The Warning of Christ
Psalm 2:10-12 10 Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; Take warning, O judges of the earth. 11 Worship the Lord with reverence And rejoice with trembling. 12 Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!
There is a sense in which the entire message of the Bible is contained in the simple message of Psalm 2. In this psalm, God is revealing the grand eternal purpose that He has in Christ. His purpose is an eschatological trajectory where He has promised to do something about this sin-laden world through the sovereign installment of the King who is also His Son. God’s Son is here promised an unshakable kingdom; a kingdom that is progressively being promised and perfected. The awesome reality of God’s kingdom results in the transferring over of the nations to the Son as His eternal inheritance. But this same kingdom also promises an impending judgment on all who refuse to submit to the authority and power of the Son of God. In other words, we are given a picture where the Son is either going to commune with His people in His eternal kingdom or He will rid the world of His enemies in the establishment of that kingdom. Before getting to the blessing of knowing the Son, the psalmist gives us one final warning concerning the world’s response to Christ.
The Warning Of Christ Is Universal
The Psalm comes full circle here in v.10. The kings and rulers of the earth (2.2) are now being confronted and alarmed to the impending judgment of the Son. The first thing to see about this warning is that it is universal in scope, “Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; Take warning, O judges of the earth” (2.10). Just as the hostility that Christ and the Church now face, so too, the warning of Christ is universal. In a sense there is a bit of irony here for, as “kings” those in power are tasked with the job of being discerning not reckless. The rulers of the world, in their reckless abandon— their need to be ‘free’ (2.3), have led themselves and all whom they represent into a snare of perdition. Anyone, from powerful governing entities to business entities to the family entity down to the individual, everyone who pursues the delusion of autonomy places themselves and others in peril.
Similarly, those who are given judicial oversight in the world, “judges of the earth” (שֹׁ֣פְטֵי אָֽרֶץ) have the capacity either to advance righteousness in their sphere of influence, even if it is at the common grace level (cf. Prov. 14.34). God is speaking the truth to any and every global power conceivable and placing them on notice. The “judges” are those who instruct, guide, and even chastise people and yet, here the judges themselves lack wisdom and need to be ‘warned’ (יסר). The reason they lack this practical wisdom is because they have rejected the counsel of the ultimate Judge. The Psalm however does not imagine anything equivalent to what some in the Theonomy camp has supposed. The end of this dilemma is not a temporal fix through political transformation (cf. 1 Cor. 7.31; 1 John 2.17). Rather the hostile rebellion of this present age will only end at the eschaton when Christ will finally bring justice to the nations:
Isaiah 42:1 1 “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.
Isaiah 42:4 4 “He will not be disheartened or crushed Until He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law.”
This is being achieved now spiritually among His people the new humanity, the church as it is on its way to the new creation (cf. Mt. 4.14-16; Is. 9.1-2). However the complete reversal of the world’s godless rebellion will only be quelled in the consummation when all the nations will be transformed to serve the Son of man as a newly constituted people of God from all nations (cf. Dan. 7.13-14; Mic. 5.1-8; Zech. 2.11). Until that time we will see a world that continues its downward spiral both spiritually, morally, often economically geo-politically resulting in a world full of hostility as we have entered into the ‘wars and rumors of wars’ Jesus warns about (Mt. 24.6ff.). Because there has been a universal dismissal of God’s authority there is a universal derision that makes a mockery out of the nations. This is seen in God handing over a people to the out-working of God’s culture-eroding wrath (cf. Rom. 1.26-32). Temporal wrath, seen here and now, is only a precursor to God’s eternal wrath which is coming upon the world of disobedience (cf. Eph. 5.6; Col. 3.6).
Just in our backyard here in Dallas a recent news story emerged about a kindergarten teacher who was confronted by angry parents for reading a book on transgender ethics in class because she was trying to accommodate a kindergartener who was ‘transitioning’ from one gender to the other! It is appalling that such an illustration is actually readily available in our culture but what do you expect in a world that has been given over by God? What we can expect is that the ruling class will lack the wisdom of oversight, the judicial authority will lack the wisdom to guide and instruct people in any nation with justice and equity. This is why true justice and equity are always features of the eschaton (cf. Ps. 9.7-8; 96.10; 98.9; also 99.2-5). The warning of Christ is universal because the breakdown of society applies everywhere.
The Warning Of Christ Is Evangelistic
Sadly the very thing the nations detest about God is precisely what they need in order to prosper and be wise. The first clause precludes the second clause. In other words if there is no fear of God there will be no joy in God either. Thus the psalmist begins with the beginning of wisdom itself by issuing forth a call to fear the Lord, “Worship the Lord with reverence” (2.11a).
Likewise, in order for people to be restored to God on any level both corporate and individual; a true worship and fear of God leads to reverential joy, “rejoice with trembling” (2.11b). What a perfect balance of what it means to walk with the Lord, to know the Lord and to serve Him. True worship consists of joy mingled with terror. It is “trembling” (רְעָדָה) out of the deepest kind of joy (גיל) that man is capable of. Though a miniscule analogy in light of the immensity of the reality, we are given a picture here reminiscent of what happens when people stand at the edge of the Grand Canyon or sit at a window as they gaze at an encroaching lighting storm, or fly over head and marvel at the grandeur of a hurricane’s cloud formation, or stand at the foot of some great mountain peak like El Capitan in Yosemite. And what do people usually do when they stand at the edge of wonder like this? They shout, hands are up, eyes are wide open, the mind is racing, the heart is pounding, an unbreakable smile from ear to ear, thrilling couriosity that can go on forever, deep breaths of wonder all the while trembling at the prospective power they are beholding. This is what is wrong with the nations, they are marveling at the wrong thing. They are marveling at the work of their hands, their idols, toys, fashions, technology and cities.
Our gospel must include the potential for people to know unspeakable joy and eternal satisfaction:
John 4:10–15 10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” 11 She said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? 12 “You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?” 13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.”
In an odd way we should be encouraged that Jesus faced the same baffling blindness from people that we do. Jesus is talking about eternal life and this women so bound to the temporal realm, she can only focus on overcoming her inconvenience, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.” Neither the psalmist, nor the Lord, nor the gospel and therefore nor are we talking about simply fulfilling people’s felt needs. We are talking about overcoming not inconvenience but the crises of inescapable wrath. This is why the warning of Christ is also urgent.
The Warning Of Christ Is Urgent
While the world trifles with God it should tremble. What makes the message of Psalm 2 tremble-worthy is the wrath of the Son, “Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way” (2.12). It is the wrath of the King who was mocked and scorned. The One who the kings of the earth have labored to reject. Where there is no “homage” (נשׁק) to the Son there can be no harmony either. The progression is quite simple. It begins with rejecting to worship God’s Son so that virtually anything becomes the object of man’s sinful and idolatrous pleasure. This results in the kindling of the Son’s wrath who has “become angry.” When God’s wrath is awakened and when God’s Son is filled with fury the impenitent find that their sin will cost them everything; they will “perish in the way” (וְתֹ֬אבְדוּ דֶ֗רֶךְ). When the psalmist threatens them in the “way” (דֶּ֫רֶךְ) he is speaking about the ungodly receiving the natural course of their own lifestyle. It will be perdition for the lost, damnation for the damned, hell for the demons and the demonic. The Son’s wrath will be terrible, thorough but appropriate and just (cf. 2 Thess. 1.6).
There are two reasons why the message of the Jesus Christ is urgent. The first deals with His wrath the second deals with His grace. The wrath of God’s Son carries with it an imminent urgency, “His wrath may soon be kindled” (2.12c). It is enough for us to understand the severity of God’s judgment but the psalmist places an urgency on the message as well so that we cannot afford to neglect it or put it off (cf. Lk. 3.9). Yet so many people tell themselves, ‘I have time’, ‘maybe I will get religious when I’m older’, ‘one day I will go to church’ etc. Many people today are making the mistake that because God’s wrath has not yet come, it may never come so that they go on living their lives unalarmed by the threat of judgment. We should also note carefully that the judgment is the judgment of the Son. David is warning about the wrath of the Son. One has to appreciate that by this section of the psalm, David was Messianically self-conscience. In other words, he knew he spoke of Him, he knew he spoke of someone greater than himself (cf. Acts 2.25; Heb. 1.1-2; 1 Pet. 1.10-11). So then we are looking at the judgment of the Son. This will all be fulfilled when the nations cry out for the mountains to fall on them and hide them from the “wrath of the Lamb.” But in reality although judgment is at times associated more with the Son (cf. John 5.22) or with the Father (cf. Rev. 11.18), the final manifestation of the wrath of God is a joint effort:
Revelation 6:15–17 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; 16 and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
In our day, we hear of the war drums from the East, the potential nuclear threat coming from North Korea and some of us get jittery just thinking about the threat of that becoming imminent. And yet, that is like a speck of dust on the scales compared to the ten ton weight of the wrath of God and the anger of the Son towards the nations— dead and alive! The whole earth is in a crisis they refuse to accept although it is a dilemma they cannot escape no matter how much the nations rage.
The second part of this verse opens the way for man to be delivered from this greatest of all dilemmas, “how blessed are all who take refuge in Him” (2.12d). Knowing the impending cataclysmic judgment to come, knowing the wrath of Almighty God, and the anger of the Son of God, and the complete cosmic decimation that is coming; knowing all of that, the psalmist declares, “how blessed” (אַ֝שְׁרֵ֗י) are all those who “take refuge in Him” (ח֥וֹסֵי בוֹֽ). If we think about it, the reasons for the promise of blessing here are innumerable. These are the unfathomable riches of Christ— a salvific beatitude (cf. Col. 2.2).
True blessing is not found in power, it is not found in wealth, it is not found in the lap of luxury but in the face of Jesus Christ. None of the things which kings, rulers, judges and everyone else is looking for will result in true happiness, joy and satisfaction. This blessing is reserved for those who have seen the poverty of this world’s riches and have come to be rich towards God (cf. Lk. 12.21). The psalmist is speaking in the same vein of thought as Paul when Paul said:
Philippians 3:7–11 7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Those who pay “homage to the Son” literally, ‘kiss the Son’ (i.e. in an act of worship) see the emptiness of this world. They say with Augustine, ‘let us love God and use the world.’ Sadly today the mantra is, ‘let us love the world and use God.’ Psalm 2 reminds us that God will not always tolerate the abuse of His grace, the rejection of His law, the belittling of His kingdom, and the hatred of His Son and Church. The time for the Church to be abused is almost over (cf. Heb. 10.37). The light, John tells us, is already shining, and the form of this world is passing away (1 John 2.8). But when the brightness of His coming appears only those who have taken refuge in Him will be truly blessed with safety, security and shelter (cf. Rev. 22.). Rage, rebellion and the rejection of the Son leads to perdition but faith, trust, and submission to the Son leads to eternal life. John tells us that what nations need so desperately will be abundantly supplied when the curse is removed and the blessings of God will flow from His throne in true global peace and prosperity:
Revelation 22:1–5 1 Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2 in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; 4 they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. 5 And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.
CONNECT TO CHRIST
1. Christ And His Evangelism
Jesus came with the same spirit of that which was prophesied about Him in Psalm 2. His coming was a warning itself. By entering into the world, the kings and kingdoms of the earth were put on notice that this was the end of the age (cf. Jer. 31.15; Mt. 2.1-18; Mk. 1.15; Lk. 2.34-35). John the Baptist prophesied about this very thing seeing in the arrival of the Christ the inauguration and echo of Isaiah’s prophecy of God’s unquenchable brimstone and His day of vengeance (cf. Is. 34.8-9).
Luke 3:15–17 15 Now while the people were in a state of expectation and all were wondering in their hearts about John, as to whether he was the Christ, 16 John answered and said to them all, “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 “His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Coming on the heels of this passage is a direct allusion to Ps. 2 at Jesus’ baptism, “and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased” (Lk. 3.22). Of course, that language of Sonship is the language of the Son-King of God who will be given the nations as an inheritance and the cosmic dominion of an everlasting kingdom (cf. Ps. 72.8-11).
2. Christ And His Endurance
Psalm 2 also reminds us the suffering of Christ. Ironically it is this aspect of Jesus’ ministry that the apostles initially misunderstood (cf. Mt. 16.21-23). But the psalmist long ago emphasized that Jesus’ kingdom would entail both estates of Christ— His humility and exaltation. After His resurrection, this is precisely what Jesus had to teach to His disciples:
Luke 24:25–27 25 And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
In this psalm God has been revealing the indomitable nature of the kingdom of His Son. But this kingdom would suffer violence. The Son would first suffer at the hand of earthly powers; indeed earthly rulers (cf. 1 Cor. 2.8). The people of the kingdom too will suffer- following the same eschatological trajectory as their Master. This is the path of glory paved with suffering (cf. Heb. 2.10).
3. Christ And His Eschatology
In the life of Christ we see that Jesus had a total understanding of the eschatology found in Psalm 2. He did not only see himself through the prism of suffering but also through the psalmist decree of exaltation (Ps. 2.6-7). Part of Jesus’ mission was to be exalted post life and death on the cross. Buffeted by enemies, Jesus faced unceasing opposition from all and yet this did not deter Him from His mission (cf. John 1.11). Jesus promised His disciples not only His execution but also His exaltation whereby they would sit at His right hand in His heavenly kingdom (cf. Mt. 19.28; Lk. 22.30). Jesus not only proclaim His triumph over His enemies to His disciples, He proclaimed His triumph to His enemies:
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.”
Biblically, this warning of Jesus’ theophanic judgment-glory leveled against the first century aristocrats of Israel was merely indicative of His total triumph and judgment over all His enemies at His parousia at the end of the age (cf. Ps. 110; 2 Thess. 1.6-10; Heb. 10.11-13). Then the wicked will perish and the saints will marvel.