Calvary Road Baptist Church


Psalm 2.1-3


While you are turning in your Bible to the second Psalm, I want to remind you of something that you may already know, but which is always good to keep in mind. The Old Testament, except for a few verses, was written in Hebrew. The New Testament was written in Greek. Therefore, some familiarity of what words come to us from the Hebrew scriptures directly into English, what words come to us from Hebrew to Greek to English, and what words come from the Greek New Testament into English, can be helpful.

For instance: When the Hebrew name of Isaac’s son comes to us from Hebrew into English, it arrives as Jacob. However, when the word comes to us in English by way of the Greek New Testament it arrives as James. In like manner, Miriam in the Old Testament arrives in the New Testament as Mary. In addition, it may surprise you that Joshua the son of Nun had exactly the same name as Jesus of Nazareth, though Joshua lived and died 1,600 years before the Savior was born.

I gave you those for-instances so you would see why we sometimes have three words from three different languages that all refer to the same thing. What arrives in anglicized form from Hebrew as the word messiah, can be found in the Greek as the word christ, and when those two words are translated they are translated by the English word anoint.

Those things said, read Psalm 2.1-3:


1      Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?

2      The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,

3      Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.


This is what is called a Messianic Psalm. That is, it is a psalm that was not only written to describe a situation existing on the occasion of the psalm’s human authorship, but it is also a psalm with a powerful message related to the Messiah predicted to come in fulfillment of prophecy. Of course, the Messiah, the Anointed One of whom this psalm speaks, is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.

Three considerations in this passage:




The big question, of course, is why? Why would the heathen rage? Why would the people imagine a vain thing? What we have here are two facets of what I call the big question. “Heathen” refers to Gentiles, while “the people” refers to the Jewish people. Why would Gentiles be in a fit of rage when this psalm was originally written, perhaps as much as a thousand years before the time of Christ?

You might think it reasonable for any nation to chaff under the dominion of any other nation, but consider this matter from the psalmist’s point of view. Why would nearby Gentiles rage under Israel’s subjugation when such a relationship would expose them to the one true and living God, would provide an opportunity to be freed from the spiritual bondage of idolatry? Any exposure to the God of Israel, no matter the circumstances surrounding that exposure, even if it involved subjugation and slavery, was much superior in every way to the supposed freedom and autonomy of the complete spiritual darkness of pagan idolatry. Better to be a slave, or to be a subjugated nation, exposed to the truth of God than to be supposedly free among your own kind while living in the pitch-blackness of spiritual darkness.

As well, why would “the people imagine a vain thing”? The phrase “imagine a vain thing” literally means, “plot in vain.”[1] What we have here is a query concerning the futile plotting of the Jewish people. Why are the Jewish people, who have been chosen by God, and who are in covenant with God to such incredible advantage, plotting to overthrow the reign of God over them?

These two questions taken together comprise the big question. Why would they do such a thing as they are doing, the heathen raging and the Jewish people vainly plotting? Why is it that neither the Gentiles nor the Jews are content with God’s rule? Is there anything wrong with God? Is He not good, merciful, and just? Is His Anointed not wonderful, glorious, and faultless? If there is nothing wrong with God and with His Anointed, then we must look elsewhere for the fault.

Remember the comment of the people in one of Christ’s parables? “We will not have this man to reign over us.”[2] Why not have this man to rule over you? Is there something wrong with the nobleman in the parable? Is he evil? Is he notorious? Is he hurtful? What if there is nothing wrong with the nobleman who would rule over you? Then, where must the fault lie? The nobleman in that parable, of course, is the Lord Jesus Christ. That parable, taught one thousand years after this second psalm was written, speaks to the same issue. Why do God’s creatures object to His rule over them?

The big question is, why? This question needs to be answered honestly. If there is nothing wrong with God, and if there is nothing wrong with God’s Anointed, then there must be something wrong with those who rage, and with those who imagine a vain thing. Read the Bible and you will find nothing wrong with God, and you will find nothing wrong with His Anointed, Jesus Christ. Therefore, there must be something wrong with individual men, with mankind, with you and me. No one else is left where fault is to be found.

Though it is not my intent to prove it to you this morning, I will declare what is wrong with men, with mankind, with you and me. The theological word for it is depravity.


Depravity refers both to the damaged relationship between God and humans and to the corruption of human nature such that there is within every human an ongoing tendency toward sin. Total depravity refers to the extent and comprehensiveness of the effects of sin on all humans such that all are unable to do anything to obtain salvation. Total depravity, therefore, does not mean that humans are thoroughly sinful but rather that they are totally incapable of saving themselves. The term suggests as well that the effects of the Fall extend to every dimension of human existence, so that we dare not trust any ability (such as reason) that we remain capable of exercising in our fallen state.[3]


To be sure, none of us reacts to God’s rule in precisely the same way. However, every man who has ever lived has been so tainted by sin, resulting in each one of us being so sinful, that every one of us resists God’s will and rebels against God’s rule. Therefore, if the big question is why do men do this, the big answer is depravity.




Consider our text and notice the sets of powerful adversaries that are aligned against each other:

On one side, we find the kings of the earth and the rulers. Verse 2 begins, “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together.” Notice how the psalmist’s contempt for those who oppose God is seen. He writes, “The kings of the earth.” What hope can mere kings of the earth, no matter how powerful their empires, have against the God of heaven? What wickedness. What foolishness. What insanity. The psalmist goes on to describe rulers taking counsel together, as though their combined efforts will somehow lead to victory, as though their combined foolishness will somehow result in wisdom. Do you see what this is that is being described in the first half of Psalm 2.2? It is conspiracy. It is conspiracy when people put their heads together to come up with ideas and plans to commit crimes and to rebel against authority. Is that not what we have here?

Notice that they are “against the LORD, and against his anointed.” If you notice the spelling of this word LORD, that all the letters are upper case, then keep in mind that when all upper case letters are used in such a way the reference is to the very name of God. This is Jehovah. In other words, the kings of the earth have positioned themselves, and the rulers are opposed to the Lord God Jehovah. They are “against” Him. But they are also against His anointed, which is to say that they are against the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. Think about this for a moment: The kings of the earth and the rulers of men are on one side of a conflict. On the other side of the conflict is the Lord God Jehovah and His Son, Jesus Christ. Or, to restate the matter, mere men are standing against “the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting,” and His only begotten Son, Who raised the dead, Who walked on water, Who calmed the wind and waves, by Whose power all things consist, and Who rose from the dead Himself.[4] Thus, on one side of the conflict you have the kings of the earth and powerful rulers, humanly speaking. However, on the other side you have God and His Son. No wonder the psalmist writes, in verse 4, “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.” My friend, to oppose God and His Son is madness.




I referred to this conspiracy a few moments ago, but we see evidence of the conspiracy more clearly in Psalm 2.3: “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.”

First, take note of their unity. The verse begins, “Let us . . . .” The verse ends, “. . . from us.” What is being done is being done in concert, with cooperation. That, my friends, is called unity. Sinful men are united in their opposition to the plan, the purpose, and the sovereign rule of Almighty God. This age-old united opposition to the plan, to the purpose, and to the sovereign rule of Almighty God was clearly illustrated by the coming together of three natural enemies to oppose the Lord Jesus Christ. The Herodians (political allies of the Romans), the Sadducees (religious liberals who denied miracles and denied the resurrection), and the Pharisees (the conservative legalists of Christ’s day) had always been adversaries, but they banded together to present a united front in opposition to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Next, take note of their conspiracy. Back to our text in Psalm 2.3. What was their conspiracy? That is, what does sinful man plan and plot with other sinful men to do in opposition to God and His Son? “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” “Bands” refers to what is fastened around the necks of slaves.[5] We might refer to it as a collar of some kind. “Cords” translates a Hebrew word that is also translated “rope,” which refers to the flexible material that is attached to a slave’s neck collar to prevent him from running away. The conspiracy, then, is the plan that is being hatched by the enemies of God to overthrow His rule in their lives, to eliminate whatever restraints He has imposed upon them, so they can do what they want to do, so they can engage in spiritual anarchy.

Now take note of their methodology. If their goal is freedom from restraint, spiritual anarchy, the liberty to do what they want to do without any effective curb on their appetites or restriction of the expression of their lusts, by what means would they do such a thing? They want to “break their bands” and “cast away their cords.” Whom does the word “their” refer to the two times we find it in Psalm 2.3? The words “their” do not appear as distinct words in the Hebrew text, but are suffixes attached to other words, “their bonds” and “their cords.” Imagine slaves with collars around their necks that are chained to anchors of some kind that restrict their movements. They can do just about anything they want within the limits of the lengths of their chains. For the slaves to free themselves they must figure out a way to destroy the collars around their necks, so they can throw off the chains.

In our text, we have two kinds of sinners, Gentiles and Jews. Both find themselves collared and chained, the Gentiles with literal collars and chains of a slave, and the Jews perceiving the Law of God to be their collar and chain. What neither group of sinners realized, and what all sinners (as characterized by both Gentiles and Jews in our text) try to escape from, is the restraining influence of God’s law, which hinders the free and unrestrained exercise of their sinful natures.

Rules, requirements, and restrictions that are imposed by the Law of God are not cruel restraints imposed to oppress and stifle people longing for freedom, but are actually God’s love-bonds, given to restrict the full expression of a sinfulness that is naturally opposed to the plan, purpose, and sovereign rule of God and His Son.




Read the entire psalm with me once again:


1      Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?

2      The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,

3      Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

4      He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.

5      Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.

6      Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.

7      I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.

8      Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.

9      Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.

10     Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.

11     Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

12     Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.


Woven into the fabric of this psalm about rebellion and spiritual anarchy against God’s rule and against God’s law are a number of references to God’s anointed, to God’s king, and to God’s Son. Of course, each is a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ, made about a thousand years before His birth.

In this psalm, we see mankind’s sin. We also see God’s contempt for the rebellious, His sore displeasure with them, and His wrath.

It would be a bleak portion of scripture, indeed, was it not for the references to the Messiah, culminating in the beatitude that closes out the final verse: “Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”

Three truths to leave you with this morning:




This is God’s Anointed referred to here. Anyone with oil poured over his head is technically anointed, to the office of prophet, or the office of priest, or to the office of king (as we remember in the cases of Saul and David, who were anointed by the prophet Samuel). However, those men were types of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is The Messiah, whereas they each were a messiah. He is the One Who is prophet, priest, and king, all wrapped up into one person.

I say that He is needed, this Savior whose name is Jesus. Why is He needed? Whom is He needed by? God does certainly not need him, for God is the Meeter of needs and has no needs to meet. So, the Anointed is needed by us, by we who are sinners. Why so?

Because the LORD has sinners in derision, because He laughs at their feeble attempts to thwart His purpose, because He will speak to them in His wrath, and will vex them in His sore displeasure. Sinners, that means you and me and everyone else, need someone to stand between us and the God who will smite us in His wrath for our rebellion against Him.

We need someone to interpose himself between an angry God and us. Who we need, and what we need, is none other than God’s Anointed, His own son, Jesus Christ.




The first hint of His coming is found in Genesis 3.15, when God promised the woman’s seed. The next time mankind heard of His coming was when Enoch prophesied of His coming with ten thousands of His saints, though Enoch’s prediction was forgotten for thousands of years until it was mentioned in Jude 14.

Other promises of His coming are found in various types and shadows, such as Noah’s ark, such as Abraham’s offering up of his son Isaac, such as the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and such as the Passover Lamb.

Then there were explicit promises of His coming; which nation, which tribe, and which family. In Isaiah, we are told how He would come, by means of the virgin birth. In Daniel, we are told when He would come, 483 years after permission was given to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls. In Micah, we are told where He would come, to little Bethlehem. And in Isaiah 53, we are told why:


3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. 9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.


This brief sampling of dozens of predictions, made centuries before, all declaring that God would provide His Anointed to meet the need of sinful men.




I might have said His Anointed was provided, and you would have accepted that statement as true. God did send His only begotten Son, born miraculously to the Virgin Mary. The eternal Son of the living God did leave heaven’s glory to become a man, so that He might suffer and bleed and die for our sins, rise from the dead on the third day, and with great majesty ascend back to heaven to sit at His Father’s right hand. However, it is more correct to say that His Anointed is provided, because not only did Jesus Christ suffer on a cruel cross to atone for sins, but He is also a Savior Who is alive today and able to save any sinner who comes to Him.

Three thousand years ago an inspired psalmist wrote, “Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” That promise, written a thousand years before Christ shed His blood to set sinners free from their sins, is still valid today.


Have you ever seriously considered the claims of Christ, God’s Anointed? Have you ever seriously reflected on your need of Him, of God’s promise of Him, and of God’s actual provision in Him? When your mind lights upon Psalm 2.2, where the psalmist describes sinful men as “against his anointed,” then remember that when the Lord Jesus Christ was born, when He lived out His sinless life here on earth, and then when He was cruelly and unjustly crucified, He did that for those who were against Him.

Can you comprehend such love as that? He suffered, bled, and died on behalf of and to the great benefit of those who are against Him. Yes, Jesus Christ saves those who are against Him in their sins.

Which of those who are against Him does He save from sins, cleanse with His blood? “. . . they that put their trust in him.”

I challenge you, this morning, sinner. Yield to the call of the gospel and the claim Jesus Christ has upon your soul. Put your trust in Him.

[1] John Joseph Owens, Analytical Key to the Old Testament, Volume 3, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1989), page 260.

[2] Luke 19.14

[3] Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki & Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1999), page 37.

[4] 1 Timothy 6.15-16 and Colossians 1.17

[5] Matthew Poole, A Commentary On The Whole Bible, Volume 2, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers), page 2.

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