You’ve probably heard the old saying “The more things change, the more they stay the same”. Truthfully, if we really pay attention, we see that proverb lived out all the time. We experience the same ills as a society as societies from centuries ago—we just experience them faster. This is because at its heart, mankind is desperately wicked. The theological phrase many use to describe the human condition is “total depravity”. From the top of our heads to the soles of our feet, there is not one single part of our mind, will, or heart that is not tainted by sin. This sin is both a result of nature (we are born sinners) and choice (we choose to sin). Things were not much different in the time of King David. As we begin to study this psalm, we will see mankind’s wicked heart fully displayed in attitudes and actions.
Notice with me the fact that David describes the world as being in chaos. He inquires in verse one “Why are the nations in an uproar?” Truth is, mankind has been in an uproar since the rebellion in the Garden of Eden. Human life is chaotic as a result of our sinfulness. In the United States today, we see that sort of uproar as people argue over politics, morality, financial policies, and national borders. Rather than turning to God and the Bible to learn how to order our lives, human beings have always had a “do it ourselves” attitude. In short, the nations rage at the suggestion that God has authority over us and has revealed Himself in His inerrant word.
Because the idea of God having authority over us is so repugnant to unregenerate men and women, we seek ways to enthrone ourselves and dethrone God. While David doesn’t explicitly say this, it’s a pretty obvious conclusion to draw given the context. After all, what other “vain thing” (v 2) would these people who are trying to rebel against the authority of the Lord be “devising”? Mankind wants freedom to sin—to pursue earthly pleasures with no thought of consequences. As a result, men and women will do anything to try to free themselves from the authority of God and His word. They will make choices that harm them, they will believe lies, and they will mock the truth. However, it’s all in vain. There’s really nothing they can do to ultimately rebel against the authority of a holy, omnipotent God. Their rebellion is all in vain.
The futility of the task doesn’t stop them from trying, however. In fact, the world over there is one thing that the unregenerate agree about whether they’re left wingers, right wingers, rich, poor, middle class, English speaking, socialist, or capitalist. The whole world is united in rebellion against God and His word. You can’t get Iraq and the United States to agree on much of anything. Israel and Egypt don’t have much of a middle to “meet in” and getting Middle Eastern countries to sit down and discuss their differences is an arduous task. However, notice how David points out “the kings” and “the rulers” come together to strategize against common foes—“the Lord and…His Anointed”. They rage against God, shaking their fists at heaven as if to say “We will not have this God to be ruler over us”. But it’s not just God that is the object of their ire. Christ, the One who was God in human flesh, the Lamb who took away the sins of the world, is also an object of their scorn. They reject the Father, they reject the Son, and in doing so they condemn themselves.
However, even in their doom they persist in prideful arrogance. Observe their estimation of God’s authority. They see His authority as simply being “fetters” and “cords”. Just trivial little wisps that they can “tear” and “toss away”. Oh really?? You think you’re strong enough to do that. Quite obviously, they have (and humanity still has) a severe problem of perspective—they don’t see God rightly and they don’t see themselves rightly. Apparently they have forgotten who is the Creator and who is the creature. They see this rebellion as a foregone conclusion. Notice, they’re not saying “Let us try” or “We should see if we can”. Their arrogant defiance is preposterous. “We have had enough of this God and His Christ. Let’s stand up to them. It’s time for us to be men and stand up to the bullies who wish to rule us.”
Oh, friends, let’s not make their mistake. As we reflect on these verses, let’s make sure we remain mindful of the fact that God is God---and more importantly, we are not.