DUNCAN/You are Gods

DUNCAN/You are Gods


We continue working through the Psalms together in Psalm 82, a Psalm about God and government. And if you looked at the title and were wondering if I had slipped a cog — no, I really did mean to title the sermon, “You Are Gods.” You’ll note those words come right out of the Psalm. It’s important for us to know before we read this Psalm to whom this phrase “You are gods” refers. In this passage, the “gods” here refer to civil rulers. Throughout the Old Testament God is constantly enjoining government officials to rule justly; and in this passage He refers to them as gods (little “g”) because they have been appointed by Him to function as servants of God.

God meant to teach His people several important truths about civil authorities, and I want to point you to three of them in this passage. In verses 1 – 4, I want you to see God’s call for just government. In verse 5, I want you to see God’s complaint against unjust government. And then, in verses 6 – 8, I want you to see this warning of judgment that God gives to the mortal “gods.”

I. God’s Call for Just Government 

Here we see God’s pronouncement to His people about good government. In this passage we’re introduced to what seems to be a courtroom scene; at the very least, it is a great official assembly of the people of God. In this case, God Himself convenes the court session. His people are assembled around Him. And who is also there? The rulers. “He judges in the midst of the rulers.” And immediately, in verse 2, God brings an accusation against these rulers: “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?” God stands in the whole assembly of His people, and He points to these rulers, and says, “You are judging unjustly and you are showing favoritism to the wicked.” Now, having brought that initial charge against them, He tells them what He expects of those who are administering good government. You see this in verses 3 and 4.

Their rule is to look out for the interests of those who are most likely to be overlooked. And He lists them: the weak, the orphans, the afflicted, and destitute. So their rule is to look out for those who are most likely to be overlooked and to make sure that they are given justice and protection from wicked aggression. So notice here God speaks of at least two elements of a good government. Firstly, a government should look out for those who are likely to be overlooked. They should make sure that there is equal justice for all. Secondly, they should defend those who are vulnerable from mistreatment and aggression by the wicked. This is the reason why Christians have always believed that good government ought to foster equal justice under the law. That’s not an idea invented by our founding fathers. They learned that truth from their Christian heritage, from the Bible: that equal justice under the law is something that God expects of all good governments. 

One of the things about this Psalm is that it continually emphasizes that God rules not just over Israel, but over all the nations. They belong to Him. God is concerned for just rule not only amongst His people, but in all societies, and God will hold accountable those who rule. 

II. God’s Complaint Against Unjust Government

There’s a second thing I want you to see. And that is God’s complaint against unjust government. Here in verse 5 you see God’s assessment of Israel’s rulers. God says, “They do not know, nor do they understand; they walk about in darkness; All the foundations of the earth are shaken.”

Well, it wasn’t a very good grade on their report card, was it? God says to them that as judges and rulers that they are without understanding. He says that they walk about in darkness. They are engulfed in a dark fog of moral confusion. They lack wisdom and discernment, something essential to just rule and judgment. And they’re morally confused, because they have not adequately appreciated that their rule comes from God.

And so what is the consequence? “All the foundations of the earth are shaken.” In other words, the whole moral order is upset, is in turmoil because of this poor leadership. Not simply poor leadership, but unjust and immoral leadership. The foundations of the general welfare are undermined by this unjust government. It shouldn’t surprise us, but in a fallen world there is a corrupting tendency at work in all exercise of human authority and power. Here God is giving His assessment on these rulers and leaders. They have not acknowledged God as the source of justice and government, and so they lack wisdom and discernment, and the people consequently suffer.

III. God’s Warning of Judgment

And then finally, in verses 6 – 8, we see God’s declaration concerning these rulers. He warns of His judgment on these mortal governors whom He calls gods. Listen again to God’s words in verses 6 and 7: “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.’”

In other words, God is saying, “I appointed you in Israel as My representatives for the welfare of the people, and in that sense, you are gods, you are sons of the Most High. You are people who have been vested with My authority to rule. Nevertheless, don’t you forget that you’re going to die like any other man, and when you die there will be a judgment waiting.” God has appointed rulers in Israel. They’re vested with His responsibility to administer justice according to His standards. They’re accountable to God.

Now in response to this, the people of God finally speak in this Psalm. In verse 8, the people of God sing with their own words. And what do they sing? “Arise, O God, and judge the earth! For it is You who possess all the nations.” Now, finally the people assembled call out; and what do they say? “Come, Lord, and judge the earth, because all the nations belong to You.” God is reminding us through this Psalm that He will hold accountable all those who rule and govern and judge.

To close, this Psalm give us the substance and content for how we can pray for those who are in rule and authority. We can take the positive instructions of God and pray for our governors and civil authorities, “Lord, grant that they would rule in accordance with these positive commands.” You can take His negative judgments against the unjust rulers of Israel, and you can reverse them and pray that the Lord would grant our rulers not to rule in that way, but to rule in accordance with the principles of God’s enduring moral norms. May God do this in our hearts. 

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