St. John’s University, Collegivelle, MN, 56231 2006
Wednesday, June 17
By Diana Bridges
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?
Defend the poor and fatherless;
Do justice to the afflicted and needy.
Deliver the poor and needy;
Free them from the hand of the wicked.
They do not know, nor do they understand;
They walk about in darkness;
All the foundations of the earth are unstable.
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.”
Arise, O God, judge the earth;
For You shall inherit all nations.
The writers of the Hebrew scriptures assume the reality of the Creator of all that is. They say that only a fool would say that there is no God (Ps. 14:1). Occasionally, however, they provide some drama regarding the so-called gods who have the loyalty of the locals in Canaan. The story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18 is a particularly colorful account, and focuses on a would-be power struggle that ends up being a rout.
Psalm 82 draws the distinction in a completely different way. It imagines God overseeing a heavenly council of lower-level deities, berating them not for their lack of strength, but rather for their lack of justice: “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (Ps. 82:2-4)
God clearly stands in solidarity with the marginalized, working to protect them and improve their standing in society. The gods of the land have no such priority, perhaps preferring to focus on the offerings of their devoted followers.
In fact, those gods have no more substance than any other idols worshipped throughout history. The psalmist has his eye on those in his community who might give lip service to the God of Israel while living out more convenient and self-centered values. They may as well be worshipping a lower-level deity if their values have strayed so far.
However, unlike the gods who are characters in this drama, we always have the opportunity to stand up and take notice. We might have lived our lives up until yesterday oblivious to the plight of our neighbors, but today is filled with new mercies and possibilities. We can always chart a better path, both individually and as a church family.