the last section in verses 10 through 12. Based on God’s reaction to this international uprising against his authority, the psalmist gives some advice to those doing the uprising. And so that’s the last section of this psalm.

Psalm 2 Commentary: Topic and Theme

Well, what is Psalm 2 about? I think the issue of God’s sovereign rule is unavoidable throughout the psalm. It permeates all of the psalm. God rules. And he does so through his anointed Davidic king. There’s widespread rebellion against this king. But it’s vain to try to get away from the God who holds your very life in his hands. That very God has determined to set his king on his holy hill of Zion and to destroy all opposition. And therefore – submit to that rule. So, that’s what I’ll entitle this message. Here it is: Submit to God’s Rule.

Psalm 2 Commentary: Implied Situation

Last thing we’ll consider before we work at explaining this psalm is the implied situation. I think what called for the writing of this psalm in its original setting was something like this. David and his son Solomon ruled over much of the land that God originally promised to Abraham. Not all of it, I think. But most of it. And Israel certainly occupied a portion of that land. But most of that area was inhabited by other nations. When David and Solomon ruled Israel they reigned over those other nations and their kings. And sometimes those kings and the nations they were leading opposed their being ruled over by an Israelite king. And so they’d make attempts to rebel against the Davidic king and throw off his rule from over them. So, I believe that this kind of a situation is what provoked the psalmist to write this psalm. The people over whom the king of Israel ruled were trying to break away from him.

Psalm 2 Commentary: New Testament References

Now, I’ll also add that this psalm is referenced several times in the New Testament. And when it’s quoted in the New Testament it’s not talking about David or Solomon. It’s talking about one of their descendants, according to the flesh. Christ! And later on we’ll briefly explore those passages that speak of Christ from Psalm 2.

Psalm 2 Commentary: Universal Rejection of God and His King

But for now, let’s get into the details of Psalm 2. Because we can’t even hope to understand how the New Testament is using this psalm unless we actually know what it meant to its original author as delivered to its original audience. So, we’ll read the first section again – verses 1 through 3

KJV Psalm 2:1 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? 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 break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

Why Do the Heathen Rage?

Let’s look at verse 1. Who are these raging people? They’re given the label “the heathen”. You could also say Gentiles. You may have heard the Hebrew word goy or goyim. That’s this word. And it simply means non-Jewish people. That’s who’s raging. Non-Jewish people.

Well, what does “raging” look like anyway? How does one rage? Well, it’s hard to easily tell because this word is used only here as a verb. In its noun form it simply has to do with gathering as a group. Which seems rather neutral of a term. But the context of Psalm 2 is anything but neutral.

So, these non-Jews are gathering together as a group. And we can only assume that their purpose is evil.

And the People Imagine a Vain Thing

Alright – let’s move on to the second line of verse 1. Now we’re not speaking of the “heathen” anymore. We’re speaking of the “people”. Now, this term can describe people in general – like Proverbs 11:26 where THE PEOPLE curse the one who withholds bread from them. But this word can also refer to an ethnic group or groups. Like in Genesis 25:23 where the Lord tells Rebekah that two PEOPLES would be separated from her body – the Edomites and the Israelites. Two “ethnic groups.”

So, which one is it here? I believe it’s speaking of ethnic groups or nations. The word “people” is in parallel with the word “heathen”. Again, “heathen” are simply non-Jews. And therefore, “people” or “ethnic groups” would be closely related to that concept.

So in other words, all sorts of non-Jews and the ethnic groups which they comprise are in view here. Now, what are these ethnic groups doing anyway?

They’re imagining a vain thing. The word “imagine” is one that you’ve seen before in the psalms. But you might not know it. It’s actually the same word that’s translated as “meditate” and is what the blessed man of Psalm 1 was pictured as doing. These ethnic groups are also meditating. They’re setting their mind to something. They’re plotting and scheming and hatching something in their minds. They’re speaking of it and ruminating on it. Well, what is the object of their meditation? Unfortunately, not God’s word. Rather, they’re meditating on a vain thing. In others words, they’re plotting and scheming and yet all of that activity is just useless. It’s futile. It will come to nothing. And God will see to it that that’s the case.

And the psalmist could give us the content of their meditations at this very point in the psalm. But he doesn’t, yet. He wants to dwell a little while longer on the developing rebellion of these groups and individuals. He’s heightening our concern for their activities and attitudes.

The Kings of the Earth

And now in verse 2, we’ve gone from speaking of larger groups of people like “heathen” and “people” to more specific individuals, smaller groups, subsets of those larger groups. To begin, we’re directed to think about the “kings of the earth.” Their identity is pretty obvious. They’re simply world rulers. In David’s case in Psalm 2, they were the nations who opposed Israel and his own God-sanctioned rule over them.

And what are these kings pictured as doing? They’re standing. That’s the word behind “set” in verse 2. But obviously their standing is charged with rebellion. The word translated as “set” here appears in Joshua 1:5. That’s where God promised Joshua that no one would be able to STAND before him – there’s that word. That is, no one would be able to RESIST Joshua. And that’s just what we saw in that book when we studied through it. But that’s just what the kings of the earth are attempting to do here. They’re “resisting”!

The Rulers

Now, there appears to be another group of individuals in view in verse 2. There are these “rulers”. Now, this word translated as “rulers” (RZN) appears 6 times in the Old Testament. Every single time, it appears parallel to the word “kings”. So, it’s safe to say that these two titles of “kings” and “rulers” are likely speaking of the same group. That’s parallelism. Kings rule. That’s what they do.

Well, what are these rulers up to? The kings are resisting. And the rulers – this same group – are taking counsel together. They’re conspiring. Now, this word is used in Psalm 31. There, David is saying that his enemies are doing this very thing – conspiring – and their intent is actually to take his life. But what are they conspiring to do here in Psalm 2? Who are they against?

These people are resisting and conspiring against none other than the Lord God of Hosts! Can you imagine the futility of this kind of behavior? It reminds me of the book of Revelation where Christ comes back on a white horse. And he’s coming to rescue Israel from their assailants. And he’s not alone. He’s coming with the armies of heaven. You can’t beat that kind of army. And yet, the ponderous part of it is that the assailants of Israel actually face Christ and are ready to fight him! It’s madness to fight the immortal God. But that’s just what the enemies will do in the end times. And it’s exactly what we see happening in this psalm.

Against the Lord and His Anointed

And – you know – the animosity of evil people so often is not directed at God alone. It’s often directed at his human representatives. In Psalm 2, the kings and rulers of these non-Jewish nations are conspiring against both the Lord and his anointed one.

Who is this anointed one? Well, the concept of anointing is basically having oil poured on you. A number of positions in ancient Israel involved being anointed physically – kings being one such group. So, I believe this is speaking of the Davidic king – David, in particular. The surrounding nations are opposing his rule over them.

Let us Break Their Bands

So, the non-Jewish nations and the kings who rule over them are gathering together. They’re meditating and scheming. They’re resisting and conspiring against God and his earthly representative. But, what’s their plan? What are they meditating on? What do they want to do? Verse 3.

They want to break the bands of David and his God. They want no more of the restrictions that the rule of God and his king place over them. These bands or restrictions are viewed by these nations as oppressive. They’re unwelcomed. They need to be broken asunder like Samson did with some of those ropes that Delilah put on him. And – seeing as they have no need of such restrictions – they’d be happy to cast them aside.

Isn’t that the way that lost people tend to view God’s rules? Isn’t that the way your own flesh feels about them? Oh, the chafing. Oh, the complaints. The accusations of oppression. This is nothing new to our day and age. This is the way it’s been since the fall.

Psalm 2 Commentary: God’s Reaction

Well, how would you feel if you knew that people were reacting this way toward your attempted leadership of them? We’re actually told how God reacts. Let’s read verses 4 through 9.

KJV Psalm 2:4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. 5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. 6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. 7 I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. 8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. 9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.

We’re first of all told of God’s physical position. He’s sitting somewhere. Here in Psalm 2, he’s viewed as sitting high above everyone and everything – certainly above these puny riotous nations.

And from his vantage point where he sees and knows everything perfectly, he takes an action that can seem a little odd to us. He laughs. Does he find their rebellion humorous? No, not at all. Look at the next line. The Lord, the Master, Adonai – he will have them in derision. And that phrase “have in derision” simply means that he’s going to mock them. Does that fit with our conception of who God is? We know that God is love. But can we also let him be as tough as he reveals himself to be? He’s not playing around. The rebellion of individuals and nations against his plans and people don’t sit well with him. He is supremely patient and loving. And every single one of us deserves his mocking and scorn. But he’s also gracious and not willing for any to perish. These nations are hardened against him. And so, he laughs at and mocks them.

But that’s not the end of his reaction to this rebellion. Verse 5. He speaks. But his speech is not gentle and peaceful – not to these hardened enemies of his. He will speak to them in his wrath. We’ve seen this before, but the word “wrath” really can mean “nostril”. The idea is that as someone gets angry, sometimes his nostrils will flare and perhaps even get a little red. That’s the way to picture God’s stance towards these enemies. He’s certainly not out of control or sinning in any way. But he is angry at them.

And that angry reaction will cause them some terror. That’s what that word “vex” means. God will frighten them. And he’s pictured as frightening them in his sore displeasure. This word “sore displeasure” speaks of God’s burning glowing anger at these people for their rebellion against him and his king.

And so, God reacts to this international rebellion. He’s angry. He laughs and mocks. And finally he speaks. Verse 6. He points out that HE is the one who appointed this king against whom they’re rebelling. And that king reigns from Zion – or Jerusalem. It doesn’t matter what the angry nations say – God’s determined to have his king rule in Jerusalem.

So, that’s how God is pictured as directly communicating with the Gentile nations that oppose him and his Davidic king – verses 4 through 6. But that’s just one aspect of his response. The other way in which God is portrayed as responding is actually not to the nations, but to his Davidic king. That’s verses 7 through 9.

David is going to recount for us what God had told him. The decree he gave – or his statute or rule. The Lord said to him that David is his son. Now, this may sound a little strange to us. What does this mean? Well, keep in mind that when God made the Davidic Covenant with David he told him that David’s sons would be like sons to the Lord. And the Lord would be like his father.

Now, the NET Bible has a helpful note on this matter as well. It says, “The idiom reflects ancient Near Eastern adoption language associated with covenants of grant, by which a lord would reward a faithful subject by elevating him to special status, referred to as “sonship.” Like a son, the faithful subject received an “inheritance,” viewed as an unconditional, eternal gift. Such gifts usually took the form of land and/or an enduring dynasty.”

So, God is declaring that David is a faithful subject of his. And his inheritance as such a subject includes being given these raging heathen and even the ends of the earth as his possession, if he but asks for them. That’s the closeness of God’s relationship with David.

And God tells him what to do with these heathen. You know – you may have wondered if inheriting these heathen was actually a blessing or maybe more of punishment for the Davidic king. Well, that’s where verse 9 informs us of what God means. David and his successors were to break the rebellion of these Gentile nations. Iron was viewed as the strongest element to the Jews of the Old Testament. And the nations are pictured as being clay vessels. What happens when an iron rod meets a clay vessel? Yeah, the clay vessel loses. And it’s smashed into pieces.

So, that’s God response to international rebellion against him. He responds to the nations in anger and assures them that he is in control. And then he speaks to the one who’s representing him on this earth and assures him that God has given him the right to rule.

Psalm 2 Commentary: How the Nations Should React

Now, based on that pretty forceful response from the Lord, what are these rebellious nations to do? That’s verses 10 through 12. It’s God’s counsel to the rebellious nations. Let’s read.

KJV Psalm 2:10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

The kings of these nations are addressed directly again. They’re counseled to “be wise” or to gain insight, to pay close attention, to be sensible about the matter – in light of the threatenings! The judges – or the ones who are supposed to administer justice in a society – are also addressed. Again, these may be the same people as the ones identified as “kings”. Kings should administer justice. And God counsels them to “be instructed” or to “be warned” or “take advice” or “listen to reason”. By the way, isn’t this wonderful? God could have left it at heated angry rebuke with these rebels. But he stoops and condescends to advise them on the wise choice to make, despite their opposition to him.

God also commands them to serve him with fear or reverence. He’s even in the Old Testament looking for worshippers who would worship in spirit and truth. If they do, they will find joy. Their rebellion won’t do that. Serving the Lord will! And there’s a way to rejoice while worshipping and serving the Lord in fear – that also includes trembling. This is the right reaction of sinners in the presence of a holy and sovereign God.

These kings are – furthermore – to kiss (NSHQ) the son. To draw near to the Davidic king and to submit themselves to him – just like all of Egypt did to Joseph, except for Pharaoh of course.

And if they don’t take this counsel, they’ll perish from their present course of life – their “way” as we have it here. And it really won’t take too much. The threat is real. If the king’s anger is kindled just a little – it doesn’t require much provocation in light of their past and even present rebellion.

And remember the title of the message? Submit to God’s Rule. Isn’t this last line a perfect expression of that? What is it like to submit to God’s rule? It’s blessed – Blessed are all they that put their trust in him. All those who run to him for refuge as you would run to a large rock that could provide protection from a raging storm. That’s the picture. So, don’t rebel against God’s king. It will lead inevitably to destruction. Rather, flee to him and find protection and safety and blessing.

Psalm 2 Commentary: New Testament References

Now, let me quickly address where Psalm 2 appears in the New Testament.

Hebrews 1:5 and 5:5 make it clear that God made the statement in Psalm 2:7 – “thou art my son, today have I begotten thee” – to Christ, the ultimate Davidic king.

In fact, Paul says in Acts 13:33 that the statement that God makes to David about begetting him actually also applies to Christ being raised from the dead.

And then in Acts 4:25-28 applies the first section of Psalm 2 (verses 1 through 3) to Christ’s crucifixion. And in that case, it’s not just the Gentile nations that rose up and rebelled against God’s plans and his anointed one – or his Christ. Even the peoples of Israel were involved in it.

Revelation 2:27 has Christ telling the overcomers at Thyatira that they will rule – though not BREAK, the nations with a rod of iron – JUST LIKE CHRIST RECEIVED THAT KIND OF AUTHORITY FROM HIS FATHER. Where is it recorded that he received that authority? I think Psalm 2:9 is in view.

Revelation 12:5 relates the vision of the woman Israel bearing the child Christ who would rule the nations with a rod of iron.

And Revelation 19:15 again speaks of Christ ruling the nations with a rod of iron.

I wish I had the time to explore how the New Testament uses the Old. But for now, I’ll leave us with those verses to remind us that Jesus the Christ is the last and greatest of the Davidic kings. And he hasn’t even begun to reign in Jerusalem. But when he does, what a day that will be! And it will be truly said then as it is now and has been forever – “Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”

A Poem on Psalm 2

Psalm 2 Poem

Amazing thing!
The Gentiles gather,
The nations meditate.
Their kings and rulers
Resist and scheme
‘Gainst God’s choice potentate. (Psalm 2:1-3)

The Lord in heav’n
Will laugh and mock
And fill them all with dread.
He will remind them
To their shock
His king shall be their head. (Psalm 2:4-6)

Then to this king
The Lord will speak,
Restate his rightful place.
The king himself
Is God’s own son,
Inherits every race. (Psalm 2:7-9)

So, kings and judges,
Now be wise,
Gladly worship and fear.
Obey God’s king,
Yes, flee to him,
Or you will perish here. (Psalm 2:10-12)

Psalm 1 6 Commentary

Psalm 1 6 Commentary: But what happens to the righteous? What happens to the blessed man? What’s his end? Psalm 1:6.

Psalm 1 6 Commentary: The Road

We’re back to talking about a road or path or way again – a lifestyle, as I said in the first verse of this psalm. And God knows the path or lifestyle of certain individuals – the righteous.

Psalm 1 6 Commentary: God Knows Your Path

Isn’t that picturesque? You can imagine God speaking of your life. Looking at your trials, your temptations, your struggles, your victories. And he could say, “I know what that’s like. I understand the way he’s going. I’m sympathetic with the lifestyle that that one is leading. I know it’s not perfect, but he’s headed in the right direction.

Psalm 1 6 Commentary: God Opposes the Wicked

But again we’re confronted with another contrast. The guilty also have a road or path or lifestyle. And in their case, God isn’t familiar with it. He doesn’t approve of it. It’s against him. And therefore it will be destroyed. It will perish. It’ll be no more some day.

Return to our Psalm 1 Commentary.

Psalm 1 5 Commentary

Psalm 1 5 Commentary: And it’s because of the fact that “the wicked are like chaff which the winds drives away” that the end of the ungodly is the way that we have it portrayed in Psalm 1:5.

Psalm 1 5 Commentary: The Ungodly

The word translated “ungodly” in Psalm 1:4-5 is the same one in Psalm 1:1. And again, the idea is that these people are guilty ones. And so it’s no surprise that when they’re judged they won’t stand. Guilty people can’t escape judgment – especially when God the all-knowing one is the judge.

Psalm 1 5 Commentary: Eternal Judgement

And that gives away what I think this verse is talking about. You could read this verse and consider it to be speaking of a time on earth where the guilty will be judged. But I think it’s best to see it as speaking of the final judgment.

Psalm 1 5 Commentary: Standing in the Judgement

And so, because of the life characterized by fruitlessness – really, deadness – the wicked won’t stand in the judgment. They won’t prevail. They won’t be acquitted when they’re judged. They’ll be found guilty and condemned.

Psalm 1 5 Commentary: Standing in the Congregation of the Righteous

That just makes sense. What also makes sense is that sinners won’t stand in the congregation of the righteous. Why? Because they’re sinners and that’s the path they choose. They could be the blessed man in this psalm. But they refuse. And so when all the righteous are assembled – both in this life and in the one to come – these people won’t be found there.

Back to our Psalm 1 Commentary.