Posted by: SandreS | November 30, 2010

Why Do the Nations Rage?

Why do the nations rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? (Psalm 2:1; Acts 4:25).

Really, why do the nations rage?

Our friend David Buckman from Australia provides us with a concise answer to this question:

This is to provide the backdrop on the stage of God’s grand display and His multifarious wisdom and powerful operations through the Son of His love to towards the goal of displaying the sons of God to all the sovereignties and authorities among the celestials (Ephesians 3:8-11).

God uses all contrast to bring us to a true appreciation of Who He really is, so that we may with joy and thanksgiving appreciate all that flows from Him benevolent nature.

God is all about contrasts. Good and evil. Light and dark. Day and night. Work and rest. Hot and cold. Joy and pain. Sunshine and rain. Sweet and sour. The list goes on, all carefully designed contrasts from His hand – and make no mistake about it, the contrasts are all His creation.

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things (Isaiah 45:7).

God starts His series of contrasts right off the bat in the book of Genesis. A.E. Knoch, in his classic work, The Problem of Evil, helps us understand the divine necessity for such contrasts:

Before they sinned, Adam and Eve had no knowledge of good. Good lay all about them, unmixed with evil. Health, strength, honor and companionship with one another and with God was their constant possession and privilege. Yet they knew nothing of the blessedness of these boons. This we learn from the name given to the tree which bore the forbidden fruit. To many minds it suggests only the knowledge of evil, rather than good. Yet, first and foremost, it was the tree of the knowledge of good.

Thus at the very forefront of revelation we have the principle suggested which is the key to unlock the great problems that most perplex us. It is this: All knowledge is relative: it is based on contrast.

The knowledge of good is dependent upon the knowledge of evil. Hence the tree in the garden was not, as we usually think of it, merely the means of knowing evil, it was the means primarily, of the knowledge of good. Adam and Eve had good but did not realize it because they had had no experience of evil.

The perfection of Eden’s garden was greatly lacking in the one element most dear to God’s heart. Adam did not and could not apprehend God’s goodness. There is not the slightest hint of Adam’s appreciation or thanks, or worship or adoration. He received all as a matter of course and was quite incapable of discerning or responding even to that measure of divine love which lies on the surface of His goodness. If we should suddenly be transformed into glorious sinless beings and transported to such scenes of sylvan perfection, we would exult and praise the author of our bliss. Not so Adam. He knew no joy, for he knew no misery. He knew no good, for he knew no evil.

This point is most important, and we press it because it seems to be universally ignored and misrepresented. The garden of Eden has become a symbol of perfect bliss, we are always being reminded of its delights, and the happiness of the first pair has passed into a proverb. Yet there is not the slightest reason to suppose that Adam was delighted or enjoyed the bliss ascribed to him. The mere possession of good does not give a knowledge or realization of it. … Adam had perfect health, but what was that to one who never had even heard of disease? He had abundant food, but that was nothing to him, who had never felt a famine. Even pleasure had no appeal to one who had known no pain.

The fatal lack in all the perfection of Eden was the utter absence of any note of praise or thankfulness. Knowing no good, and utterly unacquainted with mercy or grace, Adam’s heart was utterly incapable of love or adoration or worship. God’s goodness did not receive the least response, because it was unknown. All that He had bestowed on Adam failed to kindle the affection for which He longed, and which is the goal of all His gifts.

How could this grave defect be remedied? There was but one way, and that way was, in the wisdom of God, provided by the tree which He placed in the midst of the garden. Had Adam and Eve known good they would have treasured God’s goodness and never would have forfeited it by disobeying His command. Yet, when they did eat of the tree, they set in motion the very forces which would remedy the defect which caused them to do it. What divine wisdom do we see here displayed! God’s blessings being unappreciated, they offend Him by their deed and in so doing pave the way for an appreciation which satisfies both. Love is a marvelous schemer! …

Had Adam never sinned he would have been a neutral, a sentient clod unfit for the full companionship of his Creator. Of one thing we may be sure. He would never have known evil. And we may be equally sure that he never would have known good. He would not curse God for sin, neither would he thank Him for His beneficence nor adore Him for His grace. He would have utterly failed to fulfill the purpose of His creation. We must always remember that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil had a double function. No one forgets that it brought the knowledge of evil. But it was primarily the tree of the knowledge of good. Adam had no appreciation of the good by which he was surrounded. Having known nothing else, it was not good to him. He received it as a matter of course, without a thankful thought.

Adam could have lived on indefinitely in such an unappreciated paradise, but only with untold loss to himself and to his Creator. All that he saw was God’s hand; His heart was veiled. Some means must be found to rouse Adam’s affectionate response to the Divine yearnings. He must learn to appreciate good. How shall this be done?

It is a notable fact, and full of significance, that the tree of which Adam ate was no afterthought with God. Adam’s ignorance of good did not lead to its planting. It was already grown and bearing fruit. Moreover, it was not hidden in some distant corner, in an impenetrable thicket, unapproachable and forbidding. It was in the very midst of the garden, accessible, and desirable in every way. If it was simply a question of keeping Adam from eating its fruit, it could easily have been removed. Far simpler yet, it need never have been planted. God alone was responsible for all the accessories in Adam’s transgression.

But it is of still greater significance that it combined in itself two inseparable functions. Perhaps we would have preferred one tree to teach the knowledge of good, and another to initiate into the knowledge of evil. But this is impossible in the very nature of things. We may strive to conceive of light apart from darkness, but it proves impossible. Light may drive out all darkness, yet its realization depends on its opposite. So good cannot be known by human beings, apart from evil. – The Problem of Evil and the Judgments of God, pages 27-28, 34-35

In this principle of contrasts we will find the answer to our question, “Why do the nations rage?”

In every detail of the long and sordid history of nationalism, God is building a grand contrast to His glorious Kingdom of righteousness, one that will encompass all of His creation – in the heavens and on the earth. What a transcendent contrast that will be!

As believers, God’s first-fruit, we have the wonderful privilege of seeing this contrast early. Paul tells us that God has already

… Delivered us from the dominion of darkness, and has transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son (Colossians 1:13).

Nationalism is but the “jurisdiction of darkness” (Concordant Literal New Testament), but we are thankful that we have been “transported” (CLNT) out of it into His Kingdom. We now have “our citizenship … in heaven; from where also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
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