The psalms are the language that God has given the church to pray, to sing, to speak his language back to him. Each Sunday, we have one psalm as a centerpiece of our worship time together at WIts' End. During this series of reflections on the Lectionary Psalms we will hear from people in our community as they think and pray through the upcoming psalm for that week.
This week's psalm reflection is brought to us by Lauren Sawyer, a student at the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology and the bringer of fine poetry to the Wits' End Community. She will be reflecting on Psalm 2.
Hugging Bethany goodbye after such an exciting day, a friend and I asked about names. Have they picked one out? Is there a little Lila or Madeleine in there? Bethany said they have ideas, but they want to wait till the baby is born before announcing her name to the world. They want to bless their baby with a name when she’s in their arms, and then bless the world with this named child.
When I reflect on Psalm 2, I think about Bethany and the baby girl she will birth and bless in a few months. The psalm itself is a tricky one to read; it’s one of the “royal” psalms, by David and about the coming Messiah. Christians have tended to understand it to be about Jesus. The structure of the psalm is that of a crisis: the nations “rage and the peoples plot in vain” (v. 1). The kings of the earth are warring and are even challenging God. In response, God laughs at the attempt and says there’s another, better King whom God has “set … on Zion” (v. 6). Then the psalm shifts to first person. “I will tell the decree,” the narrator says, “The Lord said to me…” (v. 7).
This is where the psalm gets tricky because no one’s quite sure who “me” is. Is it David? Is it Christ? Is it Israel as a nation?
For me, there’s something really delightful about reading this passage as being about Jesus. The declaration made by God in verse 7, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you,” reminds us of God’s word to Jesus at his baptism in Mark 1, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” I imagine Bethany and Michael’s naming their daughter and presenting her to the world as remarkably similar to these declarations (though without a voice from heaven and, presumably, fewer doves).
In Psalm 2, before God says anything about what the Messiah will do (rule and—yikes—“break [the nations] with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel”), God says who Jesus is. You are my Son. This statement is not just saying who Jesus is, establishing his independent identity. This statement defines his relationship to the Father; Jesus is Son.
And when Bethany and Michael hold their newborn daughter in their arms, they will be naming her before she has a chance to do much at all. All they say is who she in relationship to mom and dad. They will say to her, “You are our daughter. We have begotten you. We hardly know you now, but already we are so pleased.”
What has always drawn me to this psalm, even in its complexity, is verse 12: “Kiss the Son.” The Message says it this way: “Kiss Messiah!” The psalm says to do this in order to keep the Son from anger, to keep him happy. But now I can’t help but picture this kiss as an act done by a new mother and father, or maybe someone meeting the newborn for the first time. You can’t help but kiss her soft little head.