I’m keeping up with the news on Russia’s war on Ukraine, and it dominates my thinking, as it probably does for most people in the world. We grieve for the innocents in Ukraine who have died or suffered because of Russia’s “invasion,” and the Russian soldiers who are also caught in the war. Most of us are angry that Russia has invaded the country, and frankly, all I can think of is President Putin’s demonstration of humankind’s sinful rebelliousness toward God. How does God views and deals with power-hungry, over-reaching worldly leaders? How does God deal with them? He laughs at the rulers and nations who mock him and try to assert their power while he blesses those who take refuge in him and his rulership (Psalm 2). Our faithful King has given us a Savior who will vindicate and rescue his people whom these temporary but hurtful bullies have oppressed. Submitting to God and trusting in Christ’s rulership blesses us with spiritual peace. “The divine government may be defined as that continued activity of God whereby He rules all things teleologically so as to secure the accomplishment of the divine purpose. It is the government of God as King of the universe. In the present day many regard the idea of God as King to be an antiquated Old Testament notion, and would substitute for it the New Testament idea of God as Father. The idea of divine sovereignty must make place for that of divine love. This is thought to be in harmony with the progressive idea of God in Scripture. But it is a mistake to think that divine revelation, as it raises to every higher levels, intends to wean us gradually from the idea of God as King, and to substitute for it the idea of God as Father. This is already contradicted by the prominence of the idea of the Kingdom of God in the teaching of Jesus…He is both King and Father, and is the source of all authority in heaven and on earth, the King of kings and the Lord of lords.” (1)
The Nations Rage
“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’ He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, ‘As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.’ I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’ Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 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) As we observe the nations strategizing about responding to Russia’s warring, we can trust that God does not need to follow suit. Our God laughs at the rulers and governments who mock him and try to assert their power, blessing those who take refuge in him. “What is God’s reaction to the haughty words of pygmy human rulers? God does not tremble. He does not hide behind a vast celestial rampart, counting the enemy and calculating whether or not he has sufficient force to counter this new challenge to his kingdom. He does not even rise from where he is sitting. He simply ‘laughs’ at these great imbeciles. [Psalm 2] is the only place in the Bible where God is said to laugh, and it is not a pleasant laugh. It is a laugh of derision, as the next verb shows: ‘the Lord scoffs at them’ (v. 4). This is what human attempts to throw off the rule of the sovereign God deserve. It is understandable that sinners should want to reject God’s rule. That is what sin is: a repudiation of God’s rule in favor of one’s own will. But although it is understandable, the folly of this attempt surpasses belief. How can mere human beings expect to get rid of God?” (2) Of course we can’t. Believers know that submitting to God and trusting in his rulership will result in blessings of spiritual peace.
God’s Derision, Wrath, and Fury
Psalm 2 is packed with God’s anger toward sin: “the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury…You will break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Doesn’t this sound like the final judgment of unbelievers? (See Revelation 6:15-17.) “Some rulers think their hands are their own to do as they please. But they cannot command their hands because God rules their hands…If God did not maintain unity and harmony by guiding all things in their motions and directing all things to their ends, the world would soon fall into chaos…Apart from God’s governance…the whole earth would turn into a field of blood. If God did not guide and govern, the order of nature would give way to confusion and destruction. God governs the highest creatures, even monarchs and governors. Some rulers think their hearts are their own to will as they please. But they cannot command their hearts because God rules their hearts.” (3) “’The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will’ (Prov. 21:1). God turns the king’s heart whichever way He chooses, the way that most magnifies His glory. He is Lord of all mercy, for He establishes His kingdom upon rebels, of whom He first has to redeem and win, and renew a right spirit within them. He renews these rebels and makes them righteous and gives them the right spirit because He is the Lord of all mercy, and He is the Lord of all power, and He is the Lord of all deity. Only this kind of Lord can do this kind of thing. Nothing stands in His way of accomplishing His purposes.” (4)
The Lamb is on His Throne
Psalm 2 ends with this warning: “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” (v. 12). “After laughing at such foolishness, God speaks to rebuke and to terrify these rulers. He tells of the appointment of his Son to be King in Zion and foretells his triumph…It is a reminder that the only refuge from the wrath of God is God’s mercy unfolded at the cross of Jesus Christ.” (5) “Though he is a Lamb, he has wrath in him, and when the great day of his wrath comes in any form on earth, there is no standing before him; blessed [are] all they that put their trust in him; not in horses and chariots, in riches and honours, in their own wisdom, strength, and righteousness; but in the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and who is truly and properly God…and happy are those who betake themselves to him as to their stronghold and place of defence; who look to him and believe in him for pardon, peace, righteousness, every supply of grace and eternal life; these are safe and secure in him, nor shall they want any good thing needful for them; and they have much peace, joy, and comfort here, and shall have more grace as they want it, and hereafter eternal glory and happiness.” (6) God blesses those who take refuge in him while he laughs at the rulers and nations who mock him and try to assert their power. As we meditate on this truth, will we not pray that the rulers of this earth will also submit to Christ’s rulership? Blessings of spiritual peace always lead to the benefit of earthly peace because our Lamb is on his throne. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)
Related Scripture: Job 34:25-27; Psalms 29:10; 37:12-13; 46:6-7; 59:8; 84:12; 119:1-3; 146:5-9; Ezra 6:22; Jeremiah 17:7-8; Acts 4:27-28; Hebrews 12:28-29; 2 Peter 2:4-10; Revelation 19:15.
- Berkoff, L., “Systematic Theology,” p. 175, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, Reprinted 1993.
- Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series,” Psalm 2, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
- Swinnock, George, “The Blessed and Boundless God,” p. 51, Reformation Heritage Books, 2014, Kindle Edition.
- Tozer, A.W., “And He Dwelt Among Us,” March 2, Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition, 2009
- Boice, Ibid.
- The Reformation Study Bible, Psalm 2, Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier Ministries), Sanford, Fl., 2015.
- Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Psalm 2:12, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-2.html
March 4, 2022