1 A psalm of Asaph.
God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgment among the “gods”:
2 “How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3 Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. 4 Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. 5 “They 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 men; you will fall like every other ruler.”
8 Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance.
Psalm 82 – No ‘gods’, but know God
(Verse 1) To understand Asaph’s psalm best, remember that verse 1 introduces God speaking from verses 2 to 7. God is pictured as presiding over a big assembly of leaders, possible the world’s leaders. The word ‘gods’ is used elsewhere in the Bible to talk of judges and leaders who have a grossly inflated sense of their own importance: in mockery, God now calls them ‘gods’. They behave as if they are ‘gods’. Almighty God is the perfect Judge.
(Verses 2-5) These ‘gods’ are behaving in a very sinful and unfair way. They actually work to defend the ‘unjust’. They defend those who ought to be stopped and punished for the wrong they do. They are prejudiced for ‘the wicked’—the very ones who should be judged justly, rightly and impartially. The worst kind of judges are not impartial—how can they judge fairly? They sin as they judge others. These ‘gods’ also fail to defend ‘the cause of the weak and fatherless’ and ‘the rights of the poor and oppressed.’ Needy, unprotected folk need extra care, not less, that justice is fairly applied. These ‘gods’ behave like this because they also are lost sinners, who do not know God’s righteousness. For all their proud pomp they know and understand ‘nothing’, they walk in spiritual and moral ‘darkness’. They have no right foundation in their lives, and so pass on their warped standards to a needy, suffering world. How different was Jesus and how He lived, walked, judged and loved. Possessing all power, He never misused it. Instead He gave Himself up as a righteous, spotless sacrifice for our sins to die on the cross. He was judged in our place there. He rose again in resurrection power and now enters the lives of sinful, needy sinners who turn from their sins and receive Him as their Lord and Saviour. Even today’s sinful equivalents of these ‘gods’ can be forgiven and have eternal life through personal repentance and trust in Jesus.
(Verses 6-7) Here is the ultimate test for any man, however great he may claim to be, or others may think he is. Some may see themselves as ‘gods’ or be treated as ‘gods’ in the world’s eyes. Some may even claim to be Christians (‘sons of the Most High’) when they are not. But there is an acid test: death itself. They ‘will die like mere men’ and ‘fall like every other ruler.’ On a death bed a man is a man, and a woman a woman, and nothing more. When the last breath is breathed each one of us dies. The person who died may have been a king, a key politician, a pop star, a sporting hero, or a multi-billionaire. After death comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27) for all – unless Jesus is his or her Saviour.
(Verse 8) Asaph responds to what God has said by praying, ‘Rise up, O God, judge the earth for all nations are your inheritance’. It is vital to know Jesus as Saviour in your lifetime, rather than meet Him as the all-knowing and righteous Judge of your sins after death. Do you know Him?