The Son and the Psalter

Psalm 2 sits in a special place in the Psalter. In fact, based on early manuscripts of Acts 13:33 that quoted Psalm 2:7 as being in the “first psalm,” Psalms 1 and 2 were seen as one song, starting in 1:1 with “blessed” and ending in 2:12 with “blessed.” Though they are divided in our copies, Psalm 2 clearly provides another entrance into the entire Book. If Psalm 1 stresses the goodness of singing the Scriptures, Psalm 2 stresses the goodness of singing the Son. Psalm 1 makes men wise and fruitful who delight in the law of Yahweh. Psalm 2 makes men wise and joyful who submit to the rule of Yahweh’s anointed.

Whoever put Psalm 2 in this place put HOPE in the Son’s reign as the a banner over ALL the other songs! While we anticipate the personal blessings of present fruitfulness in the world according to Psalm 1, so we anticipate the global blessing in the future rule of the Messiah over all the world as Psalm 2 describes. He will bring peace among men.

Serve the LORD with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
(Psalm 2:11–12)

Serve Him, rejoice before Him, kiss Him, and trust Him. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. Refuge is a constant refrain in the Psalms. It implies that we need help, that we are in trouble. It also means that He is the salvation, protection, safety we need. He doesn’t get irritated that we need help. He makes us happy when we run to Him for it.

Psalm 2 doesn’t mention the cross or the resurrection, true, but the Savior and King is the same person, the same chosen and anointed Son. This song reveals the problem: rebellion against the Lord. This song reveals the answer: submission to God’s Son. Psalm 2 also reveals the future as we look forward to the Son’s certain reign. Christ received His throne by going to the cross first, and we celebrate both His sacrifice and His government at the Lord’s Table.

Three Nots

The blessed man in Psalm 1 is known by three “nots”.

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
(Psalm 1:1)

First, he walks not in the counsel of the wicked. He does not follow advice from the ungodly. He doesn’t listen to their opinions.

Can you imagine what the writer of Psalm 1 would think about talk radio, cable news, podcasts and vodcasts, or the magazine wall at the airport? Then add to those inputs the narrative lessons of so many sitcoms, summer blockbusters, and Pandora playlists. We walk into the road without looking either way and get hit by the media truck that imprints its godless perspective across our face.

The blessed man also does not stand in the way of sinners. Stand is not simply stopping, it means taking up a certain perspective. We could say that he doesn’t join the gang of those who regularly disobey. Standing with rebels on the wrong side of the lines God draws is no good.

And third, he does not sit in the seat of scoffers. The scorner or scoffer is at the boldest stage of disobedience where he mocks righteousness and/or God Himself. Scoffing doesn’t have to be loud or obnoxious. Scoffing in a story looks like laughing at the guy who thinks marriage is only between one man and one woman. The scoffer jokes about holiness. The blessed man avoids the cynics. He’s alright standing out.

Walking, standing, and sitting represent all of life. The unblessed man is immersed in a corrupt culture, tuned in to a particular worldview channel. The blessed man disassociates with the advice, the approach, and the assembly of the wicked. The blessed man delights in the law of the Lord. How much junk have we welcomed into our hearts this last week?

Listening to Sad Songs

Asaph wrote a sad song in Psalm 81, though not every verse sounds sorrowful. He ended by noting the kinds of things the Lord would do: “he would feed you with the finest of wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you” (verse 16). The Lord provides. He also protects. “I would soon subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes” (verse 14). These sound fantastic. What is the basis for God’s people to believe these great promises?

The first half of the song works through a short account of Israel’s exodus. “I relieved your shoulder of the burden” (verse 6), “in distress you called, and I delivered you” (verse 7). So, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide and I will fill it” (verse 10). So far, this all sounds great. Why say that the song is sad?

The Lord continues. “But my people did not listen to my voice. Oh that my people would listen to me” (verse 11). They didn’t, and the Lord said, “So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels” (verse 12). Maybe the most dreadful thing in the world is for God to give us what we think we want while we disregard Him.

For Christians, God delivered us from a greater slavery, from slavery to sin and the wages of eternal death. He has given us not only great promises, but also personal copies of His counsel to read and He sent His Spirit to illuminate the truths of His Word. He decreed generations of His faithfulness for us to survey. Are we paying attention? Are we appreciating our advantages? Are we hearing and obeying? He would satisfy us with honey if we would listen to this sad song and walk in His ways.

Right Where He Wants Them

John Calvin remarks on the rage of the nations and the response of Yahweh in Psalm 2:4.

[W]hen God permits the reign of his Son to be troubled, he does not cease from interfering because he is employed elsewhere, or unable to afford assistance, or because he is neglectful of the honour of his Son; but he purposely delays the inflictions of his wrath to the proper time, namely, until he has exposed their infatuated rage to general derision.

Commentary on the Book of Psalms

In other words, God has presidents and prime ministers right where He wants them to show off their ridiculous foolishness.

Confession Songs

The book of Psalms include some of the deepest, most desperate confessions of sin found in Scripture. The poetic lyrics, and presumably the key of the music, communicate with precise form both the heaviness of conviction and the relief of forgiveness. No man is permitted into God’s presence unless his sin is pardoned, so it is not surprising to find these confession songs as part of the congregations’s worship.

King David, a man known for his musical skill and for his disastrous sin, wrote in Psalm 32:

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
(Psalms 32:1–2)

“Transgression” concerns revolt or rebellion against God’s law. “Sin” emphasizes missing the mark, failing to live up to God’s law. And “iniquity” stresses a twisting away or deviation from God’s law. All three make a man guilty. David describes forgiveness as a great blessing,

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
(Psalms 32:3–4)

God sees, God knows, and God humbles those who attempt to cover their sin with silence rather than have it covered by His sacrifice. Sturdy bones “waste away,” they are worn out through “groaning.” The groaning results from God’s “heavy hand,” His personal pressing on the hearts of His people. Why does He do that? Because they can’t be happy/blessed unless their sin is acknowledged, atoned for, and absolved. God will reprove us unto repentance so that we can worship in His presence where there is fullness of joy.