By J.R. Miller
"Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. "Let us break their chains," they say, "and throw off their fetters." The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, "I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill." I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery." Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him."
"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."
Men have always been ready to conspire against God. They think of Him as like themselves, as one they can oppose, one whose authority they can reject. To us, with our thought of God as the glorious King of all the world, opposition to Him is the worst folly. What can puny man do to resist God's power, or to interfere with His sway? Yet evermore does heaven behold the spectacle described in the opening of this Psalm: "Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?"
There are two possible meanings in this "Why?" It may suggest the folly of such opposition. Or it may indicate the enormity of it It does seem strange that the world so hates God. What has He ever done to hurt anyone? If He were a cruel despot, like many of earth's own kings--it would not be strange if men hated Him. If He were a Nero, or a Caligula, or a Diocletian, or a Napoleon, it would not be surprising if the nations dreaded Him and if His name aroused rage. But never was there any other king so gentle, so loving.
The prophet foretold the reign of the Messiah as most kindly and gracious. He would not break a bruised reed. He would not lift up His voice in the street. He would not strive nor cry out. He comes not to destroy men's lives--but to save them. His reign is one of love.
A glance over the pages of the Gospels will show us how He fulfilled the Messianic prediction. He went about doing good, healing all manner of sickness, comforting sorrow. The "program of Christianity," the work of Christ in this world, is mapped out in these words of the prophet Isaiah: "He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion-- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."
Does it not seem strange, therefore, that the mention of the name of Christ causes such rage among the nations and peoples of the world? Why do the people not love Him? Why does the gentleness of His reign not win men to loyalty and affection? What is there in Him--that makes the world dislike Him? Yet from the day He came into the world unto the present--He has been rejected and despised. When Herod heard of the birth of the King--he trembled with anger and slew all the infants of the town in which He was said to be, in hope of destroying the hated One.
All through His life it was the same. He did nothing but good, and yet the rulers ceased not to plot against Him, until at last they nailed Him to the cross! It is not otherwise today. The gospel breathes only love, and yet it is met by many with hate, scorn, and rage. Why is it? Why do the nations rage? "Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us." The words tell of revolt. They will defy His rule and cut themselves off from obedience to Him. They treat Him as if His rule were cruel and inhuman.
"He who sits in the heavens shall laugh! The Lord shall have them in derision." The picture of God sitting on His throne in heaven, laughing at man's puny efforts to frustrate His plans--is a very striking one. It suggests to us the calm quiet of God--in the face of men's opposition. Can a man put up his hand and arrest the lightning bolt as it flies athwart the sky? Can he stand beside the sea and with his puny arm hurl back the waves that come rolling from the great deep? And can man resist omnipotence or defeat the divine purpose?
Look at the outcome of Herod's plot to kill the infant Jesus. What came of the rage of the Jewish rulers who finally nailed Jesus on the cross? It only carried out God's counsel and exalted Him to be a Prince and a Savior. So always, persecution has but advanced Christianity, not destroying it, not hindering its progress. The rage of infidels has resulted in strengthening what they sought to destroy. We need not be afraid, when the enemies of Christ seem to triumph. God is not disturbed on His throne. His plans go on in unbroken fulfillment. He laughs at men's plots and schemes against Him.
"Ask of me, and I shall give you the heathen for your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession." It is a suggestive thought that even this Son of God, exalted on His throne, must ask for the inheritance that was promised to Him.
We get the lesson--that no blessing comes to us--but through our own prayer. The clearest, plainest promises must be taken up and claimed. They are checks which must be presented at the bank, before payment will be made. Promises do not mean anything to us--until they are believed and then pleaded before God.
We know that Christ claimed the Father's promise. Before He ascended He said, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." Paul tells us that having humbled Himself to death on the cross, God has also exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Christ is Lord.
So all nations are Christ's. He is the rightful King of all lands. This ought to be an encouraging truth for all missionaries, and in all missionary work. India and China and Africa and the islands of the sea belong to Christ. They have been given to Him by His Father. In going into those lands and preaching the gospel, the missionary is but claiming Christ's own for Him. So in offering Christ to any man and asking him to accept Him as Savior and Lord, we are only asking one of Christ's rightful subjects to own his allegiance, to receive his true King.
This word has also its glorious assurance of the success of Christ's kingdom on the earth. God will surely give Him the nations for His inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession, because He has promised to do so. Not a Word of God can ever be broken. Heaven and earth may pass away--but not the smallest of God's Words shall ever pass away.
"Kiss the Son, lest he be angry--and you perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in him." The only true and wise thing to do--is to submit in love and reverence to this glorious King. Those who will not yield to Him, shall be broken with a rod of iron. Gentle as He is, He is also just. Defiance of Christ can have only one outcome. It can end only in the utter destruction of those who lift up their hands in rebellion. Easily as a potter's vessel is dashed in pieces when hurled against the rock--shall the proudest human strength be crushed and destroyed by the power of Christ!
Submission, therefore, to this heaven-ordained King--is the only wise course for anyone. Submission brings life and great gladness. "Blessed are all those who put their trust in him." He makes them joint-heirs with Him. They sit with Him on His throne. They enjoy all the privileges of sonship. "All are yours; and you are Christ's; and Christ is God's." We should all therefore submit to Christ, the Son of God, and become His subjects.