Psalm 82 Rescue the Weak and Needy A Psalm of Asaph. (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 (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." (5) They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. (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." Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations! ESV
The NKJV titles Psalm 82: A Plea for Justice. A Psalm of Asaph. The NASB1995 titles it: Unjust Judgments Rebuked. A Psalm of Asaph.
Bible scholars believe the Asaph writing here is probably of king David and Solomon’s time.
Asaph no doubt saw around him much bribery and corruption, and while David punished it with the sword, he resolved to scourge it with a prophetic psalm.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
God stands in the congregation of the mighty; He judges among the gods. How long will you judge unjustly, and show partiality to the wicked? Selah Psalm 82:1-2 NKJV
Who are these “gods?” Bible scholars wonder about the use of this word in Scripture: are these “gods” angels or men in power? Why does God refer to mere humans as “gods?” Is something confused in translation?
The Hebrew word used for “gods” in this psalm is Elohim, which is the plural word for “god.”
Elohim is the Hebrew word used often for the one true God, Yahweh. Maybe it hints at the Trinity- the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Sometimes Elohim is used to speak of the gods of the pagan nations in plural. Commentators say that Elohim is also sometimes used in reference to angels, but they say in this psalm, the author may be meaning Elohim as human judges who stand in God’s place.
God places people in power. Once they take that power over others, they are in a position of doing God’s work. God is the ultimate and final Judge of the earth. His Word will prevail. In Exodus, God gave Moses this position to execute His judgment and even referred to him as “like God.”
So the LORD said to Moses: "See, I have made you as God to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you. Exodus 7:1-2 NKJV
God expects the words that come out of the mouths of human judges to be His Truth, His Word, like what He expected of Moses. According to Asaph’s words here from God, that is not happening.
Psalm 82: God is calling the judges of the earth into His presence, and He is not happy.
In these two verses, Asaph prophetically reminds magistrates, judges, church leaders, etc. that they serve as God’s judgment on earth for a time. God will uphold or reverse these judgments one day soon. And the warning is: He is present in these cases and during these judgements; He sees all.
Selah/Interlude. “Stop and let that sink in.”
"Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people. Psalm 82:3-4 NLT
Jesus speaks of the “unjust judge” in a parable as told in the book of Luke,
And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" Luke 10:6-8 NIV
The prophet Micah has similar words. Many of us have these words memorized. It’s easy to recite them, but do we walk them daily?
He has shown you, O man, what is good and what does the LORD require of you. But to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 NKJV
During Asaph’s time, the widow and the orphan were easy targets of evil people. Do we protect them better today? Are there others today? Who would God list today? Immigrant? Refugee? Homeless? Addict?
Suffer not the afflicted to be further afflicted by enduring injustice, and let not the needy long stand in need of an equitable hearing.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1832-1894
But these oppressors know nothing; they are so ignorant! They wander about in darkness, while the whole world is shaken to the core. Psalm 82:5 NLT They do not know, nor do they understand; they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are unstable. Psalm 82:5 NKJV
As it was in the days of Asaph, and also in to the time that Jesus walked the earth, so it is today. When our leaders walk without the light of God directing their paths, we all feel the world shake beneath of our feet. Do you feel this today? Does it bring you hope to know that God wrote these words, that God is watching? That God will ultimately be the final Judge?
When peasants may be horsewhipped by farmers with impunity, and a pretty bird is thought more precious than poor men, the foundations of the earth are indeed sinking like rotten piles unable to bear up the structures built upon them.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
I said, "You are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High. But you shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes." Psalm 82:6-7 NKJV
It is hard for men to have honour put upon them, and not to be proud of it. But all the rulers of the earth shall die, and all their honour shall be laid in the dust. God governs the world.Matthew Henry, English minister, 1662-1714
And thank the Lord for that, right?
Jesus spoke of this verse as the teacher’s of Jewish law in Jerusalem looked for a reason to kill Him,
Once again the people picked up stones to kill him. Jesus said, "At my Father's direction I have done good works. For which one are you going to stone Me?" They replied, "We're stoning you not for any good work, but for blasphemy! You, a mere man, claim to be God." Jesus replied, "It is written in your own Scriptures that God said to certain leaders of the people, 'I say, you are gods!' And you know that the Scriptures cannot be altered. So if those people who received God's message were called 'gods,' why do you call it blasphemy when I say, 'I am the Son of God'? After all, the Father set Me apart and sent Me into the world. John 10:31-36 NLT
God reminds the judges of the earth that they are “children of the Most High,” as all are, even the ones they just proclaimed judgment upon. This is another reminder that God is watching. All of His children deserve fair treatment. He will demand this. And in this verse, He reminds those doing the judging of it.
He also reminds those in power that they will die like every other person. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, all of our fates were sealed.
"Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return." Genesis 3:17b-19 NKJV
No places are too high for death’s arrows: he brings down his birds from the tallest trees. It is time that all men considered this.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
Rise up, O God, and judge the earth, for all the nations belong to You. Psalm 82:8 NLT
Asaph closes this psalm with a call for the Supreme Judge, the Good Father to come forward and take His place.
Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11
There is one who is “King by right divine,” and He is even now on His way. The last days shall see Him enthroned, and all unrighteous potentates broken like potter’s vessels by His potent scepter. The second advent is still earth’s brightest hope. Come quickly, even so, come, Lord Jesus.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
Father in heaven, thank you for this psalm. Thank you for the reassurance that no matter what goes on in the world around us, that you are in control. You have been faithful throughout time, and you will continue to be faithful. All that you say is true. And we gather hope and joy in these promises. Strengthen us to love those around us, to do right, to walk justly and humbly throughout our lives. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.