Psalm 2 has a very modern message, as
nations conspire and people plot in vain; the rulers of the earth set themselves and leaders take counsel together … ‘Let us cast their cords from us’. (v.1-3)
Rulers seeking to throw off the ‘bonds’ of God.
This author will be the first to recognise that there is a lot to be said for separating church and state. That is not the same as governments ignoring or running counter to ethics and values recognised by humanists, Christianity and most major religions of the world.
The excellent exhibition Mapping our world at the National Library of Australia is redolent with the manoeuvring and politics of exploration and possession, sometimes in the name of God, sometimes in that of nationalism, empire or commerce.
Back to music. In amongst the sheep going astray, feeding of the flock and the hallelujahs of The Messiah by George Frederic Handel (1685 to 1759, so almost an exact contemporary of J S Bach), behold this text turns up in full force.
It’s not so surprising, perhaps, as you sing along with the story of this oratorio to find that the maestro has snuck in some of this rage to wake us up in a furious chorus Let us break their bonds asunder (from v. 3). It’s one of the show-stoppers, sometimes omitted since it’s fiendishly difficult when taken at a gallop.
Maybe we should slip this in as the antiphon this Sunday to keep us on our toes! What say you? Have a listen here >>
Then again, we might actually take a much easier response (final choice to be confirmed) from The New Century Hymnal by Carolyn Jennings, with much milder but more comforting words from the final phrase of the psalm (v. 12):
Happy are all who take refuge in God
who promises, according to Matthew 11: 30 and another chorus in The Messiah:
my yolk is easy and my burden is light.