Psalms 80-85 You are gods all of you, nevertheless like men you shall die

From Psalms 80-85

19 Psalms Fragment

In today’s passage Asaph discusses the plight of the weak and the needy. They are around us, but we dont always see them. God sees them. In fact sometimes they are taken advantage of by the wicked who think they are gods.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

I have a lot of respect for those who do social work in the community. There are lots of complicated problems in society and they are normally very difficult to resolve. I remember once a workmate calling my attention to a place where some teenage kids were sleeping near where I was working. They used pieces of cardboard as makeshift tents to cover themselves up during the night in case it would rain or get windy. I dont know the full issues about why they chose to sleep there. Were they running away? Did they come from an abusive house? Had they exhausted all other options? My workmate gave them some money and I pursued some avenues to follow them up. But sadly  I don’t think I had much impact on their situation.

1 God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:

2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah (Ps 82.1-2)

Asaph contrasts God with the ‘gods’. Its not likely he is saying their are many gods. Rather I believe Asaph is calling men ‘gods’ (cf. Ps 82.6) because that is close to what they think of themselves. God takes his place among them in the divine council. This council is a mockery. God alone holds the judgment. I wont be surprised if Asaph sees God judging the ‘gods’ around him. Asaph questions God on how long will injustice prevail? How long will the wicked prosper. The continued existence of injustice and wickedness can call into question God’s justice.

3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.

4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (Ps 82.3-4)

Asaph calls out to God on behalf of the weak, the fatherless, the afflicted and the destitute. They have no one to care for them. The wicked oppress these people. They need to be rescued. The wicked of course should be judged.

5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. (Ps 82.5)

Asaph is speaking about the wicked. Being blind to the truth, blind about the welfare of others, and blind about God. The foundations of the earth again setting people of balance and disrupting the harmony of God’s creation.

6 I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you;

7 nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.” (Ps 82.6-7)

Asaph speaks to the wicked and calls them ‘gods’ and ‘sons of the Most High’. It couldn’t be further from the truth because like men they will die. The term ‘Prince’ is used to communicate a King – Prince relationship in the kingdom. In the scriptures God is king, his prince or princes are his chosen rulers in his kingdom. Note for example Saul and David are called princes (1 Sam 9.16; 10.1; 13.14; 25.30; 2 Sam 6.21; 7.8). The princes Asaph refers to have not ruled as they ought.

8 Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations! (Ps 82.8)

Asaph finally calls on God to judge. God’s judgment will punish the wicked as they deserve, and free the weak and needy from their oppression. When God judges, all the nations will be subjected to him.

The men Asaph rebuked had glorified themselves to the point they thought they were gods. The title is a parody of the truth because they used their position in the nation to rule over and oppress the weak and needy. They rejected the will of God and misused their authority for their own benefit.

Story of Jesus

When Jesus came many questioned whether he was the Christ. There were some who opposed him. Some of these were the chief priest and elders of the Jewish community. John records;

22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” (Jn 10.22-24)

Let me cut to the chase, Jesus is the promised Christ, the Son of God. But they these Jews think differently.

25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (Jn 10.25-29)

Huge word of assurance if you’re one of Jesus’ sheep by the way. Jesus’ works and signs reveal who he is (Jn 20.30-31) but they have rejected him. They do not believe who he is and that he is working in the Fathers name.

30 I and the Father are one.” 31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? (Jn 10:30–36)

Curiously Jesus says, ‘your law’ distancing himself away from it and includes the Psalms as part of the law (cf. Rom 3.10-18). Quoting Ps 82.6 Jesus puts them in their place. The men in the Psalm are called gods and Sons of God. If the law calls men gods and even the Sons of God, how can they rightfully judge him claiming God is his Father and even to be one with the Father?

Jesus has put a different slant on the Psalm. In the Psalm the ‘gods’ / Sons of God are the wicked who oppress the weak and needy. Jesus is quite different, he serves and pleases the Father by helping the weak and needy. Notice his emphasis on his works.

37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 39 Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands. (Jn 10:37–39)

The Jews tried to stone Jesus because they thought he was a man making himself God (Jn 10.33). But they didn’t understand it was the reverse. God made himself a man. And as the scripture says, like all men he could die (Ps 82.7). He died on a cross and for this reason be exalted that all may bow down before him and call him Lord (Phil 2.6-11; Isa 45.23)

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