That’s the question asked by the first verse of Psalm 2. The entire verse reads:
“Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?” (KJV)
Other Bible translations read something more akin to:
“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?”
Either way, it’s the same question; a question that can be asked about nations as well as individuals.
The short answer is not a complex one. The ‘heathen’ rage because they are heathens. Those who profess no belief in the God who created them ‘rage’ because it is the natural thing to do. Furthermore, all of us who profess belief in God and His Son as having died for our sins were once heathens, and by nature the objects of God’s just wrath (Eph 2:1-3).
So what is it about man’s ‘heathenness’ that makes him rage? I’m glad you asked! Hold on to your seat belt. You see, the Bible tells us certain things about everyone that has ever been born since Adam fell. I will share just a short passage from the book of Romans:
“For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Rom 8:6-8, ESV)
All of us were born with the same kind of mind – a carnal mind set on the flesh. None of us has a mind set on the Spirit until such time as we are ‘born again’, as Jesus so eloquently told Nicodemus in John 3. And as our Romans passage tells us, the ‘carnal’ mind is hostile to God. That hostility is expressed in our raging against God. Some of us rage privately in the recesses of our hearts and minds while some of us rage a lot – in public. Nevertheless, until God sovereignly saves us and delivers us from the bondage of our carnal minds, at some level we rage because it is our nature to do so.
Sadly, some us who proclaim Christ as Lord and Savior seem to have forgotten why it is that the heathen rage and that their rage is really against God. How do I know that? Thanks for asking. . .again.
Well, I’ll give you a two word answer and then then explain it, since you might think that I must be a little bit nuts. So here’s my two word answer: Duck Dynasty! That’s right, I said Duck Dynasty! Hear me out, please.
More to the point, it’s the Christian right’s response to the whole Phil Robertson saga that troubles me and leads me to believe that we’ve forgotten why and against whom, the heathen rage. This morning I heard yet another Christian radio broadcast discussing the whole ‘freedom of speech’ war that seems to be raging around the Duck Dynasty saga, and how we believers should be coming to the defense of Phil and the gang because of all of the hatred and bigotry spewing forth from the likes of GLAAD and a number of other organizations and media personalities. While I agree it’s really disgusting, I also realize that the real ‘haters’, while hammering Phil, are really raging against God!
I say that because I believe that the Bible is true – specifically a few passages from Romans 1:
“ For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (Rom 1:18-32, ESV)
This passage from Romans tells us that we all know that God IS, and that those who would deny Him, are really only denying what they know to be true, resulting in the debasement of God’s natural order among other things. Those who are raging against Phil, as well as those who have been crusading for the removal of all reminders of God in the public square, are really raging against the God they know exists.
And what do we (evangelical Christians) do? We fight for ‘rights’ to free speech as if winning a few court battles is going to really solve something. Well guess what? Even if we do win a few court skirmishes, the heathen will continue to rage, in the futile attempt to justify that which they know to be wrong in the eyes of the God they know exists.
If we really love them like we say we do, we would remember that they are raging not against us, but against God, that we too were once the objects of God’s wrath, and we would endeavor to lead them to the Cross of Christ. And that my friends is not something we can do while we battle with them for ‘rights’. I also believe that the battle for ‘rights’ can, and does, distract us from the mission of sharing the gospel and that the enemy love it when we get distracted!
Think about it.