Scripture

Psalm 82

God presides in the great assembly;
    he renders judgment among the “gods”:

“How long will you defend the unjust
    and show partiality to the wicked?
Defend the weak and the fatherless;
    uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
    deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

“The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing.
    They walk about in darkness;
    all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

“I said, ‘You are “gods”;
    you are all sons of the Most High.’
But you will die like mere mortals;
    you will fall like every other ruler.”

Rise up, O God, judge the earth,
    for all the nations are your inheritance.

Reflection

It is easy to forget that the religious background of the Israelites was polytheistic. While they followed God, the one true God, they also still thought in polytheistic ways. This Psalm recalls that understanding. God presided over a council of “gods,” and proceeds to put them on “trial” for their failure to administer justice. This is not a literal description of a trial, but a poetic metaphor that communicates how injustice violates the nature of divinity and the rules God has laid out for the world. It seems that even the other gods can’t get this right. They fail, as humans do, to take care of the needy, the weak, the poor and the powerless.

 

We often associate the call for justice as coming primarily from the New Testament writings particularly in light of Jesus, but God has always been a God who fights for the poor and the powerless. This idea gets lost in Old Testament writings because there was such a focus on power, rulers, and kingdom building. I suspect that bend comes from the human side of those writings, and less from God. Whatever the case, I am certain that, in Jesus, God demonstrated just how he feels about those people who live on the margins of society. Jesus spent most of his time right there with the poor, the needy, the frail, the powerless, and the social outcasts. He not only spent time with them, but Jesus also affirmed over and over that they had an equal, important and valuable stake in the kingdom of God.

 

I wonder what God would say if he put me or you on “trial” today. For me personally, it is all too easy to forget about the people on the margins. I live in a bubble of relative security, power and privilege. In a time where so many are speaking into power, from all different angles, I think it is important to listen. I think that as Jesus did, I should spend time talking with and listening to those who feel they have no power and no value in society. Because God’s kingdom is not the same as our society or culture.

 

The last line of this Psalm is an Old Testament way of saying what we pray in the Lord’s prayer, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Amen Psalmist, Amen.  

Prayer

Dear Lord, teach me to hear, lead me to see and guide me to heed your words. Let these words from the Psalms infuse my soul. I trust you, Oh Holy One. I submit fully to your will for my life. Lead me on the path of righteousness and forgive me for the ways I fail. May your grace be born anew in me each day. And may your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.