Ep.184: Psalm 82: God Demotes the “Gods”.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”.

In Psalm 82, the poet imagines a court scene where the God of Israel conducts an enquiry into the competence of lesser gods who look after the nations on earth. God, the presiding judge, castigates the rulers of earth for favoring the wicked instead of dealing out justice for the poor and needy. Clearly, these rulers have failed in their role of supervising the nations, so the God of Israel summarily demotes them from god status to mortals who will die (vv. 6-7). 

Author Robert Alter summarizes the worldview of this psalm by saying: “In the ancient world, the multiplicity of nations is associated with a multiplicity of gods: Each nation has its patron god . . . as well as a variety of gods and goddesses who preside over the various realms of nature. But [in Psalm 82] that order has now proven to be judicially and morally bankrupt, and it is the God of Israel alone Who holds . . . all the nations of the earth.” (Alter, Robert. The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary. W. W. Norton & Company: eBook, Chapter 82.) 

Alter continues, “…this poem is concerned with the infuriating preponderance of injustice in the world . . .God speaks out in the assembly of lesser gods and rebukes them for doing a wretched job in the administration of justice on earth.” Alter says this poem transitions from a mythology of multiple gods to a monotheistic perspective, as God rudely demotes the lesser gods from their divine status.

The apostle Paul echoes some of the same themes when he urges Christians to put on the full armor of God, because “Our warfare is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). 

Let’s pray. 

Our father, we thought the problems of our world could be traced wholly to the decisions of humans and their rulers. But we see in this psalm an interplay of visible earthly forces and invisible heavenly powers.

In the 1950s when Geoffrey Bull, a missionary to Tibet, was imprisoned for three years in Maoist China, he underwent a brutal program of torture and indoctrination into Marxist thought. But his faith enabled him to believe the abuse and indoctrination were delivered under a false and passing worldview.  His book God Holds the Key describes the battle for his mind and heart, and affirms you, God, as the source of life and truth. 

As you did for him, our God, we invite you to open our eyes to the false politics, the false gods, the spiritual powers that want space in our hearts and minds. Cast down every ruler but Christ, demote every god but yourself, strip away all our beliefs and all our allegiances to any power but you. With the poet we pray,
    Rise up, O God, judge the earth,
      for all the nations are your inheritance (v. 8). 


I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.