Weds 25 January - Psalm 82
1 God presides in the great assembly;
he renders judgment among the “gods”:
2 “How long will you defend the unjust
and show partiality to the wicked?
3 Defend the weak and the fatherless;
uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
4 Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
5 “The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing.
They walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
6 “I said, ‘You are “gods”;
you are all sons of the Most High.’
7 But you will die like mere mortals;
you will fall like every other ruler.”
8 Rise up, O God, judge the earth,
for all the nations are your inheritance.
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
17 The clouds poured down water,
the heavens resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.
18 Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
19 Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.
20 You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
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Meditation on Psalm 82
The first thing that we note is such an important lesson for each of us. The opening statement about God is vital to our understanding, not just of this psalm but to our understanding of the world scene down through the generations. ‘God presides in the great assembly…’ God is in charge because He is the Sovereign God. As Psalm 95:3 tells us, ‘the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods.’
This psalm gives us a glimpse of God presiding over His heavenly court.
There are some examples in our Bibles of how this is seen in practice. For example, Isaiah 6:1-7; Jeremiah 23:16-18; Job 15:8.
As we start to read the psalm we are immediately faced with an interesting scenario. Who are these ‘gods’ in verses 1, 5 and 6?
There are some commentators who identify these ‘gods’ as the kings, queens, presidents – the leaders of the nations - who think they are divine beings and who may identify justice as an ideal but do nothing to encourage it in practice
There are almost as many interpretations as there are interpreters. There seem to be a variety of possibilities. The Hebrew word is ‘Elohim’. This can be translated as judges or angelic beings, whilst also referring to the one, true God.
- These ‘gods’ are what they are called – ‘gods’. Psalm 81 makes it clear, where in verse 9 we hear the LORD speaking … “You shall have no foreign god among you; you shall not worship any god other than me.” There are so many foreign gods but God will have no rival.
- These ‘gods’ are what Paul described as ‘the principalities and powers, angelic spirit beings.’ These are sometimes called ‘sons of God.’ For example, when the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, as recorded in Job 1:6 and 2:1. The original Hebrew is sometimes translated as ‘sons of God’.
- These ‘gods’ are human beings, the rulers, the judges or the priests of Israel. God had given them specific roles as outlined in verses 3-4 in this psalm. Read Exodus 22:8-9 to see how they had a vital role among the people of Israel.
- These ‘gods’ could be the people of Israel who are referred to as ‘all sons of the Most High.’ In one sense everyone is a child of the Most High because we are all made in the image of God. There is also a sense that not everyone is a child of the Most High – those who, although made in the image of God, refuse to acknowledge Him in their lives. Jesus spoke very clearly to the Jews when He said, as recorded in John 8:42-44a, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil and you want to carry out your father’s desires.”
- WHAT ARE THEY DOING? Verses 2 and 5
- defending the unjust
- showing partiality to the wicked
- incapable of understanding
- they are in darkness
- they have no foundation
They are not fulfilling their God-given responsibilities. Look around the world today – isn’t this what is happening?
- WHAT SHOULD BE HAPPENING? Verses 3-4
- the weak should be looked after
- the fatherless should be looked after
- the poor should be looked after
- the oppressed should be looked after
- the needy should be looked after
They should all be delivered from the wicked – i.e. those mentioned in verses 2 and 5
Luther commented … ‘These verses, indeed the whole psalm, every prince should have painted on the wall of his chamber, on his bed, over his table and on his garments. For here they find what lofty, princely, noble virtues their estate can practise, so that temporal government, next to the preaching office, is the highest service to God and the most office on earth.’
These are the most vulnerable people in any community – isn’t that true today as well as in Bible times?
In the Old Testament the first task of kings and judges was to protect the powerless against all those who would exploit of oppress them.
This is why King Jehoshaphat appointed judges in the land, in each of the fortified cities of Judah. He told them “Consider carefully what you do, because you are not judging for mere mortals but for the LORD, who is with you whenever you give a verdict. Now let the fear of the LORD be on you. Judge carefully, for with the LORD our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery.” 2 Chronicles 19:6-7
Isn’t this what Micah said, ‘He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’ Micah 6:8
Come forward to the New Testament. Isn’t that exactly what Jesus said and did? He was always looking out for those who are highlighted in our psalm.
He looked out for...
- the weak
- the fatherless
- the poor
- the oppressed
- the needy
Come forward to today and hear what Jesus says. “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” John 15:13
- WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? Verse 6-7
Jesus quoted verse 6 when He said, “Is it not written in your Law, I have said you are ‘gods’? If He called them ‘gods’, to whom the Word of God came – and Scripture cannot be set aside – what about the one whom the Father set apart as His very own and sent Him into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son?’” John 10:34-36
These ‘gods’ have not lived up to their role so they are singled out for judgment – ‘you will die like mere mortals; you will fall like every other ruler.’
Spurgeon quotes a fellow-Christian, Smith, who said, ‘Ye shall wax old like others, then ye shall fall sick like others, then ye shall die like others, then ye shall be' buried like others, then ye shall be consumed like others, then ye shall be judged like others, even like the beggars which cry at your gates.’
- GOD IS THE SUPREME SOVEREIGN Verse 8
The psalmist calls out to God, recognising that He is the one and only true God.
He recognises that God has the right to ‘judge the earth’.
We know from Paul that God will have the final say. ‘For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
And the psalmist reminds us at the end that God is in control across the nations. When we read our papers or watch the news on television or listen to the news, aren’t we perplexed at what is going on? Everything and everyone seem to be getting out of control and there seems no hope.
But remember that ‘all the nations are your inheritance.’
Be encouraged. Be praying. Be willing to share your story.
God is still on the throne.