Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Why do the heathen rage?

1 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying,
3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.  (Psalm 2:1-3)

One of the things I learn from these verses is that it is not a new thing for peoples and even rulers of the earth to get impatient with God’s commandments and think of them as restraining bonds that hold them captive.  It is not a new thing for them to plot how to free themselves from the rules and principles and commandments of God so they can do whatever they want.   This has been happening all throughout world history. 

Whoever wrote this Psalm knew the heathen were (would be) offended and rage against the commandments of God and Christ which opposes the carnality of man. 
They think they can easily cast away these cords, but it is not so easy as that.  Commandments and principles are linked together, so rejecting one requires eventually rejecting all the others too.   And soon they are blundering around in uncertainty and darkness, acting so strangely that they seem almost drunk.

Who are the heathen?  Resorting to the dictionary…. :

Heathen: a person who does not belong to a widely held religion (esp. one who is not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim) as regarded by those who do
Also, “a follower of a polytheistic religion; a pagan.”
Also, “(the heathen) heathen people collectively, esp. (in biblical use) those who did not worship the God of Israel.” (emphasis added)
Also, informally, “an unenlightened person; a person regarded as lacking culture or moral principles.”

The problem with resisting the rule of Christ is that the alternative is to have one’s lusts and sins rule one.  That’s how Satan establishes his rule.  And he is really out to enslave, unlike Christ, who wants to purify and exalt humankind.   

What’s neat is that the psalm also states what the Lord will do about this state of things when the heathen refuse His authority.

 4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.
 5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.
 6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.
7 I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
10 Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
12 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: 4-12)

You can detect stages of the Lord’s attempt to reach the heathen.
--He allows them to be laughed at and derided to see if they will respond to shame. (v4)
--He speaks to them in His wrath. (v5) (Notice, He’s still speaking to them. This is the second warning.)
--He vexes them in his sore displeasure.  (v5)(He gives them trials and tribulations, hoping it will stir them up to remember the Lord and repent.)
--But when they will not hear, he will break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces. (v9)

This is a predictable pattern. It will happen. It’s as sure as sure.

Ultimately, the psalmist urges the heathen judges and kings and peoples to do the smart thing so they don’t have to go through the pain of chastisement and destruction.  He advises them to submit to the Son (v12) and serve Him (v11).

I couldn’t resist adding here the song “Let us break their bonds asunder” from Handel’s Messiah.

It is fascinating to me how Handel rendered the text into music in his oratorio. It is as if the singers are trying to break out of the confines of the melody and the timing set for them, starting in random places and random times.  You can also hear their anxiousness to get rid of it all in the strenuous emphasis of their words.  

But there is also a lesson to be learned about the consequences of rebellion.  Even though the singers seem to be trying to break the rules of the song, they end up acting in a different pattern, one that is predictable.  Likewise, those who break the commandments may think they are setting their own course and deciding their own fate, but they are merely acting according to a different pattern, one with predictable consequences and which will end with them acting more and more foolishly and getting stuck in misery and sorrow.