“Rise up, O God, judge the earth; for all the nations belong to you!”
~Psalm 82:8 (NRSV).
There’s not one serious Christian alive that happily watches on at the presence of human rights abuses. Countless nonbelievers also detest these events. We’re more than likely sickened by them; many times just not understanding why God doesn’t step in and put an abrupt end to such abhorrence.
Such is life, apparently, that we have to accept these injustices will occur — that they’ve always occurred; since the Fall, that is.
In the present gaze, then, Psalm 82 is a comfort. The psalmist is a witness in court where the Almighty is judge. Sound judgment is meted out to the nations’ aberrant gods.
Just Who Are ‘the gods’?
There are many varieties and manifestations of ‘gods’ in this world. In the context of the psalm, anybody who’s in the position of power is certainly in a position to judge; these are ‘gods’.
Leaders of the nations, churches, and other movers and shakers of this world are in sharp focus. The psalm centres on those ‘gods’ who’ve proven to be bad judges. These are those who’ve not achieved justice for the weak, the orphan, the lowly and destitute (verse 3).
Advocacy is the function of the godly. The Advocate is now judging these who’ve failed for advocacy.
What Happens to These ‘gods’?
The same end comes to these ‘gods’ as does for us; we all die. But could verse 7 also be talking about the spiritual death?
These ‘gods’ are of reminded that they’re no better, and no different, than any other mortal.
The wicked judge, the one that abuses their power or is otherwise negligent, is coming to the end; their foundation is a shaky, and they will be shaken (verse 5). They’ve not used their power for good when they could. They were perfectly positioned, yet they became guilty of insubordination.
They governed for God, whether they acknowledged it or not, and their intent and deeds have now been found seriously wanting.
What This Means for Us
We can be driven to despair over justice issues in this life.
Depending on our experience, these matters can even drive us from the faith as we begin to doubt God’s morality and relevance. Perspective becomes twisted; lies making way for truth. This, of course, is probably an extreme example, but it does occur.
This psalm is, hence, an encouragement to us, because sickening feelings are validated in the Word of God. Not only that, we can afford to hope that God will judge; that the enemies of God — those by their ill-accounted-for actions — will receive their comeuppance.
In faith, we know they will.
In faith, we believe the Word of God.
Easily we can cast our minds back to a time when God’s judgment did occur in our midst. If we’re recalling it well, we’ll know that God’s judgment is both truer and harsher — because of the unrelenting consequences — than ours would be. We can attest, personally, that when we got out of the way when people transgressed us, we eventually came to pity them.
When God judges it’s a bitter and lasting judgment, often without recourse or recompense.
Knowing that God has the final word gives us this confidence: grace flushes through our hearts, yes, even now! Rather than avenging situations we’ll want to pray for these ‘gods’ that they turn quickly back to God — and commence judging fairly, becoming the advocate — while there is still time.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.