Take Refuge in the King

Father, as you have blessed us by exhortation and in song and in prayer and in the reading of your word, would you bless us now in its exposition. Your word is your Spirit’s sword—and by it you bring life and conviction of sin and comfort in sorrow. Please help us now see the way of life that you have established for us in your Son, our Savior and King—in whose name we pray, Amen. 

I’d invite you to have your bibles open to Psalms 1 and 2. As pastor Jonathan said last week, these Psalms are designed as the entryway to the whole book of the Psalms. Through them we behold the King and we behold life in his way. 

Glancing over Psalm 1, we are reminded that the way of the righteous is defined by relationship with YHWH. The blessed man is the man whose life is saturated with the knowledge of the one true God—a relationship of trust and love that calms his fears, seasons his decisions, comforts his sorrows, shapes his affections, and guards his life. 

This is contrasted, isn’t it, by the world in which the man of Psalm 1 finds himself. He lives in a world shot through with brokenness—crooked counselors, sinners who want to recruit him into their wicked cause, self-righteous scoffers who look down their noses at God and at his people.

But that world, in fact, lives in him, too. The righteous person desperately needs God to both speak and act. They need to be planted in the stream of God’s Word to give them life and hope and a future.

And Psalm 1 assures us that the one who trusts in the Lord can have unswerving confidence about that future. No matter what comes—in the end—those who are connected by faith to this living Word will stand in the congregation of the righteous. Their lives will not be meaningless. Psalm 1 shows the righteous the way of blessing

Psalm 2 complements that message by ultimately showing us the One through whom that blessing comes. In Psalm 2 we find a King whose authority is universal and eternal. His rule secures all blessing. Psalm 2 is a gospel Psalm—it announces good news to the world. Comfort, amnesty, peace, blessing—all are to be found in Israel’s King, the begotten of God, the Christ (the anointed one). In fact, the firm period on the end of Psalms 1 and 2 is “blessed are all who take refuge in him.”

But Psalm 2 also sounds a dire warning for those who try to find refuge elsewhere. It will not be found. Self-rule will result in derision, wrath, fury, and destruction. This king is not to be domesticated, belittled, ignored, or rejected. There is no refuge outside of him.

Let’s hear both the good news and the warning in this Psalm through the four “voices” in this text: 

  1. In vv 1–4, we hear what the masses say [let us throw off YHWH’s rule and govern ourselves]

  2. In vv 5–6, we hear what YHWH says [I have enthroned my King]

  3. In vv 7–9, we hear what his Messiah says [YHWH has declared me, Messiah, King, and Son]

  4. And in vv 10–12, we hear what the Psalmist says [blessed are those who find refuge in him]

What the Masses Say (vv. 1-3)

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?  2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”

Weekends like this one bring us full-face to the reality of human opposition to divine rule. According to Paul in Romans 1.24-27, elevating and pursuing our own definition of sexual fulfillment is perhaps the clearest example of humanity’s disordered desire and rebellion. It is, in fact, PRIDE of the deadliest kind. 

And in the broken world we inhabit, this disorder and rebellion is everywhere to be seen. The suppression of truth, the rejection of justice, the abandonment of good order; the universal human pattern of seducing, oppressing, and exploiting others for selfish gain. All of this is simply reflective of the very human desire to pursue what seems to be freedom and happiness, to throw off what seems to be undue restraint, to claim both the right and the ability to determine what is good; to attempt to forge our own destiny on our own terms. Sooner or later, however, it will be seen for the trap it is. This is not the path to life. It leads only one way—to dissatisfaction, disappointment, and destruction.

Psalm 2.1-3 reflects the broken desire for self-rule. The nations raise their fist against YHWH’s exclusive claims. The peoples murmur their disapproval of his restrictions. Kings and congresses deliberate together, passing laws to thwart God’s will. Together they say, v3:

“Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us”

They parrot the original lie of the serpent in the garden—that divine conditions of blessing are hostile restrictions holding mankind back from true freedom (Gen 3.1-5). “We don’t believe that he is wise and good. We don’t like his conditions. We won’t be ruled by him. We want the freedom to rule ourselves.”

The Psalmist would have us see the lunacy of our resistance even in the first word: Why do the nations rage? Why do they murmur mutinous thoughts? Why do human authorities align themselves against God and against his people? Why do they say, “We’ll show God! We’ll cast off his rule!”? Do they not know who he is? Do they not know what they are attempting to cast off? Do they not know that their opposition won’t accomplish what they hope?

The full fury of the nations, all the collected powers of every ruler on earth is as nothing before the living God. He is not threatened. He is not intimidated. His response? Look at verse 4:

He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.

The “kings of the earth,” verse 2, may threaten, but verse 4, “the One who sits in the heavens laughs.” From the perspective of the heavenly throne, diabolical dictators with nuclear weapons, cultural warriors with antagonistic agendas, homicidal terrorists with bombs strapped to their bodies—they all appear as they are: very, very, very tiny. The “I AM” shakes his head in disdain. His rule, no matter the power his detractors may claim, will not be overthrown.

What YHWH says (vv4-6)

So, the masses have had their say. Now the LORD, the one who raises up kings and brings princes to nothing (Isa 40.23) will have his say, listen to his voice in verses 5-6:

Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

The rulers of the earth think that throwing off God’s restraints in favor of their own rule will bring true freedom. They think that they have good news. But it is a false gospel. Trading the conditions of God’s rule for the conditions of human rule is an empty hope. And it is deadly rebellion. 

Verse 5 shows us that YHWH feels anger over the rebellion of these threatening masses. But his anger is not provoked merely by human opposition to his just authority. His anger is grounded in what is both right and good—and human self-rule is not good news. 

In the days before David, the people of Israel plead with the prophet Samuel to anoint for them a king like the other nations had. They were not content with God as king. But they came to realize the rebellion of their request. Every human king was, like them, broken by sin. Thus, every king’s rule was, at best, a dim reflection of God’s perfectly just rule. In 1Sam 12.19, they cried out to Samuel, 

Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king.

But God through Samuel promised that he would, again, establish his own rule as king—through a descendant of David. The only hope for humanity is the return of the God as King. The establishment of God’s kingdom. And that’s where the good news of Psalm 2 comes in: 

YHWH’s response to the brokenness of human rule is expressed in the announcement of v6: 

As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.

“As for me” is the attempt in English to express the emphatic “I” in Hebrew. YHWH says, “I myself have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” “I have put in place the true king who will rule with justice and holiness.” The problem presented by wickedness in the world is not a better system of government or a change in earthly leadership. The only solution is the coming of the kingdom of God. (Ps 110.1; 89.27)

As Pastor Jonathan reminded us last week, God set up a kingdom in Israel with David as its king. David, from the line of Judah, a descendant of Abraham, was the conduit of blessing promised through Abraham, both to God’s people and to the nations. And in 2 Samuel 7, God promised that David’s offspring would continue to rule on David’s throne, forever. 

But the King YHWH announces in Psalm 2 looks beyond David. How do we know? Here are three reasons: 

First, what vv 8-9 describe was not true even under the rule of King Solomon, David’s son. The nations were not ultimately under Davidic rule and, most certainly, the ends of the earth were not his possession. And not long after Solomon’s rule things fell apart, and the kingdom was divided and bad kings ruled. 

Second, David indicates elsewhere in the Psalms that he understands that a greater king—and everlasting king to whom all nations will bow in obedience—will come from his lineage. So, in Psalm 110.1-2, David can say 

YHWH says to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool. YHWH sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter—you rule in the midst of your enemies!   

In Matthew 22.41-45, the Lord Jesus picks up this same text and says “If David calls the Christ, LORD, how is he his son?” The implied answer is that David is just a type of the greater David to come. Jesus is that greater David.

Third, and most importantly, the disciples tell us that Psalm 2 was pointing to Jesus as the greater David, the Anointed One.

Turn with me to Acts 4.24. In Acts 3, after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, Peter and John are preaching on the porch of Solomon’s temple, showing how the Scriptures spoke of Jesus as the Anointed one of God, Israel’s true king and only savior. The crowds were astonished, but the religious authorities were furious. They arrested John and Peter—which only gave them an even greater opportunity to preach Christ the next day to all the assembled rulers! Warning Peter and John not to speak again in the name of Jesus, the religious leaders released them. Luke tells us in Acts 4.24-30 that Peter and John gathered with their friends and lifted up their voices together to God and said: 

Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’— 27   for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,  28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.  29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.

The disciples knew that, in Psalm 2, the Holy Spirit was speaking through David of the greater David to come—Jesus, the Messiah. 

 So, even though this Psalm was fitting for David, God intended for his announcement to point beyond David to fulfillment in David’s greater son—the Messiah, Jesus, the Son of God.

What his Messiah says (vv7-9)

In verses 7-9, we hear yet another voice. The kings of the earth have spoken, declaring their independence. YHWH has spoken—declaring that he has established his King on Zion’s holy hill. Now this Anointed One speaks of YHWH’s decree. Look at verse 7:

7 I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.  8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

The Anointed One emphasizes that YHWH has called him “my son.” This, too, is what 2 Sam 7 told us to expect of the one who was to sit on David’s throne—this king would be adopted as God’s own son. YHWH said to David through Nathan (7:14) “I will be to him a father and he shall be to me a son” (7:14). 

But the son depicted in Psalm 2.7-8, unlike David, has been given a heritage of all nations and a rule that extends to the ends of the earth. This is universal authority. And notice the other element to this decree: “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.” 

When this king comes to his throne, he will not simply be adopted as God’s Son, he will be God’s son by nature and right. In other words, the decree the Anointed One speaks of here cannot ultimately pertain to David—David was a king, but he was still only a man. He went the way of all men and was buried with his fathers. As such, his rule came to an end. As did his son’s, and his son’s, and his son’s after that.

But this Son—the Son spoken of in Psalm 2, this greater David—is more than man. This Son is begotten of God, and his rule will not only be universal, it will also be eternal. And only one man fits that bill. A man who is both God and Man. A man who can say, as Jesus does in John 8.58:

Truly, Truly I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.

A man over whose baptism and at whose transfiguration God proclaimed:

This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. (Matt 3.17; 17.5)

A man whom even death cannot defeat. Psalm 2’s promise of this this Son, the Begotten of God, is the good news we desperately need. And it is the news Paul announced to the rulers of the synagogue in Antioch in Acts 13:32:

we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers,  33 this he has fulfilled to us, their children, by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.”  36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, 37 but he whom God raised up did not see corruption38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything 39 from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. (Acts 13:33, 36-39)

We need a King who is more than man. We need a king who isn’t subject to sin or to vain ambition. We need a king who is proven to be perfectly good, perfectly just, perfectly powerful, perfectly righteous, perfectly wise. And this is what God declared of Jesus, Paul says in Romans 1.1-4, by raising him from the dead. 

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,  2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures,  3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Friends, the decree that the Anointed One tells us of in Psalm 2 is the best news in all the world. 

In Jesus, the kingdom of this world has become the Kingdom of our LORD and of his Christ. And he shall reign, forever! 

How foolish do the words of those earthly kings in v 1 sound, now! Because have not only heard their words, but the better news YHWH’s announcement brings. And we have seen how the decree of which the Anointed One speaks is the banner flying over the resurrection of Jesus over death and the grave. Now, finally we return to what the Psalmist says—and the main point of Psalm 2.

What the Psalmist says (vv 10-12)

You may not know why you are here this morning—but I know without a shadow of a doubt that you are not here by accident. The words of Psalm 2 are for you—and they are either to be a comfort or a warning. Look at vv. 10-12.

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. 12 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.”

The main point of Psalm 2 is that there is refuge in no one else. No one else, including yourself, can deal with your sin problem. No one else can assuage the wrath of God for our rebellion against him.

If you are here this morning and you are fed up with God and with the conditions of his rule, hear this urgent warning. Be instructed and become wise. The serpent would like for you to believe that true life exists outside of God’s kind designs. But it is a lie. Instead of being a servant to God, Satan would have you become a slave to yourself. That is a miserable exchange—and its end is dissatisfaction, disappointment, and destruction. Instead, you must heed the commands of vv 10-11. “Be wise” “Be warned” “Serve the Lord.” The Messiah’s enthronement and his universal rule is good news, if you will have it—because he has come to deliver you, once and for all, from your sin. There is nothing you need to do except to run to him.

And what is more, verse 12 offers you this warning with dire urgency: “Kiss the son, lest he be angry and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled.” Friend, Psalm 2 teaches us that opposition to God is not sane. His reality cannot be denied. His rule cannot be thwarted. He may endure taunting and mocking and resistance for a time—but he doesn’t tolerate it forever. You don't know what may come of you later today. Hear his warning, now. Submit to his Lordship. He offers you peace, reconciliation, the ceasing of your strife with him. That is why the Psalmist can end verse 12 with “blessed are all who take refuge in him.” Jesus, the anointed King, the Son of God, calls out to you this very moment saying:

Matthew 11, All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

He says to you:

John 6.37, All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

Heed the warning of Psalm 2. Kiss the Son. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. 

Secondly, if you are here this morning and you feel disheartened by the wicked powers of the world, this Psalm has a word of comfort for you. Despite appearances to the contrary, those who oppose the Lord Christ and his people will always fail. Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Enver Hoxha, Hugo Chavez, Kim Jong Un, Xi Jinping—they are the chaff of Psalm 1 that the wind blows away. They can not threatened the Kingship of Jesus. Ultimately, they accomplish the opposite of what they intend. Martin Luther captures this in a memorable way:

[In Psalm 2] the prophet wishes to show that Christ is a King ordained by God the Father and that many great Gentiles and Jews, kings and rulers, have not been able to hinder His kingship with their counsels, oppositions, strivings, and rages. They spent everything so fruitlessly that they made a mockery of themselves; the more they resisted, the more they promoted the kingdom of Christ…and not only is it impossible for them to do harm, but by God’s counsel, their torment and their vain plots must serve most of all to promote what they seek to prevent. Thus, the friends of a Christian are really not as useful to him as his enemies.”

Finally: Friends, this message of Jesus’s kingship is the best news in all the world. How can we not share it with others? If Jesus is worthy of the worship of all people and, as Psalm 2.12 teaches us, “blessed—happy—are all those who take refuge in him” it would be tragic for us who know refuge in Christ to not share that blessedness with the world. Listen to the commission this great, resurrected, king gives us in Matthew 28.18-20:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Since all authority belongs to him, we can have confidence that he goes before us in proclaiming this message. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.