Psalm 2 asserts the reign of God through the LORD’s anointed. The nations of the earth may rage and rebel against God, but the only way forward is for them to submit to God’s earthly representative of His reign: the King enthroned in Zion. The New Testament rightly deploys the imagery and metaphors description of the Israelite king to interpret the meaning of Jesus as Christ or Messiah.
While we were working on this text together in my Psalms class at Asbury Theological Seminary (Orlando, FL campus), one of my students jokingly asked, “Wow, what would it be like to hear this text if we were one of the nations rather than as God’s people?”
I stopped class immediately and said, “_____, you just asked one of the most important questions that a student has ever raised.”
In our 21st century context, it is crucial for missional leaders to always read the Bible on behalf of the world. Within the Church, we have a tendency to read the Scriptures only from the perspective of insiders. Many preachers and teachers routinely rage and rail against those outside of the walls of the Church. Yet how does such talk serve to advance the Gospel? How does an insider versus outsider mentality help outsiders to become insiders?
The Church exists as a missional community that exists to reflect God’s character in, for, and to the World. Jesus continually leads His church into the world on mission. If these propositions are true, then this should affect the way that we read Scriptures. I call this a missional hermeneutic. A missional hermeneutic approaches Scripture through the lens of mission. It reads Scriptures for the World on behalf of all people. It doesn’t read the Bible as Christians or non-Christians, but as human beings.
This perspective is critical for learning to proclaim the Gospel in our post-Christian context. If we read only from the perspective of the Church, we are forgetting about those on the outside; if we read only from the perspective of non-Christians, we miss the call to realign that the Scriptures continually pronounce to believers. Instead, what is needed is a reading of Scripture that speaks human. One that calls insiders to the Gospel to realign themselves with God’s missional work in the world and one that calls outsiders to align their lives with God’s missional work in the world.
How would such an approach help to illumine the message of Psalm 2?
First, it would recognize that this text is primarily a word of encouragement, security and hope to God’s people. It assures God’s people of the LORD’s sovereignty over the geo-political realm. Nations and rulers may rage openly against God and attempt to thwart God’s aims, but such schemes and intrigues will not prove to be the final verdict over Creation. God’s people can lives daring and bold lives of advancing Godâ€™s kingdom through following the lead of God’s anointed one. The NT clearly sees Jesus as the fulfillment of Ps 2’s vision for God’s Son and ruler. Thus, Ps 2 calls its hearers to (re)align their lives around the prerogatives of Jesus who clearly called his followers to follow him into the world on mission (Matt 4:18-22; 16:24; 28:18-20). Live confidently in the world and be fully engaged in God’s mission because the future is firmly in the hands of the LORD.
Second, this text bears witness that the current reality in which the nations are at times in open hostility to the mission of God is not the final verdict. Yes, this text describes God’s response as scoffing (v. 4). This posturing is part of the encouragement to perseverance for God’s people. But vv. 9-12 serve an important missional function. They are an invitation to recognize and submit to the sovereignty of God. This may sound triumphalistic and militaristic, but the concluding beatitude subverts any such misreading:
Blessed/Happy/Fortunate are all who take refuge in him (v. 12c). This text ends with a profound hope for the world. Even the nations who may openly rage against God may enter into the privileged state of blessing. Thus, the text is thorough goingly missional. Ps 2 is not a jingoistic or imperialistic declaration of the LORD’s sovereignty. It is an invitation to the world to enter into a state of privilege as members of God’s people.
How do these observations help to answer my student’s question? They remind of the importance to reflect not merely on the comforts that this text may give to God’s people, but also think about how the words of this psalm serve as Gospel to those outside of the Christian faith.
How would our community of faith be viewed differently by those outside of the faith if we always?
© 2008 Brian D. Russell