Psalm 82 — Earthly “Gods” Before The Heavenly God
Psalm 83:1-18 NIV
This psalm is a lesson targeted at the unjust rulers rather than a prayer or praise to God. However just because we’re not kings doesn’t mean this psalm doesn’t apply to us. We are in different ways, able to rule or judge over certain matters at home, at work and in various other areas.
God presides in the great assembly; He renders judgment among the “gods”:
Asaph began his psalm declaring that God sits in a great assembly of judges whom He passes judgment on. These judges are referred to as “gods” (elohim) here. The word elohim has been used variously to refer to God, pagan deities and angelic beings. However, in this context, it was applied to people who were placed in the position and authority to rule. Thus, God had called those with such capacity, “gods”.
Jesus answered them, “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 into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?” (John 10:34-36 NIV)
Jesus quoted this psalm to his opponents when some of the Jews wanted to stone him for saying that “I and the Father are one” (John 10:31), which was essentially a declaration of himself as God. Jesus reminded the Jews that if God called mere men “gods” just because they had some authority to rule, then he who was sent and given authority by God is even more deserving of being called God.
“How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?
Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
God challenged these judges and rulers to be impartial because they were guilty of defending and showing favouritism to the wicked. Instead, they should use their power to protect the weak, the orphans, the needy and the oppressed.
The word of God is indeed living and active (Hebrews 4:12), as it is still so applicable today. It is sad that many who wield some form of power, whether by virtue of position, wealth or intellect, do not use their ability for good.
We read about corrupt governments who misuse their power to support their cronies and oppress the people. We know about CEOs that won’t lose sleep over unethical practices or people they’ve harmed in their pursuit of profits. We hear about church leaders who make use of their congregation for personal aggrandisement.
God’s rebuke doesn’t only apply to people with high levels of authority. It could be a supervisor, a parent, an elder sibling, a school prefect, or a person who exercises influence because he’s just a little smarter or richer or well-liked. It applies to all of us. We've got to use our power for good. With much power comes much responsibility.
“The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
“I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’
But you will die like mere mortals; you will fall like every other ruler.”
People in power often have a high opinion of themselves, imagining themselves to be knowledgeable and wise. But to God, they are ignorant. What happens when those with authority walk in the darkness of their pride? The life of the people they lead becomes unstable.
When we are able to wield influence over others, we are in a sense, “gods”. And most of us have that influence to a certain capacity in our roles at work, in church, in school or in our social circles. God reminds us that we and the people we have influence over “are all sons of the Most High.” This is a humbling warning that we “gods” are still under His higher authority, He is the Most High. Besides, the ones we lead are also His children… so be careful that we don’t mistreat them.
No matter how great we think we are, we “will die like mere mortals”, so let’s not get puffed up by the positions we’ve risen to. We may think or even behave like we are “gods”, but nothing can change the fact that we will all die.
God will ultimately judge all of us, the powerful and the weak alike. So for our own sake and those whom we lead, we ought to walk in the light and not in darkness.
Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance.
Asaph called on God to arise and judge the earth. Asaph desired God to come help with the injustice, and thus he called out to God. As leaders or mentors in church, do we desire for God to come into our lives and preside in our assembly? Do we desire His lordship over us and helping us to grow?
Andy is the head of compliance for an international bank and is happily married, with three daughters. He became a disciple of Christ three decades ago, and studies God's Word passionately. He desires to be constantly led by the Spirit. Andy joined the Central Christian Church in 1990.