In this psalm we have a wonderful prophecy of the reign of Messiah the Prince. The prophecy does not concern the reign of God in His sovereignty, which is the necessary result of the Creator’s relationship with the world He created, but rather a reign that results from His sovereign decree—the mediatorial reign of the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, God rules the world. But He rules the world redemptively through Jesus Christ. “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?” (Ps. 2:1-12).
We are Christians, and this means, among other things, that we should seek to have the New Testament teach us what the Old Testament means. Our method for learning the meaning of this psalm is to pay close attention to what the New Testament says about it. These New Testament references should be our anchor points.
Why do the heathen rage? We are told in Acts 4:24-28 that the first two verses of the second psalm are a prophecy of the crucifixion. We also learn of the Davidic authorship of the psalm there. In addition, we see the psalm is the basis for saying that the murder of Christ was predestined. God used the wickedness of men to save the world.
Now in Acts 13:33, we learn that v. 7 of our psalm is a prophecy of the resurrection. This verse is quoted in two other places also. Hebrews 1:5 shows us that this passage shows the supremacy of Christ over angels. Hebrews 5:5 quotes it as describing Christ entering His office as high priest. Put them together, and we see that in the resurrection, Christ is begotten from the dead, enters into His high priestly work, and is made higher than the angels.
Then there is the rod of iron. The book of Revelation refers to v. 9 three times, and the usage there is very interesting. Revelation 19:15-16 refers to Christ’s rule over the nations, with His wrath in view. Revelation 12:5 refers simply to Christ’s rule over the nations. And Revelation 2:26-29 teaches us that Christ rules the nations through His saints. God has made us kings and priests on the earth.
So what are the implications? This psalm has twelve verses. We know that 1-2 are about the crucifixion, that v. 7 is about the resurrection, and that v. 9 addresses the reign of Christ through His Word in the Church. What then do we learn from the rest of the psalm?
Having established fixed points in the psalm (fixed by authoritative commentary from the New Testament), we are in a position to see what the rest of it means. The language of v. 3 refers to the nations’ resentment over the fact that they had to plow underneath the yoke of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then we come to the laughter of God. Consider two things. First, if the laughter of God can accomplish such great and terrible things, what will His wrath be like? And secondly, who would have thought of this—divine laughter!—when the sun was dark, the disciples scattered, our Lord in anguish, the Sanhedrin gloating, Satan triumphant, Peter wretched, Judas in despair, and Mary in tears?
And yet God will do what He has intended to do through all this. Despite their pitiful little schemes, the Lord will establish His King in Zion (v. 6), however little they like it (v. 5).
Now, after the crucifixion, and just after the resurrection, God Almighty extends an invitation to His Son, Jesus Christ—He invites Him to just ask (v. 8). What belongs to Jesus Christ now? What nation is not His present possession? Can you find one? Is there one He didn’t want? Did He refuse to ask for one? Remember, the rod of iron extends over all of them (v. 9).
What therefore is the responsibility of our Congress, our Supreme Court, and our President? They must seek wisdom and receive instruction. They must serve God in their public civic capacity, with fear, joy, and trembling (v. 11). Remember that God’s laughter overthrew all their impudent plans. Beware of His wrath (v.12). This means that the United States has the explicit duty to be a Christian nation.
When the church hears the Word of God rightly, the whole world is set to rights. The three great offices of Christ are set before us in this psalm. He is the prophet—we must hear His words of instruction (v. 10). He is king, established in Zion (v. 6). And He is priest (v. 7; Heb. 5:5).
We see that the Lord has already received His inheritance. The matter is settled. The question is not being brought before the United Nations for consideration. The reign of Christ has been established. The nations who object to this trouble the decrees of God about as much as dogs barking at the moon trouble the moon.
This is why Jesus Christ reigns redemptively throughout the entire earth. Christians are those who are called to believe what God has declared concerning this. The one who trusts His Word is always blessed. God has spoken on this glorious subject—are we blessed in hearing it? Do we believe Him? Jesus reigns from the river to the ends of the earth. Which river? It does not matter. From the Thames to the Hudson, from the Nile to the Ganges, from the Rhine to the Mississippi, from the Potomac to the Amazon, the name of the Lord will be praised, and pure sacrifices will be offered up to Him in every nation.