New Testament Use of the Second Psalm: Chapter 8

Psalm 2  •  17 min. read  •  grade level: 11
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WE have already considered the Psalmist's remarkable testimony to the Sonship of Jehovah's Anointed One, recorded in the words of the Son Himself concerning Himself: "I will declare the decree: Jehovah hath said unto Me, Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee." First, Jehovah makes the unqualified acknowledgment ("Thou art My Son") of a timeless relationship in the Deity, existing before the foundation of the world. Then, Jehovah says next, “This day have I begotten Thee.” In this clause He specifies an epoch or a point of time, “this day” in which the Son's birth takes place.
Jehovah's King, therefore, was Jehovah's Son before He was begotten in time, and appeared among men to establish Zion's long-promised kingdom of righteousness and peace. This Anointed One came into the house and lineage of David by no ordinary procedure. And while He was truly the Son of David because Mary, of David's royal line, was “found with child of the Holy Ghost,” He was with equal truth David's Lord (Adonai) because He was Jehovah's Son from all eternity. As born into the world, He was that Son; while before that birth He was the Son, a fact which could be true of no creature, and of none beside Himself. Compare Psa. 110:11<<A Psalm of David.>> The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. (Psalm 110:1), and Matt. 22:41-4641While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David. 43He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, 44The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? 45If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? 46And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions. (Matthew 22:41‑46).
The truth of the eternal Sonship bestows an exalted and incomparable character upon the Messiahship of the Lord Jesus, and the fact of His personal glory as Son of Jehovah aggravated Israel's sin of rejecting Him beyond description. The Messiah sent to them was not only Jehovah's Servant, Whose exceptional dignity and excellence Isaiah depicts, but Jehovah's Son, as David by the Spirit testifies in this Second Psalm. Jehovah sent Him as Servant to collect the fruit of the vineyard, but as His Son to receive the reverence of the husbandmen, saying, "They will reverence My Son" (Matt. 21:3737But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. (Matthew 21:37)) But in wicked unbelief, the nation despised the Sent One as Servant and crucified Him as Son.
Parabolically, was not the Sent One the Son of the Lord of the vineyard before He was despatched on His errand? Was He not in the parable presented as the Son abiding in reserve till other lesser means had been tried with the husbandmen, and had failed? Most truly so; He came to them, not as a Son newly become such and provided for the occasion, but in His own inherent personal right. This the husbandmen knew, for they said, "This is the heir; come let us kill Him." And their crime against the Son, not the murder of the Lord's servants from Abel to Zacharias, was the specific cause of the wrath of God, that fell upon them to the uttermost (Matt. 21:33-41; 23:34-3633Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: 34And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. 35And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. 36Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. 37But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. 38But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. 39And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. 40When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? 41They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. (Matthew 21:33‑41)
34Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: 35That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. 36Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. (Matthew 23:34‑36)
We will now look at the citations of Psa. 2:77I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. (Psalm 2:7) found in the New Testament, and, by marking the connection in which the passage is quoted, seek to discover the special significance of the prophetic words as they are there brought forward. The passage is once quoted by Paul in a spoken discourse to Jews in the synagogue at Antioch (Acts 13:3333God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. (Acts 13:33)) and twice by him in his Epistle to Hebrew confessors of Christ (Heb. 1:5; 5:55For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? (Hebrews 1:5)
5So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. (Hebrews 5:5)
). In all three cases we shall find that the purpose of the quotation is to establish the Sonship of the Messiah on the basis and authority of the divine utterance recorded in the Second Psalm. The One Whom God sent, not only came to exercise His mediatorial functions as the Begotten-One of Jehovah, but came as Son in His own personal right possessed before the day of His incarnation. Oh, how great the sin to refuse such a Sent One as He!
(1)God's Promises Are Fulfilled in the Son
Paul announced to the congregation of Jews in the synagogue at Antioch that God had brought to Israel, of the seed of David, a Savior Jesus (Acts 13:2323Of this man's seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus: (Acts 13:23)). He then showed that though the nation rejected and slew Him, God had raised Him from the dead, and that now there was forgiveness, and also justification for all those who believe.
But a brief examination of the structure of the apostle's discourse shows that his appeal to the audience rested upon the fact that Jesus is the Son of God, which truth was from the first the special feature of Paul's ministry (Acts 9:2020And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. (Acts 9:20)) in distinction from Peter's preaching which set forth that the crucified Nazarene had been glorified in heaven.
The Structure of Paul's Address
After alluding to the Jewish national history from the land of Egypt to the reign of David, the apostle declared that the raising up of Jesus was the actual fulfillment of God's promise of a Savior for them. He referred to three main historical facts concerning Christ:—
The Quotation of Old Testament Scripture
Having thus briefly stated in Acts 13:24-3124When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose. 26Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent. 27For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him. 28And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. 29And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre. 30But God raised him from the dead: 31And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people. (Acts 13:24‑31) what was true historically, the apostle in Acts 13:32-3732And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, 33God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. 34And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. 35Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. 36For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: 37But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption. (Acts 13:32‑37) applied to two out of these three facts the light of the Spirit's witness in the Old Testament. Passing over (1) the prophecies of old relating to the Baptist as the forerunner of the Savior, he adduced the written witness of the divine oracles to the personal glory of Jesus Whom God had raised up. (2) In Jesus, said the apostle, was the fulfillment of the promise: “as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee “(Acts 13:3333God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. (Acts 13:33)).
Mark now, in the light of this preceding context, the force of Paul's exhortation which follows: "Be it known unto you, therefore, men and brethren, that through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins..." (Acts 13:3838Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: (Acts 13:38)).
The index-finger of the inspired -speaker was pointing to "this Man." Paul was setting forth One to Whom, as he showed, both recent history and ancient prophecy had witnessed. It was recent history that Jesus was born in the city of David, was hanged on a tree outside Jerusalem, and was laid in the sepulcher of Joseph of Arimathea. This was the apostle's brief description of the “raising up” of the One in Whom the promises of God were Yea and Amen, and of the manner of His reception by those to whom He came.
But what had the Psalmist said concerning the Messianic King? David recorded to His praise an echo of His personal glory out of the timeless past. Before all worlds Jehovah had saluted the Coming One. Jehovah did not say to Him, "Thou art My King," or "Thou art My Anointed," and thus, because of the majesty of the Giver, magnify the mediatorial and governmental office given Him, but Jehovah said to Him, "Thou art My Son," dwelling only upon His personal relation in the Deity.
We learn from the doctrine of the Incarnation as it is foreshadowed in this verse of the Psalm that the Person gives unique dignity to the office. When the Son becomes the Servant, how His service is magnified, even though attended by the cross and the grave! Let us consider this word of prophecy a little further.
The Application of the Second Psalm
The apostle, by this quotation, established the identity of “this Man,” Whom he was announcing, with Jehovah's Son, foretold by the Spirit. The One Whom God “raised up” to fulfill His promise had been personally indicated in this prophecy. The Jesus of the Gospels is the Son of the Second Psalm. Jesus, "of the seed of David according to the flesh," was the Son of Jehovah in His own proper, personal, and underived nature, to Whom Jehovah said, "Thou art My Son."
It will be observed that the second member of Psa. 2:77I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. (Psalm 2:7), "this day have I begotten Thee," also bears with illuminating effect upon the fulfillment of the promise made to the people of Israel. As the first part intimated Who would fulfill the promise (the "Son"), so the second part shows the manner of its fulfillment (His incarnation). The fulfillment of the promise is plainly declared to be in His “raising up.” concerning Christ and His work. Standing at the head of that noble line of unimpeachable testimony is Jehovah's own utterance to Him: “Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee" (Heb. 1:55For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? (Hebrews 1:5)).
By these words quoted from the holy oracles in the opening statement of the Epistle, it is proved that God has last of all " spoken to us [in the person of the] Son " (Heb. 1:1, 21God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; (Hebrews 1:1‑2)). One had now appeared Who inherits the "more excellent name" of Son, and therefore takes precedence of them all. Others among His predecessors had borne the title of prophet or priest or king. Angels, too, had been intermediaries of divine communications, and that One, more distinguished than them all, "the Angel of Jehovah," had at times spoken to men in the past. But now, God has spoken to us in the Son.
Angels Superior to Man but Inferior to the Son
We know that in the various grades of created beings the angels have a status superior to that of man (Psa. 8:55For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor. (Psalm 8:5)). Is Jesus Christ to be ranked in the angelic order? Nay, the Holy Spirit will not permit such a debasing thought even to arise in our hearts through lack of instruction. He witnesses of the Lord Jesus that, having made purification of sins, He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high, become "so much better than the angels, as He hath inherited a name more excellent than they" (W.K.). The Son has become “much better” now, as in the past His name was “more excellent," than the highest dignitaries of the heavenly host.
This testimony, like that of Stephen's, is concerning Jesus Who is now in the glory of God. He Who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death is now exalted, “angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him” (1 Peter 2:2222Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: (1 Peter 2:22)). But along with this glorious investiture on high, and “seated at the right hand of the Majesty” there, far above angels, the Holy Spirit couples His intrinsic worth founded upon the truth of His Person and Name. His Name, Son, exists before all titles, and is the basis on which the titles rest for comparative dignity.
The Son has "become so much better than the angels," not merely by reason of the acquired glories attendant upon the eternal redemption He has obtained for us, but by reason of what He is essentially in contrast with all the angels. He has “inherited a more excellent name than they." He possesses in His own personal right the name of Son, which angels do not. No doubt, the “more excellent name," besides “Son,” includes "God" and "Jehovah," as shown later in the chapter (Heb. 1:8, 108But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. (Hebrews 1:8)
10And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: (Hebrews 1:10)
), but we are just now considering the first only of these names.
The "Excellence" of Non-Creation
What then is the peculiar "excellence" or superiority of the name, "Son," as belonging to God's Spokesman? Taken in the sense of derivation by creation, “son” is elsewhere applied to the angels (Job 2: 1; 48:7). They, in virtue of their origin as intelligent beings and " ministering spirits," appointed to the service of heaven (Psa. 103:2020Bless the Lord, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word. (Psalm 103:20)), are as a class described as the sons of God, Who "is a Spirit." The One presented in Heb. 1 is Son also, but we are warned by the Holy Spirit that in His case it has a significance of pre-eminence that theirs has not. He is the Son in His own eternal right, while the angels are sons by reason of the status and functions assigned to them as created spirits in the scheme of creation. They as sons to a father, owe their intelligent existence to God, as creatures to the Creator.
The corroborative quotation made from the Second Psalm establishes the immeasurable superiority of the Eternal Son above all the angels, though they be called “sons of God.” “For unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee?” Jehovah saluted the Son as Son in the eternal immutable relations of the Deity. No angel, not even the greatest in this most exalted order of created beings, was ever addressed by God in such a manner.
To Adam who was a son of God by divine inbreathing or to an angel who was a son of God as a created spirit, God might say, after he was brought into being, "Thou art My son"; but it seems incredible that God should say this to either of them before he came into the sphere of creation. Yet Jehovah could and did address His own Son in this manner. And the entire force of the quotation from the Psalm depends upon its unique application to the Son, Who was the Eternal Son without begetting, and of Whom it was, therefore, true before His begetting in time as the Incarnate Son.
By this conclusive witness, the personal glory of the One in Whom God has spoken is maintained. The Son does not differ from the angels merely in degree, as an archangel might differ from the hosts of angels he governs; the immeasurable difference is that which lies between the Eternal Uncreated Son and those who became the sons of God by their creation. And when the Son is “begotten " in time, and is made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, His eternal relationship of Son in the Deity remains unimpaired. He does not acquire the name of Son by reason of the mediatorial functions assigned to Him, but inherits and retains it in His own personal right.
(3) the Eternal Sonship and the Priesthood
Psa. 2:77I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. (Psalm 2:7) is a powerful witness to the Eternal Personality of the Son and of His incarnation as the Christ. In Heb. 1 the passage is cited in connection with the One in Whom God has come down and spoken to us; it is again cited in Heb. 5:55So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. (Hebrews 5:5), but here in connection with our approach to God, for which we need the priesthood of Christ. “Jesus, the Son of God," is the Apostle and High Priest of our confession: as Apostle He has come from God to us, and fully declared Him: as High Priest, we come unto God by Him. He is God and man in one Person, and He is therefore unique in His competency to represent both God to man and man to God. This twofold truth in its divine fullness is the special topic presented variously in this Epistle.
In Heb. 5 the subject is the induction of Christ into the office of priesthood, considered in relation with Aaron's. God made the appointments to the Levitical office, choosing Aaron as the head of the priestly line. No one took the honor of priesthood to himself, as Korah sought to do. Neither did our Lord usurp this office. In His subjection to God's authority, Christ Jesus was perfect. “Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience" in all things.
In the matter of assuming the office of priesthood, His submissiveness was manifest also. “Thus the Christ also glorified not Himself to be made high priest, but He that spake unto Him, Thou art My Son; I today have begotten Thee; even as He saith also in another [place], Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek " (W.K.) Christ did not glorify Himself to the priesthood, but was glorified to that office by Another, and to a priestly office superior in its "order" to that of Aaron.
Why Are There Two Quotations From the Psalms?
Who, then, glorified Him? The two passages cited in Heb. 5:5, 65So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. 6As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. (Hebrews 5:5‑6) from the Psalms (2. and 110.) combine to show that Jehovah made this appointment. It was Jehovah Who said to Him, “Thou art My Son," and also “Thou art a Priest." In the case of Aaron, Jehovah said to Moses, “Take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother... that he may minister unto Me in the priest's office” (Ex. 28:11And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron's sons. (Exodus 28:1)). But in glorifying Christ there was no mediator, for Jehovah spoke direct to His Son, saying, "Thou art a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek."
This verse from Psa. 110 appears to be quoted with express reference to the preceding statement that “Christ glorified not Himself to be made an high priest." Why, then, is the quotation from Psa. 2 interposed? Is not the Holy Spirit citing His own witness in the Second Psalm to those personal glories of the Son which were antecedent to His priesthood? Before saluting Him as High Priest, Jehovah had in eternity addressed Him as “My Son." And before He was made High Priest, He was “begotten” in the fullness of time, becoming the Incarnate Son. In His incarnation He is named Jesus; in His own proper Person, His Eternal Name is the Son of God; and, blending these glories, it is "Jesus, the Son of God," Who is our Great High Priest exalted above the heavens (Heb. 4:1414Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. (Hebrews 4:14)).
Brief Summary
We have endeavored, in the light of the context in which each of the four occurrences of Psa. 2:77I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. (Psalm 2:7) is found, to ascertain the special significance of this profound passage. As the pure gold woven into the ephod of the high priest gave unity, strength, value, and permanence to the whole texture, so the truth of the Eternal Sonship is in these fourfold testimonies closely and inextricably woven together with Jehovah's Begotten One. Like His seamless coat, His divine and human glories may be said to be "woven from the top."
(1) In the Second Psalm, Jehovah commits the righteous government of the insurgent world-kingdoms to His Anointed King, Who is His Son in absolute personal relationship, and in due season Jehovah begets Him that His Incarnate Son may sit on His holy hill of Zion in supreme governmental power and glory.
(2)In Acts 13, the theme is the fulfillment of the Davidic promises in “Jesus” Whom God raised up, sending Him to His own people, who rebelliously crucified Him. The Person Who came is He of Whom the Psalmist wrote. “Jesus," Whom the chosen nation had crucified, was Jehovah's Son and Jehovah's Begotten One, in accordance with that witness from their own oracles.
(3)In Heb. 1, the personal glories of the One in Whom God now speaks are unfolded in view of the disappearance of the temporary Mosaic system, “ordained by angels." The Son is in exalted contrast with angels, inasmuch as He is addressed as “My Son “by the One Who alone knew the personal relations subsisting in the Deity eternally.
(4)In Heb. 5, it is shown that Christ is called or saluted of God a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, an order not successional like the Aaronic. To this order the suffering and obedient Christ is glorified in virtue of His Eternal Sonship, which is verified by Psa. 2:77I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. (Psalm 2:7), where both His pre-incarnate glory and His advent in flesh are presented for the faith and adoration of those who confess His Name.