Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
2 Samuel 23:2-5, where, as well as in this psalm, we have a remarkable illustration of what the Apostle Paul speaks of as the foresight evinced in the Old Testament Scriptures; see also Galatians 3:8). In fact, we regard this psalm, though much briefer than Isaiah 53., yet as being as distinctly and clearly, yea, as wonderfully, Messianic as even that celebrated chapter of the evangelical prophet. Hence we regard it as affording as clear a proof of the guidance of a foreseeing Spirit, and of the facts of inspiration and of revelation, as are the starry heavens of the glory of God. For we know, as matters of fact,
(1) that this psalm finds its fulfilment in Christ;
(2) that it has been fulfilled in no one else;
(3) that hundreds of years intervened between prophecy and event; and
(4) that there are here not merely general statements,
but numerous minute details which no human eye could possibly have discerned beforehand; so that we are shut up, by a severely intellectual process, to the conclusion that the author of this psalm is none other than he who sees the end from the beginning. This will, we trust, appear as we proceed to examine and expound it.
I. HERE IS AN ANOINTED ONE FORESEEN. (Ver. 2.) "His Anointed." Who is this "Anointed One?" Let us see: Anointing was chiefly for purposes of consecration and inauguration. It signified the setting apart of the anointed one for God's service, and symbolized those heavenly gifts which were needed in its discharge. Priests, prophets, and kings were anointed (cf. Leviticus 4:3, 5, 16; Leviticus 7:35; 1 Kings 19:16; 1 Samuel 16:12, 13; 1 Kings 1:39). There is in this psalm One referred to as the Anointed One. The Hebrew word for the Anointed is "Messiah." The Greek word, in its Anglicized form is "Christ." This Anointed One is the Son of God (see ver. 7). He is King (ver. 6). He has the nations for his possession (ver. 8). He is One before whom kings are to bow (vers 10-12). This cannot possibly be any other than the King of kings. To no one can the words of the psalm possibly apply but to him who is Lord of the whole earth, i.e. to the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Psalm 132:17; Daniel 9:25, 26; Acts 17:3).
II. RESISTANCE TO GOD, AND TO HIS ANOINTED ONE, FORETOLD. This resistance comes
(1) from the nations, and also from
(2) kings and rulers. Five forms of resistance are indicated.
1. Raging. Tumultuous agitation, as when waves of ocean are lashed to fury.
2. Imagining. Meditating (same word as in Psalm 1:2). Turning over and over in the mind some plan of opposition.
3. Betting themselves. The result of the meditation in a resolution.
4. Taking counsel together. For combined action.
5. Saying, etc. Meditation, resolution, and concerted action taking effect in a verbal utterance: "Let us break their bands asunder," etc. (For the fulfilment of all this, see Matthew 21:33-44; Matthew 23:31-35; John 5:16-18; John 7:1, 30, 45; John 8:40-59; John 10:39; John 11:53, 57; John 12:10; John 18:3; John 19:15, 16, 30; Acts 4:24, 27.)
III. RESISTANCE TO THE ANOINTED ONE IS FOLLY. (Ver. 1.) Why do the nations rage? Vers. 4-6 foretell the utter discomfiture of the opponents, in four respects.
1. The utter impotence of the assault would be matter for infinite ridicule and scorn. (Ver. 4.) It were as easy for a spider to remove Mont Blanc from its base as for puny man to injure the Lord's Anointed One.
2. The displeasure of God should trouble the opposers. (Ver. 5; cf. Matthew 23:37, 38.) Note how fearfully the imprecation in Matthew 27:25 was fulfilled. Read the account in Josephus of the miseries that came on the Jews at the destruction of their city (cf. Acts 12:1, 2, 23).
3. The power of God would effect a mighty restraint, and even a complete destruction. (Ver. 9.) See Spurgeon's 'Treasury of David,' vol. 1. p. 29, for some admirable remarks on ver. 9; Dr. Geikie, in his 'Holy Land and the Bible,' vol. 2. p. 50, et seq., for some strikingly instructive remarks on the pottery of the East; and also Dr. Plummer's extraordinary collection of historic facts on the miseries which have befallen the persecutors of the Church (in Spurgeon's 'Treasury of David,' vol. 1. pp. 17, 18).
4. The Anointed One would be enthroned in spite of all. (Vers. 6, 7.) The seat of Christ's throne is called "my holy hill of Zion," in allusion to Zion as the city of David. Christ is the Son and Lord of David, and hence David's throne is the type of Christ's. Christ is now reigning in heaven. He is at once our Prophet, Priest, and King (see Acts 2:22-36; Acts 3:13-15; Acts 4:10-12; Hebrews 10:12, 13; 1 Corinthians 15:25).
IV. WHATEVER MAY BE THE DECREES OF EARTH, THERE IS A DECREE IN HEAVEN, WHICH THE ANOINTED ONE DECLARES. (Verse 7-9.) "I will declare the decree." The decree of the kings and rulers, which they resolve to carry out, is given in ver. 3; but! will tell of a decree from a higher throne. It has four parts.
1. The Anointed One is to be the begotten Son of God. (Ver. 7.)
2. He is to have the sway over the whole world. (Ver. 8.)
3. He is to have this as the result of his intercession. "Ask of me" (ver. 8.)
4. His sway and conquest are to be entire and complete. (Ver. 9.) If men will not bend, they must break.
V. THE HOLY GHOST CALLS FOR SUBMISSION TO THE ANOINTED SON OF GOD. This is set forth in five ways.
1. Be wise. Kings and judges are reminded that the only true wisdom is found in yielding to the Anointed One. There is no reason why he should be resisted. Resistance can end only in defeat.
2. Be instructed. Learn the Divine purpose and plan concerning the King in Zion.
3. Serve the Lord with fear. Not in servile terror, but in loyal reverence.
4. Rejoice with trembling. Be glad that the sceptre is in such hands.
5. Kiss the Son. Do homage, acknowledging his supremacy. This course is urged on them by two powerful pleas.
(1) If they refuse, they perish from the way; i.e. they wander; they miss the way so seriously as to be lost; they perish as the result of being, lost. Professor Cheyne's rendering is, "Ye go to ruin."
(2) If they yield the Anointed One allegiance and trust, they will be happy indeed (ver. 12). Note:
1. It is very foolish to fret and chafe against the government of God.
2. All mankind are under Christ's sway, whether in this state of being or in any other.
3. Christ has a heart of love as well as a sceptre of power; and he rules to save.
4. Those who will not submit to the sceptre of Christ's grace must feel the weight of his iron rod.
5. True blessedness is found in submission to Christ; this blessedness is greater than tongue can express or heart conceive. - C.
I. AS SLAVES OF SIN. The condition of peoples varies. Civilization was more advanced in Greece and Rome than in other parts of the world. But though there may be superiority in some respects, with regard to the highest things there is no difference (Romans 3:9). What a terrible picture have we in this psalm of the crimes and violence and miseries that desolate the world, where "the lust of the eye, and the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life" prevail, and not the Law of God!
II. AS OBJECTS OF DIVINE INTEREST. The Jews were in covenant with God as his peculiar people. But this did not imply that other peoples were unloved and uncared for. God has his purposes with regard to all the tribes and kindreds of the earth. Though they have forsaken him, he has not forsaken them. In their conscience they feel his presence. In the results of their actions they arc subject to his Law. In their fears and darkness they are groping after him, and in their cruel rites and superstitions, consciously or unconsciously, they are declaring that without God they are without hope, and that the desire of their hearts is for his light and blessing. Things are dark and gruesome, but yet, in ways unknown to us, God is ruling over all, and working for the accomplishment of his own will and holy ends. The heathen are in God's hand. He promises to give them to Christ. All prayer and evangelistic effort should be founded on this: "Ask of me." Prayer is good; but prayer without work is vain. Have we the mind of Christ? Do our hearts yearn in love and pity over the multitudes who are sitting in darkness and the shadow of death? Then let us plead God's word, and labour to carry out Christ's command (Matthew 28:19, 20).
III. AS THE SUBJECTS OF MESSIAH'S KINGDOM. "Thine inheritance."
1. This inheritance is moral, not material. It is the people that God is concerned about. "All souls are mine."
2. This inheritance is obtained by right, and not by might. God "gives," not in an arbitrary way, but in accordance with law. There will be no forcing. The heathen must be won by truth and conviction if they are to be won at all. Hence there is scope for all reasonable motive and argument.
3. This inheritance is for spiritual good, not for personal aggrandizement. Empire has been often sought for selfish ends. If the heathen are given to Christ, it is not that they may remain in their heathenism, but that they may be renewed in the spirit of their minds and receive the blessings of the gospel. The more that we ourselves, who have so many representatives among the heathen, recognize that the power we have as a nation is given us of God, and should be used as a sacred trust for God's glory and the good of the people with whom we have to do, the better for us all. Woe to us if we seek our own and not also the things of others, if we are eager to make gain and to advance our own selfish ends and forget the claims of our brethren, who as surely belong to Christ as we do, and for whom he died! - W.F.
Hebrews 1. Let us use the psalm in this higher application of it to Christ.
I. THE REBELLION OF THE WORLD AGAINST CHRIST.
1. Is an unrighteous rebellion. Rebellion against evil powers is a righteous thing. But Christ's rule is infinitely just and good and merciful.
2. Is an unsuccessful rebellion. "The people imagine a vain thing" if they think they can overthrow the rule of Christ. That belongs to the eternal order. The sea can shatter granite cliffs, but the throne of Christ is for ever and ever.
3. Such rebellion recoils upon the heads of the rebels. Every blow we strike against justice, love, and goodness rebounds upon ourselves; but we cannot injure God, however we may grieve his Fatherly heart.
II. CHRIST IS KING OF MEN.
1. By Divine appointment. (Ver. 6.) And therefore God is said to laugh at, deride, and utter his wrath in sore displeasure against those who oppose him (vers. 4 6).
2. By Divine nature and character. "Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee" (ver. 7). The Divinest Being of all history, and, therefore, a King by the highest of all rights.
3. A King by the actual and possible extent of his empire. "I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance," etc. (ver. 8). He who has conquered a world is its rightful ruler. Christ is now worthy; but one day he will actually conquer the world.
III. THE UNAVOIDABLE INFERENCE. That we should be reconciled to God, and be at one with Christ. The wrath of God is unendurable, but "blessed are all they that put their trust in him." - S.
I. THE FALSE IS CHARACTERIZED BY SELF-SEEKING; THE TRUE BY SELF-SACRIFICE. The false begin and end with self. They act from and for "themselves" (ver. 2). The true have regard to others, and are always ready to subordinate and sacrifice themselves for the good of others. In the one case it is the many for the one, the people for the king; in the other, it is the one for the many, the king for the people.
II. THE FALSE RULE BY FORCE; THE TRUE BY RIGHTEOUSNESS. "Bands" and "cords" mark the restraints of law, but the false care for none of these things. Might, not right, is their rule. Whatever stands in the way must give place to their ambitions. On the other hand, the true are animated by the spirit of justice. Instead of grasping violently what does not belong to them, they accept their place and use their powers as from God. They hold that the "decree" must be righteous to be respected - that the law must be just and good to commend itself to reason, and to command the obedience of the heart. Power that a man gains for himself he will use for himself, but power that is held as a trust from God will be wisely and rightly employed.
III. THE FALSE IS MARKED BY CORRUPTION AND MISERY; THE TRUE IS PRODUCTIVE OF THE HIGHEST GOOD. Great are the perils of power. Well did the Preacher say, "Oppression [i.e. the power of oppressing] maketh a wise man mad" (Ecclesiastes 7:7). If this be so with the wise, how much worse will it be with the unwise! The Books of Chronicles and Kings in the Old Testament, and the history of heathen and Christian nations, are full of proofs as to the evils of power wrongly and wickedly used. Crimes, revolts, revolutions, wars upon wars, with manifold and terrible woes, mark the course of the Pharaohs and the Nebuchadnezzars, the Herods and Napoleons of this world. On the other hand, the rule of the true is conducive to the highest interests of men. Their aim is to do justly and to love mercy. Their motto is, "Death to evil, life to good." "The work of righteousness is peace" (Isaiah 32:17).
IV. THE FALSE ARE DOOMED TO FAILURE; THE TRUE TO VICTORY AND IMMORTAL HONOUR. The rule of the false inevitably leads to ruin. Sin is weakness. Evil can only breed evil. Where obedience is given from fear, and not from love, it cannot last. Where homage is rendered for reasons of prudence, and not from conviction, it cannot be depended upon. Where there is not desert on the one hand, there cannot be devotion on the other. Empire founded on the wrong is rotten through and through. But the true reign after another fashion. Their character commands respect. Their government, being founded in righteousness, secures confidence and support. Their rule, being exercised for the benign and holy ends of love, contributes to the general good. Two things follow.
1. God's ideal of kingship is found in Jesus Christ, and the nearer earthly kings resemble him, and the more perfectly they conform their lives and rule to his mind, the better for them and their subjects.
2. On the other hand, our first duty is to accept Christ as our King, and in love and loyalty to serve him. Thus we shall best fulfil our duty in all other relationships. The best Christian is the best subject. - W.F.