Why do the nations rage?

Many Christians are worried about the world today, and I believe a good answer to such worry is to pray using the Bible’s book of Psalms. This is something I first learned about 22 years ago, and it radically changed my prayer life. In the difficult year of 2020, I noticed several psalms to be especially relevant to the world situation, including Psalm 2.

In my favorite Bible translation, the Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition (RSV2CE), Psalm 2 begins with, “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?” This is likely a very accurate translation of the original Hebrew according to the latest scholarship, but I also want to point out how the traditional King James Version renders this verse: “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?” I’ve always been struck by the word “rage” in this version, and I think it’s a vivid description of what is going on now, so I used it in my title.

The next two verses tell us what is prompting this question.

The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and his anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.”

Psalm 2:2-3 (RSV2CE)

Although we don’t have many kings today, we can substitute any powerful people here, which brings us to a principle for praying with psalms. They were written thousands of years ago, so there are cultural details that were different back then, but we can translate them into similar details in our day. What we will find is that the basic human experience is the same. So when you pray the psalms, look for how you can translate them to your own personal situation.

So the meaning of these verses today could be that there are powerful and influential people today that want to rid the world of the influence of Christianity. We see this in politics, media, and education. Western civilization, which is another way of talking about the Christian heritage of Europe and the Americas, is being portrayed as an evil influence that must be eliminated. The European union has essentially removed Christianity from their governmental structures and puts pressure against expressions of Christianity in their member nations. In the United States, since the 1960s, there has been a steady push to remove Christian influence from public life, including the removal of prayer in schools, the display of the Ten Commandments in court houses, nativity scenes on public property, and even saying “Merry Christmas.”

Why do they want to get rid of Christianity? The words used in the psalm are very instructive. They want to burst bonds and cast off cords. They see Christianity as restricting them. They want to get rid of Christianity in the name of freedom. This is truly a mistake, as Jesus said, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32).

What is God’s response to this? I will cover that in my next post.