Cultivate: Growing in Grace through the Psalms #2 (Royal Psalms)

In my first session I covered the introduction to the Psalms and also looked at one category of Psalms – and we looked briefly at three wisdom psalms : Psalm 1, Psalm 37 and Psalm 119. In this second session, I’m considering a second psalm type – that of Royal, or Messianic, Psalms. What are Royal Psalms?

I. Royal Psalms, defined, are Psalms that have as their focus Israel’s Messiah; and from the perspective of the writers, the Psalms were future in their orientation. For us, this is not true for the most part – but for the writers it was like that.

Messianic or Royal Psalms teach specific truths about Messiah, particular to His incarnation, his rejection, his suffering, his victory his kingdom and his reign; AND, we see the Messiah’s three primary roles in the Royal Psalms. We see Israel’s Messiah as God’s Prophet, we see him as God’s Priest, and we see him as God’s King.

Psalms which are identified as Royal, or Messianic are Psalms like Psalm 2; 18; 20, 21, 22; 45; 47; 68; 72; 89; 101; 110; 118; 132 and 144. These are considered by most to be Royal Psalms – and some of them, like Psalm 2, or 22, or 110, or 118, make specific statements that found direct fulfillment in Jesus Christ while he was on earth, while many others simply speak about David’s region as King (Psalm 21 would be an example) but because David is seen as a type of Christ, the Psalm is classed as Royal.

Quotes from Royal Psalms often appear in the NT scriptures – and it is very interesting to see how the NT writers used OT scriptures to interpret their times generally, and also how they interpreted Royal Psalms in particular. Let me show you some examples of what I mean.

Example #1: Luke 20: 17, is a parable where Jesus is confronting the leaders of Israel over their rejection of him as Messiah. In the Parable (vs. 9-16) he paints them and their fate perfectly and pointedly. When he comes to the end of the parable, they are repulsed, and Matthew tells us that the Chief Priest and Pharisees perceived he was speaking about them. Then, Jesus quotes an OT verse – Psalm 118: 22. Why does he do that? Because he knew He was the stone that the builders were rejecting – but he also knew He would become the chief corner stone for what God was going building – his kingdom and his church. Thus, we say Psalm 118 is Royal.

Example #2: Luke 20: 41-44 – Jesus uses an OT scripture to ask the some of his opponents in Jerusalem a question; and the question proves too difficult for them, so they leave it unanswered. The scripture he references is from Psalm 110: 1 – so look there with me. Listen to and look at verse one. As you look at the verse, you will notice how the title ‘Lord’ is used two times. Question: Is Lord spelled the same way in Psalm 110: 1?

They’re not. The first is all capital letters and the second one is capital L followed by small letters, o r d. Why is that? LORD is the way english translators spell Lord, when the covenant name of God is used; and whenever we see ‘Lord’ we know another name for God is used in the original, in this case, Adonai. Based on this, do we have two gods? No – we have two persons of the Trinity identified as LORD and Lord – or, we could say, as we look at this fro a NT perspective, that we have the Father – the covenant God – speaking to the second person of the Trinity, the Word – about something that would happen future.
Now, look back at Luke 20: 41-44. On the backdrop of Psalm 110: 1, do you see what Jesus is getting at when he asks the question he asks? What this tells us is that Psalm 110 is a Messianic Psalm, AND we learn the first verse foreshadows the incarnation. That’s one reason the Psalm is called Royal.

Now, look at Psalm 110: 4. This verse is referenced again in Hebrews 5: 6, where the writer is showing Jesus as being a priest after the order of Melchizedek – which means Psalm 110: 4 references Messiahs superior priesthood. Thus, it is classed as Messianic, or Royal.

II. A Royal Psalm Considered: A third example of this is found in the Royal Psalm I want to look at with you in more detail tonight – Psalm 2. So, turn to the second Psalm. The first thing I want to do is simply to read the Psalm. So, listen to the Psalm in it’s entirety as I read it aloud – and see if you can identify markers that cause us to identify this as a Royal – a Messianic – Psalm.

This Psalm breaks down into four parts quite easily. What we have, by way of an outline structure is:

A. Overt Opposition of the World to God (vs. 1-3) Those outside God’s covenant/kingdom ALWAYS resist Him and rage against He and His rule. Why do they do so? Quite simply, people in their wickedness, choose their own vices, devices, and carnal pleasures over the easy yoke of God and Christ. This opposition sources in the magistrates, rulers, and statesmen – but it also comes from those much lower in society too. Further, they not only want to disobey – they want to totally abolish God’s rule and any institution that is loyal and in love with Him – be it Israel of old or the church today. That’s the first part of the Psalm. What follows this is :

B. Open derision and defiance of God – to His Opposers (vs. 4-6) Notice how this portion of the Psalm plays out. He who sits in the heavens LAUGHS and holds them in derision. THEN He will speak to them. What does he say? Notice verse 6. There is a play on words here. The nations set themselves against – the Lord has set his King on his holy hill. In other words, as the kingdoms and nations rage against God, God DOES what they resist – he sets up His king. This is then followed by an interesting event. And we may call that event the:

C. Overcoming Decree of the Son (vs. 7-9). The first person pronoun signifies a shift in speaker – and the person speaking is the one God identified as HIs begotten son – and to this begotten Son, a promise has been given, which the Son describes (vs. 8); followed by a clear statement of how the Son will oversee the nations and ends of the earth, once he comes to possess them.

The phrase, ‘rule them with a rod of iron’ is very informative, because it appears in both the OT and NT in relation to Jesus’s rule and reign as King – as Messiah. Let me show some examples of how the term or phrase is used. It appears conceptually in Isa. 11: 4; it appears here in Psalm 2; it appears three times in Revelation – in 2: 26-27 about Jesus’s followers who OVERCOME – in Rev. 12: 5 of the child Israel gives birth to – and finally in Rev. 19: 15, of Christ when he returns with power and great glory. So, if we didn’t have enough evidence that this is a Royal Psalm, the use of the phrase ‘rod of iron’ would convince us.

D. Open Invitation from the Father to Embrace the Son (vs. 10- 12) with blessing promised for those who embrace the Son, and total destruction for those who don’t.

The Psalm teaches us many lessons, but let me cover three quickly. This Psalm shows us why God’s work and His people are secure in this world, and why we can rest confidently that God’s plans will prosper regardless of what we see happening around us.

1st, we see from this Psalm how God’s people and plan is stable, because God establishes it Himself, while he laughs at mens attempts to stop his people and his plans and throw off his yoke.

2nd, we see that God’s plans are rooted in a covenant – decreed by God, involving His Son, for the redemption of the world – and this pan cannot be stopped, according to what the OT Prophets and the NT apostles and prophet tells us about it

3rd, with this decree, God promises his Son TOTAL VICTORY. So, that is Psalm two.

III. How would we go about praying this Psalm and using it in private worship? If we take the time to look at how the early church used it, we get some pretty good hints as to how we can use this Psalm as a catalyst for prayer and for personal worship.

Psalm 2: 1-2 is referenced in Acts 4: 25-26, as the cause for opposition to both Jesus and to His people preaching the resurrection of Christ from the dead. What this simply means is, in the same way the first century Christians identified those who were against them as fulfilling what was foretold in Psalm 2: 1-2, so they saw Jesus’s sufferings and their labors in the gospel as connected to this too – so they prayer in light of what God was doing.

Another way to put this would be to say, they interpreted opposition according to the sovereign plan of God, knowing that God would ultimately be victorious.

One way, therefore that we can pray this Psalm, is to pray it in relation to our own gospel mission here in SCC, as well as in relation to the mission of the gospel elsewhere.

Secondly, notice Psalm 2: 8. From this we see how the Son has an inheritance from the father – the nations – and the nations will either become subjects to His kingdom, OR they will be removed. This reminds me of another scripture in the NT where Jesus is teaching us to pray.

Compare Matthew 6: 9-10. Praying to the Father that His kingdom will come and his will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven, is EXACTLY the same thing as praying for the Son to receive the reward of his sufferings – the nations, as his inheritance.

Psalm 2 is a royal Psalm, like man others. And their use in prayer and worship focuses on Messiahs kingdom, his gospel, his victory, his rule. We can pray this Psalm, then, as we seek God to fulfill His whole will for the nations of the earth, from now until Jesus comes!!

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