This Psalm is a powerful revelation of the true nature of Jesus’ authority, contrasted with the authority of rulers and kings in the world. It reveals God’s plan to judge wicked and unjust rulers and establish a greater Kingdom, installing his Son who willingly suffers, identifies himself with his Father and receives all power and authority in Heaven and Earth at the cross – his true victory and the real place of our rejoicing! The Lord also speaks instructions to rulers and people of authority.
God the Father’s voice speaks to the Son directly in this Psalm. Surely it was revelation of his Father’s plan for him in this that gave Jesus the power to stand in the face of worldly authorities and continue his pre-eminent claims.
And we should know whom it is we serve, whether as rulers or individuals. We too can know God’s purpose is for us to have a place in a greater Kingdom – but not through our own righteousness, but through Jesus.
Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?
This first question is an expression of exasperation. The nations and peoples certainly plot, but what is their purpose in doing so, and how do they reason it? Whole countries seem to get together and make plans to prosper themselves outside of God’s plan – and without any chance of success. Races and ethnic groups can make plans to raise themselves up, but only God calls nations together.
The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.
The Kings – Herod Antipas, Tiberius and others – have a position as if ready for a battle, and with their advisors they directly challenge both their Father God and his Messiah – who has come. This should be the time for them to acknowledge him, not make a challenge!
“Let us break their chains,” they say, “And throw off their fetters.”
They want to be free from what they see as chains and restrictions – his moral law, written in their hearts – their consciences – which they correctly identify as coming from ‘them’ collectively – God and his Anointed. But what a misunderstanding! The chains they are experiencing are the convictions of their conscience because they do not follow the way of the righteous, neither meditating on his law (see Ps 91) or proceeding justly. It seems glamorous, to revolt and ‘throw off their fetters’, but this is an undignified thing for a ruler to say! These rulers should be applying God’s law and ensuring that their realms are places of peace and stability, and yet they are the ones planning a revolution! Furthermore, it is they who have created chains for the undeserving – imprisoning Jesus on no charge and taxing the weak.
The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.
God’s reaction to this nonsensical attitude is ridicule. He is careless of their plans, which make no threat to him at all. In fact, he mocks them – for the mighty shall be laid low and the humble exalted. Jesus can scoff at them too, as the rulers unknowingly effect their own humbling through the unchanged attitude of their hearts. He can be sure that their plans will fail.
The he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.”
After this laughter, he turns to anger – a righteous anger – that is intended to rebuke them, knock them back from their plans. His anger fell at the crucifixion with the darkness that covered the earth, and the earthquake. Rightly they would have been terrified, but the earth shakes as he confounds their plans. Their intention was to punish an innocent man and rid themselves of the voice that rebuked them, but this itself effected God’s will of installing Jesus as King over Life and Death, all punishment and reward, when he suffered death on the cross, on that holy place where God had always accepted true sacrifice. The centurion on the hill, who was himself a ruler, had no doubt that Jesus was the Son of the King when the earth shook beneath his feet.
I will proclaim the decree of the Lord:
Jesus can proclaim the new law – the new decree – the true statement of justice and the prophetic word of power at the cross. He will be the new decree – he himself will be the new law – the entire sacrifice and the access to the righteousness it wins for us – and he will speak it abroad by suffering on the cross and then rising to life again!
He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.
God said this to Jesus at his baptism, but also in the secret times of prayer, and when Jesus suffered for his brothers and sisters he really and completely reflected God’s nature, and so the bond was strengthened and the relationship taken to another level. God’s revelation to Jesus is the foundation for his ability to rule and replace the other Kingdoms of the earth.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.
So by suffering on the cross, Jesus asked his Father for the new authority and received it, because God was planning to give it to him. Then, when appearing to his disciples (Matthew 28.18) he explained that “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” He had inherited the nations from the bad rulers, and all the ends of the earth were his, which is why he commissions the disciples with the words “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations… and surely I am with you always, to the very end of time”. This would not have happened if Jesus had not asked – and not only did he ask in words, but in actions too.
You will rule them with an iron sceptre; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.
So at this enthronement, Jesus also fulfilled the prophecy of Daniel, to shatter the Kingdoms of the world with the inauguration of a Kingdom without end. He is given a rod of authority that serves to break any other – a rod for punishment, surely. The Roman Empire does indeed break up into pieces after this, and what other empire can last without being broken up? The kingdoms of the world do not last like his kingdom.
Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth.
God does want his appointed rulers to be wise and to carry out their responsibilities properly – even if it takes his mockery, anger and punishment to bring that about. They need to make the decision to be wise – as does anyone who gains authority and rule – and it certainly is part of his plan for us to pay heed to prophetic warning in Scripture. His warnings are the best guide to good rule.
Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.
And these warnings are: to remain a servant personally before God, however much authority you gain – and to keep a holy awe and wariness – a fear – of God and his plan to raise and lower Kingdoms. Do not expect that because he has exalted you in the earth one day he means for you to stay that way for ever. So rejoice in what you have received, but always, always keep it in the perspective of gratitude.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
More instructions to rulers: find and then love the Son of God, who as ruler of all things in Heaven and Earth has a right to expect you to behave in line with his plan, or destroy you simply as you are about your business. He will be patient and give you warning, but when he speaks take care to respond! Rulers have less leeway than individual people. His judgement is sudden, always sudden.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
This ruler will be good to all his servants, rich or poor, who come and hide themselves in him in trouble. Even on the cross, he offers his body as a shelter in which to take cover from the onslaughts of the world, and a most effective shelter, because no attack can succeed against the true ruler.