“I’ve learnt that it’s okay to be angry at God”
“I have discovered that I need to forgive God first.”
Have you heard statements like that? They sound radical and edgy and I’ve heard these sorts of ideas put forward to help believers that are struggling with grief or emotional heartache. If they believe that God has let them down, the surely the first thing they need to do is to let go of that anger at God by expressing it to him and then by forgiving him. And surely there is good support for this in the Psalms?
Well, I want to respond by saying “No.” Expressing anger at God isn’t something the Psalms give us permission to do. Learning to forgive him isn’t a scriptural concept. We will later pick up on some of the things the psalmists say to God out of deep distress and find out what they really are doing. First of all, Psalm 2 shows us why this isn’t a right response.
A Psalm about a son
Psalm 2 forms part of the introduction to the book of Psalms. This is demonstrated by what we call an inclusion, or a phrase or idea used to bracket off a section of the book. The first Psalm starts with identifying who is blessed and the second finishes with how to know blessing. The blessed man is the righteous one who delights in God’s Word. We saw when looking at that Psalm that Christ is the righteous man and so Psalm 2 finishes by pointing to the blessings we receive in him.
The Psalm starts though with apparent danger for the Lord and his anointed king but how much danger are they really in?
A futile rage (v1-3)
Kings and rulers plot and rage, these represent the Gentile nations, the powers and authorities that would have surrounded Israel. Plotting and raging suggests conspiracy, this is something that they seek to do together. They do not have the power, the ability to do this on their own. So they seek to build alliances hoping that way they can defeat God’s people (v1).
Their actions are also described as a rage, they shake their fists they, get worked up in anger against God and his people. The suggestion in the idea of “raging” is also of futility. It is all sound and bluster. They “rage in vain.”
Their conspiracy is against YHWH and his messiah or anointed one (v2). In its original context, the Psalm’s reference to the Lord’s anointed I to the king. To plot and strike out against YHWH’s chosen king is to strike out against God because you are attacking his representative.
The Gentile kings believe that they are pursuing freedom, that they are bound and need to set themselves free from the Lord (v3). Of course, we would want to insist that true freedom is found in the Lord and that the rulers of the nations are in fact in bondage to idols and at the same time suppress and hold their own peoples captive.
God laughs (v4-6)
The next statement is shocking. We don’t think of God laughing but here he laughs and not as in at a joke but in derision. The idea of the nations being able to attack him and touch his anointed is ridiculous. Again, this emphasises the futility of their rage (v4).
Now, the Lord speaks (v5). It is with wrath and fury, bringing judgement. God’s voice is terrifying, it silences and scatters the nations. His message is simple. “This is my king.” He tells the nations that it is he who has established David’s kingdom and secured his position at Mount Zion (v6)
I believe that we are meant to see God speaking in his actions. It is as God fiercely acts to defend Israel and destroy the armies of enemy nations that his voice is heard by the conspiring rulers.
The Son Speaks (v7-9)
David speaks now, telling us what the Lord said to him. Unlike with the nations who heard God’s voice in General revelation through His providential care of Israel, this is special revelation. God speaks through prophets and directly to David and this word makes sense of what is happening in his life.
The anointed one is declared to be God’s Son. He has been “begotten.” I would suggest that it was the very day of victory, rescue and vindication that saw thar event. God acts towards the king in fatherly love by wrapping his arms around him, fighting his enemies and giving him an inheritance. It is the nations that become the king’s inheritance, defeated they must bow to him (v8). God’s enemies hoped to break their chains but it is in fact they themselves who are broken or utterly defeated by YHWH’s messiah.
Rulers bow (v10 – 12)
Now the king, the son addresses his enemies, the kings and rulers of the world around him. In the secure knowledge that he has the victory in YHWH, he warns them that they are to serve The Lord. Their service and loyalty to YHWH is demonstrated in their loyalty and obeisance to The Son, to his anointed king. “Kiss the Son” is a call to pay homage to him and swear allegiance. Think of how the UK Prime Minister is sworn into office with a ceremony where he “kisses the hand” of the Queen.
The nations have been given to the son by YHWH and now they demonstrate by swearing fidelity that they belong to him as his possession. Failure to do this will lead to the Son’s anger being kindled. It will lead to their judgement.
The choice then is life or death, blessing or curse, those were of course the promises of the covenant and life and blessing are found through having the king’s favour. He is the one who is able to offer refuge and safety.
A Psalm about The Son
Hebrews 1:5 takes the words of Psalm 2 and says “This is all about Jesus.” It’s not about angels and indeed it’s not really about all the descendants of David in the way that it applies to Christ. In Romans 1:3-4, the link with Psalm 2 is implicitly made. Jesus is the one who is The Son because he is a royal descendant of David but also because he is risen from the grave. Note that Paul makes it clear that Jesus already is The Son (v3), this is an eternal designation but it is at the resurrection that the Son come into his inheritance as promised in Psalm 2. It is the risen Lord who as God and man reigns over the whole of the world so that kings and rulers, indeed every knee must bow before him.
Psalm 2 is therefore trinitarian and Christological as it points to the relationship between The Father and The Son.
Therefore, it is important to be clear at this stage. If we see ourselves as in bondage to anything other than our own sin, if we are raging out then it is not against some distant God but to the Father and to The Son. In other words, when I get angry against the Father and the Son, I am denying the very things I know to be true about them. I am denying their goodness, love, justice and faithfulness. Furthermore, I am missing the point that the Father’s first and foremost concern is for the honour and glory of his beloved Son.
I am going to find safety, hope, peace not by joining in the rage against The Son but by looking to him to provide that safety. This means recognising that I used to stand with the kings and rulers, I deserve to share their fate. Yet Christ chooses to love me, to bless me, to hold me close, to keep me safe.
A Psalm for you and me
Now, we can see that there is good news for you and me in the Psalm. If we identify with and in Christ, then this means that his enemies are our enemies too. The New Testament warns, promises even that just as the world hated Christ, it will hate his followers too. Therefore, in Christ, we also receive the same promise of the Father for our care and protection and a share in the inheritance.
I believe this is good news in a number of ways. First of all, it is not the instant guarantee of a touble free life and the silencing of accusers. Although he knew this psalm to be true for him, Christ did not rely on it to escape suffering, false accusation and death. This was because he saw greater glory, joy and vindication ahead. We too can go through present trials knowing that everything must come into the light, vindication lies ahead of us.
We need to remember that our chief enemies are not human powers but rather sin, Satan and death. Those enemies were crushed at the Cross. They have been disarmed so we have nothing to fear.
Finally, we are aware that often the battle today is in our thought life. Our thoughts are to be taken captive by God’s Word. This includes a battle with sinful desires which are to be put to death. I believe that for those of us who struggle with depression and anxiety, there is a battle in our thought life to be won there and this is part of the process of healing.
Suffering now for the believer is not dangerous and deadly. It’s not a punishment but becomes part of The Father’s disciplining toolkit for our growth and his glory.
Consider the following.
- In what ways may I have conspired and raged against the Father and The Son.
- What things might be true bonds/chains in my life which I miss because I see the Lord’s grasp on my life as chains?
- What does it mean to be a co-heir with Christ?