Psalm 1 emphasizes God’s law while Psalm 2 focuses on prophecy. The people in Psalm 1 delight in the law, but the people in Psalm 2 defy the law. Psalm 1 begins with a beatitude and Psalm 2 ends with a beatitude. Psalm 1 is never quoted in the New Testament, while Psalm 2 is quoted or alluded to at least eighteen times, more than any single psalm. (See Matt. 3:17; 7:23; 17:5; Mark 1:11; 9:7; Luke 3:22; 9:35; John 1:49; Acts 4:25–26; 13:33; Phil. 2:12; Heb. 1:2, 5; 5:5; Rev. 2:26–27; 11:18; 12:5; 19:15). It is a Messianic psalm, along with 8, 16, 22, 23, 40, 41, 45, 68, 69, 102, 110, and 118. The test of a Messianic psalm is that it is quoted in the New Testament as referring to Jesus (Luke 24:27, 44). But this is also a royal psalm, referring to the coronation of a Jewish king and the rebellion of some vassal nations that hoped to gain their freedom. Other royal psalms are 18, 20, 21, 45 (a royal wedding), 72, 89, 101, 110 and 144. According to Acts 4:25, David wrote this psalm, so it may have grown out of the events described in 2 Samuel 5:17–25, 8:1–14, and 10:1–19.
Israel was ruled directly by the Lord through His prophets and judges until the nation asked for a king (1 Sam. 8). The Lord knew this would happen (Gen. 17:6, 16; 35:11; Num. 24:7, 17) and made arrangements for it (Deut. 17:12–14). Saul was not appointed to establish a dynasty, because the king had to come from Judah (Gen. 49:10), and Saul was from Benjamin. David was God’s choice to establish the dynasty that would eventually bring the Messiah into the world (2 Sam. 7). However, both Psalm 2 and 2 Samuel 7 go far beyond David and his successors, for both the covenant and the psalm speak about a universal kingdom and a throne established forever. This can be fulfilled only in Jesus Christ, the Son of David (Matt. 1:1).
Some psalms you see (114, 130, 133), some psalms you feel (22, 129, 137, 142), but this one you hear, because it is a record of four voices.
Conspiracy—The Voice of the Nations (vv. 1–3)
David didn’t expect a reply when he asked this question, because there really is no reply. It was an expression of astonishment: "When you consider all that the Lord has done for the nations, how can they rebel against Him!" God has provided for their basic needs (Acts 14:15–17), guided them, kept them alive, and sent a Savior to bring forgiveness and eternal life (Acts 17:24–31; see Dan. 4:32). Yet, from the tower of Babel (Gen. 11) to the crucifixion of Christ (Acts 4:21–31) to the battle of Armageddon (Rev. 19:11ff), the Bible records humanity’s foolish and futile rebellions against the will of the Creator. The kings and minor rulers form a conspiracy to break the bonds that the Lord has established for their own good. The picture is that of a stubborn and raging animal, trying to break the cords that bind the yoke to its body (Jer. 5:5; 27:2). But the attempt is futile (vain) because the only true freedom comes from submitting to God and doing His will. Freedom without authority is anarchy, and anarchy destroys. I once saw a bit of graffiti that said, "All authority destroys creativity." What folly! Authority is what releases and develops creativity, whether it’s a musician, an athlete, or a surgeon. Apart from submitting to the authority of truth and law, there can be no true creativity. The British theologian P. T. Forsythe wrote, "The first duty of every soul is to find not its freedom but its Master."
But the nations’ rebellion isn’t against "God" in some abstract way; they defy the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The one thing the nations can agree on is "We will not have this man to reign over us" (Luke 19:14). The word "Messiah" comes from the Hebrew word meaning "to anoint"; the Greek equivalent is "Christ." In the Old Testament, kings were anointed (1 Sam. 10:1; 2 Kings 11:12), as were prophets (1 Kings 9:16) and priests (Ex. 28:41). Jesus said that the world hated Him and would also hate those who followed Him (John 7:7; 15, 18–19, 24–25; Matt. 24:9; Luke 21:17). The phrase "set themselves" means "get ready for war." The consequences of this defiance against the Lord and His Christ are described in Romans 1:18ff, and it isn’t a pretty picture.
Mockery—The Voice of God the Father (vv. 4–6)
The peaceful scene in heaven is quite a contrast to the noisy scene on earth, for God is neither worried nor afraid as puny man rages against Him. He merely laughs in derision (37:8–13; 59:1–9). After all, to God, the greatest rulers are but grass to be cut down, and the strongest nations are only drops in the bucket (Isa. 40:6–8, 12–17). Today, God is speaking to the nations in His grace and calling them to trust His Son, but the day will come when God will speak to them in His wrath and send terrible judgment to the world (Rev. 6–19). If people will not accept God’s judgment of sin at the cross and trust Christ, they will have to accept God’s judgment of themselves and their sins.
It was God who gave David his throne on Zion, and it was God who gave David victory after victory as he defeated the enemies of Israel. But this was only a picture of an even greater coronation: God declares that there is but one legitimate King, and that is His Son who is now seated on the throne of glory (Mark 16:19; 1 Cor. 15:25; Eph. 1:19–23). Jesus Christ is both King and Priest after the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 5:5–6; 7:1ff). Today, there is no king in Israel (Hos. 3:4), but there is a King enthroned in the heavenly Zion (Heb. 12:22–24). If we fail to see Jesus Christ in this psalm, we miss its message completely: His death (vv. 1–3, Acts 4:23–28), resurrection (v. 7, Acts 13:33), ascension and enthronement in glory (v. 6), and His return and righteous rule on earth (vv. 8–9, Rev. 2:9, 27; 12:5).
Victory—the Voice of God the Son (vv. 7–9)
The enthroned King now speaks and announces what the Father said to Him. "I will declare the decree" informs the rebels that God rules His creation on the basis of sovereign decrees. He doesn’t ask for a consensus or take a vote. God’s decrees are just (7:6), and He never makes a mistake. According to Acts 13:33, verse 7 refers to the resurrection of Christ, when He was "begotten" from the tomb and came forth in glory. (See Rom. 1:4 and Heb. 1:5 and 5:5.) In the ancient Near East, kings were considered to be sons of the gods, but Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God. (See 89:26–27; 2 Sam. 7:14.) At our Lord’s baptism, the Father alluded to verse 7 and announced that Jesus was His beloved Son (Matt. 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22).
The Father has promised the Son complete victory over the nations, which means that one day He will reign over all the kingdoms of the world. Satan offered Him this honor in return for His worship, but Jesus refused (Matt. 4:8–11). Christ’s rule will be just but firm, and if they oppose Him, He will smash them like so many clay pots. The Hebrew word translated "break" can also mean "shepherd," which explains the King James Version translations of Revelation 2:27, 12:5, and 19:15. Before going to battle, ancient eastern kings participated in a ritual of breaking clay jars that symbolized the enemy army, and thus guaranteed the help of the gods to defeat them. Jesus needs no such folly; He smashes His enemies completely (Rev. 19:11ff; Dan. 2:42–44). Jesus is God, Jesus is King, and Jesus is Conqueror.
Opportunity—the Voice of the Holy Spirit (vv. 10–12)
In view of the Father’s decree and promised judgment, and the Son’s victorious enthronement in heaven, the wise thing for people to do is to surrender to Christ and trust Him. Today, the Spirit of God speaks to mankind and pleads with sinners to repent and turn to the Savior.
Note that in verses 10 and 11, the Spirit speaks first to the kings and leaders, and then in verse 12, He addresses "all" and urges them to trust the Son. The Spirit starts his appeal with the world leaders, because they are accountable to God for the way they govern the world (Rom. 13). The people are enraged against God mainly because their leaders have incited them. They are ignorant because they follow the wisdom of this world and not the wisdom that comes from God (1 Cor. 1:18–31). They are proud of what they think they know, but they really know nothing about eternal truth. How can they learn? "Be instructed" (v. 10) from the Word of God. The word also means "to be warned." How gracious the Lord is to save sinners before His wrath is revealed!
Once the Spirit has instructed the mind, He then appeals to the will and calls the rebels to serve the Lord and stop serving sin (v. 11). True believers know what it means to have both fear and joy in their hearts. Love for the Lord casts out sinful fear (1 John 4:18) but perfects godly fear. We love our Father but still respect His authority. The third appeal is to the heart and calls for submissive love and devotion to the King. In the ancient world, vassal rulers would show their obedience to their king by kissing his hand or cheek. Judas kissed Jesus in the garden, but it meant nothing. This is the kiss of submission and even reconciliation. The Spirit ends with a word of warning and a word of blessing. The warning is that this loving King can also become angry and reveal His holy wrath suddenly and without warning (1 Thess. 5:1–4). The theme of wrath is connected with the Father (v. 5) and the Son (vv. 9, 12).
Psalm 1 opens with "blessed" and Psalm 2 concludes with promised blessing for all who put their trust in the Son of God. That promise still stands (John 3:16–18; 20:31).