The news of the day can be disturbing — natural disasters, wars, brutality, and human deceit. Our world careens along, and we may wonder: who’s in control?
Early Christians had an answer for that question even when it seemed the forces of the world were against them. They were encouraged by a psalm of David , Psalm 2 (see Acts 4:25). So influential was this psalm that it has 18 allusions or citations in the New Testament.
The first stanza of the psalm speaks of the nation’s conspiracy and rebellion (2:2-3). In the ancient world, kings were often vassals (subordinates) to a greater king. In the ancient near east, when a new king assumed the throne, vassal nations often used the circumstances to revolt. But this revolt is against the sovereign God and his Anointed One (Messiah).
The second stanza (2:4-6) emphasizes God’s power and ends with the line: “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill” (Psalm 2:6, ESV). The third stanza (2:7-9) affirms the sonship of the Anointed One, the King. We must recall the promise made to David. God speaks of the kings in David’s dynasty and assures David, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son” (2 Samuel 7:14a). Jesus is the Son of God in an even greater sense than the other kings of David’s dynasty. The third stanza affirms the ability of the Son. He will conquer.
The final stanza (2:10-12) makes an appeal and ends with a beatitude. The appeal is to “serve the LORD” and “kiss the Son.” The concluding beatitude is: “Blessed are all who take refuge in him (i.e., the Son).”
This psalm finds its way into a prayer of the early church when faced with persecution. After citing from the first stanza of Psalm 2, they pray:
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, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus. (Acts 4:27–30, ESV)
The early Christians took comfort from Psalm 2 that God and his Anointed One are in control despite outward appearances. They knew that “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess” (see Isaiah 45:23 and Philippians 2:10-11). “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”