“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. ‘Let us break their chains’, they say, ‘and throw off their fetters.’” (Psalm 2:1-3)
The Jews have always regarded Psalm 2 as a song that spoke to them of the Messiah – their coming great Deliverer. And they further believed that this greater son of David would extend his kingdom far beyond the land of Israel into that unseen kingdom that embraces the hearts of men and women, boys and girls, all around the world.
However, for the Messiah to attain this universal kingdom, he would first have to win people’s hearts to himself. And this explains why the Psalm begins on a somber note, reminding us of the state of the world into which the Messiah comes. It is a grim description of a world that has proclaimed itself as a ‘no-go’ zone for God. The interesting thing about this Psalm is that it gives us such an accurate picture of the state of the world, whether in David’s time, the time of Christ, or in our world today.
Notice how the Psalmist begins by describing the world as “raging.” To “rage” is to create trouble and to stir up unrest. The Bible often describes life in these terms. For instance, in Isaiah 57:20, the world is described as a raging sea – an ocean of unrest and trouble. Isaiah says, “The wicked are like the tossing sea which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked.’” If you have ever walked along a beach after a storm, you will know how much dirt and rubbish a turbulent sea stirs up. This is a perfect description of the state of human society driven by the power of sin. We find disturbance and unrest in every news cycle –an endless supply of victims who represent the flotsam and jetsam of the latest storm.
The Psalmist makes a further observation about our world when he refers to “people plotting in vain.” I think what he has in mind is a world in which people are devising futile and empty schemes. The phrase “plotting in vain” perfectly describes the world’s plans. In so far as they ignore the Creator and his purposes, they are futile. They may propose wonderful solutions to the problems that we face, but in the end they are “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
Ultimately, all this raging and plotting in vain has one aim in view: to destroy God’s rule over our lives. It is typified in the spirit of the Enlightenment. It was Jean Jacques Rousseau, a leader of that movement, who once famously said, “Man was born to be free, but everywhere he is in chains.” Rousseau’s solution was to rid society of God’s control over life and institute a new kind of autonomous human control in the form of a social contract. Ever since, people have been trying to rid God from their lives – philosophers like David Hume, scientists such as Charles Darwin, writers like Thomas Hardy and astronomers like Carl Sagan.
But God’s answer to all these scoffers is found in verse 6 of this Psalm, “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy hill.” The resurrection of Jesus is a warning to the world that God still reigns through Christ and all their raging and plotting is in vain (Acts 17:31).