Rev. denHartog is pastor of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Redlands, California.

I have chosen the theme for this article from Psalm 2, verse 4: “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.” Certainly this is one of the most fearful passages of all of Scripture. God is laughing at the wicked! This laughter is not one of joy and pleasure but one of holy wrath and of scorn and derision. God laughs at the heathen and at the wicked who are arrayed in rebellion against Him. The Lord enthroned in the heavens laughs at the utterly vain purposes of the heathen and the wicked to oppose God, and at their attempts to frustrate His counsel and overthrow Him. How can man ever hope to destroy the Almighty? How can puny man dethrone the King of all the universe? How can he succeed in establishing the throne of man and of the devil against God’s purpose here on this earth? The sovereign, almighty God laughs at it all. The holy God of righteousness and judgment laughs as He prepares His judgment for the wicked. This laughter should strike terror in the hearts of the men of this world.

“The heathen rage, the people imagine a vain thing.” The psalmist is amazed, he is shocked and dismayed. Therefore he asks the question, “Why?” The whole thing is insane. It is ludicrous madness. It is consummate folly. It is monstrous wickedness. It is outrageous depravity to make a tumult against the Holy One, the Lord of heaven and earth.

Psalm 2 gives a description of the history of the world, the wicked world in which we live. From the time of the Fall until the end of this age this world is engaged in tumultuous raging against God. “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” The whole wicked world is arrayed as a vast army of millions and millions of soldiers against God. Included are the kings of the earth and the rulers of the world, and under them the millions and millions of ungodly men. The devil, the great enemy of God, is the prince over them all.

The raging tumult is seen in the violence and wickedness of the world. It is seen in the social strife and conflict that characterizes the history of this world. It is seen in the crime and murder that fill the streets of our cities. It is seen in the thousands and thousands of wars that the world has engaged in throughout history. There is no peace in this wicked world. There never will be. There cannot be. All of this is the characteristic of a world that has rebelled against God. Every day in the leading newspapers of the world one can read of the raging of the wicked world.

According to Psalm 2, all this raging and tumult in the world has a very definite purpose. It is all against the Lord and against His anointed! That is the shocking reality of it all. It is an attempt to break the bands of the Lord and cast away His cords. Wicked men do not want God to rule over them. Under the instigation of the devil, wicked men rebel against God. They refuse to submit themselves unto His holy commandments. We must understand clearly what is going on with all of this. We must understand who all is involved in the raging of the wicked world. We must be very clear that what the psalmist speaks of is really going on even today in the ungodly world in which we live. Our modern civilized world is making a tumult against God.

Wicked men violate every ordinance of God. They refuse to acknowledge Him as God. They do not glorify Him as God, neither are they thankful to Him. This is not because they are ignorant of God. God clearly reveals Himself in His creation, in the things which He has made. He declares His sovereign Word in the world. He has written the works of the law in the heart of every man. But the world hates God. It refuses to glorify Him. In proud, assumed wisdom this world rejects God and makes idols of their own vain imagination.

This is not done only in the uncivilized heathen world far away from us, and perhaps long ago, but also in the modern-day world of America and Europe, Australia, and all over the globe. This is done in a world that boasts of great learning, technology, science, and astounding inventions. The idols that the modern-day world makes are of man’s wicked humanistic philosophy and learning, of boasted power and human greatness and glory. They are the idols of materialism and covetousness, of pleasure and lust, of the worship of man and the glorying in man. These idols are just as stupid and dumb and evil as those of heathen nations. Their being clothed with the great learning and supposed intelligence of modern man does not make them one whit better, but in fact even worse. The more “intelligent” man becomes in his denying and rejecting God and rebelling against Him, the more of a consummate fool in reality he is.

The tumult and raging of man, wicked man, against God is seen in every violation of God’s commandments. The constant blasphemy of God’s holy name by wicked man is tumult and raging against God. The desecration of the Lord’s day for sports and pleasures is wicked man’s tumult against the God of heaven who has ordained this day for man to rest and come to the house of God to worship and thereby acknowledge Him as God and to glory in Him. The lying, stealing, and corruption of man in business is man’s tumult against God.

The refusal of man to live in the bonds of holy marriage is raging against God. The brazen wickedness of the fornication and adultery of this world is raging against God. The whole entertainment industry, together with the mass media, promotes blatant immorality day after day. Any attempt to curb or to limit this in any way is met by vehement insistence on the “American right” of the freedom of speech. Evil men imagine that they can violate God’s law with impunity. They imagine that man was placed on earth only for lawless, selfish, immoral pleasure, to gratify his own lust. Christians ought not to make watching this a form of entertainment and relaxation but recognize it for what it really is, raging against God!

The skyrocketing divorce rates, the ease of contracting one marriage after the other, is a shocking example of wicked men raging against God. The refusal of man to limit sexual activity to the opposite sex within the holy bond of marriage, the horrible depravity of homosexuality, the defiant insistence that such activity is a legitimate alternate life-style that we today must simply accept, whether we like it or not, is raging against the Holy God of heaven and earth.

The refusal of women to submit to their husbands in the home, and their insistence that they must have places of authority in the church, involves them in raging against God. The terrible evil according to which these women insist on the “right” to be able even to abort and murder their unborn children, because they will not accept the responsibility of motherhood, is raging against God.

The wickedness of our courts, the judges and juries which refuse to condemn and punish even the most evil criminals of our society, is in reality raging against God. The youth gangs, with their drug culture and violent crime and cold-blooded murder, their songs, their entertainment, the whole of their philosophy of life — all these are an outrageous example of wicked men making a tumult and raging against God.

The heretics in the church who are seeking to overthrow all the fundamental doctrines of the Word of God and to subvert whole denominations to the evils of modernism and worldliness are raging against God. Man makes a god of His own imagination, one which loves all men and winks at sin, a god who serves the whim and fancy of men doing whatever man pleases. He will not have a God who rules over man and who has established His holy law for man to live by. Howawful all of this is! What grief it causes to those who truly love God.

We need to bring this matter even closer to home however. Our sinful nature is prone to hate God and our neighbor. We have within our own being and person a raging and tumult against God. Every true Christian is aware of this raging within his own breast. All men in the world, also we ourselves according to our sinful nature, are included in the vast armies of millions and millions of men who have set themselves against the Lord, and who imagine a vain thing against Him.

The culmination of the raging of the wicked world against the Lord and against His anointed came at the cross of Christ Jesus. The inspired writer Luke understood that the cross was the extreme fulfillment of Psalm 2. Therefore he quotes this Psalm to explain what took place at the cross. Who can fathom the shocking wickedness of the crucifixion of the Holy Son of God!?

It was not because of some great evil that Jesus had done that He was condemned to be crucified. That is impossible, for He is the Holy Son of God. It was not because He had rebelled against the Lord, or because He was the leader of some social or political revolutionary movement creating confusion and strife in the world. Jesus was the Lord’s anointed. He was the Holy One. Maintaining and establishing the holiness of God was the great occupation of His whole earthly career. He came as the prince of peace, not worldly peace, but the true peace of God based on righteousness before Him. Jesus was perfectly righteous in all that He did. He went everywhere preaching the truth and righteousness of God. He did good all His life, healing the sick, making the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, even raising up the dead. The words of His mouth were words of peace, and of love, and of mercy and kindness. What an amazing and wonderful thing the life of Jesus was, when compared to all the raging of this wicked world. Jesus was perfectly obedient unto God. He loved God. He served God. He submitted Himself completely to the will of God.

Yet Jesus was hated. He was despised and rejected of men. He was called a son of Beelzebub. He came to His own and His own received Him not. The religious elite of the day, the leaders of the church, the chief priests, the scribes and Pharisees, opposed Him, hated Him, and contradicted Him. In the most atrociously illegal court in all of history they with one consent condemned Jesus to be worthy of death. They considered Jesus to be so evil that He had to die the accursed death of the cross. The world of the Roman empire, notable for its system of law and justice even today, this world through its infamous representative Pontius Pilate sentenced Jesus to be put to death. Pilate did this after repeatedly declaring that he could find no fault in Him. Yet he condemned the Holy Son of God to be worthy of death. Pilate gave Jesus over to the evil multitudes who were screaming for His crucifixion. This was the most monstrous of all raging against the Lord and His anointed.

Psalm 2 emphasizes the unbelievable wickedness and extreme folly of the raging of the wicked world against the Lord. The Lord is the sovereign God of heaven and earth. He created heaven and earth for His own glory. He gives to every creature its very existence. He gives all things to all creatures. How incomprehensibly wicked it is for the creature to rebel against its creator. The Lord rules among the nations. He sits on the circle of the earth. Before Him the nations of the world are as nothing, as dust in the balance and as a drop on a bucket, as less than nothing. How futile and ridiculous for this world to make a tumult against Him.

In the midst of all the raging of wicked men, God remains sovereign. The versification of Psalm 2 in our Psalter says, “Calm He sits enthroned on high.” God is enthroned in quiet, undisturbed sovereignty. What a glorious picture of the absolute reign of God. He sits in the heaven and laughs. He holds the wicked in derision. He is not disturbed by all their raging against Him. He laughs at its folly. He remains God from eternity to eternity. It is utterly impossible for all the raging of millions and millions of wicked men of the world to move this God even one iota from being the absolutely sovereign One. It is the height of stupidity to imagine that this God can be destroyed. It is ridiculous folly to imagine that man can free himself from His rule and escape His judgment.

God’s people are often greatly distressed because of the raging of the world. In the midst of the tumult of the world against the Lord, the church often suffers persecution. It seems to us that the truth and righteousness of God is overthrown. It seems as though the kingdom of God is destroyed. We are deeply grieved by the wickedness of the wicked and their blasphemy against God. We are grieved by the apparent prosperity of the wicked. We are grieved by the apostasy of the church. We wonder how wicked man can apparently succeed in their evil purposes against God and His truth.

Psalm 2 is written for the comfort of God’s people. God remains enthroned in the heavens through all the history of the raging of the wicked in this world. We are told of the absolute sovereignty of God in realizing His sovereign decree and in His coming to judge the world in His Son Jesus Christ. Psalm 2 ends with an exhortation to God’s people to bow before the fearful, sovereign God so vividly described in this passage of God’s Word. “Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.”

(We shall return to consider some of the rest of this Psalm in our next article, D.V.)

Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?

The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed,…

He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.

Psalm 2:1-4