Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Why Do the Nations Rage?

Leslie Basham: Why does it sometimes seem like disciples of Jesus are singled out for ridicule? Nancy Leigh DeMoss explains why some people give believers a hard time. 

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Ultimately their issue is not with us, it is with God. When the nations rage it is against Christ. They despise His rule, and they are determined to throw it off. That is why the nations rage. 

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, October 28.

Does it ever seem like enemies of the gospel have so much strength that they’ve become invincible? Nancy will give you some perspective continuing in the series "A Mighty Fortress Is our God."

Nancy: I don’t know about you, but I’m being so blessed by the time we’re spending to just carefully, prayerfully, slowly work our way through Psalm 46. I’ve been familiar with this psalm forever it seems, many, many years. Isn’t it sweet how rich the Word is to you when you stop and meditate on it, ponder it, and take time to soak in it.

We just do things too fast today. We move too quickly, we read fast, and we kind of live on the surface of things. But I am watching in some of your eyes as this Scripture is penetrating deep, seeping deep down into the crevices of our hearts and really making a difference.

So let me read beginning at verse 1 of Psalm 46, and then today we’re going to focus on verse 6. Beginning in verse 1,

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. (vv. 1–5)

And then we come to verse 6. It is interesting in this psalm, you kind of have the back and forth of those two realities we talked about earlier—God and trouble. His presence is that gently flowing river that makes the city glad, and then you have these torrential storms that are the enemy.

You have the contrast between God and His enemies—God and trouble throughout this psalm. So we just read this great verse about the river making the city glad and God being in the midst of her. She shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.

These are all things you want to put on framed pieces around your house, right? Then you get to verse 6 and it is the other side of it again. “The nations rage, the kingdoms totter.” Nobody wants that on a designed piece in their house, right? You say, "My house sounds like that, though!"

But you don’t see who God is in all His life-giving joy and the river that He is and the refuge and the strength and the help that He is until you have experienced something of what verse 6 is talking about—the nations raging and the kingdoms tottering. “He utters His voice, the earth melts.”

Let’s just take a look at those few phrases today. In the early part of the psalm we saw this upheaval in the natural realm. This picture of the surging waters and the mountains being hurled into the sea. Sometimes these things happen literally, natural disasters we call them. But it can also picture commotion in general, turbulence in the world among the nations. We’ve seen all kinds of astounding, take-your-breath-away images of tornadoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis and the like recently.

But we also see things that aren’t quite as easy to picture but it is the same idea. People in turbulence, people without jobs, people with health issues, people with prodigal children, people with marriages on the rocks, people with depression—the nations rage, the kingdoms totter. You have this emotion here in verse 6 of confusion and fear. We’ve already talked about fear in this Psalm. Verse 2, ”We will not fear though the earth gives way.”

But now you have this picture of terror. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter, and you have this sense of everything is topsy-turvey and in utter turmoil and confusion, and we are terrified.

“The nations rage.” That word rage is the same word that was used in verse 3 to talk about the waters roaring. It's same word there. "To make a loud sound, to be in great commotion, or tumult, to be clamorous." Some translations will say, “The nations are terrified” or “The nations are in an uproar.” The concept here is that the nations roar in fear or dismay.

Now here is something that is very unsettled. There is nothing stable about what you’re reading here. Then you see a similar phrase, “The kingdoms totter.” When you think about the word totter, go back earlier in the passage to where it talks about the mountains being moved into the heart of the sea. It's the same Hebrew word. The kingdoms totter, the mountains are moved. It means "to slip or shake or fall."

We don’t think of kingdoms or mountains as shaking, generally, or tottering. We think of them as something secure. But the writer is saying that there are seasons of extraordinary commotion and turbulence in our world. Times when it seems that the things that were most secure all of a sudden are all up for grabs—commotion, tottering. Don’t we see a lot of that in our world today?

People’s hearts fail them because of fear. You hear about people taking their lives and being stressed out of their minds and living medicated and so frustrated because the whole world seems to be out of order, off course. Then you have the earth melting, no less! The word there is "to fear or faint." It is a sense that all the inhabitants of the earth being in terror and fear. So we have nations raging, kingdoms tottering, and the earth melting.

I mean, it is not a happy picture! Are you getting it? Are you sensing it? Are you thinking about news items? If not, when you see the news the next time, you will be thinking about verses like this.

Then we have the phrase, “He utters His voice and the earth melts.” It always comes back to God. God’s ways, God’s works, what God is doing, what God is about, what He is accomplishing, and His part in all this. You see, the problem is that we calculate without God. We watch the news, we get letters as I got several months ago, that give you earth shattering news, and we figure without God.

Your husband says he’s leaving, your kid says he’s pursuing a deviant sexual lifestyle, and your whole world is shaken. That is understandable from a human standpoint but we've got to come back figuring God into the equation. Even in this nation raging, kingdom tottering, earth melting verse, God is there. He utters His voice; He is speaking, and the earth is melting.

I keep going back to Matthew Henry’s commentary on Psalm 46. You can go read it for yourself and get it online. He just has such great little gems in there, this great old-time commentator. But his line here is,

He that is God checks the rage and breaks the power of the nations that oppose Him and His interest in the world.

You see, God is still in control. God is having His way even in the whirlwind and the storm.

You see in this verse nations raging, kingdoms tottering, God utters His voice and the earth melts. You see two aspects of God’s judgment. Both of them have played out through the course of history; are playing out today and will play out in even greater ways as we come to the end of the age.

The first aspect of God’s judgment is that the rebellion and the evil of this world (nations raging) puts it on a course that is going to result in instability and insecurity. Nations rage, kingdoms totter. Even if God were never to directly intervene in judgment, which He will, that is the second kind of judgement. We have this first kind of judgment which is God leaving the world to its own devices.

So He lets the rage go on for a period of time, as the raging is ultimately against Him. Then He lets the course of things take place, which is then that the kingdoms totter. They are insecure; they are unstable. This is one expression of the judgment of God. He just leaves them to themselves (Rom. 1). He lets sin take its course.

Then there is this other aspect of God’s judgment, which is His direct intervention in bringing judgment on this prodigal world. God spoke the world into being by His Word. He upholds the universe by the word of His power, Hebrews 1:3 tells us. And then one day, God will bring final, cataclysmic judgment and dissolve the world as we know it. How? By the power of His Word. 

We see the authority, the power of God’s voice. If you question that, read Psalm 29. Let me just read a few phrases from it.

The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders . . . The voice of the LORD is powerful . . . The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars . . . The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire . . . The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness . . . The voice of the LORD strips the forest bare and in his temple all cry, "Glory!" The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever. (vv. 3–10)

You see, God’s judgments in minor ways that they are meted out in the course of history and in the ultimate way that it will be meted out against this prodigal plant. In God’s judgments He is glorified. He is seen to be holy and powerful and a God not to be trifled with. He is glorified even in the midst of judgment, in His temple, all cry, "Glory! Glory!"

It’s not that we gloat in judgment or we take glee in it, but we say God you are glorified even in your judgments. You see, the default of unbelievers and of nations is to rant and rage against God’s kingdom, to oppose His sovereign rule, and to conspire against God’s people. That is the way the world is hardwired ever since Genesis 3. There is a drive that we have individually and that every unregenerate heart has, and that the nations have, and that is a drive to be sovereign. Of course, in order to be sovereign, you have to push God off His throne, right?

So the nations raged against Israel in the Old Testament. God’s chosen people were raged against by the nations, and they still are today. And God pity the nation that rages against Israel, by the way. If you want to see that going on, go and read the Old Testament prophets and see what happens to the nations who forsake Israel.

The unbelieving world today rages against the followers of Christ, against His saints, and you see that. You can talk about God, you can talk about religion, but don’t talk about Christ. Don’t talk about Him being Lord. It was true in the Roman Empire when they said “Jesus is Lord,” then it was off with your head; into the arena with the hungry lions.

Today you talk about “Jesus is Lord” and you live it out like you believe it, you’re going to experience consequences because the world is conspiring against God. Ultimately, their issue is not with us, it is with God. When the nations rage, it is against Christ. They despise His rule, and they are determined to throw it off. That is why the nations rage.

Remember Psalm 2 which is quoted numerous times in the New Testament:

Why do the nations conspire [why do they rage] and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gathered 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’ve installed my King [King Jesus] on Zion, my holy hill."

I will proclaim the decreed of the LORD. He said to me, "You are my son; today I have become your father. Ask of me, [King Jesus], 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. But blessed are all who take refuge in Him. (vv. 1–12)

Do you see that cosmic battle there? The nations rage against Christ and against His right to rule over this world. Man says get rid of the Son of the owner of the vineyard. Kill Him! We want to reign; we want to be Lord, the one enthroned in Heaven.

We get terrified; we get scared. We think,  “Oh, poor Christians.” God is not scared; God is not shaken. God is not wringing His hands trying to figure out what He’s going to do with all these catastrophes in this world. He is enthroned. He reigns.

We know from Scripture that at the end of the age, we read about this in the book of Revelation, the nations will mount a heightened battle, offensive, against Christ. It is only going to get more intense. It is not going to get better. I don’t know if that encourages you or not, but it is only going to get more intense, that battle against Christ. It helps to have this perspective as we tend to think they are all against me. Satan doesn’t care about you, really. He doesn’t really care about me. He hates Jesus. He hates God. He uses us as puppets, pawns, something to try to get at God.

Revelation tells us in the last days this battle will become more and more intense against Christ. Revelation 17 talks about ten kings who are to receive authority as kings for one hour together with the beast. They will make war on the Lamb. What chance does a lamb have against ten kings? But you know what the next phrase is? "And the Lamb will conquer them."  Amen! "The Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful." (vv. 12, 14)

Revelation 19 is one of my favorite passages in the whole Bible. Earlier in this passage we see Jesus coming from heaven on the white horse. It says,

I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet. . . . These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulphur. The rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh. (vv. 19–21)

It kind of just reminds you that the outcome of the battle is not, at all, in question. The outcome is sure. So we see this cosmic battle, but then we see a microcosm of that battle in our own world. The anger of colleagues and family members against Christ that sometimes they take out on those who love and serve Him. They hate Him, and they take it out on you, and you feel caught in the cross fire, right? It can be intense. You may have experienced that in your marriage or in the work place. I’ve seen some of that myself in recent weeks. So how do we survive in the middle of that battle before the last chapter gets lived out? How do we keep from becoming terrified and cowering and running?

Well, remember two things. One, God lets His enemies have their say and try to do their thing for a while, but they are no match for Him. When He utters His voice, the kingdoms of this world will totter and its inhabitants will melt for fear. Remember that. And then remember the chorus of this psalm. We read it twice, this refrain, verse 7 and verse 11, and that is where I want to focus our last few minutes.

“The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Nations raging, kingdoms tottering, the earth melting, but, here’s the chorus, “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Some commentators think this was actually intended to be a chorus shouted by the congregation in response to what they had just heard in the rest of this psalm.

So I want us to practice that. Let me say the refrain and then I want you to say it, as if you mean it, believe it, with me. “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” 

Audience: “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”  

Nancy: Amen! Amen! The Lord of Hosts, Jehovah Sabaoth. God’s military title. The hosts of the armies of Israel, or they can be the angelic armies of God. He is the Lord of it all. He is the captain, the commander-in-chief, the supreme sovereign Lord, the God of might, the God of power. And here is the cool thing: He has all created powers at His disposal.

All created powers in heaven and on earth. He is the Lord of hosts. He rescued Jerusalem from earthly armies that sought to attack and destroy Jerusalem. Ultimately, God will subdue all His enemies and bring about the deliverance of His people. 

The Lord of hosts is with us. That means He is on our side. His presence, the presence of Jehovah, the Lord of hosts, His presence is threatening to our enemies, but it is comforting to us. He is all-powerful. As long as He is with us, we are safe. Immanuel, Jesus, is the Lord of  hosts, God with us. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us.

And not only is the Lord of hosts with us, but the God of Jacob is our fortress. Now that is a statement of grace. Jacob, the third of the Jewish patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob was no spiritual hero. He had a checkered life at best. He was a schemer, but the God of Abraham and Isaac was his God, too.  

He was in a covenant relationship, and because of that, Jacob’s well-being was not dependent on his own faithfulness or his own character but on God’s. Aren’t you glad? The Lord of hosts is able to help us. He is all-powerful. The God of Jacob is covenanted to help us because of His love and mercy.

I love what one commentator said, “The God of Jacob is the Lord of  hosts. More wondrous still the Lord of hosts is the God of Jacob.” You may be a Jacob, you may have a son or daughter or mate who is a Jacob, but the Lord of  hosts can become that person’s God by grace. You may have messed up as Jacob did, but if you have placed your faith in Christ, He is your God, your fortress, and He will never leave you.

So in the first paragraph of this psalm, we have nature in upheaval. In verses 4–6 we have nations in an uproar. But we see in verse 7 that through it all, God is a refuge, a place of safety for His people, an ever-present help. God is greater than raging nations and tottering kingdoms in every season, in every situation, the Lord of hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our fortress.

By the way, that word fortress means "a high, inaccessible place." Nobody can get you there. He is your fortress. You may be a Jacob, but if you are trusting in Christ for your salvation, He will be for you a high, inaccessible place, a high stronghold.

As John Wesley lay dying at the age of eighty-seven, a small group of friends gathered around him. He motioned for them to come kneel around him for prayer. As they finished praying, Wesley tried to speak, but in his weakened condition it was a struggle just to get the words out. So they moved closer, and as they did, John Wesley cried out with one final burst of strength, “The best of all is, God is with us!”

And then in a final gesture of triumph just before he died, Wesley lifted his arm and repeated the words, “The best of all is, God is with us!” The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our fortress. Amen! 

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been giving hope to anyone who has been ridiculed because of their faith in Christ. That message is part of the series, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, based on Psalm 46.

We are able to bring you series like these thanks to the listeners who support the ministry with their prayer and financial support. Maybe you’ve listened for a long time and gotten a lot of benefit from the program but have never invested back into the ministry. Would you ask yourself, “Is Revive Our Hearts important to me? Is there anything I can give? Would God want me to support this ministry?”

If the answers are “yes,” would you ask the Lord how He might want you to give to support the ministry?  When you do, we’ll show our thanks by sending you something Nancy’s excited about.

Nancy: Each year since Revive Our Hearts went on the air, we have produced a wall calendar. I think it’s a great gift to our listeners because it’s a way to stay connected monthly. As you flip each page, you’re reminded to pray for the ministry, and you get the benefit of having a new piece of artwork on your walls.

Because it comes every fall, it would be easy to let the calendar become predictable and routine. We decided this year that we wanted to fight that temptation and to make sure the calendar was really special.

We commissioned artist and calligrapher Timothy Botts. You've undoubtedly seen his work in Christian bookstores. We commissioned him to design twelve new pieces of art. Each one highlights one of the names of Christ. I think Timothy Botts did a masterful job creating this artwork. And our team here at Revive Our Hearts did a masterful job of developing this year's calendar.

Now, 2014 will be here before you know it, and this offer won’t last forever. So let us know you’d like the calendar when you make a donation of any size to help support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. You can call us at 1–800–569–5959, or visit us online at ReviveOurHearts.com.  

Let us know what gift you'd like to make to the ministry, and then be sure and let us know you'd like to receive the 2014 Revive Our Hearts wall calendar.

Leslie: Thanks Nancy.

Well, do you ever feel uncomfortable reading stories about the judgement of God? It is a common reaction to Old Testament stories but the desolations God brings upon the earth can actually be a source of great comfort. Find out why, tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.