7. — Jehovah saluting his Son

"I will declare the decree: the LORD (Jehovah) has said to Me, Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee" (Ps. 2:7)

In the New Testament we read of the Son of the Father, and in the Old Testament of the Son of Jehovah. The Father is the divine Name associated with God's love displayed in His family, and Jehovah is the Name associated with God's government of the world through the nation of Israel. Let us dwell a little on this difference in the presentation of the Son with special reference to Psalm 2.

The earlier communications of God to man did not disclose that "God is love." Old Testament days were a probationary period, particularly under the law, during which God was made known as the Governor of His people, Israel. The "fullness of the time" had not then arrived for God to send forth His Son, by Whom alone the Father's name could be manifested upon the earth.

But in those early days, the prophets cheered the hearts of the pious with visions of "good things to come." They declared what were the future purposes of God with regard to the blessing of the earth where sin and its fruits were then dominant, foretelling the introduction of a world-wide kingdom of righteousness and peace. Moreover, these prophets predicted that the Messiah or Anointed One, Who would establish this reign of terrestrial bliss, would first of all endure, as a prelude to His entrance into the appointed glories of His administration, unexampled sufferings (1 Peter 1:11; Luke 24:25-27).

There are many titles descriptive of the various kingdom-glories of Messiah the Prince used in the ancient prophecies, but they are all attached to Him Whose Name is the Son. God's eternal purpose which He purposed in Himself was to concentrate in the Christ the efficient administration of things in heaven and things on earth (Eph. 1:9-10). This vast governmental plan, fully made known in the New Testament, was but dimly revealed to the holy men of old.

Nevertheless, though a veil hung over many of the Messianic prophecies until Christ Himself should remove it, Jehovah made His settled purpose concerning His Son clear and definite. In the face of man's opposition, Jehovah's solemn decree was that He would set His own King in Zion to subdue the rebellious princes of the earth, and this Anointed Ruler is His Son. Such is the declaration in the second Psalm.

The Spirit's Testimony in the Second Psalm

The second Psalm supplies a remarkable witness to the Sonship of Jehovah's King Who is appointed to reign in Zion and to exercise His dominion to the ends of the earth. Again, as we have seen in John 3 and 5 and 17, the Son is the Speaker concerning Himself. To none would we listen with greater delight and confidence! None more competent than He to speak of Himself and things appertaining to the Godhead. As He said to the Pharisees, "Though I bear record of Myself, yet My record is true; for I know whence I came, and whither I go" (John 8:14).

Going back to the earlier record before the Incarnation, we find the Spirit of Christ in the Psalmist saying, "I will declare the decree: Jehovah has said to Me, Thou art My Son; I this day have begotten Thee." The "decree," which relates to the government of the world, is declared by the Speaker in the two verses that follow (8, 9); but in the words quoted the Speaker declares (1) that Jehovah addressed Him as "My Son;" and (2) that Jehovah had "begotten" Him "this day."

Setting aside for the moment many other corroborative testimonies from Holy Writ, we learn from this precious record alone that when the world rises up in revolt against Jehovah, He, in foreknowledge or in prophecy or in fact, looks with undisturbed complacency upon His Son, saying, "Thou art My Son." In Him was Jehovah's resource for the glory of His name in the righteous government of His enemies. Accordingly, Jehovah decreed that in the appointed "day" the Son should be "begotten" for the execution of this purpose of breaking down the power of the rebellious nations with a rod of iron.*

{*It is claimed by some that this verse supports the theory that the Sonship of Christ began at His incarnation, as if the words, "Thou art My Son," had no retrospective application. But an instance of a similar statement used with a retrospective scope occurs in Gen. 49:3. Dying Jacob, foretelling his family history, said to Reuben, "Thou art my firstborn." But Reuben had stood in this relationship to Jacob for many years. In the nature of this case, the father's words could not signify that he was bestowing primogeniture upon him at the moment of speech. If this is plainly not the case in Gen. 49:3, why should it be said that it must be the case in Ps. 2:7?}

The importance of the doctrine of this prophetic passage may be gauged by the fact that it is quoted no less than three times in the New Testament as a witness to the Sonship of God's Sent One (Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5; Heb. 5:5). It is desirable, therefore, to consider its meaning with the utmost care, seeking first of all to ascertain what is the subject of the Psalm in which it is found, and what light the context affords.

The Theme of the Second Psalm

We realize at once that the atmosphere of the second Psalm is altogether different from that of the Fourth Gospel. In John, we breathe the love and glory of God displayed by the Son in a world of death and darkness; but in David the wrath of God and His unsparing judgment of the rebellious potentates of the earth are committed to the Son. In John, we have grace and truth, in David anger and woe.

In both scriptures, God is seen acting by means of the Son, and in each of them the Son is presented in the character suited to the theme of the passage. The New Testament Gospel displays the Son given to reveal God's love to the world, and also the Father's love to those who receive His Son. But in the Old Testament Psalm, the Son is shown as the Executor of divine judgment upon the world which is in open revolt against Jehovah and His Anointed.

In both the earlier and the later revelations the Son enters the sphere of man's sin, but while in the later, man's darkness and evil are met by the brazen serpent of grace (John 3), in the earlier, man's enmity against God is subdued by the iron rod of righteousness (Ps. 2).

The theme, then, of the second Psalm is the subjugation of man's hostility to Jehovah and His Anointed by the crushing judgments of divine power. In connection with this scheme of government, it is revealed that the One Whom Jehovah salutes as His Son will possess the whole earth, and that the foes of the Lord will by Him be broken to shivers. The Son is here seen on the throne of Jehovah rather than in the bosom of the Father, as He is seen in the fourth Gospel.

The Structure of the Second Psalm

This Psalm is readily divisible, according to its subject, into four stanzas of three verses each, as follows: —

(1) The world's counsels against Jehovah (Ps. 2:1-3);

(2) Adonai's derision of man's plotting (Ps. 2:4-6);

(3) Jehovah's decree of universal rule for His Son (Ps. 2:7-9)

(4) Warning to kiss the Son before judgment comes (Ps. 2:10-12).

The World Alliance

(1) The first stanza (Ps. 2:1-3) predicts the coalition of Israel* and the nations in defiant resistance to the claims of Jehovah and His Anointed. The united counsel of the earthly powers is to break their bands and cast away their cords. This prediction had its fulfilment in the union of Jews and Gentiles to crucify the Messiah, Jehovah's Anointed, and was so quoted in the apostles prayer to the Lord (Acts 4:24-28). The evil alliance against Jehovah and His Christ foretold in this Psalm will have a further fulfilment in the future agreement between the apostate Jews and the head of the resuscitated fourth Gentile empire (Rev. 13).

{*It is to be noted that in this Psalm, Israel is viewed as submerged among the other nations, and not in the separateness Jehovah had given her. The conditions are those of utter moral disorder. The nation is regarded as "Lo-ammi" (Hosea 1:9). Jehovah no longer says, "Israel is My son" (Ex. 4:22; Hosea 11:1; Matt. 2:15). The Eternal Son takes Israel's place in the earth both as Son and as Servant (Isa. 42).}

The King on Zion's Hill

(2) This confederation of worldly powers to renounce all allegiance to Jehovah and His Christ is regarded with contempt (Ps. 2:4-6) by Adonai (Jehovah's title as "Lord of all the earth"). He will speak to them in His wrath from heaven (see Heb. 12:25-26), and in face of their organized hostility to Jehovah and His Anointed He will establish His King upon Zion, His mountain of holiness. Thus the "counsel" of man's might and wisdom comes to naught, and "the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:22) in the face of man's concerted insurrection against Him and His Christ has its fulfilment.

Sonship and Begetting

(3) In the third stanza (Ps. 2:7-9) , the Holy Spirit makes us privy to the deliberations of the divine council-chamber in respect of world-wide human evil. The Son declares the decree made for quelling the insurgents. No date is affixed to this solemn edict. Nor need we inquire When? and Where? The finite factors of time and locality do not apply to the decrees of God, which are formulated in eternity, whenever He may be pleased to reveal them to men: "known to God are all His works from the beginning of the world." Does any scripture deny that this utterance came to the Son "before the foundation of the world"? Did it not come to the Son before it came to David by the prophetic Spirit?

But whenever this decree was enunciated, the Son sets forth its terms in the words of Jehovah addressed to Himself. First, the dignity and competency of the Person to Whom the decree is committed are expressed in His Name; "Thou art My Son." The Son is the Name of Him appointed to execute judgment in the earth. It is ever the primary concern of the Holy Spirit that His essential glory should not seem to be diminished by the service He voluntarily undertakes.

In like manner, when the Lord Jesus is seen in New Testament vision about to "judge and make war," it is recorded amid the recital of His many governmental glories that "His Name is called The Word of God" (Rev. 19:13). What He becomes mediatorially is not allowed to conceal what He is essentially; unexpectedly, as it were, the Holy Spirit recalls our hearts to remember the personal glory of the Son, when He shall tread the winepress of the fury and wrath of God Almighty.

At the forefront of the decree, then, is the solemn affirmation of Sonship made by Jehovah to the Son Himself — the recognition of the Son as the absolute Interpreter of Jehovah's counsel and the consummate Doer of His will in government.

Secondly. We pass in the next sentence from eternity to time, for "day" is a measure of time, not of eternity: "this day have I begotten Thee." Now we undoubtedly have the incarnation of the Son. It is the Old Testament description corresponding with the New Testament ones "The Word became flesh"; the "Son made of a woman"; "that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."

Taking the two sentences in their sequence ("Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee"), their joint import seems to be that He Whom Jehovah, in timeless eternity, called His Son abode in that Filial relationship when begotten of Him in time: the Son then became incarnate, but maintained all that He had ever been as Son in the Godhead. If the truth had been otherwise, would not the order of the sentence have been inverted? Would not the act of begetting have preceded the salutation as Son, if He had become the Son by His incarnation? The order as it stands is highly significant.

Indeed the full truth and beauty of the Son's own communication of this celestial purpose for the tumultuous earth will be entirely missed unless we mark its ordered steps.

(i) First, we must note the sublime satisfaction of Jehovah beholding the Son in His changeless fullness: "Thou art My Son": He was His ineffable delight, His efficient resource, His eternal Fellow (Zech. 13:7). This expression of complacent regard by Jehovah for His Son is the basis of what follows in the next stanza concerning the government of the world.

The construction in verse 7 seems to be analogous to many other verses in the Psalms, though usually the speaker in those parallel cases is a pious saint. For example, the psalmist exclaims, "Thou art my God"; by faith he recognizes the power and goodness of God. Encouraged by the sight, he then resolves, "early will I seek Thee" (Ps. 63:1). His purpose to seek God was formed on the basis of what God was to him already.

(ii) Here, too, in verse 7, the order of thought is that the second clause (His begetting) arises out of, or on the basis of the first (His Sonship). Because He was the Son, He was able to subdue the evil of man to the glory of Jehovah; therefore, to this end, He was, in the appointed day or season, "begotten" among men: "this day have I begotten Thee." Moreover, when become flesh, the Blessed One was still the Son, as the voice from heaven declared, not once only but twice (Matt. 3:17; Matt. 17:5). This voice at Jordan and on the Mount was witness of His Sonship after incarnation, as the Psalm gives the divine testimony before it. Jehovah speaks to His Son in Psalm 2, as He also does to His Servant in Isa. 49.

The denial of the pre-incarnate Sonship of our beloved Lord is an effort to place shutters upon the windows of revelation, which look on His glory in the eternal past. But "no prophecy of scripture is of its own interpretation" (2 Peter 1:20, W.K.), and having in mind the revelation of the Absolute Deity of the Son made in other parts of scripture, we believe that the concurrent truth conveyed in this stanza of the Psalm is that the Speaker did not begin to be the Son at His incarnation, but that His Sonship was unimpaired by His humiliation. The Eternal Sonship, blessed be God, was true in the beginning, is now, and ever will be. The Son is the revealed Name expressive of His essential nature in the Deity and not only of His mediatorial office.

Begetting or generation is associated in scripture with incarnation of the Son, but is never attributed to the Holy Spirit, Who did not "become flesh." The much-used term, "eternal generation," applied to the Son is without scriptural warrant, for how could the Deity of the Son be derived from Another? or, how could the Eternal Sonship be bestowed by generation? But being the Son from all eternity, when born of the Virgin Mary, He could be called the Son of the Highest (Luke 1:32).

Begetting in this Psalm is descriptive of the manner of the introduction into this world of Jehovah's Son Who came as the legitimate King in Zion to possess the ends of the earth. Jehovah's Anointed One would be David's Son and David's Lord. Yet when Jesus asked the Pharisees, "What think ye of Christ? whose Son is He?" (Matt. 22:42) not one of them had faith to refer back to Jehovah's words to Him, "Thou art My Son," recorded in this Psalm. His Sonship and His lowliness awakened their hatred, not their homage, and, in consequence, their eyes were blinded.

The Request

(3) Jehovah invites His Son to ask for the heirship of the world: "Ask of Me, and I will give Thee nations for an inheritance, and for Thy possession the ends of the earth" (Ps. 2:8).

This invitation contains a description of the decreed office of universal supremacy assigned to Him as Jehovah's Anointed in answer to the tumultuous raging of mankind against His claims when He comes into the world (vers. 1-3).

A comparison of this verse with the Lord's words to the Father (in John 17:9) shows the difference already noted between the two dispensations of love and righteousness in connection with the Son. In the Psalm the world is in view; in the Gospel, those whom the Father has given to the Son "out of the world"; and the ways of God in government with the world were to be set aside for a while, and after the crucifixion of Christ and His ascension, the heavenly calling was to begin.

Consequently, at that point the Son does not prefer the request of Psalm 2. His heart is now set upon those to whom He will make known the Father's love. He says, "I request for them: not for the world do I request, but for those whom Thou hast given Me, for they are Thine (and all My things are Thine, and Thy things Mine), and I am glorified in them" (John 17:9-10, W.K.).

We cannot forbear quoting the following remarks on this instructive petition. "It is concerning the disciples He [the Son] makes request, not for Israel nor the nations, not for the land nor the earth at large. It is no question of taking up the world for government or blessing now: He is occupied with the joint-heirs, not with the inheritance as yet. By and by, as Psalm 2 lets us know, Jehovah will say, Ask of Me, and I will give [Thee] the heathen for Thine inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession.

"But then the Son will reign on His holy hill of Zion, instead of being rejected on earth and received up on high. Then, instead of sustaining the suffering family of God who bear His reproach here below and wait for heavenly glory with Him, He will break the nations with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. It will be, not the interval of the gospel as now, but the day of the kingdom in power and glory.

"Here the Lord is praying for His own as the precious gift of the Father to Himself, while cut off and having nothing that was promised Him here below; and He asks the more, because they were the Father's.

"But it may be well to say that this gives occasion for a parenthetic statement which lets out much of the light of His personal glory: 'and all My things are Thine, and Thy things Mine.' As the Son of David, the Messiah, could this reciprocity have been so expressed? Is it not evidently and only in virtue of His being the Eternal Son, one with the Father, that They have rights and interests no less boundless than common?" (Exposition of the Gospel of John, by W. Kelly).

The Warning, "Kiss the Son"

(4) There is given in the concluding stanza (Ps. 2:10-12) a general warning to kings and judges of the earth in respect to Jehovah and His Anointed, Whose authority they have despised (vers. 1-3). They are admonished to "serve Jehovah with fear," and to "kiss the Son, lest He be angry." To "kiss" is to do homage to the Son as the King of kings and Lord of lords; so Samuel kissed Saul when he was anointed king of Israel (1 Sam. 10:1); though himself a prophet he acknowledged the sovereignty conferred upon the son of Kish.

It is remarkable that in this phrase an unusual word is used in the original for "Son." In verse 7, the more frequent Hebrew word, ben, occurs, but in verse 12 it is bar. The latter is a Chaldaic or Aramaic form, found untranslated in some New Testament proper names, such as Bar-jona, Bar-tholomew, and others. In the Old Testament, bar is translated "son" in Ezra 5:1-2; Ezra 6:14; Dan. 5:22.

But in view of the infallible precision of scripture in its jots and tittles, the question arises why this exceptional term, bar, is employed in the address to the nations (ver. 12), while the more regular term, ben, is used by Jehovah in addressing His Son (ver. 7). The inspired variation must be due to an important distinction. And the explanation seems to be that the latter, ben, correctly expresses the Son in the glory of His essential Being in the eyes of Jehovah, as the former, bar, expresses with equal correctness His Sonship as seen by the world when He, the Son of man, is manifested in the glory of His kingdom.

If elsewhere we find bar applied to the Lord as the Governor of the nations, this interpretation of it will be corroborated. And we do find it so applied in Daniel's vision of the Messianic kingdom which will eventually supersede the four great Gentile kingdoms. The prophet sees the Son of man come to the Ancient of days to receive an everlasting kingdom over all peoples, and bar is the word for Son in the passage describing what he saw (Dan. 7:13-14). As the subject of the prophecy agrees with that of the Psalm, the occurrence of bar in both scriptures is highly significant.

Once again we find the word in Daniel. The One walking in the fiery furnace with the three Hebrews is described as "like the Son of God" (Dan. 3:25). Here also bar is the word rendered "Son."* In all three cases, the special word is connected with the times of Gentile supremacy. How gracious the admonition to the nations, "Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way"! For when the Son of man shall come in His glory, all nations shall be gathered before the throne of His glory for judgment; and who shall escape "when His wrath is kindled but a little"? (Matt. 25:31-46).

{*The use of bar for Son in these places is the more striking, because in other passages where the title, "Son of man," occurs, as in Ps. 8:4; Ps. 144:3, bar is not used, but ben.}

We find then in this Psalm a testimony by Jehovah to the Absolute Sonship of Him Who was begotten in time that He might as the Son of man inherit the earth, ruling the riotous peoples with a rod of iron and blessing all those that put their trust in Him.

"Hosanna to the King of kings,
The great Incarnate Word,
Ten thousand songs and glories wait
The coming of our Lord.

"Thy victories and Thine endless fame
Through the wide world shall run
And everlasting ages sing
The triumphs Thou hast won."