Psalm 2: Which Son Shall We Kiss?

[ A meditation on Psalm 2 presented at Wine Before Breakfast on November 18, 2014. You can see the prayers of the community that morning here.]

You know, this psalm wouldn’t make me so uneasy if it was just about God and the kings of the earth.

If all we were talking about was how the Creator is sovereign,
and the kings were cheap usurpers of power,
pretentious posers of sovereignty
who refuse to submit to the Ruler of the Universe …
then I’d be totally cool with that.

Indeed, the image of the Sovereign one laughing at the kings,
chuckling at their feeble games,
deriding and mocking them …
I could go there.

The problem is the ‘anointed.’

The problem is that this sovereign Lord
has someone stand in for him in ruling the earth.

And I know, I know, that is all part of what it means that the Creator is a covenant God.

That is all part of the overall biblical picture of  humans created in the image of the Creator,
having “dominion,”
called to a stewardly rule of creation.

And I know, I know, that this rule comes to a covenantal focus
in Israel and her king.

I get all that, and I hope that you do too.

The problem is that just as bad as Adam and Cain and Abraham
ended up being (not to mention the rest of the patriarchs and the judges)
so also was David and all that followed him.

So when the psalmist talks about the Lord setting a king in Zion,
and telling this king, “You are my son,
today I have begotten you” …
well … a lot of my ideological alarm bells start going off.

You don’t get more “God is on our side” than this.
God’s sovereignty over all creation gets manifest and represented
in the geo-political sovereignty of whatever king happens
to sit on the throne of David.

I tell you, I’ve read the story and it isn’t pretty.

You don’t have to be hyper-suspicious
to see how the rhetoric of this psalm would serve to provide ideological legitimation
to geo-political violence,
and imperial exceptionalism;
not to mention the divine right of kings.

So what do we do with this psalm?

You don’t make ideological rhetoric redemptive
by painting it with Jesus.

Nor can you make violent imperial propaganda palatable
simply by calling it Messianic.

No, if you are going to make this psalm to be about Jesus
(and Matthew, Mark, Luke, Paul and the author of Hebrews do precisely that)
then you are going to have to turn it on its head.

Not surprisingly, that is exactly what happens.
Does another one appear to be the Lord’s anointed?

Yes indeed.

Does the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe again say
to this anointed one, “You are my son”?
Yes indeed.

But notice where this anointing occurs,
where this proclamation of sonship happens.

Not on “Mount Zion”,
not on the “holy hill”,
not at the Temple,
not at the symbolic and mythical centre of the universe,
but knee deep in the muddy Jordan,
out in the Judean wilderness.

And where did this ‘son of God’ receive the kiss of homage?
In a garden on the night of his betrayal.

And on what hill was the anointed one enthroned as king?
On an execution hill called Calvary.

On which nations did he execute his fury?


The nations poured out their fury on him.

Where did he break them with a rod of iron
and smash them into shards of pottery?

No where.

On the cross he was broken, he was smashed.

That is how he received his kingship.
That is how he has exercised his sovereignty.
That is how he received the nations as his heritage
and the ends of the earth as his possession.

That is the upside down world of Jesus.
That is the radical inversion of his soveriegnty.
That is what it means to be the Lord’s anointed,
the Son of God,
the beloved,
the redeeming King.

Make no mistake, the kings of the nations,
the principalities and powers,
the prime ministers, presidents and rulers of our world,
are still on notice.
They are still warned:
their pretentious rule will not last,
and their kingdom of the fool
will be humbled and made low
when the brokenhearted rule.

So come, sisters and brothers,
come and kiss the son
who is anointed in the wilderness,
enthroned on a cross
and is coming with healing in his wings.

Come and find your refuge in him.


Brian Walsh
Brian is an activist theologian, a retired CRC campus minister, the founder of the Wine Before Breakfast community, and farms with Sylvia Keesmaat at Russet House Farm.He engages issues of theology and culture, and has written a couple of books you might want to check out. His most recent offering is cowritten with Sylvia Keesmaat and entitled Romans Disarmed: Resisting Empire, Demanding Justice.

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