Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?
a. Psalm 2 is a Messianic Psalm written by David about 3000 years ago. Prophetically it speaks about the second person of the Triune Godhead becoming man and eventually King over the earth and we know of course it is speaking of Jesus. Psalm 2 is the most quoted Psalm in the New Testament. Different verses of the Psalm are quoted or alluded to 16 times in the New Testament.
1). Matthew 3:17; 17:5 Mark 1:11; 9:7; Luke 3:22; 9:35; John 1:49; Acts 4:25, 26; 13:33; Hebrews 1:2, 5; 5:5; Revelation 2:26, 27; 11:18; 12:5; 19:15.
b. Psalm 2 though is not only a Messianic Psalm, but also a prophetic warning to the Gentile nations to serve the LORD Jesus Christ IN THE CHURCH AGE! This is established by the fact the passage was quoted by the Apostles in the book of Acts thus placing it in the Church Age.
1). Acts 4:23-30 And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.
And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:
Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, 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,
For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.
And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,
By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.
c. The warning is clearly to the Gentile nations, it is the heathen who are raging and imagining a vain thing not Israel. The questions asked are, “Why do the heathen rage?” and, “Why do the people imagine a vain thing?” Before we address the questions, a look at the Hebrew definitions is needed.
1). heathen [1471 * goy] [Strongs: A foreign nation, hence a gentile] [D.C. Note: Foreign in respect to Israel. We are the heathen!]
2). rage [7283 * regash] [Strongs: To be tumultuous, rage.]
3). imagine [1897 * ragah] [Strongs: To murmur, in pleasure or anger.]
4). vain [7385 * riyq] [Strongs: Emptiness, fig., a worthless thing, in vain, empty, no purpose.
d. Both questions can be answered by looking at Scripture. Becoming vain occurs after truth and light are rejected.
1). 2 Kings 17:15 “And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, concerning whom the LORD had charged them, that they should not do like them.”
2). Romans 1:21 “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”
3). In both of the above examples, the truth and light of God’s word were rejected and as a result, worthless thinking followed.
e. The effects of rejecting light are clear. There are three of them.
1). A mind void of judgment: Romans 1:28 “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.”
a). reprobate [96 * adokimos; a-without; dokimos-acceptable] [Zodhiates: Unapproved, unworthy, rejected, cast away. In Romans 1:28, an active usage meaning, undiscerning, not distinguishing, void of judgment.]
b). A mind that makes wrong decisions. Decisions worthy of rejection, decisions rejected and unapproved from God’s perspective.
c). When men and women reject light and truth, the results will show up in their lives. It is just the same as walking around in the dark, we will be constantly running into things and falling down. Some things will be minor, while some will be extremely serious to the point of losing our lives.
2). Captivity: Isaiah 5:13 “Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.
3). Destruction: Hosea 4:6 “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.”
f. The Scriptures given above further establish this warning is to the nations in the Church Age because before light can be rejected it had to have been received. This fact will be further established in notes concerning Psalm 2:3. These principles can be applied to the individual, to families, and churches, but also to society as a whole. Every institution and everything created by God are all subject to his will, they are all subject to spiritual law, they are all subject to the effects of rejecting the word of God.