Today’s Scripture Lesson: Psalm 82
Please read this Psalm on your own and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to you through His Word.
As this Psalm is relatively short, we’ll address each verse because the message God has for His people through this psalmist, Asaph, is incredibly powerful and humbling.
Let’s look at the first two verses:
God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers. How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? (Ps 82:1-2; NASB)
Asaph’s words proclaim God as the Almighty, Sovereign Authority as He takes “His stand” in “His own congregation.” It’s a beautiful image to see God standing in the congregation, in lieu of being seated on the Judge’s bench. He stands in the congregation as both prosecutor and judge, revealing Jehovah never forfeits His sovereignty.
In the second verse, God, the prosecutor, has examined the evidence and brings charges against the rulers/magistrates who judge His congregation. Furthermore, God, the judge, is fully aware of whom the wicked are among the people and that they’ve unfairly curried favor with the rulers/magistrates.
Moving forward, let’s look at the next two verses:
Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them out of the hand of the wicked. (Ps. 82:3-4; NASB)
God gives direction to the judges. His direction is a call to repentance, but more so, it’s a call back to their covenantal responsibility to represent their heavenly Father in faithfulness to His identity.
In His direction to the judges, God tells them whom they were placed in their positions to serve. They were to serve the weak, the needy, the fatherless, the afflicted, and the destitute. He lets them know they have been given authority in order to fulfill the privilege of serving as deliverer, just as their Creator God is the Deliverer.
To give this a little more personal application, let me state it like this: God is telling His people to be His hands and feet, representing the mind and character of their God to those who cannot help themselves.
I’d like to break verse 5 down into three statements and then I want to offer you some Scripture which has served as a lens through which I’ve viewed this particular verse. I hope you will prayerfully allow these Scriptures to shape your understanding of this verse as well.
Statement 1: “They do not know nor do they understand…”
In Jeremiah 9:24, the prophet quotes God saying, “let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands Me and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things.” (NASB)
When you view God’s Word offered by Asaph through the lens of God’s word in Jeremiah, you begin to more deeply understand God’s covenant call to His people to represent Him.
Over and over throughout the Old Testament, we see God call His people out for “profaning” His name. Profaning isn’t simply using curse words – where we say God’s name in vain. Cursing might be the tiniest tip of the “profane” iceberg.
If you do a word study on “profane”, you’ll find that the Hebrew word for profane has a much greater meaning. Profane can mean defile, pollute, violate, or use its fruits. These rulers whom God calls out here in Psalm 82 were enjoying the fruits which accompany a position of authority while simultaneously defiling the image of their Creator through misrepresentation. They failed to exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness.
Statement 2: “…they walk about in darkness…”
In Proverbs 2:11-14, Solomon writes, “Discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you, to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things; from those who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness; who delight in doing evil and rejoice in the perversity of evil.”
Also in Proverbs 4:19 Solomon writes, “The way of the wicked is as darkness; they know not at what they stumble.”
In Psalm 11:2 David writes, “For, behold, the wicked bend the bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string to shoot in darkness at the upright in heart.”
Walking in darkness is diametrically opposed to walking in the will of the Father. While God reveals that He delights in lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness, we learn in Proverbs that those who walk in darkness delight in doing evil and they rejoice in the perversity of evil. Not only were the rulers misrepresenting their Creator, they were serving and rejoicing in evil.
Statement 3: “… all the foundations of the earth are shaken…”
It is interesting to see this statement made immediately after a statement about walking in darkness. We just looked at the 2nd verse from David’s Psalm 11 where he writes about darkness. Let’s look at what follows immediately after in the 3rd verse of Psalm 11: “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Whoa! That’s a heavy statement.
Let’s not lose hope, though, as Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:19, “Nevertheless, the foundation of God stands sure…”
Isn’t it interesting that a shaky foundation is associated with darkness? Jesus, the Light of the World (John 8:12) is the Solid Rock (Matthew 7:24). He is our firm foundation. He came to reveal the heart of the Father. Several of the gospel Scriptures are dedicated to Jesus calling out the religious leaders of His day for their misrepresentation of God and abuse of their authority and privilege. The association of “knowing” and “understanding” along with the “foundation” should not be ignored – neither in regard to Scripture or in our walks with Christ. God desires to be known. He reveals Himself in order to be known and to be understood.
Let’s look at verses 6 and 7 together:
“I said, ‘You are gods, and all of you are sons of the Most High. Nevertheless, you will die like men and fall like any one of the princes.’” (Ps 82:6-7; NASB)
Verse 6 is a very big statement – so big that Jesus quotes it in John 10:34. It is an easy verse to take out of context and we should seek to understand this statement. Without an understanding of covenant, that is nearly impossible. Fortunately, we’ve covered a good portion of that so far in this study. But, let’s also remember that we were created in God’s image. The Hebrew word here is “elohim” which is rooted in another word, “eloah.” Yes, Elohim is a Hebrew word for God. But, this can also be translated as rulers, judges, or magistrates; all of which are words we’ve been using throughout this study.
Pride taken by the magistrates is misplaced. They placed their pride (boastfulness) in their position and title rather than who their Father is, the Most High. They succumbed to the fallacy of placing the creature over the Creator and ignoring His law and His character.
Death is always pending and will be the end result for each of us. This, regardless of the position we hold, should be the sobering thought which keeps us rooted in reality. It is easy to focus on how we’ll be remembered. Some seek power, some seek money, some seek influence, or any combination of the three. Scripture tells us to seek the righteousness of God. The rewards of this life are nothing in the eye of eternity. God is our portion and our reward.
So, What’s the Play Call?
Finally, Asaph offers these words:
“Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is You who possesses all the nations.”
We must recognize. Asaph recognized that God is Lord of all creation. Because of this recognition, he does not call on God to stand and judge only in Israel – He calls for God to arise and judge the earth. There is no one Sovereign over the Creator God Almighty.
If there is an area of your life where you are claiming sovereignty, pray that God will help you recognize, exercise faith, and surrender your perceived sovereignty to the only One who can legitimately stand in the congregation as both prosecutor and judge. Allow Him to shower His lovingkindness and righteousness upon you. It is in these things that God takes His delight.