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, saying,Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.(Psalm 2:1-3)
The first two Psalms go together. Perhaps it isn’t immediately apparent, because in some ways they are completely different, but I believe the Holy Spirit led those who placed them side by side as the opening of the Psalter.
Psalm one examines a lone individual, a God worshipping , scripture meditating disciple who has made a serious break with the thinking of his day. He is separate internally, he seeks other counsel than the prevailing opinions, he loves to be constantly re-oriented in his soul to the Word of God.
He is described in the singular, whereas the “ungodly”, the “sinners and the scornful” are pluralities in the Psalm. The assumption is that it is their worldview which is the prevailing thinking of the day. This one stands alone, and nourishes himself by a different fountain than everyone else.
The second Psalm, on the other hand, looks at the whole world. The entire planet is in a state of revolt, led by its political, educational, and religious leaders. The nations of the world are in turmoil, and their populations are gripped by an empty illusion,( A vain imagination). Traditional restraints are cast into the wind, a kind of social revolution is taking place, led by the elite on all levels.
I believe that though this Psalm has been fulfilled in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, involving the collusion of Pilate, Herod, and the corrupt high priests of Israel, (Acts 4:25-28) there is a further eschatological application of it as well. This Psalm is a prophecy of the geopolitical and cultural reality at the time of the coming of the Lord in Glory to Judge the world in Righteousness.
The nations are definitely in an uproar, indeed, “the heathen Rage“. Consider our times,
China rages, for it is awakening after two centuries of humiliating subjugation by western colonial powers,(the opium wars, etc), the harrowing World War 2 experience, a massive social upheaval , Communist revolution and the pragmatic decision to Capitalize their economy while remaining a totalitarian communist entity .
The perception is that it is time for China to take her place as a world power, increasing her presence in the competition for African resources, oil and gas, military dominance of the Pacific region , etc. China’s generals are bellicose in their pronouncements about their ability to reach cities like Los Angeles with their missiles. To the long remembering Chinese, there are definite scores to settle.
Russia also rages. The desire for the former glory as a world superpower has catapulted former KGB operative Vladimir Putin into a popular icon in Russia. The Russians have been newly empowered by oil money, they are re-arming at an alarming rate, and the brutal crushing of Georgia, in the final days of the Bush presidency was reminiscent of the worst of the old Soviet suppressions.
Russia also sees itself as a player in the middle east, arming Syria ,Hezbollah controlled Lebanon, and aiding Nuclear Iran in spite of world sanctions.
The Muslim World rages also, due to several converging factors. The rebirth of the State of Israel, and its successful repelling of invasions by combined Muslim armies has humiliated and inflamed the Moslem world. The existence of Israel, a modern, secular, western democracy in the very heart of the middle east is an affront to Muslim pride.
To make matters worse, the secularizing trend that swept the Moslem world after World War 1 has been seen as a failure in the Ummah, and perhaps even the cause of Islam’s failure to eradicate te Jewish state. As a consequence, Islamism has swept the world,in the form of Wahhabism, a puritanical Sunni version of Islam. It has been fueled by oceans of oil money , pouring out of Saudi Arabia, literally radicalizing once complacent Muslims from Indonesia to California, causing havoc.
When a Christian is revived and becomes more like Jesus, good things happen, people are helped, healed, encouraged, virtue is promoted and everyone benefits. When Muslims are revived to become more like the pirate and murderer that they consider to be ‘the perfect man’, bad things, terrible and even violent things happen.
The Nations of the World are in an uproar, Africa is turbulent, India and Pakistan are both Nuclear, and hate each other with a passion, Shia Islam has conducted the first successful modern Jihad, with the help of the Jimmy Carter administration, pulling the rug out from underneath the Shah of Iran. Europe is literally dying, due to birth control and abortion, and the Western democracies are going broke, thanks to the failed Socialistic policies that became widespread after World War 2.
This is the setting of Psalm 2, where the attention is turned to the leaders, the Kings of the earth, and the rulers.