The Sweet Embrace – Psalm 2:10-12

Psalm 2:10-12 (For the first three installments on this study of Psalm 2, click here, here, and here)

First Impressions

The conclusion of this psalm begins with a “therefore”, just as in Psalm 1.  Whereas the “therefore” in Psalm 1 served as a summary statement, the “therefore” in Psalm 2 prescribes the appropriate response to the King.

The kings and rulers of the earth are warned to take notice and reconsider their opposition of the Lord in light of the revealed identity of the King.  They are told to, “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling,” which is the exact opposite of their intended actions in verses 1-3.  The King has been appointed by God.  The King controls the destinies of all the people of the earth, including the kings and rulers.  The King is like an iron rod against the fragile vessels of pottery, which is the reality of those rebelling against the Lord.

They are also told to, “Kiss the Son.”  Luther spends a good deal of time talking about what it means to kiss the Son.  Here is a good summary statement: “There is great force, then, in the word ‘kiss’; for it indicates that we should embrace this Son with our whole heart and see or hear nothing else than Christ, and Him crucified. But whoever looks for something else in religion or seeks something higher will deceive himself and wander from the way of salvation. We should use our reason and wisdom for other things, for managing the household, doing our jobs, for buying and selling. But when it comes to the worship of God, you should deny all access to reason and cling to this Son alone.”[1]

What happens if they fail to kiss the Son?  Anger and wrath which causes the kings and rulers to perish.  This is eternal punishment defined.  Note the sharp contrast between the punishment of those who reject the Son and the blessedness of those who embrace the Son as King and a place of refuge.

Insights from the Septuagint

10And now, you kings, understand;

            be taught, all you who judge the earth.

11Serve the Lord with fear,

            and rejoice in him with trembling.

12Seize the teachings,

            lest the Lord might become angry, and you will destroy yourselves on the way of

                        righteousness,

            His fury may be inflamed quickly.

    Blessed are all who have trusted in Him.

There are definitely some things worth looking at in the Septuagint.  Luther was aware of the differences between the Septuagint (and consequently the Latin translation that followed) and the Hebrew.  The Hebrew is vague, as the Aramaic word for “son” is used here.  Because of this, there are differences in the exact interpretation of the meaning of the phrase, as evidenced here with the translation “seize the teachings” and as we have seen with “kiss the Son”.

Another major variation happens in the phrase “you will destroy yourselves on the way of righteousness”.  The English translations simply have “you perish in the way.”  There are two things going on here.  First, in the Greek of the LXX[2], the verb translated “destroy yourselves” has an internal aspect to it.  In other words, failure to “seize the teachings” causes the Lord to be angry.  He is the one who condemns, but destruction ultimately is the fault of those who fail to embrace the decree in verse seven.

Secondly, the LXX adds “of righteousness” to the word “way”.  I believe that the writers of the LXX were probably using “righteousness” as the destination for the way that all are traveling in life.  In the end, righteousness is what we all crave, but that is only possible through the Son.  Failure to accept Him spells out our own doom.

Finally, we have a beautiful picture being painted in the last phrase of verse 12, “blessed are all who have trusted in Him.”  “Who have trusted” is a perfect participle.  If you remember from the discussion on the First Psalm, a perfect tense in the Greek language indicates past action that produces lasting results.  This is an excellent way to describe the life of those who have faith in Jesus Christ.

Law & Gospel

There are distinct portions of both law and gospel in these last three verses of the psalm.  There is a beauty in David’s (and of course the Holy Spirit’s) writing that unifies it with the entire teaching of Scripture.

In verse 10, there is a warning to those who oppose God and His King. Psalm 19:9, 11 states, “the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether…moreover, by them is your servant warned.”  The intent of this is to show all people that there are consequences for failing to obey God.

The content of God’s instructions is summed up in verse 11.  “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.”

What does it mean to serve the Lord?  In this command, Luther sees the doctrine of vocation.  “What kind of service this is, moreover, can be shown from the Decalog [sic], which reads as follows: ‘You shall worship the Lord, your God, and Him only shall you serve’ (Matt. 4:10). I usually distinguish these two aspects for myself in this way: the ‘worshiping’ is done by a man converted to God, but the ‘serving’ is done by a man sent by God…For to serve Christ is nothing else than to listen to this King and afterwards to do everything in His name that our calling or office requires.”[3]  We serve God when we do what we are called to do, both in obeying His Word, and in serving in the station of life that He has appointed us.  Luther taught that a milkmaid serves God as she milks cows.  That is the idea of vocation, and it is spelled out a little more by Col. 3:17.

The fear of God described in this verse is not necessarily a function of the Law.  In this fear, Luther embraces the teaching that God is our Father.  “They fear God not as a tyrant, but as children fear their parents, with respect. For they temper the fear of God with joy and hope. And yet they remain in humble reverence, lest their spirit grow too big and pass over into presumption.”[4]  This is a beautiful picture of the gospel, because in Christ we have the adoption as sons into God’s family (Gal. 4:4-5).

Verse 12 sets the phrase “kiss the Son” at the apex of the purpose of our lives.  Those who fail to embrace the Son both as the King appointed by God and as God Himself face anger, wrath, and eternal punishment.  Why?  Because we are left, with our own efforts, activities, and merit, to stand before God on judgment day.  Verses 1-3 have already described that apart from Jesus Christ we all stand in opposition to God.  Verse nine describes the frailty of our human condition.  And now verse 12 describes the ugly and eternal consequences of that poor decision making.

Thankfully, the psalm concludes with a sweet note of gospel.  “Blessed are those who take refuge in him.”  Kissing the Son involves nothing more than taking refuge in Him, to trust Him as our Savior who came to die for our sins.  Blessedness is set up as the polar opposite of “perish”.  What is the outcome of those who take refuge in the Son?  Blessedness—eternal life.

Hallelujah!


[1] Martin Luther, vol. 12, Luther’s Works, Vol. 12 : Selected Psalms I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther’s Works (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999),Ps 2:12.

[2] Remember, LXX is the abbreviation for Septuagint

[3] Ibid.,Ps. 2:11.

[4] Ibid.

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