The Anointing of the Messiah King, Son of God, Son of Mary
THE first psalm introduces the collection of 150 psalms, as though it were the first part of a preface, whose second part is the second psalm. This diptych already expresses the whole Messianic, that is to say, royalist, faith and hope, as well as a most pure love of God that rekindles our own love for Him today, seven times each day, to the rhythm of Divine Office.
- Why do the nations tremble, and the peoples murmur inanities ?
- The kings of the earth take up position, and its rulers unite against Yahweh and His Anointed, saying,
- « Let us break their shackles asunder, and cast off their yoke ! »
- He who is enthroned in the heavens laughs; Adonai holds them in ridicule.
- Then He speaks to them with wrath, and He terrifies them with His fury, saying :
- « I have anointed My king on Zion, My holy Mountain. »
- I will proclaim the decree of Yahweh. He said to Me : « You are My Son, today I have begotten You.
- « Ask of Me, and I will make the nations Your heritage, and the ends of the earth Your possession.
- « You shall shepherd them with a sceptre of iron, and smash them like a potter’s vessel. »
- Now therefore, O kings, be wise; learn, O judges of the earth.
- Serve Yahweh with fear, and thrill with joy.
- Kiss the Son, lest He be angry and you lose your way; for His wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.
The first verse places opposite the man who « murmurs » Yahweh’s Law day and night, and who is praised by the first psalm (Ps 1.2), these people who « murmur »… what ? « Inanities » ! rîq. Opposite Yahweh’s Law, the wisdom of Israel, there is nothing but inanity !
1. Why do the nations tremble and the peoples murmur inanities ?
Verse 2 describes a symmetrical coalition, and parallel to that of the « counsel » held by the ungodly at the beginning of the first psalm, seated on the « bench of scoffers. » (Ps 1.1) :
2. The kings of the earth take up position, and its rulers unite against Yahweh and His Anointed.
« The kings and rulers » : the same expression designates the authorities of the Holy Land in the Book of Proverbs. Wisdom personified speaks and says : « By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just, and all the judges of the [Holy] Land are ennobled. » (Pr 8.15) The psalm describes, therefore, a revolt of these authorities against the Messiah, the son of David.
Who is referred to here ? The history of Israel is replete with these leagues of kings and rulers neighbouring Jerusalem, generally stirred up by the King of Samaria, the capital of the schismatic kingdom of the North. He entered into alliances with foreigners against the legitimate successor of David, King of Jerusalem, the « Anointed » of Yahweh, in Hebrew the « Messiah », in Greek « Christ », son of David. As in the time of King Jehoshaphat when, assailed by a horde of invaders, he implored Yahweh : « You who are God in Heaven, You who rule over all the kingdoms of the nations »; he hears the voice of a Levite reply to him : « O Judah and Jerusalem, fear not, and be not dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, and Yahweh will be with you. » (2 Ch 20.6 and 17)
Likewise, Chapter 7 of the Book of Isaiah tells of a coalition of the kings of Damascus and Samaria in 734 BC. In order to give courage to Jerusalem and to His « Anointed », King Ahaz, Yahweh sent the prophet Isaiah to announce to him that a Virgin would conceive a marvellous Child, to whom She would give the name Emmanuel « God with us » (Is 7.14).
In the light of these ancient events, the psalmist clarifies a new but parallel situation.
3. « Let us break their shackles asunder, and cast off their yoke ! »
The « shackles » that the members of the coalition want to break are the « bonds of love » with which Yahweh led His people when they were children, before the schism of the ten tribes, according to the prophet Hosea : « Yet it was I who taught Ephraim [the personification of the ten tribes that seceded after the time of Solomon] to walk, I took them up in my arms. » At that time, Israel was like a child in God’s arms. « I led them with cords of compassion, with the bonds of love. » (Hos 11.4) It is these « cords of compassion » that the members of the coalition want to break today as though they were « shackles » on their freedom !
And as for the « yoke » that they profess to abhor : « Ephraim is a well-trained heifer that loves to thresh the grain; but I will lay a yoke on her fine neck, I shall put Ephraim into harness, Israel will have to plough, Jacob must draw the harrow. »
To cultivate what ? Justice : « Sow justice for yourselves, reap a harvest of steadfast love; break up your fallow ground : it is time to seek out Yahweh, until He comes to rain justice down on you. » (Hos 10.11-12)
But if one breaks the « shackles », the harnessing and the « yoke », no harvest is possible !
A hundred years after Hosea, Jeremiah would apply the same images to Jerusalem herself : « It is long ago now since you broke your yoke, burst your bonds and said : “ I will not serve ! ” » (Jr 2.20) The Psalmist repeats Jeremiah’s terms and attacks in particular the « great men », that is, the authorities : « I shall go, then, to the great and speak to them, for they knew Yahweh’s way and the law of their God. But these, too, have cast off the yoke and have broken the bonds. » (Jr 5.5) How can we not note how topical these prophetic oracles and the psalms are for modern-day France, the « tribe of Judah of the New Alliance », as St. Pius X referred to it !
One day Yahweh gave this order to Jeremiah : « Make yourself thongs and a yoke and put them on your neck », and God sent him to deliver His oracle to the kings of Edom and Moab, to the kings of Tyre and Sidon : « Any nation or kingdom that will not serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and will not bow its neck to the yoke of the king of Babylon, I shall punish that nation with sword, famine and plague. » (Jr 27.8)
In the final analysis, these « kings » and these « rulers » who rebelled against Yahweh and against His Anointed at the time when this second psalm was being written, are simultaneously those of Samaria and Jerusalem and their neighbouring kingdoms. Already in the time of Isaiah, Ahaz himself was rebellious, like a heifer restive under the yoke, by refusing the « sign » that God wanted to give him of His protection : the sign of the Virgin who was to bring forth a Son (Is 7.14). This is exactly what we are reliving today.
4. He who is enthroned in the heavens laughs; Adonai holds them in ridicule.
Father de Foucauld enjoyed great comfort in seeing God laugh at this coalition of peoples !
« To forget oneself in the joy of Your glory, this is what the first verses of this psalm teach us. » (Meditations on the Psalms, Nouvelle cite, 2002, p. 46)
Sixty years later, Fr. de Nantes wrote to his friends : « This psalm provides a better explanation of the senseless disorder of events than does the morning newspaper. Godless men confront one another, even the leaders of Christian France are all enemies of the Church ! This yoke that they intend to throw off, it is the one of which Jesus Christ said : “ Learn from Me; for I am meek and humble of Heart; take My yoke upon you, for My yoke is sweet, and My burden light. ” » (Letter to my Friends no 2, November 1956)
In the Psalm 2, the roles are reversed from what they were in Psalm 1, where those who are « seated » are the scoffers, the ungodly who deride the Just. Here it is Adonai who is « seated » on His throne, who laughs and scoffs at the undertakings of the ungodly. The New Testament will teach us that this revolt makes Him suffer, to the point of dying from it. But we have not reached this point. We are four centuries before Jesus Christ, as we are going to say. God scoffs, just as Wisdom personified derides those who scorn His counsel and His reproof. (Pr 1.26)
5. Then He speaks to them with wrath, and He terrifies them with His fury, saying :
One must not translate, as the Jerusalem Bible does, « in His anger », « in His rage », because it has just been said that God « laughs » ! God does not change moods as we do… It is merely a mechanism for addressing them that He uses the tone of anger; it is by means of His rage that He strikes them with terror. A traditional theme, it expresses here the jealous love of Yahweh for Jerusalem : « Yahweh Sabaoth says this : I have been burning with jealousy for Zion, with tremendous wrath for her sake. Yahweh Sabaoth says this. I am coming back to Zion and shall live in the heart of Jerusalem. Jerusalem will be called Faithful City and the mountain of Yahweh Sabaoth, the Holy Mountain. » (Zc 8.2)
And what does He say to them with a tone of anger ?
6. « I have anointed My king on Zion, My holy Mountain. »
This is the divine reply to the kings of the coalition who planned to mount an attack on Judah and to install a usurper as king :
« Let us mount an attack on Judah, destroy it, force it onto our side and install the son of Tabeel there as king. The Lord Yahweh says this : This will not happen, it will never occur. » (Is 7.6-7)
Even today this is God’s reply to all the “ presidents ” of the planet in revolt against Him : You will never succeed in establishing your Society of Nations outside Christ. To the political project of the kings of Samaria and Damascus, God opposed in bygone days the « sign » of the Virgin who was to bring forth a Son, « Emmanuel », « God with us » (Is 7.14), a sign of God’s victory over all His enemies. The Psalmist continues the parallel with the oracle of Isaiah. But, according to his new oracle, the Child is born of God, which is not in contradiction with His being born of the Virgin; on the contrary. And it is this Divine Child who speaks :
7. I will proclaim the decree of Yahweh.
He said to Me : « You are My Son, today I have begotten You.
This « today » is the « Day of Yahweh », « Day of Wrath » (Zp 1.14-18; Jl 2.1-2), considered to be contemporary and coinciding with the coming of the royal Messiah whom the prophets Isaiah and Micah heralded. For, a novelty, revealed by the inspired Scribe, the author of the Book of Proverbs, this « today » is already there from the beginning of creation : « From eternity I was consecrated, from the beginning, from the origins of the earth. » (Pr 8.23) says personified Wisdom, pre-existing at the side of God the Creator.
For centuries, the Church has attributed this prosopopoeia to the Virgin, Our Lady.
« I was consecrated », that is marked with the unction of the Spirit of God, She says after having claimed for Herself the Seven Gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, fear of the Lord, and piety (cf. Is 11.2; Pr 8. 12-14).
For we know that the Blessed Virgin is the sanctuary, the vessel of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
To speak as St. Paul does (Hb 1.5), to which of the kings of Judah did God ever say : « You are My Son; today I have begotten You » ? But He said to personified, pre-existent Wisdom : You are my Daughter, because She proclaims it : « When the deeps existed not, I was born. » (Pr 8.24) What a mystery this is !
Thanks to Wisdom, the Messianic hope of the Psalmist remains alive, that is to say, his “ royalist ” faith in a time in which there was no longer a king in Israel. All the fervour of Jerusalem’s faithful Yahwists was transferred to this mysterious Wisdom who pre-existed at the side of God, who is none other than the Virgin, and who was to bring forth a Son announced by the Prophet Isaiah.
Yahweh’s decree continues, addressing His Anointed, His Messiah, His Christ :
8. « Ask of Me, and I will make the nations Your heritage, and the ends of the earth Your possession.
King Ahaz, in his rebellion against Yahweh, had refused to ask for the sign that the Prophet Isaiah proposed to him : « I will not ask. I will not put Yahweh to the test. » (Is 7.12) In the same way, the Pope today refuses to obey Heaven through the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who alone is capable of putting an end to international war.
As for the Son, He demands and obtains from Yahweh, His Father, His inheritance, not only Israel, Yahweh’s traditional heritage from the beginning of the Covenant, but the « nations ». This noteworthy change had been announced by the Unknown of the Exile in the second song of the Servant :
« It is not enough for you to be My servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel. I shall make You a light to the nations so that My salvation may reach the remotest parts of the earth. » (Is 49.6)
9. « You shall shepherd them with a sceptre of iron, and smash them like a potter’s vessel. »
For crook, the Messiah receives « a sceptre of iron » the insignia of His kingship, as Judah had received as an inheritance from his father Jacob : « The sceptre shall not pass from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until the coming of Him to whom it belongs, to whom the peoples render obedience. » (Gn 49.10)
Consequently, the King would indeed come from Judea, according to the prophesy quoted by Herod’s scribes at the time of the visit of the Magi : « He will shepherd them with the power of Yahweh. » (Mi 5.3)
This King would shepherd his flock with fairness :
« He will judge the weak with justice and give fair sentence for the humblest in the land. He will strike the country with the rod of His mouth and with the breath of His lips bring death to the wicked. » (Is 11.4)
« You shall smash them » : the Psalmist repeats here in order to apply to the Messiah the oracle of the Book of Jeremiah concerning Israel, the hammer of Yahweh :
« You were my hammer, a weapon of war. With you I crushed nations, struck kingdoms down. » (Jr 51.20 ff.) Broken « like a potter’s vessel » that is, in an irreparable way; for « Yahweh Sabaoth says this : I am going to break this people and this city just as one breaks a potter’s vessel, so that it can never be mended again. » (Jr 19.11)
It is therefore most serious. The Jews who recited these psalms were fully warned. So the Messiah issued a solemn warning :
10. Now therefore, O kings, be wise; learn, O judges of the earth.
What is required of the kings is that they understand God’s design, that they be « wise ». Today we could repeat this in vain to our democratic heads of State ! The Hebrew verb means to have intelligence of the divine things promised to the Messiah by the Prophet Jeremiah : « Behold, the days are coming, Yahweh declares, when I shall raise an upright seed for David; he will reign as true king and be wise. » (Jr 23.5)
The « judges of the earth », for example, Gideon, Samson, Deborah, were “ charismatic leaders" : they were not judges who rendered justice, but “ dictators ” who governed the people through a grace, a charism received for a temporary mission, at a time when there were not yet kings in Israel. But here, knowing that the Psalmist is writing after the time of the Exile, at a time when there is no longer a king (cf. our commentary of Psalm 1), who is meant ? Men of God such as Zorobabel, Ezra, Nehemiah ?
The only constructive reply that can be made to this question is to consider that this ancient oracle is, in the mouth of our holy Mother the Church, an admonition to our present world of the necessity of converting before it is too late, as our Father recalled in a sermon for Christmas 1992 :
« For in God, the wrath of His offended Holiness, the Mercy of His ever faithful Heart, as it were wrestle to see which of them will triumph over the other : Justice in its rigour or Mercy in all its gentleness. This prophet questions himself and, we shall discover that he speaks in the name of Christ. »
11. Serve Yahweh with fear, and thrill with joy.
Contrary to the “ non serviam ” of the kings of the earth united against Yahweh (v. 3), the « judges of the earth » are invited to add to the fear of Yahweh a thrill of cheerfulness contrasting with the trembling of the pagans (v. 1), identical to the messianic joy proclaimed by the prophet Zechariah :
« Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion ! Shout for joy, daughter of Jerusalem ! Look, your King is approaching, He is vindicated and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. »
The oracle of Zechariah is generally dated from the conquest of Alexander, interpreted by the prophet as a deed of Yahweh that is a prelude to the messianic era.
The Evangelists relate how the Apostles saw this oracle fulfilled on Palm Sunday.
12. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry and you lose your way; for His wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.
The conclusion is in accord with that of Psalm 1 : « The way of the ungodly will perish. » (Ps 1.6) The psalmist insists so that we chose correctly, so as to not to go off the straight and narrow like the ungodly or the nations in revolt against God, so as not to incur divine wrath, which will make them disappear for good.
« Kiss the Son », The Psalmist’s recommendation leaves the exegetes who do not understand it at a loss ! One must admit that it is surprising, for the Bible is not replete with effusions of this sort ! It is in fact an act of adoration, of homage, of reverence towards the Messiah; it is a liturgical rite, similar to the kiss of peace that the brothers of the community give to a new novice on the day of his clothing. This « kiss » is a part of the ceremonial of the anointing of the Messiah. Samuel kissed Saul in this manner after having anointed him on Yahweh’s behalf « as prince of His heritage. » (1 S 10.1) The beloved of the Song of Songs yearns even more for this kiss : « Ah, why are you not my brother, nursed at my mother’s breast ! Then if I met you out of doors, I could kiss you without people thinking ill of me. » (Sg 8.1)
This is why the blessing of « those who take refuge in Him » is really the final word of the psalm, similar to the blessing of Ruth the Moabite by Booz :
« May Yahweh repay you for what you have done, and may you be richly rewarded by Yahweh, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge ! » (Rt 2.12)
The link with the second part of the Book of Zechariah permits one to date this psalm from the conquest of Alexander, after the battle of Issus (333), which perturbed the peoples of the region. The Kingdoms of the North then fomented a schismatic revolt against Jerusalem, which led to the BC.
This revolt of the Samaritans can be put into parallel with the princes of Damascus and Samaria, three hundred years earlier. It provides the Psalmist with the opportunity of arousing hope in the advent of the Messiah promised to Jerusalem, even though there is no longer a king of David’s lineage and despite the defection of the false brothers, because there still is the promise made by Isaiah to Ahaz : « Behold, the Virgin is with child, and will bring forth a Son and She will give Him the name Emmanuel » (Is 7.14) This name means « God is with us. » And because « God is with us », the peoples in revolt against God and His Anointed are warned of their certain defeat : « Devise plans as you may : they will come to nothing ! Make what pronouncements you like; it will not come about ! For “ God is with us. ” » (Is 8.10)
The plan to « break » the « shackles » of Yahweh and of His Anointed (v. 2), expressed in « a discourse that will not come about » (v. 3), will itself be broken by the « sceptre of iron » of the Messiah and the oracle of Yahweh. This rod is all the more unwavering given that the Messiah, the “ son of David ” to come, is revealed by the inspired scribe to be the very “ Son of God ”, God Himself, « God with us ».
This oracle will be literally fulfilled at the Baptism, which was the Anointing of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the waters of the Jordan. « And a voice came from Heaven : “ You are My Son; today I have begotten You ” » (Lk 3.21-22) St. John the Baptist thought for a time that Jesus was going to come with His mace of iron to crush all the nations. He was surprised at the gentleness and of the mercy of his cousin. If God gave Him the nations with the power to exercise divine justice, but not in a dreadful carnage, it is because He has a different design, which is one of Redemption and Salvation.
Brother Bruno of Jesus
He is risen ! n° 20, April 2004