The Counsel of the Wicked
We are in the midst of a short series focused on the psalms, and part of my goal is to help us understand how the entire Five Books of Psalms are organized and what purpose God intends for them to have in our lives. We discovered from Psalm 1 the foundational truths that are developed throughout the psalms and that provide necessary help for us as God’s people as we try to navigate this life. The first word of Psalm 1 introduces the dominant theme: blessedness. That is the end goal of the psalter, and that is the end goal of each of our lives, we want wellbeing, flourishing, prosperity. Or to put it in explicitly biblical terms, we want to be able to praise God freely with our lips and our lives, we want what Psalm 150 expresses, all things praising the Lord without anything standing in the way.
But very quickly the psalm expresses what we already know, that if we choose the righteous path toward this kind of blessed life, we are going to encounter people who have a very different idea of what it means to be blessed, and they are going to counsel us to go a different way. And so psalm 1 introduces us to the fact that there are two different kinds of people with two different images of the blessed life; and whatever image you have of the good life is what will control your path.
And so really, the fundamental purpose of the Book of Psalms is to help form a proper image of blessedness within us; it is the Torah—God’s Word—shaping our image of true blessedness under God’s rule such that we will truly prosper and flourish even in the midst of wickedness around us and sin within us. The truly blessed person will meditate on God’s Word, he will muse on the music of the Torah such that he is formed by it.
Now, Psalm 2 builds from these fundamental ideas and further expands them in a few significant ways. These two psalms are meant to be read together, and they are together meant to introduce the structural framework for the whole Psalter.
Psalm 2 opens with the counsel of the wicked. Look at verse 1, and see if you notice how Psalm 2 expands what we saw in Psalm 1:
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
Psalm 1 began by saying that a truly blessed person will not allow his image of the good life to be shaped by the wicked image of the good life; Psalm 2 shows us what that wicked image is. It shows us the counsel of the wicked—their image of the good life.
And again, this is a deliberate development between the two psalms. For example, the Hebrew word for “plot” in verse 1 is the exact same term as the word “meditates” in Psalm 1:2. Remember it has the idea of musing on something, something that forms and shapes your imagination. The KJV translated this phrase, “the people imagine a vain thing.” This is a picture of the wicked imagination of the good life. A righteous person’s imagination will reflect the Torah, a wicked person’s imagination will reflect a different vain image.
And what is that image? Notice what they say about the rule of the Lord in verses 2–3. A righteous person imagines the rule of God to be that which enables blessedness; how does a wicked person imagine life under the rule of God?
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”
This is what the wicked imagine God to be like: when they think of the rule of God, they conceive of his rule like bonds that must be broken, like cords that must be cast away for there to be true freedom. The wicked image of the good life is a life of prosperity apart from God, with explicit rejection of his rule because they imagine that rule to be oppressive.
But there is nothing further from the truth. John says in 1 John 5:3, “his commandments are not burdensome,” because as ruler, God didn’t create commands arbitrarily, he gives commands that accurately reflect the way things ought to be, the way he designed the world to work. This is why when we keep God’s commands, when we submit to his rule, the result is true blessedness. And so this is why we need to make sure our inner image of God’s rule is correct; if we walk in the counsel of the wicked—if we allow their image to shape us, then we will conceive of God’s rule as burdensome. But if we meditate on the Torah of the Lord—if we allow Scripture to shape us, then we will conceive of God’s rule correctly.
About Scott Aniol
Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is director of doctoral worship studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.