1 Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot 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 bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us.”
4 He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;
The Lord shall hold them in derision.
5 Then He shall speak to them in His wrath,
And distress them in His deep displeasure:
6 “Yet I have set My King
On My holy hill of Zion.”
7 “I will declare the decree:
The Lord has said to Me,
‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
8 Ask of Me, and I will give You
The nations for Your inheritance,
And the ends of the earth for Your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron;
You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.'”
10 Now therefore, be wise, O kings;
Be instructed, you judges of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
And rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.
This psalm is clearly identified in Acts 4:25 as an utterance whose content was determined directly by God (the “Holy Spirit”) and given expression “by the mouth” of David. Recognizing this distinction (hence the explicit statement in Acts) is in this instance especially important since this psalm is one of the several directly “messianic” utterances (as likewise applied in Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5; 5:5) that readers, either out of carelessness in interpretation or specific apologetic concerns, have often taken as referring directly to David — and only indirectly (typologically), if at all, referring to Jesus. While there are, to be sure, several phraseological parallels to the things that David says in his “introduction” to the nation in 1 Samuel 17 as he leads them in the proper expression of collective worship, the experiences and circumstances of the “king” in this psalm nonetheless far transcend what is ever said of David. — Wechsler, pages 20-21.
Why (v.1) — expressing irony and surprise that the Gentiles would dare stand against God
nations (v.1) = Gentiles
people (v.1) = peoples, a collective plural noun
plot (v.1) — same word as “meditate” in 1:2.
Lord (v.2) = Jehovah
The citation of this passage by the nascent church in Acts 4:25-26 is significant, for it not only clarifies that the “Anointed” (Hebrew Mashiah, whence the English word “Messiah”) in this passage is intended as a specific, predictive reference to Jesus Himself (the Hebrew term is also applied in the Old Testament in a more general, non-predictive sense to kings and priests; cf. Leviticus 4:3; 1 Samuel 24:10), but it also therefore teaches that opposition to God (that is, the true God of Israel) and Jesus are inseparable. the “chief priests and elders” of the Jews to whom the early Jewish-Christian community applied this passage (see Acts 4:23) would certainly not have claimed to reject the God of Israel, whom they — as typically in Jewish prayer to this day — worshiped as their Heavenly Father, yet from God’s perspective one’s acceptance and worship of Him is bound up with one’s acceptance and worship of His Son, the Messiah. “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father,” says John, “but the one who confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23; see also Luke 10:16; John 5:23). — Wechsler, pages 21-22.
Lord (v.4) = Adonai = sovereign
His wrath (v.5) — the Tribulation
set (v.6) = lit. “pour out” and so, anointed — installed into office as a king, anointed.
My holy hill (v.6) — (lit. “the mountain of My holiness,” in which the “holiness” qualifies god, not the mountain), which refers specifically to the Temple Mount (i.e., Mount Moriah; cf. Psalms 15:1; 43:3; 99:9; Isaiah 56:7; Ezekiel 28:14), all of which point to the divine Priest-King Jesus, who states clearly in Ezekiel 43:7 that the spot of the sanctuary on Mount Moriah will be “the place of My throne … the soles of My feet, where I will dwell among the sons of Israel forever.” — Wechsler, page 23
kiss (v.12) = expression of homage
The point in verse 2 concerning the inseparability of “the LORD” (i.e., God the Father) and “His Anointed” (i.e., the Son of God) is here reiterated by David as an evangelistic challenge: to truly worship the Lord (v.11) in a way acceptable to Him requires one to kiss the Son (v.12) — in which latter expression “kiss” is intended as a more relational-personal synonym for the verb “worship” in the previous verse to which it clearly stands in parallel (another reason that the “Son” in this psalm can refer only to the divine messianic king). This use of the verb “to kiss” as a euphemism for “to worship” is also attested in 1 Kings 19:18; Hosea 13:2 and Job 31:27. — Wechsler, pages 24-25.
After studying this passage, I asked Michael Wechsler these questions:
Did David understand that he was writing “direct messianic utterances” — words that would be said by the Messiah years later? If not, what did David think he was writing? And what would the audience of thought of them?
Your question is in fact a loaded one that touches, in fact, on the very heart of the modern Christian approach to interpretation. Suffice it, for now, to say that David knew far more about the Messiah than most modern scholars give him credit for (see Acts 2:30-31, where “looked” implies clarity and specificity of understanding). Beyond this, it is simply, empirically impossible to know what David (or any biblical writer/prophet) understood about the revelation that God mediated through them — though they certainly didn’t understand it all (see 1 Peter 1:10-1; 2 Peter 1:20-21). As for David’s/the prophets’ audience, this is absolutely no sound guide for understanding what Scripture means, since the majority of the people were hardened to the truth of God’s revelation and were inherently unable to understand it (see Isa 6:9-10). The modern emphasis on “authorial intent” is a post-enlightenment, humanistically-influenced approach which, as far as I’m concerned, is inconsistent with the model of interpretation exhibited in Scripture itself — where the NT writers cite and explain diverse passages of the OT vis-a-vis their theological and thematic linkages irrespective of the circumstances and understanding of the human agent whom God used to communicate that Word.