When God Scoffs at People

The Psalms were written between Moses (c. 1440/1280 BC) and the Babylonian Exile (586 BC) by various human authors, including kings David and Asaph. The Psalms are the songs God inspired for the expression of praise, worship, and confession of His people to Himself. This divine psalter, or hymnal, has 150 songs God wrote through verbal-plenary inspiration. The Psalms are rarely used and under-appreciated but are the best expressions of praise we have available because they are God’s very word.

God’s psalter can be divided into 5 categories:

  • Gospel Psalms—Psalms 1:1-41:13
  • Psalms of Deliverance—Psalms 42:1-72:20
  • Holiness Psalms—Psalms 73:1-89:52
  • Sovereignty Psalms—90:1-106:48
  • Psalms About Scripture—Psalm 107:1-150:6

These 5 categories, or books, parallel the Torah, or Pentateuch, in order.

Concerning God’s Psalms: It continues to amaze me that people are so quick to quarrel about church music. Some desire a certain set of hymns and others desire more contemporary music, but never do people seem to want to sing from the psalter God Himself breathed for the purpose of His own praise. God provided 150 songs to be used, but, as with most of life, we often neglect what God has breathed because of our own preferences and in favor of the words we have written for ourselves. The neglect of God’s Psalms evidences the self-centered worship of the local church in our day.

Book 1: The Gospel Psalms

The Gospel psalms encourage the people of God to sing about the application and outpouring of the Gospel message in the lives of God’s people and assume that those singing them are already God’s people. So, the gospel psalms reflect post-conversion Christian life and fruit.

Psalm 2

Why are the nations in an uproar

And the peoples devising a vain thing?

The kings of the earth take their stand

And the rulers take counsel together

Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,

“Let us tear their fetters apart

And cast away their cords from us!”

He who sits in the heavens laughs,

The Lord scoffs at them.

Then He will speak to them in His anger

And terrify them in His fury, saying,

“But as for Me, I have installed My King

Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”

I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord:

He said to Me, “You are My Son,

Today I have begotten You.

Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,

And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.

You shall break them with a rod of iron,

You shall shatter them like earthenware.”

Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;

Take warning, O judges of the earth.

Worship the Lord with reverence

And rejoice with trembling.

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!

The state of the world (v. 1-6)

Why are the nations in an uproar

And the peoples devising a vain thing?

The kings of the earth take their stand

And the rulers take counsel together

Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,

“Let us tear their fetters apart

And cast away their cords from us!”

The psalmist begins his chiastic song by posing a question. Why do the nations and people follow their own counsel rather take refuge in the Lord? Why do the nations stand against God and God’s anointed in favor of their freedom? The Lord’s anointed, here, is a designation given to Israel’s king since the anointing of David (cf. 1 Samuel 16). It is important for us to know that all of the psalms were written before the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The psalmist is asking why the gentile nations follow their own counsel and take their stand against the rule of God’s chosen king over the earth. The psalmist quotes the gentile nations as they scheme to tear apart the fetters (bonds; chains) of the Lord and His anointed king and loose themselves from the binding chords that attach them to the Lord and His anointed king.

From the psalmists point of view, the gentile nations want freedom from the Lord and the reign of His anointed king. The psalmist sees their desire as a vain thing. How vain it is to desire to free ourselves from the Lord and His anointed in order to follow after our own counsel or the counsel of the heathen nations. There are some forms of godly liberty that are good. There are other forms of worldly liberty that are vain—they accomplish nothing. The worldly nations don’t try to liberate themselves from the Lord and His anointed today, do they? Instead of desiring the freedom of religion, they desire freedom from religion. Instead of desiring the freedom to honor God, they desire the freedom to honor themselves and follow their own counsel. Instead of desiring the freedom to subject themselves to God’s anointed, they desire the freedom to subject themselves to their own anointed. The people of the world desire liberty so they can follow their own counsel, which stands against the Lord and His anointed. The Lord’s counsel is different from humankind’s. The psalmist does not describe the differences. So, we simply know, here, that following the counsel of our own wisdom is vain. We pray with the hymn-writer: Lord, let Thy goodness, like a fetter, bind our wandering hearts to Thee.

He who sits in the heavens laughs,

The Lord scoffs at them.

Then He will speak to them in His anger

And terrify them in His fury, saying,

“But as for Me, I have installed My King

Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”

The people of the world, the heathen nations, want to free themselves from God. How does God respond? He laughs and scoffs at them. The desire to be free from God is a vain thing because no one can be free from God. God does not loose anyone from His binding chords. Instead of giving the people of the world their freedom, He laughs and scoffs at them. 

In the previous psalm, we read that those who are blessed do not sit in the seat of scoffers. They are a people of blessing rather than a people of scoffing. Why does the Lord, then, sit in the seat of a scoffer at worldly people? God is sovereign. The Lord, our God, is the just judge. All things are subject to Him. He is the one with authority and the right to speak judgment and condemnation. He is the only one worthy enough to scoff. When we scoff, it is blasphemy because we are not worthy. God has the authority to send people to Hell, to save, to raise up, and tear down. We do not. Only God has the right to scoff.

In our modern, more civilized, time, the world’s conception of God is one of niceness and non-offensiveness. The world’s conception of God is by the world’s own counsel and is offensive to God. The whole world, it seems, is worried about being offended but not concerned at all about whether it is offending the one who has the right to be offended. If anyone mentions God’s divine hatred or reads a verse from the holy writ indicating that God scoffs at people, he or she is alienated by the feel-good religious paradigm of our day. There are two types of feel-good religion.

  1. Legalism—Notice, the psalmist sees the nations as fettered and tied to God and God’s anointed, not to the Law. Legalistic religion deifies the Law and people perceive themselves as being bound to a list of works and restrictions rather than to God and God’s anointed. The Law becomes an idol, a way for the person to glorify self. It feels good to see one’s self as having been or become righteous. Many people with many different worldviews, Christianity and Judaism included, glorify the Law rather than the Lord and believe themselves to be righteous as a result. In reality, God scoffs at them. The purpose of the Law is to testify against people (cf. Deuteronomy 31:26), not to make people righteous. The Law points to the Lord and His anointed (cf. Deuteronomy 32; John 5:39). If we really delight in the law of the Lord (cf. Psalm 1), it is because the Law leads us to the Lord rather than to ourselves.
  2. Relativism—Relativism is the striving for self-rule or self-law. It is simply another form of legalism, but instead of searching for something concrete and universal, people seek what is true for themselves. They seek their own individualistic counsel and try to be bound only to themselves rather than to the Lord or the Lord’s anointed. This is another form of blasphemy, and God scoffs at relativists according to the psalmist.
  3. Nationalism—We glorify our own kings and nations and find our identity in our citizenship on this earth rather than taking refuge in the Lord and His anointed, which has been particularly evident in this election year.
  4. Progressivism, workaholism—We glorify our work and our progress rather than taking refuge in the Lord and in His anointed.
  5. Hedonism—We define ourselves by our own pleasures and preferences rather than taking refuge in the Lord and in His anointed.

In essence, we try to fetter ourselves to other stuff and pretend there is no binding chord that ties us to the Lord. After the Lord laughs and scoffs at those who wish to be liberated from Him and fettered to something other than Him (Yes, even His Law), He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them with His fury. There is something you need to know about God. In order to understand how the Gospel applies to God’s chosen people, we must first know how God feels about people and nations who do not take refuge in Him or in His anointed. He is righteously indignant, angry, or furious. God’s fury is terrifying. People are ignorant with regard to God’s divine hatred and His furious anger because it is either ignored or taught wrongly. When some talk about God’s anger, they often talk about God’s anger burning against the world because people don’t perfectly obey God; That’s not it, not even close. Notice, God’s anger doesn’t burn against people because they don’t perfectly keep His rules. His anger burns against them because they desire to be their own kings, many by legalistic means; When people make the rules the central focus of religion, God is angry because He desires to be the central focus of our lives. God is angry because of human unrighteousness, not human sin. Sin is the symptom. Understand the difference between unrighteousness and sin. To sin is to outwardly fall short of God’s glory. To be unrighteous is to be of a nature other than God. So, sin reveals unrighteousness but does not cause unrighteousness. Our unrighteousness causes us to sin. Remember, the Law was placed as a testimony against people—first Israel and, through Israel, the nations. To focus only on keeping the Law merely puts a bandaid over human unrighteousness. It masks unrighteousness, but the unrighteousness is still there. We saw this truth plainly as we observed the life of King Saul in 1 Samuel. David was the Lord’s anointed; He still sinned but found his refuge in the Lord rather than trying to be unfettered by way of the Law like Saul did. God is furious not because of sin but because of the unrighteousness He gave His Law to reveal. In His fury, God says with regard to the unrighteous peoples and nations:

“But as for Me, I have installed My King

Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”

Your English translation probably capitalizes “King” in order to show that Jesus is in view. I do believe Psalm 2 to be a messianic psalm, but we must recognize that Jesus was not born yet. The king directly in view, here, is the king of Israel beginning with David and continuing in David’s line thereafter. Psalm 2 is a psalm of coronation that recognizes a descendant of David will sit on the divine throne over Israel forever (cf. 2 Samuel 7:16). This promise ultimately culminates in in the reign of Jesus Christ, the final heir to David’s throne who reigns forever—making Psalm 2 a messianic psalm.

In response to the nations’ desire to be unfettered from the Lord, the Lord established His king. He established His king upon Zion, His holy mountain, Jerusalem. God has such a sense of humor. You want to be the kings of your own lives, do you? How about I install a king over the whole world upon the smallest and most powerless (cf. Deuteronomy 7:7-8) nation for my own glory? God does not free people from Himself.

The invitation (v. 7-12)

I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord:

He said to Me, “You are My Son,

Today I have begotten You.

Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,

And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.

You shall break them with a rod of iron,

You shall shatter them like earthenware.”

After the psalmist makes God’s righteous indignation toward those who wish to unfetter themselves from Him known, he tells of the decree of the Lord. To give the decree of the Lord, the psalmist takes the position of a prophet. Depending on where we are in the Scriptures, we see three different kinds of prophetic utterances—the proclamation of a new word from the Lord, the proclamation of the Lord’s word that was previously spoken, and songs of praise. In this psalm, the psalmist fulfills all three types of prophecy. He sings a praise to the Lord. He professes what was already spoken (cf. 2 Samuel 7:14). He declares a promise that had not yet been spoken—that he will be given the nations as an inheritance and conquer them. 

Jesus has not yet been born. The quotation marks in the English translations are placed there by translators and are not present in the Hebrew. There are many commentators who claim that Jesus is the one speaking in this psalm. To the contrary, the most natural reading recognizes the psalmist as speaking these words. The psalmist is most likely David because of the promise in 2 Samuel 7:14, and he understands himself to be writing inspired Scripture because he writes as if God is speaking. The words of David must have been inspired in a verbal-plenary way because God wrote most of His psalms through David. The psalmist sings a new decree promising the nations to himself as an inheritance. So, no human author other than David makes sense. If we read 2 Samuel 7:14 onward, we see David conquering some of the world. It is through David’s descendant, namely Jesus, that the whole world is being conquered in our day. So, what the psalmist professes about God’s promise to him is ultimately fulfilled in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The promise would have belonged to every davidic king over Israel by inheritance and coronation. In Exodus, Israel was called God’s son (cf. Exodus 4:22). In 2 Samuel, the title is shifted to the kings of Israel in David’s line. In the Gospels, the divine Son of God is unveiled and born into David’s bloodline to inherit the “Son of God” title and promise. Even though it is a bad hermeneutic and eisegesis to read into the text as though the psalmist is quoting Jesus directly, the psalm is still ultimately about Jesus; The promise in the psalm is ultimately claimed by the Christ. 

Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;

Take warning, O judges of the earth.

Worship the Lord with reverence

And rejoice with trembling.

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!

The psalmist calls the nations to think, show discernment, about the consequences of trying to be unfettered from the Lord and His king. He wants them to take his warning. He calls them to worship the Lord with reverence and rejoice with trembling; The Lord is worthy of our praise and terrifying. The psalmist also calls the nations to do homage to the son, here referring to the king of Israel, so that the king does not become angry and the nations perish in the way. The psalmist, if he is David, is the king. He calls the nations as he does because the king’s wrath may soon be kindled against the nations who take their stands against the Lord and Israel. The king’s wrath is the sword. The Lord fights for His people Israel. Only a fool takes a stand against God’s chosen nation and king, but blessed are all the peoples and nations who take refuge in the king of Israel.

Take refuge in whom?

Isn’t it strange that the psalmist does not call the nations to take refuge in the Lord, here meaning God? Notice, this Gospel psalm is a call out to the nations. It is not a call for the nations to be perfect but to take refuge in the king of Israel. Long before the incarnation of Jesus Christ, God has the nations in view. His davidic king over Israel is His representative to the nations. God invites all the nations, even in the Old Testament, to take refuge in Him by way of His king. Later in the narrative when he prophesies about the coming Messiah, Isaiah will declare the word of the Lord, “In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, ‘Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance’” (Isaiah 19:24-25). The prophet will foretell that Israel will not be the only national people of God on the earth when the Messiah comes. The nations who find refuge in God’s Messiah, the final and everlasting King of kings, will equally be God’s people—His inheritance that He prepared for Himself. After He is coronated with the crown of thorns on the anniversary of Israel’s exodus from Egypt, laid to rest, and raised to life again, Jesus will proclaim from the mount, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). He will then send His disciples out to conquer the earth according to the promise of this coronation psalm—instructing them to conquer the earth not by violence but by making disciples of all nations, fulfilling the prophet Isaiah. That is why the apostle, Paul, who will be born a Jew and become a Pharisee concerning his doctrine, will write, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for ‘Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved’” (Romans 10:12). This is a very rudimentary biblical theology of sonship but is sufficient for our current understanding.

To take refuge in Israel’s king and be blessed necessarily means taking refuge in the person and work of Jesus Christ according to the Old Testament motifs. Further, we learn that all nations are grafted in and given equal status to that of Israel to fulfill God’s will. This psalm and biblical theology help us to understand why Jesus’s identity as the Son and the engrafting of the nations to Israel is so important. God only has one people among the nations, and He does not distinguish between them. Further, to be part of the people of God, one simply need take refuge in the Father’s anointed King—Jesus Christ. There are no legal requirements. We do come to delight in God’s Law (cf. Psalm 1), but the Law is not a means for righteousness or citizenship in God’s kingdom. We come to the Son of God as refugees, trusting in His person and work alone. As we see depicted in this psalm, the same was true in the Old Testament. I want to invite you to take refuge in the person and work of Jesus Christ today. There is no other name by which we can be saved. Only a fool wishes to be unfettered from the King. Show discernment; The Son’s wrath will one day be kindled against those who reject Him as their King.

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