The setting for this Psalm is a far future day.  The Kingdom of God has been on the earth for hundreds of years, and all the people have come to learn and love the righteous ways of the Lord.  However, a new phenomenon has arisen at the instigation of the Evil One.  Many in the Kingdom no longer serve God from their hearts, but only out of fear of His righteous judgment.  These do not openly rebel, as this is impossible under the Kingdom’s strict controls.  However, there is no love for God in their hearts, and at the least sign of an opportunity they would turn against Him.  Alas, this unfaithfulness of heart even extends so far as the very rulers in God’s government.  God, of course, is fully aware of this, and chooses to bring these people into the open so that their wickedness may be shown and they may be punished.  He does this by secretly removing His Kingdom controls from the earth.  At first no one notices, but they all go on obeying the law.  As time goes on, however, men begin to slowly discover that sin no longer produces an instant Divine response as it had in the past.  Eventually men become bolder in their wickedness, and even the rulers of nations start to talk of attempting to rebel against the now apparently-powerless Kingdom.  Thus we enter the Psalm in the midst of this chaotic situation.

1. Why do the nations rage,

This reveals a situation that is deteriorating.  The word “rage” indicates that they are assembling together tumultuously, raging in their newfound boldness to rebel against their God.

And the people plot a vain thing?

The word “vain” means “empty.” These people are imagining an empty thing…a thing that will come to naught.  They are imagining in their minds a life in which they can live as they please rather than serving and following the righteous judgments of God.  Great must be the glee of these wicked people as they consider the perverse pleasures in which they will now indulge without the restraining hand of God to stop them!  Notice that this rebellion affects both people and nations, both citizens and rulers.

As we study this Psalm, however, we must not get the feeling that it is all the kings and all the people who thus rebel.  Imagine, for example, what would happen in our own country if suddenly all our police officers and other enforcers of the law were to vanish from the face of the earth.  Many would be the loyal patriots who would continue obeying the laws and doing what is right in spite of the lack of restraint to force them to do so.  These good citizens would change their lifestyles very little if such an occurrence were to take place.  The wicked and self-serving, however, would suddenly be off their leash, and would very quickly begin to cause a great tumult and an overwhelming anarchy.

Much the same thing, I believe, is going on here in the Kingdom of God.  Most of its citizens are loyal to the Lord and would never think of rebelling against Him, Kingdom controls or no.  The wicked, however, though they are probably much in the minority, are able in the confusion to cause a considerable tumult.  There is one great difference between the Kingdom and our nations, however.  No doubt in our country if such a thing would happen the people would rise up and arm themselves against the wicked.  In the Kingdom of God, however, the taking up of arms is strictly prohibited, and all loyal citizens of God’s Kingdom are not allowed to in any way defend themselves against these violent troublemakers.  Thus the wicked are given an even freer license to work their rebellion since the righteous are not allowed to oppose them in anything but words alone.  This causes the rebellion to be very successful even though it may be very limited in the actual number of individuals and countries who join it.  I do not believe the number of nations or individuals is set in stone, however.  It will wait until that day comes before we will know if this rebellion will be small or great in numbers, though it will certainly be great in effect.  Let us pray that most people will remain loyal to their God in that day.

2.  The kings of the earth set themselves,

This indicates the taking of a stand.  These kings are choosing to stand in the way of sinners, as God warned against in the previous Psalm.

And the rulers take counsel together,

This is in the tumultuous assembly mentioned in the first verse where they are encouraging each other in their rage against the King of kings.

Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,

Their counsel is both against the Lord Jesus and against His loyal ruler.  Although some might identify these two as God and the Son, since Jesus and Jehovah are one and the same, it is far more likely that this mention of an anointed one is either referring to David, who will be the anointed Prince at that time, or the people of Israel as a whole, as God’s anointed nation.  I believe that the truth is actually the former, and that David himself is the target of the rage of these individuals, though certainly they rage against Israel as well.  At any rate, all three of these will be threatened by this revolt.

3.  “Let us break Their bonds in pieces

Since God has apparently already removed their bonds to reveal their hearts, this is a vain boast indeed.  They are planning to take credit for doing what God has already done!  Yet this also indicates that they will no longer obey God’s governmental laws now that there are no immediate consequences for not doing so.  Thus they break the bonds of the law as soon as they are no longer required to endure them.  In this way God’s plan to reveal their hearts is successful.

And cast away Their cords from us.”

These rulers are determined to no longer be bound by any of God’s laws.  From now on, they assert, they will make their own way in the world without God’s guidance to mark their path.  Many make such a decision in our day, but none after seeing so plainly as these have the wonder and glory of God’s righteous laws and judgments.  Thus these are marking themselves out for the most severe punishment.

4.   He Who sits in the heavens shall laugh;

The pitiful rebellion of these boastful lords causes God no anxiety, but rather amusement.

The LORD shall hold them in derision.

For their act of rebellion the LORD will deride them for the ungodly fools that they are.

5.  Then shall He speak to them in His wrath,

After He derides them for their rebellion He speaks to them directly as their angry Judge.

And distress them in His deep displeasure:

He will begin to carry out His righteous judgment upon them for their wicked plans to go their own way.  Thus the cords that they thought to throw off begin to tighten around them.  Though they had thought that these cords were removed and they were safe to work wickedness, God starts to reveal the fact that the cords were not gone, but that they just had their power masked for a time.

6.  “Yet I have set My King

This is not the same kind of setting as in verse 2.  This setting is a founding.  This indicates the immovableness of the establishment of His King.  Since Jehovah, Who is here speaking, is the Lord Jesus Christ, I believe that this is referring to David as His designated ruler upon earth.  The thoughts of these wicked men to set themselves up as kings in their own right are useless against the foundation that God has laid in placing His Own king upon the throne over Zion.

On My holy hill of Zion.”

Hills and mountains are symbolic in the Scripture for governments.  God’s king is firmly established as the governor of Zion.  He is firmly set in the Kingdom government which flows out from God through Zion, His holy people living in the city where He has placed His name.  The useless attempts of these unfaithful men to set up their own mountain and establish their own petty kingships does nothing to change the fact of what God has done.  He laughs at the weak and pathetic actions of these self-deluded men.

7.  “I will declare the decree:

In answer to these men who claim to have a right to govern themselves and question the power and authority that He possesses, King David here declares the decree whereby God set Him up on his throne.  This decree should be enough to warn away any loyal citizens who are contemplating joining these petty rebels.

The LORD has said to Me,

This is the official proclamation whereby Yahweh set up David as His anointed ruler.  David declares this decree to show that he had a perfect right to do all he has been doing for so many years on the earth through the throne he has been given.

‘You are My Son,

Remember that the word “son” means “representative,” and indicates someone who is able to act and speak in all things on the behalf of the father.  This could be any governor in God’s Kingdom, as all are given this right and power to a limited extent who are called by Him to govern, but here it refers to David himself, the one called the “Prince” in Ezekiel 34:24 and 37:25, who is given such sweeping power over all the nations. The New King James assumes this means Christ here, capitalizing the pronouns referring to him. Yet I believe they are mistaken in this. The Lord Jesus is Yahweh Who is speaking here. The one He is speaking to is David, His chosen ruler in the Kingdom.

Today I have begotten You.

Not in the sense of actual birth or creation, but in the sense of becoming the son and representative of Yahweh in all things.  Remember that this is the official decree whereby was given his great dominion.  “Today” then refers to that day when God officially gave Him the authority to become the great ruler that he will be in the Kingdom.  He here repeats the decree given on that day for the instruction of these rebellious lords.

8.  “’Ask of Me, and I will give You

All that is required is the asking.  As David says in Psalm 18:44, “As soon as they hear of me they obey me; The foreigners submit to me.” David is given great power and control over all nations in the Kingdom.  All he has to do is ask, and God will give him this authority.  When this Psalm is taking place, however, this asking will be far in the past.

The nations for Your inheritance,

Not just the nation of Israel is to be given unto David, but all nations on the earth.  This is even true of our own nation, if we should survive until that time.

And the ends of the earth for Your possession.

“The ends of the earth” is a figure of speech for the remotest places.  When David is given the Kingdom control of the earth as the Lord’s second-in-command, there is no place on earth, be it ever so remote, that will not fall under the authority of His rule.  So much for those who teach that the Kingdom is limited to Israel!

9.  “’You shall break them with a rod of iron;

This may be referring to the fact that many of these nations will be broken up and redefined, some being enlarged, some being shrunk, some divided, and some combined.  This will be done with an iron rod, so that none can protest it or oppose it.

You shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’”

A potter’s vessel is destroyed in this way when it is flawed.  The potter does not break it to destroy it, however, but to remake it in a better, more perfect fashion.  So it will be when the Lord and His anointed dash these nations in pieces…it will be for their benefit, not their hurt.

10.  Now therefore, be wise, O kings;

Having just recited the decree whereby Christ had given him authority over the nations, the kings of the earth, perhaps particularly those who are considering whether or not to join this bold rebellion, are admonished to take these words to heart and to act in a wise way because of them.

Be instructed, you judges of the earth.

There will be judges in that day as well as kings, and these are to instruct the people in what is right and what is wrong.  Now these judges themselves are called upon to be instructed by considering the import of this monumental decree.

11.  Serve the LORD with fear,

This is what those rulers still loyal to Christ are instructed to do at this time.  They are not to waver in the slightest, but are to continue serving Yahweh, the Lord Jesus, with all the honor and respect and fear that they have always rendered to Him.

And rejoice with trembling.

Their joy in serving God is tempered by trembling as they consider what might have happened to them had they been mad enough to choose to join this rebellion.

12.  Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way,

Kissing has ever been a sign of fealty to one’s lord.  So these kings and judges are commanded to reconfirm their allegiance to David, God’s chosen representative, for, they are warned, if they do not, the LORD’s anger will not only cause them to lose their positions as governors and leaders of the way, but also their very lives.

When His wrath is kindled but a little.

The idea is not so much smallness, but swiftness.  Those who rebel will suddenly be punished.  The reappearance of God’s governing power will not be slow but fast, and will take them in the midst of their revolt and disobedience.  The coming of this wrath is assured, and will come soon upon those who are taking counsel against God.  Only those who maintain their allegiance to the Son and to David will be spared from it.

Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.

Even at this tumultuous time of history it is still possible to be a how happy person.  The fear of losing God’s divine control and the fear of the rebellious armies can be quenched by trust in the God Who still reigns in spite of it all.  Those who seek refuge in Him in that dark day will indeed be blessed by doing so.  Let us do the same in our own dark and sinful day.