Recently, Jesse Johnson and Stephen Altrogge have written about Decision 2012, and both of them have referenced Psalm 2:4, which says, “He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them.” This verse speaks of God’s response to the kings of the earth and its rulers who unite to rebel against God’s authority. Both writers have specifically picked up on the term laugh. Johnson wrote, “The nations may rage and the people may plot an evil thing, but God still reigns. In fact, he must look with amusement at our attempts to overthrow his rule.” Altrogge entitled his article “God Is Laughing Especially Hard Today,” and concluded with this thought: “As the politicians plot and rage, God chuckles. They can’t stop God. They can’t stop his plan. Jesus has already been elected, and in the end, every knee will bow before him, regardless of political party. Today, vote, pray, then laugh along with God.” While I’m sure that I would have more in common than not with both Johnson and Altrogge, their articles are troubling because they seem to portray the rebellion of humanity against God as a laughing matter, something amusing, almost as if it were a sitcom. Was this the Psalmist’s intent? It seems unlikely. The problem with this idea of God “chuckling” and being amused is borne out in three ways.
First, Psalm 2:4 uses a common Hebrew poetic device called parallelism in which the second line interprets the first. In Psalm 2:4, the lines read:
He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them.
The parallelism demonstrates two things. First, the one who sits in heaven is the true ruler of the earth since he is adonai, the Lord. Second, and more importantly for our purposes, the term ‘laughs’ is parallel to the term ‘scoffs’ and therefore has the same nuance. The term scoff basically means ‘to deride’ or ‘to show contempt toward.’ The parallelism thus indicates that God is not amused or chuckling at ungodly kings and rulers. Rather, He holds them in contempt. He finds them detestable. His laughter is not the laughter of amusement; it is the laughter of contempt. God is not chuckling; He is disdaining the wicked.
Second, the Hebrew concept of laughter, like our English concept, has more than one nuance. In Proverbs 31:25, Scripture says, “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.” The word translated “smiles” is the same word translated “laughs” in Ps 2:4. The meaning in Prov 31:25 is that the godly woman is not worried about the future. She is not concerned about it because she has a plan for it and is prepared to execute that plan. She does not find the future funny. Rather, the contrast is with the person who is wringing her hands about the future because she has no plan for a crisis. This concept fits much better with Ps 2:4 than any indication of frivolity or joviality. The one who sits in heaven laughs at the rulers not because He finds them amusing, but because He is not concerned about their plans and their plots. The Lord has a plan, and He will execute it despite their attempts to thwart Him. The Psalmist thus conveys that when the rulers take their stand against God’s rule, God is not worried, stressed, or anxious. He can laugh in the face of apparent danger because it poses no threat to Him. He can deride and treat the rulers of the earth with contempt without fear of being defeated or mocked because His plans will prevail.
Finally, the context of the Psalm leaves no doubt about how God feels about evil. The very next verse does not speak to God’s amusement but to His wrath. “Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury.” Are we to make of this that God is bi-polar, one moment bent over laughing especially hard, and then the next moment flaring up in a fit of rage? May it never be! It is God’s wrath that permeates the first section of Psalm 2 as well as that which brings the Psalm to a close. God’s wrath through the mediation of the Son is close to being kindled (Ps 2:12). When the New Testament quotes this Psalm, it indicates it was fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Christ. The rulers of the earth took counsel to put to death God’s Messiah. Was God looking on in amusement as His beloved Son was being beaten beyond recognition and nailed to a cross? Was God laughing especially hard when He forsook His one and only Son as Jesus bore the sins of the world? It’s unthinkable! God was full of fury, as all of the miraculous signs surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion bear out (death, darkness, earthquake, splitting rocks, torn veil). The context of this Psalm will not allow us to find God chuckling or enjoying something amusing. Simply put, God neither chuckles at the sin of the wicked nor looks on in amusement at humanity’s rebellion. He is full of wrath toward it and pours out His judgment on it.
While I appreciate my brothers in Christ reminding us that elections are not a cause for us to sink into unmitigated worry or have anxiety attacks, it is equally important that we understand God is not amused by America’s rebellion. Sin is not a sitcom.