Psalms Bible Study (Worshiping God)

Psalm 2, I Have Set My King on Zion


As we begin I would like for you to consider that there is a lack of a superscription for the second psalm. The compiler of the psalms chose not to record for us the writer of this psalm or the situation under which it was written. The Jews considered this psalm to be written by David, as well as the first century Christians (Acts 4:25 ). Since the disciples declare that David wrote the psalm, I believe that this should remove all doubt as to who is the author of the psalm. There is great debate concerning this psalm as to whether it is messianic or not. Further debate stems as to how much of the psalm refers to the Messiah and how much refers to the writer of the psalm. The reason for the debate comes from liberal scholars and commentators who cannot accept that Old Testament writers could write about future events concerning the Messiah, and not only about personal situations.

We need to understand that there are two types of messianic psalms: direct and indirect. Direct messianic psalms are those that are not referring to the writer whatsoever, but are prophesying of future things, particularly of the Christ. Indirect messianic psalms are those that have a duality, in which the writer is describing his own personal situation, while also typifying things the future Christ would go through. Liberal scholars do not believe it is possible that David or any of the other psalmists could have possibly written direct psalms of prophecy of the Messiah. Instead, these scholars force the reading to apply to the writer and then show that this was a type of the Christ to come. But I want to deny the premise these scholars advance upon the religious community. Why is it so difficult to believe that David prophesied of things to come concerning the Messiah? Why must David have needed to personally experience these things and then merely stand as a type? Turn to Acts 2:25-31. Here we read of Peter’s sermon, and in this particular passage Peter is quoting David. I think it is important to note the scripture in verse 30 where it reads, “Therefore, being a prophet….” Peter readily and clearly declares David to be a prophet. Further in verse 31, “he, foreseeing this….” Again, Peter declares that David was able to foresee that the Messiah would resurrect and spoke clearly in his psalms of such. Writers and scholars have tried to apply these words to one of the earthly kings that rules in Israel or Judah , but have been very unsuccessful. These words do not fit any king that would rule on the earth. The simple understanding of this psalm is that this is a direct messianic psalm in which David is exclusively prophesying of the Christ. I believe this must be our understanding of this psalm. Throughout the psalm we will see many Messianic references. This is further proven by the fact that this psalm is one of the most quoted by New Testament writers and applied to Jesus. Clearly the stage is set before us. David, as a prophet of God, now writes concerning the coming of the Messiah.

Concerning the Nations (1-3)

The message

David begins the psalm in a description concerning the world nations by asking a question. “Why do the nations rage?” The word “rage” literally means “to assemble tumultuously,” which some translations have as a marginal reading. The word can also mean “to conspire,” as the NIV has as its translation. The second question is similar to the first, “Why do the people plot a vain thing?” As we are reading this psalm we are left with two natural questions in our minds: “What are the people plotting?” and “Why is their plotting vain?” The answers to our questions are found in verse 2. The kings and rulers of the earth are plotting against God. They are gathering together to make their stand against God and against His anointed. Here we already see a reference to the Messiah, called “His Anointed.” Further, we are given a glimpse at the outcome of the psalm before we have hardly begun with the clue, “in vain.” The nations are plotting in vain to stand against the Lord and His anointed. In verse 3 we read the words of the nations who declare that they are trying to break free from God’s rule. They do not want to be under the power of God and in submission to Him. They want to break the bonds and cast away the cords which tie them to the Lord. This is a general description concerning the world: heathen nations. The nations are always going against God, are always in defiance, and always trying to make their break from the Lord.

NT application

This part of the psalm is quoted by the disciples in Acts 4:25-26. Recall the context of Acts 4 where Peter and John have been put in prison, questioned by the Sanhedrin, and released. Peter and John gather the disciples and tell them all that has happened to them. In verse 24 we read the beginning of the disciples’ prayer. In the midst of the prayer, they quote Psalm 2:1-2. Notice who the apostles stated were the ones who plotted and stood against God. In verse 27 we read, “both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles….” These would certainly be expected. These sinful, heathen Gentiles were the ones who conspired together and stood against the Lord and His anointed. But finish reading the verse. Verse 27 also says, “…with the Gentiles and the people of Israel , were gathered together.” Not only are the heathen nations described as the nations who raged against the Lord and His anointed, but so is the nation of Israel . The people of Israel , the ones who were to be looking for and preaching concerning the Messiah, were actually part of the ones gathering together to stand against the Lord’s anointed. All of these, Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles, and the Jews, plotted in the death of Jesus Christ. All of them participated in standing against the Lord. Now God the Father will respond to the nations conspiring against Him.

God the Father Speaks (4-6)

God’s reaction

What is God’s reaction to the nations conspiring against Him and His anointed? Is God concerned? Is God worried? No, God laughs at what the people try to plot. The Lord scoffs and holds in derision those who would try to plot against the plans of God. Plotting against the Lord is vain and foolish. Further, God rebukes those who plot against Him in His anger and in His wrath. Not only does the Lord scoff at those who would dare to go up against Him, but now those very ones will stand in the face of the fiery wrath of the Lord. In verse 6 we see that it does not matter what man may try to plot against the Lord and His anointed, God’s purpose will still come to pass. In verse 6 we read, “I have installed my King on Zion , my holy hill.” Notice that this is written in the past tense as if the setting of the King on His holy hill has already taken place. This is the certainty of the Lord’s plan. It cannot be changed or ruined even if man tries to thwart the plans of God.


There is certain application for us from these words of God. How foolish men are when they think they can go against the Lord! How ridiculous it is for anyone to think that they will be able to stand against the Lord! However, men and nations take their stand against the Lord all the time. Those who think they are the people of God can also find themselves taking their stand against God. Remember, we saw that the people of Israel were also named as those who stood against the Lord and His anointed. When we choose not to obey our Father, then we have taken our stand against Him. The Lord laughs at our big schemes and devious plans. He knows what man is doing and will not be prevented by His own creation. Further, the wrath of God stands against those who stand against Him.

The Anointed Speaks (7-9)

The words of the anointed

Now we read the Lord’s anointed speaking. In verse 7 we see that He is going to proclaim the decree which the Lord gave. Here is what the Lord said to His anointed one: “You are My Son, today I have begotten You.” As we ought to know, this is not describing the Messiah being physically born by the Father. John 1:1 tells us that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Messiah is also eternal. The New Testament writers give us their explanation of what it means for the Father to say to His anointed, “You are My Son, today I have begotten You.” There are many places in the scriptures where we read the Father saying to Jesus, “You are My Son.” Such instances occur at Jesus’ baptism and at the transfiguration. But there are three places where we see the New Testament writers quote, “today I have begotten You.” These are the passages we want to focus upon to understand the meaning of the Father saying these words to His anointed.

Acts 13:33 says, “God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.'” Notice that it is the resurrection of Jesus that is promised in the Father saying to the anointed, “today I have begotten You.” It was not at Christ’s baptism, nor at His incarnation that He was begotten. It was when Jesus subjected himself to all things, even to the point of death that he learned obedience and was therefore begotten by the Father in resurrection (Philippians 2:8; Hebrews 5:8).

Hebrews 5:5 also has the same quotation from our psalm. Notice that the writer of Hebrews ties together the timing of Jesus becoming our High Priest and the statement by the Lord, “Today I have begotten You.” When did Jesus become our High Priest? At His death and resurrection, just as the writer goes on to point out in verses 7-10.

The quotation is also found in Hebrews 1:5. In this passage the question is asked, “To which of the angels did He ever say: you are My Son, today I have begotten You?” At what point did these things take place? If you back up to verses 3-4, the writer of Hebrews tells us that it was when Jesus purged our sins and sat down at the right hand of God. Again, we are told it was at Christ’s resurrection. This was when the anointed received the inheritance of the Lord and began to rule. And this is the point of verses 8 and 9 of the psalm.

In verse 8, the anointed describes more of what the Father said to Him. “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.” This was the promise of the Father to His Son. When Jesus would live His life and give it as a perfect sacrifice and then resurrect, Jesus would sit on the throne and rule. This is what we just saw the writer of Hebrews describe. Paul said the same thing in 1 Corinthians 15:25 that Christ is reigning until all the enemies are put under His feet. I think we better understand the temptation that Satan was providing to Jesus in Matthew 4:8-10. Satan takes Jesus up to a very high mountain and shows Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. Satan offers these things to Jesus if He will bow down and worship him. Satan is offering Jesus a way out of the suffering. Jesus is tempted to have these things without going through the humiliation and suffering of the cross. This is what Satan’s offer was all about. Yet, for us, Jesus rejected the temptation to become our Savior.

Christ crushes the enemies

Turning our attention back to Psalm 2:9 we read more of what the Father said to the anointed. The anointed will rule the nations with an iron scepter and dash them (his enemies, as seen in verse 1) into pieces. This imagery is also seen many times in the New Testament, most notably in the book of Revelation. In Revelation 19:15 we read, “Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” Here is a picture of the victorious Christ going out with His armies and destroying the enemies of God and His people. Revelation 12:5 says, “She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.” Here is another image used to show the power of Christ that Satan would try to crush. Finally, notice Revelation 2:26-27, “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations–He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’–as I also have received from My Father;” If we read this carefully we will see the promise given to us. Christ is ruling with a rod of iron and dashing into pieces all the enemies. When we hold fast to the Lord, then we will also overcome our enemies, just as Jesus did. What a great promise to His children.

Heed the Warning (10-12)

Be wise

As we return to the psalm, the final three verses are now a warning to all the people. The psalmist says to be wise and be warned. This is the outcome of standing against the Lord: enduring the Lord’s wrath and receiving a crushing from the Anointed Son. Wisdom would tell us to heed the one who rules and not to disobey. The outcome is clearly seen. The choice is ours to make.


The second point made by the psalmist is to serve. But notice how we are to serve: with fear. Further, we are to rejoice, but notice how: in trembling. We must serve with these realities in mind. While we can have great rejoicing in being children of God, we must always remember that the wrath of God still exists. We must remember that Christ will crush His enemies. We must make sure we are on the right side and not found to be an enemy of the Lord. We must become a servant in the court of our King, Jesus Christ, or else we are the enemy.

Kiss the Son

Finally, the psalmist says to kiss the Son. This is an act of homage and reverence, as kissing the hand of a king. So we are to have reverence for who He is. It is important that we never lose sight of our position before the king. We are simply the servants who can be quickly removed. We do not deserve to be in His court, but are in His presence by His gracious kindness and mercy. Those who will not pay homage and will not serve him will face the Lord’s anger and be destroyed. God will destroy those who go down their own path and refuse to walk in the way of the Lord. Verse 12 also reminds us of the fierce anger of the Lord. The psalm then concludes with a description of the blessed. Remember when we studied Psalm 1 that the word “blessed” means “a fullness and deep peace and joy in life.” Blessed are those who find refuge in the Lord. Those who put their trust in God will find hope and salvation offered from the Father and His anointed.

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