• Large spray-painted portraits on shutters of shops made by British born artist Solomon Souza at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, May 16, 2016. The Shuk Gallery is an independant project started in 2015 and aiming at bringing art and colours in the heart of the market through portraits of famous people or biblical figures. Photo by Mendy Hechtman/Flash90

Pure Hope – Psalm 2, Part 5 © Johannes Gerloff

Johannes Gerloff - 12 April 2019

‘Fascinating Colourful’ is Psalm 2. It speaks on several levels at the same time into very diverse times and situations. ‘Scarifying Shambolic’ describes the situation of our world (verses 1-2). But from God’s perspective, the raging of the nations is ‘Reassuringly Ridiculous’ (verses 3-4). ‘Dreadfully Direct’ reveals how the Creator of the universe interferes in world affairs. He makes clear to his creatures where He begins to guide history in the tracks He intended (verses 5 and6).

Now, in Psalm 2, verse 7, ‘the Lord’s Anointed speaks’, the One who was already mentioned in verse 2 as ‘Messiah of the Lord’. The rioting of the united nations is directed against Him. He is the inherently visible focus of their uproar. And this Anointed One acknowledges God’s declaration of intent as personal commission: “I will tell the decree of the Lord.”

This ‘telling’ is about reporting, about passing on facts. However, the narrator does not just present what is perceived objectively or neutrally to the discussion. He has an intention and pursues a specific direction. This is shown by the unusual phrase, which literally means ‘towards a principle carved in stone.’ He wants to influence, to change something with His reporting. Based on the writings of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch the message of the Messiah (verse 7a) might be paraphrased as follows: “I will talk about the fact that God has appointed His king on Mount Zion so often and so long until it becomes a life principle for the nations and their governments.”

“Through the prophets Nathan, Gad and Samuel,” explains Rashi, God let King David know, “You are my Son. Today I have begotten you” (Psalms 2:7b). The God of Israel reveals Himself as father. David is able to call God ‘my father’ (compare Psalms 89:27) because God had addressed him as ‘my son’. What is crucial in this relationship is this: “[The Anointed One] had not become king by inheritance. He had not made himself king. Nor had his kingship resulted primarily from the election of men. God Himself had chosen and appointed him king.”

“I will be father to him, and he will be my son” (2 Samuel 7:14).

It is conceivable that these words were spoken at the inauguration of the Judean kings. With the anointing ‘as king to me’ (1 Samuel 16:1), the Davidic king became the ‘Anointed One,’ Hebrew ‘Mashiah/Messiah,’ Greek ‘Christos/Christ.’ “That means: This king is mine. He is my son, and he is my servant. He listens to me” (Rashi). Likewise, it is said of David’s son Solomon: “I will be father to him, and he will be my son” (2 Samuel 7:14). David, the biological father, is no longer ‘father,’ but God Himself. Not the dynasty (his natural descent is the decisive legitimation for this royal rule), but the decision and choice of the living God.

Radak assumes that the ‘today I have begotten you’ (Psalms 2:7) means that “on that very day the Spirit of God was born in him, as it is written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day’” (1 Samuel 16:13). From this Radak concludes: “From that day on David spoke songs and psalms in the Holy Spirit.”

Rashi recalls that the Son of God is not only King David, but that Israel in Egypt had already been called by God ‘my first-born son’ (Exodus 4:22). Martin Luther in his interpretations of Scripture frequently refers to ‘Rabbi Solomon,’ i.e., to ‘Rashi’. Usually, however, only if he feels compelled to contradict him. In his interpretation of Psalm 2, Luther now also reminds his readers that ‘Israel is called the firstborn son.’ But then, almost in the same breath, he feels driven to distance himself from the Jewish people by declaring, “although many of them were idol worshipers.” It speaks volumes, if the German reformer, who otherwise so much emphasises the ‘sola gratia’ (’by grace alone’), thinks he has to speak of merit, when the issue of Israel’s being the son of God arises.

The midrash and the Talmudic teachers (Succa 52a) see in Psalms 2:7 the future Messianic King who will redeem Israel, bring them back into the Land of Israel and guide them according to the will of God. It is according to this line that the New Testament recognises in the ‘son’ of Psalms 2:7 a prophecy of Jesus of Nazareth (Hebrews 1:5). Martin Luther writes: “This is the purpose (Scopus) of the whole gospel, that Christ is recognised as the Son of God.”

The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews hears in the statement “Today I have begotten you” not only the coronation ceremony to the king of Israel but also a reference to the appointment of the high priest (Hebrews 5:5). Paul interprets Psalms 2:7 as prophesying the resurrection, which again Luther picks up: “Therefore, as in the preceding verses the suffering and death of Christ is prophesied, so in this verse, His resurrection is foretold, though somewhat obscure.” Furthermore, Luther refers to verse 4 and sees in the resurrection of Christ a ‘mocking of God,’ because God ‘made the Jews and the Gentiles, who killed Christ, a mockery for the whole world, raising Him from the dead.’

If Psalms 2:7 indeed has to be seen as predicting the resurrection of the messianic Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth, the question arises, whether the statement “You are my son. Today I have begotten you” could not be understood as a prophecy of the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel as well? Maybe, consequently, it even has to be understood in this way?!

After all, Ezekiel in his famous vision of the field of dry bones describes the return of the people of Israel as a resurrection from the dead: “Thus says God, the Lord: See, I open your graves. I lead you, my people, up out of your graves. I bring you to the soil of Israel. You will realise that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you, my people, out of your graves. I will give My Spirit in you. You will live! I will set you to rest on your soil. Then you will realise that I am the Lord. I say something. And then I also do it!” (Ezekiel 37:12-14).

Hosea 6:2. “He will return us to life after two days. On the third day, He will raise us up, so that we may live before Him.”

The parallel between the death and resurrection of Messiah Yeshua of Nazareth on the one hand, and the fate of the Jewish people over the past two thousand years, on the other hand, is also clear when we look at Hosea 6:2. There the nation of Israel says: “He will return us to life after two days. On the third day, He will raise us up, so that we may live before Him.”

The Babylonian Amoreans explained these ‘days’ of the Prophet Hosea – probably concluding from Psalms 90:4 – as ‘millenia’ (Sanhedrin 97a). In retrospect, these Jewish scholars seem to have been right. The worldwide diaspora of the Jewish people lasted two thousand years before they were being re-gathered into the Land of Israel at the dawn of the third day, the third millennium, i.e., in our time.

Perhaps one would have to rephrase Luther’s statement quoted above and conclude with reference to verse 4, that today God makes the whole world, and especially all those who have declared the Jewish people dead, a mockery, by leading His people back into the promised land despite all resistance.

Radak points out that these statements are not just valid for Israel, King David and the messianic Son of David, but “everyone who makes himself available to God as an attentive servant is called ‘his son.’ As the Son hears the Father, he is destined for service. Therefore, it says (Deuteronomy 14:1): ‘You are sons of the Lord, your God.’ And thus, Israel is called ‘sons of the living God’ (Hosea 2:1).”

Again, it becomes clear, how the different levels of understanding of this psalm merge into each other. No single level of understanding can explain the content of this prophetic text on its own. If we take seriously that this multi-faceted text is an inspired word of God and not a coincidence, then we see how closely this prophecy relates the fate of the nation of Israel, her expulsion from the Land of Israel, her worldwide dispersion, her suffering and her regathering in our days to the life, suffering, death and resurrection of the Christ Jesus of Nazareth. And both, the pilgrimage of God’s son Israel and the life of the Messiah, have a profound, crucial significance for us who today wish to be children of God. If Christ has risen from the dead, and today even the people of Israel, believed dead for two thousand years, return home from their graves, then this is pure hope.

If Messiah proclaims the principle that ‘He who sits in heaven’ (Psalms 2:4) has indeed ‘appointed His king in Zion’ (verse 6), then he expresses his agreement with his own divine calling in this context. He agrees ‘to serve the Lord, as a son honours the father’ (Ibn Ezra). In their remarks on these scriptural verses, classical Jewish exegetes develop and underline the biblical point of view, that the Messiah as Son of God is at the same time also the Servant of the Lord.

From the father-son-relationship between the God of Israel and His Messiah springs the commission of actively participating in God’s claim to sovereignty. The Son of God is the bearer of this divine revelation. This is true of the people of Israel and its historic King David. If we follow all levels of interpretation of Psalm 2, then this consequently also applies to Messiah – be He the One who has already come, the one who comes or the one who will come again. And then that is also true for all who follow in His footsteps as well as for all who are on their way to greet Him for the first time. This revelation indeed ‘makes a mockery of all attempts to eradicate it from human consciousness.’


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