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Psalm 2

Coronation song

The West’s diluted faith in the God who came down to save us has long been haemorrhaging away. But refusing to be bound by such a “fairy tale” isn’t making the world a better place. Only God can do that. 

What nonsense!
Mere earthlings, whole nations
furiously plotting the overthrow of heaven!
Kings and other power brokers
conspiring against Yahveh and his anointed king
bellowing, “Come on!
Let’s break their chains off us
and break free from these tyrants
once and for all!” 

Enthroned in heaven above
the Lord laughs out loud at the absurdity of it all.
Then he angrily rebukes them
the heat of his anger terrifying them:

“Now get this!
It’s all over and done:
I’ve made my choice
and installed my king on Zion
my holy mountain.”

This is what Yahveh decreed:
“I hereby make you my royal son
and today become your royal father.
8 Just ask
and I’ll make the nations your coronation gift!
Draw your boundaries
around earth’s remotest corners.
You’ll crush all resistance
like an iron rod smashing a clay pot.” 

10 So look out, big shots
and wise up, wise guys!
11 Submit to Yahveh reverently
gladly, though trembling in awe.
12 Quick!
Fall before the son and kiss his feet
lest he destroy you while you’re deliberating!
His anger could flare up at any moment
but if you run to him for shelter
all that awaits you is blessing.

The first psalm pictured two alternative ways of living—serving God and asserting self-rule. This psalm builds on that, as the second part of the book’s introductory frame. Here humankind’s leaders defiantly unite in trying to rid themselves of God’s “interference” in their lives. He responds by laughing at their attempted coup. Deeply disturbed by their insolence, he also angrily rebukes them. Then he announces the coronation of his royal son as a fait accompli.

In ancient times, an emperor adopted vassal kings as his sons, thus giving them a son’s full rights and responsibilities. So he announces the coronation of his royal son as a fait accompli. Even as God’s enemies were plotting their move, he installed his king on Zion’s holy hill, declaring him his son. Since the king reigns in his stead, God invites him to go big and ask for the whole earth as his kingdom. His enemies are no match for him whatsoever.

The psalmist then urges everyone resisting to surrender unconditionally—humbly, reverently, gladly, promptly. What’s to deliberate when God’s judgment could fall any minute? Then for all the psalm’s drama and passion, it ends with the calm assurance that all who seek shelter under the king’s rule find joy and rest.

Likely composed for the coronation of David or one of his descendants, the psalm points to God’s sovereignty, against all odds. But it’s more profoundly true of the coronation of the ultimate Davidic king, the Messiah, whose mandate literally encompasses the world.[1]

Thank you that your foes are no match for you or your Messiah, Lord. Even when all seems lost, you reign in wisdom, power and love. Thank you for the refuge you offer—constant flourishing, even when surrounded by enemies. I bow in worship before you and kiss your feet. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

His anger could flare up at any moment
but if you run to him for shelter
all that awaits you is blessing.


[1] The Hebrew word mashiah, or “anointed” (v. 2), described every Israelite king, as well as the Messiah himself. Not surprisingly, Jewish and Christian scholars are divided over the question of who this psalm’s anointed king was, whether a lesser Davidic king or David’s greater son, the Messiah. If the former, then vv. 8-9 were originally uttered as royal hyperbole. But there’s no reason why we can’t take mashiah to refer to both since great poetry often has more than one level of meaning.


Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.