Kiss the son? Thoughts on preaching Psalm 2:12

When preparing to preach Psalm 2 recently, I stumbled across a dilemma while translating the Hebrew text.

As the psalmist winds down from verses 10-12, there’s a couple of exhortations to the raging kings of the earth. “Be wise; be warned” (v10). “Serve the Lord with fear; rejoice with trembling” (v11).

Then in verse 12, the Hebrew text states:

נַשְּׁקוּ־בַ֡ר (nashku-var)

Which is translated in most English Bibles as “Kiss the son”. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely to be the correct translation, given that בַּר (bar) isn’t the Hebrew word for son: בֵּן (bēn) is, e.g. in verse 7 (“You are my son”). The idea of a son is at best implied in verse 12. So it left me wondering what to do with בַּר.

But it turns out another use of בַּר could be an adjective meaning “pure”. For example, Psalm 24:4 talks about the one with “clean hands and a pure heart (וּֽבַר־לֵ֫בָ֥ב)” (see also Psalm 73:1). So perhaps in the context of a warning to kings to kiss (i.e. pay homage), the psalmist adds: “and do it purely” – an adverbial sense. It flows pretty well from the earlier commands too: Worship with fear (v11a). Rejoice with trembling (v11b). Pay homage with purity.

So having found this exegetical insight, how do I bring the force of verse 12 back to an English-speaking church congregation who all have “kiss the son” in their Bibles? Well I didn’t mention the translation issue – it probably would have just bored or confused everyone! But I did say something like this:

So friends, what might it look it for you and I to sing Psalm 2 as Spirit-filled people? First, worship Him. Second, don’t betray Him.

There are two kisses that Jesus receives in the New Testament. One is from the sinful woman (Mary), who kisses his feet and anoints him with perfume (Lk 7:36-50) – do you remember that kiss? It showed whole-hearted devotion to her Messiah.

And then Thursday night comes, and Jesus receives another kiss. From who? Judas. A kiss on the cheek to say “take this one, and arrest him.” A kiss of betrayal.

Don’t do that, friends. Don’t say you love Jesus and then secretly keep doing what he hates. Don’t say to someone “I’ll pray for you” and then put them down behind their back. Don’t treat church as your own money-making scheme or power trip. His love is great, but his rage is too.

Don’t betray Him. Kiss the Son purely.

“The Angry Song”, a sermon on Psalm 2

This was my imperfect attempt to try get across the ideas from the original Hebrew, while recognising what was in their Bibles at Psalm 2:12 would be different. And preaching it this way I think lays down a more potent challenge: if God’s true King is Jesus the Son – how could we even entertain the idea of naming him on our lips while betraying him in with our thoughts and actions? That’ll preach for sure.

Jesus, Son of God, is King over all the nations. Let’s kiss Him purely, friends.

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