// Meditation on Psalm 2 //
1 Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers conspire together against the Lord and his Anointed One: 3 “Let’s tear off their chains and throw their ropes off of us.” 4 The one enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord ridicules them. 5 Then he speaks to them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath: 6 “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” 7 I will declare the Lord’s decree. He said to me, “You are my Son" today I have become your Father. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance and the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You will break them with an iron scepter; you will shatter them like pottery.” 10 So now, kings, be wise; receive instruction, you judges of the earth. 11 Serve the Lord with reverential awe and rejoice with trembling. 12 Pay homage to† the Son or he will be angry and you will perish in your rebellion, for his anger may ignite at any moment. All who take refuge in him are happy.
If you didn’t catch it by the exploding flying fireworks outside, we just celebrated fourth of July here in the States.
This holiday commemorates the independence of the United States in 1776 from the imperialistic monarchy of England.
Cue the applause.
Now, this was an awesome event in history that completely changed the landscape of politics, economy, and science all over the globe. The French followed suit with their own, sliiightly different, revolution, and many other countries have also done the same.
Believe it or not, however, this psalm isn’t about how great the U.S. is or is not. But it is about kingship. It’s about the rule of Jesus over the whole of creation. And it’s also about the natural human desire to overthrow that rule to establish human control.
This is not like the establishment of the U.S. though, because while in that case a very imperfect human monarch was overthrown, in this case we are talking about a perfectly good and just king who is worthy of being king.
He is king, and we… well, we don’t like that very much.
2:1 – “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?”
This is both a theoretical and compelling question. It’s actually kind of funny. I can see the author smiling as he writes these words: “Why do they plot in vain?”. Silly humans.
But we also are left to ask ‘why?’ and what does it mean to rage??
I think of two things:
1. Why?: Verse 3 answers it for us “Let’s tear off their chains and throw their ropes off of us”. Control. They want to have full control of their lives. They cannot stand the thought of God being in control and being king over them. So why do they “take their stand..against God” (2:2)? Because they want to establish their own regal dominion.
2. Rage??: Emotions only show the deeper parts of a person’s soul. They show what that person wants and doesn’t want, as well as their convictions and beliefs. A litmus test for a person’s pride is anger. It’s the response to “I want to be in control”, “I don’t like this circumstance”, “Why did you make me like this”, “Why can’t I change this”? Ultimately it’s a dethroning of God, it’s a visible sign of frustration that we are not in control, not getting what we want, and we hate that.
Does this mean all expression of anger is wrong or prideful? Absolutely not. But a lot of times it can be. How do you feel about the fact that you are supposed to be living a perfect life according to the precepts laid out by the God-King?
Instructions written on tablets of stone thousands of years ago?
Freedom to Feel
The general consensus on emotions seems to have changed in the past few centuries. The center of gravity has shifted from authority being “truth” to authority being the individual. Not just the individual, but how the individual feels.
What I feel in a particular moment is the most true and important thing about me. And I have the right to express that feeling externally. Otherwise, you are not only taking away the validity of my feelings but taking away my very integrity as a human.
The concept that there could be feelings and desires that are decidedly ‘wrong’ is not a very popular idea at the current cultural moment.
The opposite has also been true: Be ashamed of your very valid and “good” feelings. Men shouldn’t cry, oppressed people shouldn’t be angry, Christians shouldn’t feel sad…
Are you kidding me??
This is what the Psalmist tells us: We are a bundled mess of desires and emotions. Some are good (Happiness, 2:12) some are wrong (Rage, 2:1). The thoughts, beliefs, and desires underlying emotions can also be good (Serve the Lord with reverential awe and rejoice with trembling, 2:11) and wrong (overthrow God’s control, 2:1-3).
What makes a feeling, desire, or thought right or wrong is whether or not God the King agrees with it.
I think of it like this:
Anger because God is king and I’m not – Obviously the wrong type of anger and underlying desire.
Anger because racism still divides our country – Right type of anger that God would agree with. And, I would argue, it would be wrong not to get angry at this.
Happiness after seeing a co-worker get fired vs. Happiness because I am loved by God – You get the point.
Emotions are very real things, and so are the underlying causes for them. So they should all be submitted to the King.
In doing so we receive the greatest freedom of all. And the greatest feeling of all.
We are free to submit to our creator and to, in turn, find ultimate happiness.
“All who take refuge in Him are happy” – 2:12
Father, you are great and wonderful. The earth and the universe are full of your glory and your creativity. Forgive us when we don’t recognize the obvious: that you are the most valuable being, the creator. That you have the final voice, the ultimate good control. Have grace on us, for we are weak. Strengthen our bones. I pray for those who are suffering even now. Going through difficult and valid emotions. Give them strength and comfort to experience the reality of those feelings while trusting you and submitting to you. And most of all, lead us to take refuge in you, the God who Loves us, so that we might be happy in you. Amen.
I feel an urge to also add another clarifying note about emotions. I’m not a counselor or psychologist by any means. But I do know that for many people their emotions are a rollercoaster ride of suffering. Please forgive me if, in my attempt to be brief, I appear insensitive to your very real suffering. I am so sorry my friend.
It’s also clear to me that sometimes we just don’t know where a feeling comes from. We don’t choose our feelings, they just come. It may cause offense for me to say, then, that some feelings are wrong. I am saying that. But that’s wayyyy too simplistic. This is what I see in the bible:
1. All emotions are created by God and in themselves are good (Jesus cried, he was afraid, he was angry)
2. Because of sin. The underlying causes of sin cause us to desire sinful things, to value things God does not value, and to think of and believe things God disagrees with.
3. Because of this we humans can have sinful emotions that overflow from a sinful heart.
4. We need God to rectify our emotions, so that we feel sad when we should.
5. We also need to run to God who loves us and is so patient. Our emotions are so intense and so real, we can’t just shut them off. God knows we have disordered emotions and desires. Don’t allow this realization to bring you to isolating shame but instead to run to God. He isn’t surprised by your emotions or sin.
If you are experiencing real feelings, go to God and pour them out before Him, ask Him what He thinks of them, ask Him to help you understand them, and submit them to Him. Time after time.
Please feel free to send me any comments you may have on this. I know this can be a very personal subject, I’d love to talk with you!