Psalm 82

Psalm 82
by Pastor David Groendyk

This is something of a bizarre psalm. As the ESV Study Bible explains, this psalm is something of a mix between a lament that is sung by God’s people and a prophecy against the wicked. In a section of the psalms that is dominated by the oppression and suffering of God’s people, this one stands out as unique. The primary audience here seems to be wicked and oppressive rulers, who are called “gods” in verse 6 because of the authority and rule they possess. The ESV Study Bible helpfully breaks this psalm down into three parts.

The task of the “gods” (vv. 1–4). God sits on the ultimate throne of authority and holds ultimate judgment (v. 1). The words spoken in verses 2–4 are God’s words spoken to the rulers (or “gods”) of this world about how they are supposed to rule. And we find that the rulers of this earth are condemned for their partiality. More specifically, they are partial to wicked men. Of course, that’s nothing new to us. How often do we hear of bribery and corruption even among the rulers of the United States? Rulers are prone to show partiality to people who are able to return the favor. And even regular non-rulers are prone to that sin as well. Rather, the responsibility of rulers and non-rulers alike is to help the helpless. A couple weeks ago, TYM discussed Psalm 82:3–4 in relation to dealing with bullies. Christian youth are called by God to stand up for those who are weak, needy, and afflicted. They shouldn’t let bullying go on when they see it happen. Likewise, all of us are to be examples of not allowing the strong to oppress the weak. In this way, we are demonstrating God’s justice in the world. And being examples of God’s justice is meant to show a watching world who the one true God is and to bring them into a saving relationship with him (see Deuteronomy 4:5–8). 

The failure of the “gods” (vv. 5–7). This section gives God’s verdict on the wicked rulers. When God says that they have no knowledge or understanding (v. 5), he’s talking about their morality. They do not know the one true God, and so they do not know what really is right and wrong. A true knowledge of God would lead to repentance and a striving to live in the light (see 1 John 1:5–10). As it stands, they cannot rule well, because they do not know God. These wicked men will eventually fall and face judgment because of their sin (v. 7). While so much injustice happens around us, we as Christians know that God will have the last word on all of it. What do these three verses have to say about us as Christians continuing to grow in our knowledge of God?

The prayer for the true God to judge (v. 8). Our God is the final judge of all the earth, and that should be one of the biggest comforts to every believer. The most faithful worshipers of God in Israel were often the most socially weak and lowly as evil, apostate kings were often on the throne. The Christians in the early church (in the 1st or 2nd century AD) were often in the same boat as those Israelites and faced death threats. So this psalm is more than just a call to live out God’s justice. It is a call to find courage in our God. Although believers in all periods are tempted to yield and recant their faith in the face of pressure from ungodly rulers, we are called to remain strong in the Lord. God possesses all the nations of the world and will one day judge. Even the most powerful of wicked rulers will come to an end. Let’s all find fresh courage and boldness to continue worshiping God, even if it means standing out in the midst of a crooked generation.