Reflections on Psalm 2: The Nations Rage

by Heath Rogers

Synopsis: Rebellious men defy divine authority, viewing Scripture as shackles. Insolence and insubordination will ultimately fail, while God’s word stands forever.


It is only natural for things to get worse over time (2 Tim. 3:13). Such changes often happen slowly, allowing people time to get used to them and eventually accept them. However, in recent years it seems as if our nation’s departure from God’s righteousness has jumped into warp speed.

Standards of decency are pushed to further extremes in television programming with every passing season: language, nudity, and topics once reserved for cable or late-night viewing are seen and heard on prime time. It is not uncommon for those who watch wholesome shows to be exposed to sinful content in the commercials or previews for other programs. Efforts to remove the Ten Commandments from public buildings have evolved into removing God’s name from the Pledge of Allegiance. God’s pattern for marriage, the family, sexuality, and gender identity are being perverted in every way possible. The pro-homosexual agenda is being pushed forward with extreme vigor. Those who refuse to accept and support this perverted lifestyle are no longer tolerated but “canceled,” i.e., marked for destruction. Unborn babies continue to be butchered in their mother’s wombs with our government’s protection and financial support for abortion. Churches are burned, worshippers are shot down in the pews, and Christians who share the gospel on social media are blocked for spreading “hate speech.”

Opposition to God and His righteous standards is at a level many of us have never seen before, but passages like Psalm 2 reminds us that we are not the first people to witness such a large-scale rebellion against God.

The Rage and Rebellion of Man

The psalmist begins by stating his unbelief at the scene before him. “Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed. . .” (Ps. 2:1-2).

The nations are in an uproar. The unbelievers are raging. These words are translated from a Hebrew term describing a tumult or a violent assembly. The writer is witnessing a riot. Kings and rulers of the nations are conspiring together against God.

Notice the purpose of their plot. “Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!” (v. 3). Fetters refer to restraints used to bind prisoners. Cords are the ropes that subject them as slaves in service to God. These individuals see God as enslaving and imprisoning them. They are conspiring together to overthrow God as a tyrannical overlord and establish themselves as the rulers of their world. This revolt is described as a vain thing (v. 1) because it is doomed to failure. Humanity cannot remove the Creator of the Universe from His throne. God’s authority over man is His by right of creation: “Know that the Lord Himself is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture” (Ps. 100:3).

Understanding this disapproval of God’s sovereignty explains the animosity that we are currently seeing against Him and experiencing as His faithful people. The Bible tells us this is not new. Man has always sought to be free from God’s authority, but God is ever able to deal with such rebellion.

After the flood, God instructed mankind to scatter from one another and inhabit the world (Gen. 9:1, 7). Instead, the people decided to band together and establish a name for themselves. They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Gen. 11:4). Their effort was in vain. God responded in a way that defeated their purpose and accomplished His plan. The confusing of their languages caused them to separate from one another and scatter over the face of the earth (vv. 7-9).

Before the Babylonian captivity, Judah sank to her lowest point. God’s people were following in the steps of their apostate sister Israel. They were living in shameless rebellion against God. The prophet Habakkuk lamented the fact that God appeared to be unconcerned with the state of his nation (Hab. 1:2-4). God responded that He was doing something about it, something so terrible that no one would believe it. He was using the Babylonians to be the instrument of His righteous judgment against Judah. The prophet could not understand how God could do such a thing.

The Rule and Reign of God

To paraphrase God’s response, the prophet was told, “I am still on My throne. I am still in control. I know what I am doing. You are going to have to trust Me” (Hab. 2:2-20). God knew what He was doing: the Babylonian captivity did more than bring just punishment for Judah’s sin. It purified a faithful remnant through which He brought the Savior into the world.

The apostles made an inspired application of Psalm 2:1-2 to the condemnation and execution of Jesus by the Jews and Romans. Peter and John were arrested, threatened, and ordered to stop preaching. Upon rejoining their companions, they all prayed to God. After quoting Psalm 2:1-2, they said, “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur” (Acts 4:27-28). The nations were plotting a vain thing. Herod, Pilate, and the leaders of the Jews were conspiring against the authority of God and His Anointed. However, God took their rebellion, turned it against them, and used it as the means of fulfilling His plan to save mankind.

Contemporary Christians struggle as we see our nation continue to turn against God. We feel helpless as such rebellion against the Lord seemingly turns from a trickle into a rushing waterfall. The Bible tells us that the Ancient of Days has seen this before, many times. We can take comfort in the fact that God has always responded to such extreme acts of rebellion in a way that glorifies His name and accomplishes His will.

The Response of the Righteous

What are the righteous to do? First, let us learn to live by faith (Hab. 2:4). God knows what is occurring. He is still on His throne, and He will take care of this situation. Second, we must remember that God knows how to deliver the godly when He punishes the wicked (2 Pet. 2:9). Our faithfulness is not lost to God in this mass of human rebellion. The Lord knows those who are His (2 Tim. 2:19). Third, we must be careful that we never come to view God as an oppressive overlord, but recognize that His commands and righteous standards are for our good always (Deut. 6:24-25). Instead of seeking to cast off God’s cords and bands, let us realize that they are gentle cords and bands of love (Hos. 11:4). Truth Symbol

Author Image
Article Image
Ad Image