“Rise up, O God, for all the nations belong to you.”
Observe: This Psalm depicts the court of heaven, presided over by God, who condemns the pagan gods who judge humans unfairly. The accused are divine beings, called “gods.” Whatever their status, they are condemned by the Lord God. They do not fairly treat the weak, or protect them from the wicked. Injustice shakes the earth’s foundations. God’s sentence of judgement is that these gods will die like any human being. God alone is divine, God alone is immortal, God alone judges justly.
Interpret: Many cultures and religions believe that the nations are ruled over by their own gods. War between nations is war between national gods. Psalm 82 dramatizes the one true God ruling over these so-called gods, showing that they are only paper tigers. The court of heaven has only one judge, who sits and calls for justice from the accused. “Give justice to the weak and the orphan, maintain the right of the lowly and destitute.” God reveals his character of mercy in his judgment. He confronts all pretenders to divinity, and calls them to account. Finally, Yahweh strips them of their immortality. They will die like mortals. So much for the pagan gods, and “the powers that be.”
Application: The daily news is full of pretenders to real power. The daily news is also full of the doings of the unjust and unmerciful who rule over others. Many act as if they are “gods.” Claims of divinity are common. Sadly, many bow down to these blowhards and windbags. But all will die, all will be judged. The One God and Lord is not only judge, but also just and merciful. His standards of mercy and justice for the poor and the powerless, will be the standard by which we are all judged, even diving beings.
How would our world change if “the powers that be” acted every day in the knowledge that every one of us, so-called gods, and mortals, will face the one Judge and Lord in a final reckoning?
Prayer: Strength of the weak, Defender of the needy, Rescuer of the poor, deliver us from the power of wickedness, that we may rejoice in your justice now and forever, through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Book of Alternative Services, p. 816)
Hymn: Strong Son of God, Immortal Love (Alfred Tennyson)
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.