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, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. Ps. 2:1-3
The heathen furiously rage!
And shall not He, that sitteth in the heavens, laugh?
For, they are raging, they set themselves in battle array and they take counsel together, they plot and conspire, against the Lord and His Anointed!
Concretely their fury is directed against the Anointed of Jehovah. Their deepest purpose is to rage against the Lord. But Jehovah is in the heavens. He doeth whatsoever hath pleased Him. Him their fury cannot reach. But to give vent to their fury against the Lord, they rage against His Anointed. Does not the Anointed of Jehovah represent Him in the earth, in the visible creation, in the world of our experience? Is not an anointed one a servant of the Lord, one that is endowed with power and authority from on high to appear officially as of the party of the living but invisible God, to speak for Him, to act upon His authority, to rule in His name? Hence, against this Anointed of the Lord they rage and plot and prepare the battle for the very reason that He is the Lord’s Anointed!
Who may he be?
Against whom are all the powers of the world so furious?
He is David!
And David is, first of all, the son of Jesse, who was called from tending his father’s sheep to become the king of Israel. To be sure, the second Psalm is strongly prophetic and speaks ultimately of the Messiah and His kingdom. Hardly a Psalm is quoted so frequently, comparatively, in the New Testament as this little jewel among the songs of Israel. But a mistake we would make nevertheless, if we would interpret this psalm immediately in the light of its ultimate realization and significance, and not consider, first of all, that its prophecy has a historical-typical basis. The Anointed of the Lord mentioned in this inspired bit of Hebrew poetry is the one that speaks in verse seven: “I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” And the subject of that sentence is the author of this psalm. And the author of this psalm is David, Israel’s royal singer. For thus did the Church of the new dispensation refer to this prophecy, when it broke forth in prayer and praise: “Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?”
David, the son of Jesse, was the Lord’s anointed.
Was not Israel the kingdom of God? And was not David the man after God’s own heart, foreordained, called, and empowered to represent Jehovah in this kingdom, and, on the basis of the Mosaic legislation, to rule in God’s name? And were not many nations made subject unto him? And did they not hate him, and hate the law of the Lord, His people and His cause?
But the Scriptural term David is also David’s house, the generations of the son of Jesse!
For, with David God had established His covenant. And as always, so also this covenant is made with him and his seed, in the line of his continued generations. It is of this eternal covenant, of these sure mercies of David, that Psalm the eighty-ninth sings: “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations. For I have said, Mercy shall be built up forever: thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens. I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant, Thy seed will I establish forever, and build up thy throne to all generations. . . . I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people. I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him. With whom my hand shall be established; mine arm also shall strengthen him. The enemy shall not exact upon him; nor the son of wickedness afflict him. And I will beat down his foes before his face, and plague them that hate him. But my faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him, and in my name shall his horn be exalted. I will set his hand also in the sea, and his right hand in the rivers. He shall cry unto me, Thou art my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation. And I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth”. . . .
And how the heathen are always furious and rage against David and his house in his generations!
How often the kings of the earth set themselves against him and his people and gather against Jerusalem and the daughter of Zion to destroy them from the earth!
Yet, in deepest sense and in its ultimate realization this Psalm speaks of the Christ, of Whom David and his house were but types and shadows, and in whom the line of David’s generations culminates. The covenant with David is essentially the covenant of the triune God with Him, Whom He had appointed to be heir of all things, both in heaven and on earth. To Him God said, before the world was: “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee”, an eternal Word of God finding its historical realization in the resurrection of our Lord. To Him He made known the decree, which in time the Christ announces: and for the realization of which He suffers and battles to the end: “Ask of me and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession”. He is the Anointed of Jehovah who shall sit on the throne of David, not in its earthly form, but in its eternal and heavenly glory; not as ruler over earthly nations, but as king over all things in heaven and on the earth. . . .
This is evident from the Psalm itself.
This is plain from all the Scriptural passages where this prophetic song is quoted.
Thus the Church understood it in Acts 4:25-27: “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”. . . .
He is the Lord’s Anointed!
It is He that is in David, that is the Root of David, and because of whom the heathen rage against the son of Jesse!
He it is that is always in the loins of David’s generations, and upon whose destruction the powers of darkness are bent when they are furious against David’s house!
It is He that finally appears as the holy child Jesus, against whom all the powers of hell are let loose!
Does not David rule in righteousness, in the name of the Lord?
Does not Jesus of Nazareth speak the words of eternal life and pass through the land doing good, always good?
Why, then, do the heathen rage?
O, how they rage!
How wickedly they set themselves against David and his house and his throne and kingdom in the old dispensation! Was ever royal house hated as was the house of David? Was ever kingly dynasty the object of so unreasonable, insane, insatiable hatred as was the line of David’s generations? Could not they, and the people under their dominion with them lament in truth: “Many a time they have afflicted me from my youth; the plowers plowed upon my back, they made long their furrows”?
Why do the heathen rage?
Why are they so furious against the Christ, when in spite of all the attempts of the powers of darkness to prevent His coming, He finally appears?
Is not their fury insane? How they are all gathered against that one Man, the holy child Jesus! Big men, men of power and authority, kings and rulers of the earth, men of renown and power in the church, leaders of the people and the people themselves, Jews and Gentiles, Pharisees and Sadducees, Herod and Pilate, Caiaphas and Annas, the Sanhedrin and the Roman soldiers,—all are set against Him, and their fury seems to be inexhaustible! Does it not appear insane when Herod, plotting to destroy the child Jesus, determines upon the wholesale slaughter of all of Bethlehem’s children? Is there not something irrational in the way they are forever watching Him, who passes through the land doing good? How they spy upon Him! How they attempt to catch Him and kill Him almost from the very beginning of His public ministry! How they plot and conspire and lay their snares in secret! And, when they finally find a traitor, that will sell his own soul for thirty pieces of silver, and take Him captive in the dark garden of agony, how they rage! They come against Him, who was defenseless and never carried a sword armed to the teeth, as against an evildoer; they bring all kinds of insane accusations against Him; they beat Him and buffet Him; they spit upon Him and blindfold Him; they mock at Him and revile Him; they scourge Him till the blood runs down His back; they crown Him with a crown of thorns and clothe Him in the mock-royal robe; they try to satisfy their wrath by inflicting upon Him the most cruel and the most shameful death, the death of the cross; and even then they are not satisfied, still they rave and rage, and mock and revile!
Did ever man suffer as He suffered?
Was ever man the object of hatred as He was hated?
Did ever all the world rage as they raged about Him?
An accusation they cannot find. To any evil deed they cannot point. Even when the Roman governor asks them the question: why? they can only answer, that they would not have brought Him unto Pilate if He were not an evil-doer. And, when Pilate, in spite of Himself, must express the verdict that he can find no evil in the man, all they are able to reply is: Crucify Him! Away with Him! Give us Barabbas and let Him be crucified!
Why do the heathen rage?
A rational answer there is not. But there is the reply of sin: “Let us break their bands asunder and cast their cords away from us!”
That is their purpose.
The desire to realize that purpose motivates them in their fury.
Wicked rebellion incites them!
Insurrection against the Lord and against His Anointed!
Their bands, the bands of Jehovah and His Anointed, they break; their cords they would cast away from them in their fury.
Bands of righteousness and truth, of holiness and love they are; the cords of the precepts of the Most High they have in mind. For these are the bands of the Lord, and these are maintained by His Anointed.
Time was, when man’s inner life, his heart and soul, his mind and will and all his inclinations and desires were harmoniously united by these bands and cords of the Lord. From within man was bound by them. For in true righteousness, holiness, truth, the Creator of heaven and earth had formed him. Then he did not feel them as bands that limited his liberty. Bound from within by the cords of the Lord he was truly free. . . .
But the arch-liar came. . . .
And the deadly poison of the lie was instilled into man’s heart: Ye shall be like God. . . .
And he felt the bands of Jehovah, of the love of God, of truth, righteousness, and holiness as cords of oppression!
His liberty he felt as bondage!
And ever since he raised the cry of insurrection: let us break their bands asunder, let us cast their yoke away!
And God sent His Anointed.
And the Anointed approached man with the cords of the Lord.
And they became furious! Away with this man! Crucify Him!
Why do the heathen rage?
Why do the people imagine a vain thing?
For a vain thing, an empty thing, a thing that is impossible of accomplishment, that must needs end in utter and complete failure, do they imagine!
Do they not see? Have they no understanding? Can they not perceive the utter vanity of setting themselves against the Lord and His Anointed? Do they not understand that He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh at their futile raging? Do they not hear the thunder of the decree, announced by the Lord’s Anointed: Henceforth shall ye see the Son of man, sitting at the right hand of God, and coming with the clouds of heaven? The Lord hath said unto me!?
They hear not, neither do they see, nor do they understand with their heart!
And they rage and rave against the Lord and His Anointed!
And, behold, they seem to succeed!
The Gentiles in conjunction with carnal Israel set themselves against David and his house. And they appear to have the victory! The house of David appears to be destroyed. The throne of Israel is cast into the dust. First Ephraim breaks his bands asunder and casts his cords away. Judah alone is left. Then the powers from without ally themselves with wicked Israel from within, and David’s house is robbed of its glory and power! In captivity the glory of the Lord’s Anointed is trampled under foot. A plaything of the nations is the royal dynasty that was to have dominion forever. The tree of David is cut down to the ground. . . .
Yet, the Root of David remains!
The root of Jesse!
A root in a dry ground, but a root, nevertheless! And it lives! And it sprouts! It yields a branch! And it grows! And the heathen recognize Him! This is the Lord’s Anointed, indeed! The heir! And again they rage, and again they seem to overcome! They destroy Him from the earth!
But He rises from the dead!
And He is exalted to glory, high in the heavens, far above all principality and power!
And He comes again, the Lord’s Anointed!
To establish His Kingdom forever!
Hosanna in the highest!