The ‘Gods’

God presides in the great assembly; 
     He renders judgment among the ‘gods’: 
‘How long will you defend the unjust 
     and show partiality to the wicked? 
‘The “gods” know nothing, they understand nothing. 
They walk about in darkness; 
     all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 
Rise up, O God, judge the earth, 
     for all the nations are Your inheritance.”
Psalms‬ ‭82:1-2, 5, 8‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

This is a strange Psalm, short but open to different interpretations. But a linguistic, theological and academic study, though interesting, is unhelpful for the punters like us living on Planet Earth. What was in the mind of the Psalmist, Asaph, when he wrote this?

Reading it I get the picture of our Heavenly Father dispensing judgement in true righteousness and purity, against the tendency of human traits to practice partiality and to favour injustice. The reference in the NIV to ‘gods’ could mean the involvement of angelic beings or prominent human figures from long ago, or be a more topical reference to demagogic leaders pursuing a popularity ticket. But however we choose to define the meaning of ‘gods’, the object of their unfairness and partiality impacts those who are least able to defend themselves in the world they find themselves. As Christians we have a responsibility to adhere to God’s laws and dispense His righteousness in the communities and societies in which we live. And this will mean a counter-cultural emphasis in the way we treat the least able members of our societies. 

The Psalmist ends his short dissertation with an appeal for God to judge the earth. That is not a reference to the inert substance on which we stand, but to the peoples who stand on it with us. One day everyone will face judgement. A weary Asaph wanted it to happen quickly. He wanted God to “rise up”, to wake up and be God in His capacity as the ultimate Judge. And in the process purifying His inheritance, the nations. It has been said that there are two certainties in life – death and taxes. To this I will add a third this morning – judgement. One day everyone will stand before God to give an account of their lives. A sobering thought that should help us in the ways we view those who live around us. But not from a position of fearfulness, but one of faith in the righteousness of our Heavenly Father, as we, His people, call on His grace and mercy.

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