Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction.
Psalm 2:12 NIV
Dear ICB family,
Just last week I watched the movie The Darkest Hour, which tells the story of Winston Churchill becoming prime minister of Britain and leading his nation through the dark days of World War II. Towards the beginning, King George VI calls Churchill to his palace and formally asks him to form a government.
Once Churchill accepts, the king extends a rounded hand, his fingers pulled in slightly, and the new prime minister, understanding at once, approaches the king, lowers his head, and presses his lips against the back of the king's hand. The symbolism is clear. Churchill was accepting the king's charge and swearing his loyalty to his monarch with a kiss.
Who knows what that moment was like in real life (or if it even happened at all like the movie portrayed it). In the movie, however, it was overly ceremonial, cold, and perfunctory. So, while such a scene might be helpful to better understand the meaning of Psalm 2:12 in part (especially for an American like me who's about as distant from any real notion of living under a monarchy as is possible), based on the immediate context of Psalm 2:12 and based on what we read throughout the rest of the Bible regarding how God's people come to him, I don't think Churchill's interaction with King George VI should serve as our primary model for how God is calling us to kiss the Son.
I will say, however, that this scene from The Darkest Hour does help me understand one part of what it means to kiss the Son. When I approach him, I must realize I am in the presence of a King. I must realize his right to demand complete and utter fidelity, that I must relinquish all other loyalties, and that trembling is a most appropriate feeling in the presence of such a one. It is no light thing to stand before the Sovereign of an empire.
And the Son whose hand we kiss is not king over some backwater, second-rate kingdom. He will depose all other kings and all other kingdoms (including the kingdoms over which we've set ourselves up as royalty). He will subjugate all other rulers to himself. He will break all other powers with his holy rod of iron. He will shatter them as easily as a potter breaks old pots he no longer has any use for. He is a king full of righteous anger, whose wrath is kindled quickly, and only those who submit to him and find their refuge in him will be spared his white-hot fury.
So do we, like Churchill before King George VI, walk awkwardly up to him, his arm outstretched, and press our lips against the back of his hand? I hardly think so.
There are at least three reasons for why I think that. First, our King is the Son of the LORD. "The LORD said to me, 'You are my Son; today I have begotten you'" (Psalm 2:7 ESV). Our King has a righteous Father, and our King has been a faithful Son. He has "learned obedience through what he suffered" and has been "made perfect" (Hebrews 5:9). He is the Son in whom his Father is well pleased (Matthew 3:17). He is the "radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature" (Hebrews 12:3). In this Son "all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell" (Colossians 1:19). As the Father is good, holy, just, loving, and compassionate, so, too, is his perfect Son.
So while we should tremble when coming into the presence of such a King, I don't think words like cold or perfunctory would be appropriate descriptions of the encounter.
Second, Psalm 2 invites us to "rejoice with trembling" before the Son. Notice the call to hold in tension what we might, at first, naturally separate: rejoicing (i.e., feeling and showing great joy and delight in something) and trembling (i.e., being in such awe that your knees are knocking). Yes we tremble, but it is a joyful trembling. Yes, we feel small and insignificant before the greatness of our King, but there is no more satisfying feeling a person could ever experience.
Third, the psalm ends with the promise that "all who take refuge in him" are "blessed" (verse 12). It is happiness to find shelter from the strong hand of evil enemies. It is not with reluctance or suspicion that we run into the arms of our strong salvation.
Fourth, we've seen this same King elsewhere. He's not a stuffy, uptight, distant kind of monarch. He wears commoner's clothes and wraps towels around his waist and washes his disciples' feet. Even in that moment, of course, there was not an ounce of doubt among the disciples as to who the Master was, yet he was a Master of an entirely different kind than they had ever seen before—than we have ever seen before. Utter submission to this kind of King is a privilege, and for those who have eyes to see, we'd forsake everything to be able to kiss the hand of such a King.
This is the Jesus we worship, the Son whose hand we are commanded to kiss. This is the one to whom we submit our wills, for whom we forsake all other loyalties, and because of whom we surrender all other citizenships. It is a joy to lay down our very lives as an offering upon his altar. We have no will but his, no desire but his, no longing but that which is in conformity to our Sovereign.
So with that strange yet enticing and all-satisfying combination of bold confidence and trembling awe, we walk across the room, bend at the waist, and press our lips on the back of the Son's hand.
Praying that you and I would never forget either the trembling or the rejoicing as we stand in his presence,