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Follow Righteousness and Submit to the Lord's Anointed (Psalms 1-2) May 15-16

Neither Psalm 1 nor 2 have a superscription giving attribution. The apostles Peter and John ascribe Psalm 2 to David in Acts 4:24-26, as does Paul in Acts 13:33. David may be the author of Psalm 1 as well, as it opens Book 1 of the Psalms, which along with Book 2 is generally attributed to him (see 72:20). On the other hand, it could well be the work of another composer, as it may have been placed here by a later editor to serve as an introduction to the entire collection of the Psalms. Of course, a psalm of David himself could have been used for the same purpose, as Psalm 2 seems to be part of the introduction as well.

Regarding Psalms 1-2, The Zondervan NIV Study Bible notes: "These two 'orphan' psalms (having no title) are bound together by framing clauses ('Blessed is the man...{whose} delight is in the law of the Lord'; 'Blessed are all who take refuge in him') that highlight their function as the introduction to the whole Psalter. Together they point on the one hand to God's law and to the instruction of the wisdom teachers (Ps 1) and on the other hand to a central theme in the Prophets...namely, what [God] has committed himself to accomplish for and through his anointed king from the house of David (Ps 2). In this way these two psalms link the Psalter with the rest of the [Old Testament] literature and alert those who take it in hand that to hear these psalms aright they must be understood within that larger frame of reference. At the same time, as the port of entry into the Psalter they make clear that those who would find their own voice in the psalms and so would appropriate them as testimonies to their own faith must fit the profile of those called 'blessed' here."

In Psalm 1, the psalmist contrasts the way of the righteous, which brings blessings, with the destiny of the wicked. "For a prime indicator of the psalm's central theme [compare] the first and last words, which frame the whole ("Blessed...perish")" (note on Psalm 1). The word translated "blessed" can also mean "happy." However, as The Expositor's Bible Commentary points out, it is important to remember that this state of true happiness is "not merely a feeling. Even when the righteous do not feel happy, they are still considered 'blessed' from God's perspective. He bestows this gift on them. Neither negative feelings nor adverse conditions can take His blessing away" (note on verse 1). Because the righteous delight in God's law (verse 2; 119:6) they bear good fruit for God.

God blesses those who are trying to live the right way (verse 6) and gives them a sense of joy and purpose. He does not bestow that same attention on the ungodly (verses 4-5). In terms of productiveness for God, the wicked are as useless as wind-blown chaff. Jeremiah makes a similar pronouncement about ungodly men: "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord. He will be like a bush in the wastelands" (17:5-6, NIV). Evil men are prone to engage in deepening wickedness (verse 1). They move from walking alongside of evil, to openly standing in sin, then sitting as teachers of evil.

The godly, in contrast, "are devoted to the Lord (Deut. 6:7, cf. Joshua 1:7-8). In all their activities they keep distant from the ungodly, lest they get under their influence. They carefully guard themselves in their family, business, and social relations as they set the terms of their relations, while being polite and gracious" (Expositor's, note on verse 1).

Psalm 2 is a royal psalm that speaks of David and His descendants reigning in Jerusalem—ultimately pointing to Christ's millennial rule on the earth. "I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion...I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession" (verses 6, 8). "Israelite kings and priests were anointed with oil when they took office. The 'Anointed One' probably originally meant 'king.' It came, however, to stand for more. The Hebrew word is masiah, which became Messiah and is translated into Greek as Christos or Christ. This psalm was understood in the New Testament as referring to Jesus—for no Old Testament king ever gained the control of the nations implied here" (Zondervan New Student Bible, note on verse 2).

Considering that God announced His plan and has all power to fulfill it, the psalmist wonders at the audacity of plotting against Him. To take counsel against God and His Anointed is a vain thing. God laughs scornfully at the long history of human insubordination (verse 4). Kings and leaders have been warned in advance. They should "wise up" and serve the Lord in fear and trembling (verse 11; Deuteronomy 10:12-13). At the end of the age, a union of nations will mount another rebellion against God—this time an attack on the returning Jesus Christ. With all power at His command, Christ will destroy the rebel armies and commence to rule the nations "with an iron scepter" (verse 9; Revelation 2:27; 12:5, NIV).

"You are My Son, today I have begotten You" in Psalm 2:7 "is the public proclamation that the Son is to inherit the kingdom from His Father...establishing the Son's right to rule over God's kingdom" (The Bible Reader's Companion, note on verse 7). God has not said this to His angels (see Hebrews 1:5). He reserved this for Jesus (Acts 13:33) as well as other human beings who would be spiritually begotten as God's children (see Hebrews 1-2).

"Kiss the Son" (verse 12) is perhaps meant "as a sign of submission (see 1Sa 10:1; 1Ki 19:18; Hos 13:2...). Submission to an Assyrian king was expressed by kissing his feet" (Zondervan NIV Study Bible, note on Psalm 2:12). The New Testament shows kissing on the cheek as a means of greeting, which would signify welcome and acceptance. The Jewish Tanakh translation renders the entire phrase "pay homage in good faith," leaving out the word "Son"—perhaps with some concern over Christian interpretation—but declaring the Hebrew uncertain in a footnote. It is true that the word for "son" would here be the Aramaic bar rather than the Hebrew ben. However, as Expositor's states in its footnote on verse 12, "In favor of the traditional translation ['Son']...are the context of the psalm (submission to the Lord and to the anointed), the proposal by [commentator] Delitzsch that the sequence bar pen ('Son, lest') avoids the dissonance of ben pen...and the suggestion by [another commentator] that the usage of the Aramaism may be intentionally directed to the foreign nations"—as Aramaic was the common language of the entire ancient Middle East. Interestingly, it would also be the language of the Jews when Jesus the Son actually came among them.

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