Why Do The Heathen Rage? (Psalm 2)

“Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?” (Psalm 2:1)

Psalm 2 is the first truly “Messianic” psalm and in it we see a summary of Christ’s interactions with mankind from His First Coming, to the Cross, and finally to the Millennial Kingdom. This Psalm has been described as a great drama of the ages, or, a poem told in four stanzas of three verses each. Let’s look at it as such:

Act I: Mankind In Rebellion

Verse 1 asks the question, “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?” We have in view here all of mankind, as viewed from a Biblical perspective: “the heathen” (Gentiles) and “the people” (Jews). The “rage” described is like the restless tumult of the sea; man is not content to be under the authority of God. The general feeling of uneasy rebelliousness is accompanied by murmuring and plotting covered by the word imagine. Interestingly, “imagine” is from the same Hebrew word translated in Psalm 1:2 as “meditate.” As the man who delights in the Law of the Lord meditates on God’s precepts, the man who rejects God meditates on how he might escape them.

“The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed…” (Psalm 2:2)

After Peter and John were forbidden by the Sanhedrin to preach any further in the name of Jesus, they were let go and they returned to the rest of the believers in Jerusalem and reported what had happened (Acts 4:13-23). In response, the early members of the Body of Christ erupted in praise to the Lord and, through the illumination of the Word of God by the Holy Spirit, interpreted Psalm 2:2 and applied it directly to the rulers who had participated in the Crucifixion:

“Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?
 The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.
 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together” (Acts 4:25-27)

Luke tells us in his Gospel that it was actually the Crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ that brought Herod and Pilate together as friends; they had been enemies before that (Luke 23:12). It seems their mutual disdain for the Lord was enough of an impetus for them to lay aside their differences and gather together to put Him to death.

Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. (Psalm 2:3)

The bands and cords spoken of here refer to the Laws and Ordinances of God. Oh how rebellious man longs to be free from the Laws and Commandments of God! The desire to live life on his own terms, free from moral accountability, is at the root of all rebellion against the Lord.

Do we not live in an age where this sort of rebellion can be seen continuously? Governments citing “tolerance” are becoming more and more intolerant toward Christianity and the Body of Christ as all forms of religion and belief are embraced and celebrated, except faith in Jesus Christ. The very institutions that God gave are constantly under fire by a world bent on eradicating every mention of Jesus from all areas of society. The foundation of any great nation, the family, is being chipped away by those who seek to silence anyone who would even suggest that homosexuality and abortion are morally wrong. Marriages are broken for the most trivial reasons as people seek complete liberation to pursue the most depraved and perverse lusts imaginable. And many of our youth are trying to sort out their own “sexual identity” in a world that has redefined gender roles to the point that whether or not one is male or female is now considered a “gray area.”  Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords.

Act II: God The Father Replies

“He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.” (Psalm 2:4)

The idea behind the laughing of God here is not of callous mockery, but a reaction to the utter absurdity of man’s arrogance. That tiny man believes he is capable of overthrowing the authority of God is as preposterous as a mouse shaking his fist at a lion! How ridiculous it is for a creature whose life began and is sustained by the mercy and grace of the Lord to suppose that he could in any way upset or overturn the plans of God.

“Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.
 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.” (Psalm 2:5-6)

Not only are the plans of God unaffected by the rebellion of mankind, God clearly announces that the Lord Jesus will be set upon Mount Zion, to rule over the nations in the Millennial Kingdom. As described in Revelation 20:2-4, Christ will rule as King over all the nations of the Earth from His throne in Jerusalem at the conclusion of the Great Tribulation. The everlasting house and kingdom that God promised King David’s Descendant would rule over (2 Sam. 7:16) will be established and no rebellion of man can prevent it.

Act III: God The Son Decrees

“I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” (Psalm 2:7)

Now we have the Lord Jesus Christ speaking and declaring, as He is often seen in Scripture doing, the decrees of the Father. Despite the interpretation of those who believe that the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is a created Being because of the word “begotten” used in reference to Him, this verse actually refers to the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Over in Acts 13:33, when the Apostle Paul was preaching in Antioch of Pisidia, he stated that the Good News promised in the Old Testament was fulfilled in the Resurrection of Jesus:

“God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.”

Jesus was not “begotten” in the sense that the Father gave Him His initial existence, He was “begotten” when God the Father resurrected Him from the dead.

“Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” (Psalm 2:8-9)

That verse 8 in no way refers to the spreading of the Gospel during the Church Age is made clear by verse 9. Those who accept Christ are not broken with a rod of iron or dashed into pieces, but those who persist in rebellion will be. Again, we are looking forward to Christ’s rule over the nations of the Earth yet to be fulfilled.

“And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” (Revelation 19:15)

Jesus Christ came the first time offering Himself as Savior for all who would put their faith in Him. But in the Second Coming Christ will return to a world which has rejected Him and will rule over the nations with a rod of iron. We live in an age where Jesus offers Himself as Savior, but the time will come when He will return as Judge. There is little talk in the Church today about Christ returning in glory and crushing the rebellion of man and maybe we should speak more often about it. Yes, our mission now is primarily to preach the Good News of Christ’s role as Savior and to tell those who are lost about His wonderful grace and offer of mercy, but is it any wonder that so many people are confused about what exactly they need to be saved from? If we are silent about the coming judgment of the Lord Jesus Christ and we water down the concept of Hell to the point where it is practically meaningless, what motivation is there for anyone to flee from the wrath to come?

Act IV: God The Holy Spirit Convinces

“Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” (Psalm 2:10-12)

Finally, our great drama of the ages closes with the Holy Spirit drawing those who will hear to come to faith in Jesus Christ, the Anointed of the Lord Who has just spoken and Who was first referred to back in verse 2. Jesus said in John 16:13-15 that the Holy Spirit would not speak of Himself when He comes into the world but will speak of and point to the Lord Jesus. “Kiss the Son“, He urges, “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.

The pattern seen so many times throughout Scripture is a warning of impending judgment followed by the offer of mercy to those who will turn to God in faith. The Father and the Son have clearly stated what the end shall be for those who persist in rebellion, but the Holy Spirit pleads with men’s hearts before the end comes, compelling them to turn to Christ and avoid the coming judgment. You don’t have to be crushed under the iron rod of the Lord, oh kings of the earth, He says, turn to Him now, trust in Him now and these things will not come upon you. Receive Him now as Savior and you don’t have to face Him later as Judge. It is one or the other, Savior or Judge, and the choice remains yours.

This same choice and offer remains for all of us.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Larry  (a.k.a. Loren)

*Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible