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A Primer on Psalm 2, Its' Uses In The NT, And Godly Meditation

Today we will look at Psalm 2; where I believe we can rightly divide the Psalm into 3 parts. The first part will be 2:1-3 The Antagonist (which will include a lesson in meditation and Acts 4:4:25-26), then 2:4-9 The Anointed (including a brief lesson on Acts 13:33 and Hebrews 1:5 and 5:5), and finally 2:10-12 The Alternatives.

Part One: The Antagonist 2:1-3

“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot [literally: meditate] 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.”


Whenever Scripture asks a question it is usually prudent to pause and reflect on the question itself before continuing in our reading. Thus, our first question, why do the nations (peoples) rage and plot against God?

I remember when I first came to the faith and wondered, “Why would anyone want to kill Jesus?” Indeed, the answer to both of these questions is the same. We hate God. We love ourselves, our sin, and our treasure above and before anything. We love to love ourselves. Part of what makes our salvation so great is that we are saved from a small, unsatisfying love into an all-satisfying, eternal love. A love that changes our hearts of hate into hearts of grace. It is one thing for a king, or ruler, to conquer his enemies. It is another for The King to change (or transform) His enemies and bestow upon them riches of grace. Surely it is a vain thing to rebel against this awesome, unchanging love.

Though we are saved from the eternal consequences of sin, and the power thereof we still do have much sin in us. All of our lives are meant to come into conformity to Christ’s rule and reign. And we will spend all our (earthly) lives putting sin to death. It is vain to plot (meditate) against God. It is also greatly profitable to meditate on God; for, He is God and there is much to meditate on. Moreover, it is one of the best ways to mortify our sin. Though this work of godly meditation is difficult it does prove most profitable.

How To Devotionally Meditate: A Lesson in Meditation Guided by Joel Beeke

First, we must define mediation. It is not “clearing your mind” as the Eastern religions would teach. Rather it is focusing our mind and filling it on God and His word so that we might spiritually profit, or grow, from it. Beeke sets out 2 times for the Christian to mediate; Occasionally: when throughout our day we raise our thoughts to the things of God in His word. The wind against our face as we walk into work could cause us to consider the Lord’s lesson to Nicodemus in John 3. As well as Deliberate: when we make/set aside time to focus on God and His word. This should be done as often as we can, as consistently as we can, as beneficially as we can (that is, don’t meditate on unprofitable, sinful, things. Think about things that will make your heart large in love towards God and man rather than harden your heart against Him).

Beeke then recommends ways to prepare for meditation.

How to prepare for meditation: clear your heart from the things of this world. Second, have your heart cleansed from the guilt and pollution of sin and stirred up with fervent love for spiritual things. Third, approach the task of meditation with utmost seriousness. Fourth, find a place from meditation that is quiet and free from interruption. Finally, maintain a body posture that is reverent, whether it be sitting, standing, walking, or lying prostrate before the Almighty. The goal is to center the soul, mind, and body on “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). Now having the time and preparation ready for meditation Beeke gives us guidelines from the Puritans on how we can practice Christian mediation.

Guidelines for practicing Christian meditation:

Begin by asking the HS for assistance, and the power to harness your mind and to focus the eyes of faith on the task of reading, knowing, understanding, and applying His word. Next, “stir up affections, such as love, desire, hope, courage, gratitude, zeal, and joy, to glorify God. Hold soliloquies with your own soul. Include complaints against yourself because of your inabilities and shortcomings, and spread before God your spiritual longings. Believe that He will help you.”

Now, following the arousal of your memory, judgment, and affections, apply your meditations to yourself to arouse your soul to duty and comfort and restrain your soul from sin. That is, examine yourself for your own growth in grace. Reflect on the past and ask, what have I done?, look to the future asking, what am I resolved to do, by God’s grace? Do not ask such questions legalistically but out of holy excitement and opportunity to grow in Spirit-worked grace.

Next, turn your applications into resolutions. Let those resolutions be firm and strong commitments to fight sin. Conclude with prayer, thanksgiving, and singing. “Meditation is the best beginning of prayer and prayer is the best conclusion of meditation.”

“If ever you would get good by the practice of meditation, you must come down to particulars; and you must so meditate of Christ, as to apply Christ to thy soul; and so meditate of Heaven, as to apply Heaven to thy soul.” Calamy, Art of Divine Meditation.

Next, what should be the subject of our meditations.

Subjects of godly meditation:

  • Sermons, for God requires that we hear sermons and think of them as well as to apply them to our lives.

  • Sacrament for we must not receive the beard and wine in vain (1 Cor. 11:29).

  • Sabbath for the Lord’s day Sunday is a sweet and special day with the Lord and His people.

But what benefit might meditation bring to my soul?

Benefits of godly meditation

  • Meditation helps us focus on the triune God, to love and to enjoy Him in all His persons.

  • Meditation helps increase knowledge of sacred truth.

  • Meditation enlarges our faith by helping us to trust the God of promises in all our spiritual troubles and the God of providence in all our outward troubles.

  • Meditation stirs up our affections for God.

  • Meditation fosters repentance and reformation of life.

  • Meditation helps with memory

  • Meditation transfuses Scripture through the texture of the soul

  • Meditation provides inner resources on which to draw, including direction for daily life.

  • Meditation helps us to persevere in the faith.

  • Meditation is a mighty weapon to ward off Satan and temptation.

  • Meditation provides relief in afflictions

  • Meditation promotes gratitude for all the blessings showered on us by God through His Son.

  • Meditation glorifies God.

  • “Meditation is the food of your souls, it is the very stomach and natural heat whereby spiritual truths are digested… It is not he that reads most; but he that meditates most, that will prove the choicest, sweetest, wisest, and strongest Christian.” Thomas Brooks.

What obstacles might we encounter in meditation?

Obstacles to godly meditation

Obstacle 1: I am too unfit or ignorant.

Answer to obstacle 1: Ignorance and wandering thoughts offer no exemption from duty. Love the truth by thinking and living it.

Obstacle 2: Busyness.

Answer to obstacle 2: True religion is not performed merely in leisure time. Busyness should lead us more to meditate for we have many needs to bring to God and to think on.

Obstacle 3: Lazy.

Answer to obstacle 3: “Matthew 11:12 says heaven is the reward of ‘the violent [who] take it by force.’ Why are you lazy in spiritual pursuits that can reap eternal rewards when you are not lazy in pursuing secular work in this world, which produces only temporary rewards? Spiritual drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags (Proverbs 23:21).”

Obstacle 4: Worldly pleasure

Answer to obstacle 4: “The pleasures of the world discompose our souls, and unfit our bodies for the duties of meditation… remember this, the sweetness of religion is incomparably more than all pleasures of sense.” Bates,

Meditation is a disciple. Work at it and it shall benefit your soul greatly!

This is all well and good. But what application does all this have for me?

Application of godly meditation:

  1. Are your meditations driven by a desire to have true, lively faith?

  2. Do your meditations in your heart produce holiness in your life?

Beeke summarizes his book in this final paragraph.

“How can you begin practicing Christian meditation? Ask God to help you take this teaching...on meditation and put it into practice. Begin today. Begin with just nine minutes a day. Read the Scriptures slowly and thoughtfully for 3 minutes, meditate on what you’ve read for 3 minutes, and then pray for 3 minutes. You will discover almost immediately that your meditation will supply you with content for your prayers. Once you learn...that meditation is ‘the halfway house’ between Scripture reading and prayer, you will not be able to stop meditating on a regular basis…” Beeke.

OT in NT: Psalm 2:1→Acts 4:25-26

Now that we have had our lesson on godly meditation let us now think on the uses of Psalm 2:1 in the NT by looking at Acts 4:23-31 where Luke writes, “When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted 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.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (ESV).

First, note that the church went confronted with threats of persecution started to pray in 4:24. No doubt this is the natural response to those who had just spent much time with Christ during His earthly ministry. Moreover, they also follow the model of the Lord’s prayer well when they begin their prayer with an acknowledgment of who God is when they say, “Sovereign Lord…” and continue by also acknowledging His creative power and might over all of creation. Verse 25 might be one of the most excellent summaries of the OT when they say, “through the mouth of our father David...said by the Holy Spirit…”. The OT and NT writers wrote under the guidance and control of the Holy Spirit (yet another worshipful acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty). Then they quote Psalm 2:1 (you will note they did not pull out their bibles and then quote the scripture. They had this scripture memorized already) where the Apostles rightly recognize Jesus as both the anointed King whom the rulers meditated against. In one sense, we see the Tower of Babel being built here; all the peoples of the world united against God only to be destroyed by God’s sovereign supremacy over them when, through their murdering of His Son, when God raised Him from the dead. And later to make those same peoples the Son’s inheritance. The church used Psalm 2 to strengthen and stir up their faith in a time of great need to remind themselves that God is supreme over all His creation and, indeed, His enemies.

A quick note on 2:3 from MacArthur, “Mutinous mankind, instead of understanding that these are God’s love-bonds (Hos. 11:4), view them as yoke-bonds (Jer. 5:5).” God’s commands are good and just and pleasant to those who follow Him; they are not shackles of slavery but a wedding band of love from God to us.

We rage and plot against God, we set ourselves against Him and rebel or cast away His commands. We are the antagonist in God’s redemptive story. And all our sinning and rebellion is utterly vain and wins us nothing. Indeed, it is the Anointed who wins much here by receiving the nations as an inheritance.

Part Two: The Anointed 2:4-9

Here the Lord installs His king in answer to His enemies. And this particular King is so awesome that God laughs at all/any who would challenge Him. God installed David as the king as a way of depicting the future installment of Christ the King. David, the shepherd king, was a prefigure of The Shephard King.

Note God’s laughter in 2:4. He does not laugh at a course joke or some other irreverent things. He laughs at those who mediate against Him. I suppose one lesson from this is the comedy of sin. Man endlessly seeking pleasure in something that does not satisfy, fulfill, or love him is about a silly of thought as anything really.

Note on 2:6, “Zion is a hill north of the Davidic city of Jerusalem. It is important not because of its size but because it is the location of the temple, the place of God’s special covenant presence, hence “My holy hill.” Jerusalem as a whole is sometimes called “Zion.” Earthly Zion was a token of the Zion. Much of the symbolism of the temple pointed to heavenly realities.” (Reformation Study Bible).

OT in NT: Psalm 2:7 → Acts 13:33, Hebrews 1:5, 5:5

Psalm 2:7 is the only direct OT reference to the Father/Son relationship in the Trinity; a relationship that existed (and was also declared) in eternity past and shown to us in the incarnation. Paul, when preachings to the Jews in the synagogue, said that this is verse shows us that Christ’s resurrection is the fulfillment of the OT promises of forgiveness like those found in Genesis 3:15. God’s awesome grace was foreshadowed in the OT and revealed in the NT chiefly in the resurrection.

Of course, His grace is also seen in the birth, and life, of Christ as well. As the author of Hebrews points out in his writing when he writes, After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. 5 For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? (Hebrews 1:3-5, ESV).

It would seem that one of the issues being addressed in Hebrews is the supremacy of Christ over the angels. Here the author reminds his audience that God declared Christ to be His Son and only Christ; thus making the angels lower than Him. Jesus is the eternal Son of God, but His particular title of “Christ” (meaning “Anointed”) could only be given to Him after He finished His atonement by His blood for sinners. Thus, in order to be called Christ, He had to be born in a body like ours, live a perfect life, and die on our behalf so that His work of salvation would be full and final on behalf of sinners. Thus, Jesus is called the Christ Son of the living God; our Savior. And all of this was appointed by God the Father, as the author of Hebrews later reminds his audience in 5:5, “So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”. God, in eternity past, choose Jesus to be our Great High Priest so that we would forever have free access to Himself through Christ. Christ accomplished our salvation in His earthly ministry and continuously keeps us now as our Great High Priest while also calling sinners to Himself in His heavenly ministry now. Where we, the nations, are the inheritance/reward of Christ’s labor on our behalf as Psalm 2:8 tells us.

And in 2:9 we also see the Shephard-King imagery again with a “rod” (a Shephard’s tool for protecting his flock from dangerous animals) to rule the nations. At first glance, this may not seem to be the most comforting verse. However, consider the greatness of this mighty King of ours. Were we not broke with the realization of the weight and wrath of our sin against sin? Were we not broken like a clay pot over our own sinfulness? To be ruled, broken, and dashed by earthly rulers is a horrible thing. But to be ruled by Christ, though heard, is a sweet thing. Given the absolute power of the Anointed Shephard King, how are we to live?

Part Three: The Alternatives 2:10-12

After an exhortation, David now returns to speak to other kings of the earth giving them 5 commands;

  1. Be wise

  2. Be warned (2:10)

  3. Serve the LORD with fear

  4. Rejoice with trembling (2:11)

  5. Kiss the Son (2:12).

Notice how the kings are instructed to be wise, warned, and to serve the LORD in verses 10 and 11 but then commanded to kiss the Son in verse 12. This is quite similar to the proto-Evangelion in Genesis 3:15 where God says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Indeed, this is another confirmation of the eternal relationship between the Father and the Son in the Trinity. For we are to be obedient to and to love them both, for “There be three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one true, eternal God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory; although distinguished by their personal properties.” (Westminster Larger Catechism, Q. 9).

Moreover, notice that after a declaration of the King’s supremacy there is not a call of swift judgment but rather merciful kindness in providing the opportunity for repentance and obedience. Even now, this kindness is still being offered. But one day it will no longer be offered and the King will indeed come and rule with an iron rod and claim His inheritance. For now, there is still an opportunity for repentance; thus do not let our evangelism outreach and prayers stop now; for every day is a new measure of kindness from God. And every day is a new opportunity from God to continue growing in Him. Thus, kiss the Son, love Him, pledge your allegiance to Him solely lest you perish in the way, and not stand in judgment (Psalm 1:6).

Research Notes:

“Psalm 2 ushers the worshiper into God’s throne room. It reminds us that David’s emergence as a king from Judah was a midcourse confirmation between God’s promise to Abraham and his descendant bringing the final kingdom to earth (Gen. 49:10, Gen. 12:1-3, Matt 3:2). The first hint that the psalm refers to David’s Greater Son is in the title “Anointed,” which is Messiah in Hebrew and Christ in Greek (Ps 2:2, Acts 10:38).

Another clue is the prophecy of worldwide rule that demands a King with infinitely greater powers than David, but which also accords with God’s promise to David of an eternal and worldwide kingdom established by his descendants (Ps 2:8-9, 2 Sam. 7:12-14; Rev. 2:27; 12:5; 19:5). The apostles preached the gospel from this psalm. The author of Hebrews explained that Christ was this “Son” whom God sent into the world-the only Son who could truly fulfill the promises to David (Ps. 2:7, Heb. 1:5).

Peter preached that Christ’s cross was the epitome of the nations’ rage (Ps 2:1, Acts 4:25-27). Paul revealed that Christ’s coronation occurred after his resurrection (Ps. 2:6, Acts 13:33, Romans 1:4) and that he blesses the nations as they obey him by faith (Ps 2:10; Romans 1:5). John showed that salvation or damnation depends on one’s relationship to the Son (Ps. 2:12a; John 3:36). And Ephesians calls Christians to live courageously in the face of worldwide spiritual rebellion because Christ is actively ruling over all of reality (Ps. 2:12b; Eph 1:20-22). In these various ways the NT reveals that ultimately Christ himself is the King who fulfills Psalm 2.” Gospel Transformation Study Bible, 724).

Meditation: Read it, again and again, and again, then memorize it for deeper/fuller reflection to find joy in God and rich satisfaction from His word.

Helpful Links:

How to Meditate on a verse (Video)

What does it mean to meditate? (Video)

How to milk a text through mediation (Video)

Warm Yourself at the Fires of Meditation (Article)

Discussion Questions:

  1. What would you like to study for Phase 3?

  2. What will you meditate on this week? And would you be so kind as to share it (whether good or bad) in the chat?

  3. Recall the prayer of the early church in Acts in using the OT for their encouragement. Can you think of a time when the OT was similarly encouraging/uplifting/helpful to you?

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