"Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
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 burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”
7 I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.”
10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him."
The message of this Psalm enables us to set the tragic predicament of our age - and of any age - in its proper context, against the background of the government of God. It is significant that it begins with the word 'Why'. This is the question mark that is writ large across the face of civilisation today. It sums up the bewilderment, the anxiety and the fear of man. Why is our world in such a turmoil? Why the constant shadow and threat of war? Why the continual tension, with men's hearts failing them for fear? The sound of its many voices is heard here, from the cry of distracted peoples and nations to the lonely despair of the sorrowing and the bereaved. The Psalm answers these questions, insofar as any answer can be given; but it also requires us to ask 'Why?' in a different tone of voice, with indignation and astonishment, at the senselessness of the turmoil in face of the divine government of the world. This is the standpoint of faith. In a sense, the whole message of the Psalm is summed up in these two aspects of the question.
There are four stanzas in the Psalm, and in each we hear a different voice speaking - the heathen, the Lord, His anointed, and the Psalmist. In the first (1-3) the question is posed, and the reason for the turmoil and the raging of the nations is given: they have rebelled against the Lord and against His anointed, and have openly expressed the de- termination to throw off the bands of divine restraint. In the second (4-6) the picture changes completely, and we see how futile it is for the nations to rage, for God is on his throne and in control. Here all is peace and calm. Nothing disturbs the atmosphere in the secret place of the Most High. He sits in undisturbed majesty. We are thus bidden to look up, and fix our gaze upon Him. When we do, we are able to share in the divine laughter, for He has already done what His enemies seek to prevent: His Son has been enthroned and evil has forever lost the initiative in the world. More about this in the next Note.