PSALM 82 TALK: JUDGES AND RULERS UNDER GOD’S JUDGMENT

PSALM 82 TALK: JUDGES AND RULERS UNDER GOD’S JUDGMENT

 (A Psalm that explores the way in which those who rule over us and judge us in our courts must be God’s agents of justice and fairness and if they don’t then they will be judged by God harshly and with greater strictness.)

INTRODUCTION

 Both Paul and Peter who lived and wrote letters to the churches of their day did so under the often unfair and brutal rule of the Roman Empire who hated Christians and even put them to death for simply daring to believe in what they saw was a strange and dangerous religious faith.

Yet both Paul and Peter demanded in their letters that Christians obey all earthly rulers and leaders because God put them there to rule over us. Paul says this to the church in Rome in Romans 13: 1 – 2,

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves”.

Peter says something similar in 1 Peter 2: 13 – 14,

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right”.

This is an amazing instruction for Christians to follow in the context of living under brutal and often hostile government rule yet both Paul and Peter knew their bibles or shall we say Old Testament just as Jesus did.

I believe Psalm 82 is one part of the Old Testament that probably helped shape Paul and Peters understanding of the Christian attitude to Governing authorities. We know that Jesus certainly knew it as he quoted from verse 6 when dealing with criticism from the Jewish leaders of his day recorded for us in John 10: 35 – 36,

“Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?”

Jesus is interpreting the use of one of the main names for God, “Elohim” found in both verse 1 and in verse 6 as referring to religious leaders in Israel. There are many scholars today who say that this word “Elohim” is actually meant to be referring to literally “gods” and therefore must be referring to Angelic beings that God has appointed in heavenly places to rule over kingdoms of this world.

I however go along with Jesus interpretation that this is referring to human judges and rulers and there is other Old Testament backing for this interpretation as well. For instance Exodus 21: 6 and Exodus 22: 8 – 9 use the Hebrew word “Elohim” for judges and Joseph Benson makes this helpful comment about Exodus 21: 6,

“In the original, gods, magistrates being often so called as the visible representatives of God upon earth”.

 This idea will make the position of anyone who judges or rules over us a very high calling and I think this is the biblical concept that Paul and Peter both knew and applied in their teaching to the churches of their day. When you lead or teach others, the bible teaches that you will be judged with greater strictness as James says in James 3: 1,

“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly”.

Judges and Rulers and those who take positions of leadership in the church are in a special position made possible by God himself and in their judging and ruling they are like ‘gods” or are acting on God’s behalf and so if they fail to perform as God requires them to then they are under greater judgment for doing so.

We all know that even today judges and leaders do fall to the temptation of corruption and fail to judge and rule with justice and fairness, as we know God does and Asaph knew this too.

Asaph inspired by God himself wrote a short but very powerful Psalm condemning the unjust and immoral judges and rulers of his day. Here Asaph is acting more like a prophet than a leader of music in the Temple. Spurgeon writes,

“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”.

I have found already that the Psalms of Asaph often feature the theme of God’s judgment on his people and the world and this Psalm is no different as it features the theme of God’s judgment on those who seek to judge and rule over us.

I hope we will learn what God has to say to us and particularly those who act as judges and leaders both in the Church and outside of it about how they are to truly be “gods” that is to judge and rule as God judges and rulers.

With this in mind I have broken this Psalm down this way:

  1. 1- 2 GOD THE JUDGE OF JUDGES AND RULERS
  1. 1 God the judge of judges and rulers
  2. 2. God’s charges against the corrupt judges and rulers
  1. 3 – 5 HOW JUDGES AND RULERS NEED TO BE LIKE GOD
  1. 3- 4   God defends the defenseless
  2. vs. 5 The judges and rulers walk in darkness
  1. 6- 8   GOD’S JUDGMENT ON THE JUDGES AND RULERS
  1. 6 – 7   God’s judgment on the judges and rulers
  2. vs. 8   God’s judgment on all mankind.
  1. 1- 2 GOD THE JUDGE OF JUDGES AND RULERS

Psalm 82 is very short as it only has 8 verses but I have broken it down into three sections to help us understand what it teaches us. I have even broken each section into two parts as well. The two parts of the first section are:

  1. 1 God the judge of judges and rulers
  2. 2. God’s judgment of judges and rulers
  1. 1 God the judge of judges and rulers

This Psalm does not waste both time and words in making its point and the first verse of this Psalm is no different as it simply says,

“God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgment among the “god’s”

This verse has two tricky concepts to interpret:

  1. God presiding over the great assembly
  2. Judgment among the “gods”

Once I understand what each of these two concepts means then this verse and the whole Psalm opened up to me in what it is saying and teaching us. So lets have a close look at each of these two concepts.

  1. God presiding over the great assembly

Here Leupold points that the Hebrew word for “great assembly” is “edhah” which he writes,

“Frequently applied to the congregation of Israel”

 I found this more detailed rundown of the meaning of this Hebrew word in the Old Testament in Easton’s Bible Dictionary, I have kept the bible references in for you to check if your interested,

“The congregation were summoned together by the sound of two silver trumpets, and they met at the door of the tabernacle (Numbers 10:3). These assemblies were convened for the purpose of engaging in solemn religious services (Exodus 12:27; Numbers 25:6; Joel 2:15), or of receiving new commandments (Exodus 19:7 Exodus 19:8 ). The elders, who were summoned by the sound of one trumpet (Numbers 10:4), represented on various occasions the whole congregation (Exodus 3:16; 12:21; 17:5; 24:1 )”.

 So when God’s people gathered together as a united congregation of believers, we have,

 “The great assembly”

 God was they’re presiding over it and verse 1 declares God is presiding over it in judgment.

 I can remember being taught in the past that when we gather for worship as a congregation of believers God is present with us indeed the New Testament teaches that Jesus is present, as Jesus taught in Matthew 18: 20,

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

This is a solemn thought that when we meet as Christians we are not alone spiritually but Jesus is with us and when I go to church either as a participant or one who takes some form of leading I always pray that God and in fact Jesus through his Holy Spirit will lead us.

I have had the opportunity from time to time to visit other churches and share in the presentation of the message or in song and I have been amazed time and time again how God has answered my prayer for the Holy Spirits leading discovering how all the different elements of the worship service have fitted so well together and helped us all focus on what God obviously wanted us to learn and share through that worship service.

Finally there will be a great assembly in the future, which of course will be in heaven. This idea appears particularly in the book of Revelation but I like how the writer to the Hebrews speaks of this great heavenly gathering of the assembly of all believers in Hebrews 12: 22 – 24,

“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel”

 Note how the writer to the Hebrews speaks at the end of verse 23 that presiding over that great heavenly assembly is God himself who is described among others things as the judge of all.

God one day will judge everyone including those who judge and rule over us and this is what verse 1 of Psalm 82 is referring to.

  1. Judgment among the “gods”

We come then to the very tricky term “god’s” which I have already stated is one of the Hebrew names for God, “Elohim”. In the past all reformed teachers interpreted this word as referring to human judges and rulers but in more recent times many have moved away from this interpretation to a more literal interpretation as I found Tremper Longman 111 who’s commentary on the Psalms I always find helpful but here Longman writes,

“Sometimes the Hebrew term gods is used to refer to all spiritual beings, not just the one God who created everything and everyone, including other gods.”.

 He goes on to conclude,

“Gods could refer to Angels and demons. Thus, the picture the psalmist summons for our minds is God addressing his angelic assembly”.

 Longman sights Job 1: 6ff as an example of this kind of heavenly assembly.

However this does not seem to match how Jesus himself understood the use of the term “god’s (“Elohim”) in this Psalm.

As I pointed out in my introduction there is plenty of examples of how this term “gods” was used of earthly judges in the nation of Israel like Exodus 21: 6 and Exodus 22: 8 – 9.

It makes more sense to me that Asaph has these earthly judges and rulers in his sights here in verse 1.

One problem of Longman and others interpretation is what then is the biblical consequences of saying that Angels and Demons actually oversee and control judgments on earth.

They certainly do influence our spiritual battles in this life as Paul taught in Ephesians 6: 12,

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

But I don’t think the bible teaches in any way that corrupt and evil judges and rulers can blame fallen angels for their corrupt and evil practices.

In fact the rest of this Psalm clearly identifies how judges and leaders will be under God’s judgment if they exploit and judge and lead wrongly particularly the weak and powerless of this world.

So verse 1 then is saying very clearly that God sits in judgment over the assembly of Israel in judgment and judges the judges and leaders. God promises to do this one day for both the church and this world.

Paul makes this final judgment of everyone very clear in his address to the Athenian philosophers in Acts 17: 31,

“For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

How should that affect us today?

I think it should affect us in two ways:

  1. It should act as a warning to how we lead others in this world
  2. It should lead us to warn others of God’s coming judgment
  1. It should act as a warning to how we lead others in this world.

We can be involved in leadership of others in many ways. Even the humble but important Sunday school teacher is a leader of others and he or she has a very important role to play in the development of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for those who attend there Sunday School classes.

Understanding that one day we will have to stand before God and give an account for what we have done in this life should be a sobering thought for all of us to consider as Paul speaks of this in 2 Corinthians 5: 9 – 10,

“So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.

 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad”.

  1. It should lead us to warn others of God’s coming judgment

The second affect of the certain coming judgment of God should have on us is the need to find ways of warning others about this coming judgment. James make this point at the end of his letter and writes in James 5: 19 – 20,

“My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins”.

When James speaks here of saving someone from death he is referring to the eternal death that will comes in the final judgment of God.

I read in preparation for this Psalm talk a very interesting sermon by Paul Fritz preached in 2004 called, “Why we must warn people of God’s judgment” and he makes this very good point,

“If you knew that a poisonous snake was crawling around in your back yard, it would be most cruel to allow your children to go out and play. Similarly, God wants us to warn others of the dangers of sin in the world, the flesh and the devil that seek to bring death and destruction to everyone who does not heed God’s warning to repent from their sins and turn to Christ as their Savior and Deliverer from the wrath of God that is to come”.

 How should we do this?

We all hear of the damage done by the so called “Fire and prime stone preaching” and people say they don’t like Christians shoveling the bible down their throats but I think Peter gives us the way of how we are to preach and warn others of both God’s judgment and his wonderful salvation from it in 1 Peter 3: 15 – 16,

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander”.

So clearly verse 1 present the fact that God is the judge of all earthly judges and rulers and he now sits in judgment over all of them.

  1. vs. 2. God’s charges against the corrupt judges and rulers

 Now God begins his problems with these earthly rulers and judges. He, we might say is not happy with their performance. They are supposed to be his agents of justice and rule like gods on earth but they are abusing their positions for their own selfish aims. Verse 2 simply says,

“How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?”

 This verse starts with a question any solid reader of the Psalms will be very familiar with,

“How long?”

 These two words appear as a question in many Psalms but this is the first time in the book of Palms that this question is attributed to God himself. Usually the Psalm writer is suffering so much and wants it to stop he asks God, “How long”?

Tremper Longman 111 explains the use of these two words in this Psalm this way,

“”How long is a question often asked of God, here the question implies that matters have gone on long enough and should come to a end”.

God is saying then how long are you judges and rulers going to continue to do two corrupt things and these two corrupt things are his charges against them, they are:

  1. Defend the unjust
  2. Show partiality to the wicked

Lets look at each of these two charges a little closer.

  1. Defend the unjust

All through the time of the prophets which is also the time of the Kings of Israel and Judah corrupt Kings and judges are being condemned by God through the words of the prophets, Isaiah speaks of this condemnation of what he calls elders and leaders of the people in Isaiah 3: 13 – 14,

“The LORD takes his place in court; he rises to judge the people. 14 The LORD enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of his people: “It is you who have ruined my vineyard; the plunder from the poor is in your houses”.

 Note how Isaiah picks out the leaders attitude and actions to the poor and how they exploit them and so they defend the unjust.

Jeremiah spells out this oppression of the poor and defenceless even more in Jeremiah 7: 5 – 7,

“If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever”.

Micah pin- points this injustice in Israel in his time and lays the blame squarely at the feet of the rulers or leaders of Israel in Micah 3: 1 – 3,

“Then I said, “Listen, you leaders of Jacob, you rulers of Israel. Should you not embrace justice, you who hate good and love evil; who tear the skin from my people
and the flesh from their bones;

who eat my people’s flesh, strip off their skin and break their bones in pieces; who chop them up like meat for the pan, like flesh for the pot?”

 Leupold points out that,

“God is the guardian of justice, He watches over the administration of it”.

 Now he has had enough of the injustice he sees in Israel. Israel’s demise in 740 BC at the hands of the Assyrians and Judah’s demise at the hands of the Babylonians in 587BC came about because God had had enough of Israel and Judah’s corrupt practices of justice.

  1. Show partiality to the wicked

Going hand in hand with the defending the unjust goes this next charge God lays against the Judges and Rulers of Asaph time and that was showing partiality to the wicked. Later even in Judah most of the kings and rulers their became corrupt and failed to administer true justice. The prophet Jeremiah is told to go and say this to the Kings and rulers of Judah, Jeremiah 22: 1 – 5,

“This is what the Lord says: “Go down to the palace of the king of Judah and proclaim this message there: ‘Hear the word of the Lord to you, king of Judah, you who sit on David’s throne—you, your officials and your people who come through these gates. This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. For if you are careful to carry out these commands, then kings who sit on David’s throne will come through the gates of this palace, riding in chariots and on horses, accompanied by their officials and their people. But if you do not obey these commands, declares the Lord, I swear by myself that this palace will become a ruin.’”

 Notice who these corrupt leaders exploit to gain power and wealth they pick on and exploit the defenseless people in society, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widows. In the next two verses these people plus the poor will be the targets of oppression and being shown partiality in favor of the wicked more powerful people in society.

We see this today subtly in the west but blatantly in the third world in poorer countries in the contents of Africa, South America, Asia and the middles east. I have seen and heard of this type of exploitation first hand myself in countries I have visited in South East Asia where ruthless corrupt leaders enjoy lining their own pockets at the expense of the poor. These leaders will face God in judgment one day and then they will realise how out of step they were with the God of the universe.

Outside of the west Christians are in a minority in many places and they suffer at the hands of corrupt and powerful Governments who seek to not only exploit them but in some places destroy them as well. Paul and Peters command to respect and obey the Government must be a real challenge for Christians in these countries today.

So Asaph sees judges and rulers not acting, as God would want them to act in how they judge and lead but acting in the opposite way to his ways of judging and ruling.

In the church we must be careful especially our leaders must not take on the worldly attitude of showing partiality to the rich and powerful.

Interestingly James saw this problem in his day way back in the early days of the Christian church because he speaks of it in his letter to the churches he knew in his day in James 2: 1 – 4,

“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”

Notice how James calls showing partiality becoming,

Judges with evil thoughts”

Which is exactly God’s charge against the judges and leaders expressed here in verse 4.

The church should act as a counter culture showing the world how God wants it to be like especially in how its leaders operate and how all people from all walks of life are loved and accepted when they attend any of our church meetings.

  1. 3 – 5 HOW JUDGES AND RULERS NEED TO BE LIKE GOD

 My title for this second section was my original title for this whole Psalm as I think using the “Elohim” (gods) title for earthly judges and rulers is because God wants these people to act like him and for him on earth in their judging and ruling. They obviously don’t so Asaph spells out for us how these judges and rulers should lead and don’t, which shows us how God obviously rules from heaven. Then in the second part of this second section Asaph tells us where the earthly judges and rulers stand with him because of how they are currently operating as judges and rulers.

This means my two parts for this second section are:

  1. 3- 4   God defends the defenseless
  2. vs. 5 The judges and rulers walk in darkness

 Lets now look at these two parts of this section in more detail.

  1. 3- 4   God defends the defenseless

Both verse 3 and 4 as I have already stated spell out how God actually wants this world judges and rulers to operate. In verse 3 he says,

“Defend the cause of the week and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed”.

 Right through the whole bible God is presented as a God who cares for and wants us to care for the poor and powerless people of this world.

Part of the more detailed run down of the Law of God given to Moses speaks of how Israel God’s people are to treat the poor and powerless people in their communities, we see this in verses like Deuteronomy 15: 7 – 8,

“If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks”.

This open hearted attitude to the poor was rarely seen in the Jewish world and like the rest of the world’s cultures the poor are the ones who get exploited the most with outrages interest loans and even worse by people taking advantage of them to become even richer.

Again all of the prophets picked up Israel’s sin of exploiting the poor, like the prophet Amos who picks up the terrible depravity of Israel in his day and how the exploitation of the poor and oppressed was ripe in Amos 2: 6 – 7,

This is what the Lord says: “For three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not relent.
They sell the innocent for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor as on the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed. Father and son use the same girl and so profane my holy name”.

 In the previous section when I spoke of Christians not acting with partiality to the poor I quoted from James chapter 2 and in the next verses of that letter, verses 5 – 7 James spells out why we must love and accept the poor,

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong”.

James is saying here God loves the poor and it is mainly the poor he has called into his kingdom to become spiritually rich. He even goes as far as to say that many Christians are pampering to the rich yet it is some of the rich who are opposing them and even dragging them into court, obviously as there way of persecuting the Christians of that time.

Then we read in verse 4 something similar,

“Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked”.

The kind of leadership God wants the judges and rulers to have is foreign and looks weak from this world’s view of how we want our leaders and judges to act like. Let me explain, note how this verse says we are to,

“Rescue the weak and needy”

I cannot remember a leader of any country recently speaking of sending out into the world people who would rescue week and needy people. Sometimes the propaganda

Spun by countries who invade or send troops to fight in other countries justify these actions by saying they are doing it to liberate poor or oppressed people but sadly usually the real reasons for there military actions is for some form of economic gain for themselves.

I recently heard a very right wing politician in my country Australia proposing we should cut almost all economic aid to overseas countries because she believed charity should begins at home and we should spend most of our aid money on helping the poor of our own country and not others. The problem with this is we are one of the richest countries in the world and the state of even our own poor is what many counties would consider as being rich.

I am not saying we should not spend money on the poor and down and outs of our own country but not at the expense of helping other far worse off countries than us.

It is sadly the non -government sector of our country particularly those who have a Christian connection who actually send more people out into the world to help recue the weak and needy not with military aid but humanity aid like aid workers and funds for economic assistance. I really like the aid to poor countries that helps the poor of those countries actually find ways of making money for them and I have seen on my mission trips to Myanmar direct positive results of this kind of aid work and money.

Then the second half of verse 4 says,

 “Deliver them from the hand of the wicked”

This is a great description of what God has done for us in Christ. God has through the work of Christ delivered us from the hand of the wicked. We have been saved from death and been delivered from the hands of evil forces. As the writer to the Hebrews puts it in Hebrews 2: 14 – 15,

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death”.

 With all this in mind how are judges and leaders in this world to be like God in their judging and ruling?

We have a great answer to this in the example of Christ who is the perfect model for Godly leadership that must be modelled and practiced by his church on earth and it can be summed up in one great term, “Servant Leadership”.

What does servant- hood leadership look like then?

 I would like to look at one passage of scripture to answer this question of how we are to be servant leaders in Christ’s church today.

The passage of scripture and what I want us to learn from it is:

Servants not Lords (Mark 10: 41 – 45)

Lets have a closer look at this passage and what it has to say about servant – hood leadership.

Mark 10: 42 – 45 is an excellent passage on servant leadership because it is Jesus teaching on the subject something he continually modeled through his life and ministry. It comes as an answer to two of the disciples, James and John asking Jesus a question which came from their fallen human desire to be Lords in heaven sitting next to Jesus as he rules the universe.

In verse 37 they ask Jesus,

“Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory?”

 Jesus answer to this desire for the disciples to be Lords in heaven is our passage, Mark 10: 42 – 45,

42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

I want you to notice three things from this passage:

  1. Worldly leaders lord it over others (vs. 42)
  2. Christian leaders serve those they lead (vs. 43 -44)
  3. Christian leaders follow the example of Christ (vs. 46)

Lets look briefly at each of these:

  1. Worldly leaders lord it over others (vs. 42)

Jesus speaks of those in the general world, those who are not following God and his Savior Son Jesus Christ as operating as leaders this way, vs. 42,

“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them”.

We all have experienced this kind of leadership even in the workplace where our bosses ruthlessly Lord it over us driving us with threat and bully tactics to perform as they want us to perform. Sadly I have heard people say of work or political leaders who seek to show others compassion, trust and delegation in those they lead as being weak leaders.

One secular management job I had years ago for only six months turned into a nightmare for me because my superiors kept goading me into getting tuff with my staff by making life difficult for them by telling them they had to perform better or else they would be sacked or demoted. I was eventually sacked from this job myself for a number of reasons and one was because I was considered a week boss.

The sad reality of that experience was that my staff responded wonderfully to my leadership style but unfortunately I also made some serious mistakes in my work, which led to my demise in that position. When I left all my staff expressed great sorrow for my going and thanked me for the great encouragement I had given them in the short time I was their manager.

Jesus saw no room in his church for this worldly way of leading others and is condemning this form of Christian leadership style by speaking of it as how leaders in the world or outside of the church lead others.

  1. Christian leaders serve those they lead (vs. 43 – 44)

Jesus then tells us how he wants us to lead others with these words,

Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.

Jesus is telling his disciples he wants them to be servant leaders and not to lord it the people they lead.

I came to understand what that might look like when I was a very young Christian and one of the ministers of the church I attended at that time came to me before the young peoples fellowship group started and asked me to sweep the floor. He did not order me to do it but said, “Here Jim is another broom come and help me sweep the floor”.

This young minister was practicing servant – hood leadership and what he did that night had a big impact on my understanding of how I should lead others in the Church.

  1. Christian leaders follow the example of Christ (vs. 46)

This last point relates directly to the Psalm we are studying, the Judges and Rulers Asaph is speaking of in his Psalm acted in a anti – God manner by oppressing the week and the poor and showing partiality to the wicked.

Jesus example was the opposite he makes that clear by what he said in verse 46,

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus came from the right hand of God in heaven, he was the supreme Lord of everything and yet he came into this world not to Lord it over others but rather to serve others by giving his life on the cross so that those who believe in him might have the forgiveness of their sins and have the gift of eternal life.

Jesus servant – hood leadership led him to the cross where he gave his life as he says in verse 46 as a ransom for many.

So as Christians we are to show the world how God wants judges and rulers or anyone in a position of authority to act and then we can be truly “gods” on earth.

Peter taking up the teaching of Jesus puts it this way in 1 Peter 5: 1 – 4,

“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away”.

 I Like the words of the modern Hymn of Graham Kendrick that expresses so well what servant – hood leadership is all about:

THE SERVAN KING

From heaven you came helpless babe
Entered our world, your glory veiled
Not to be served but to serve
And give Your life that we might live

 CHORUS:

 This is our God, The Servant King
He calls us now to follow Him
To bring our lives as a daily offering
Of worship to The Servant King,

 There in the garden of tears
My heavy load he chose to bear
His heart with sorrow was torn
‘Yet not My will but Yours,’ He said

 Come see His hands and His feet
The scars that speak of sacrifice
Hands that flung stars into space
To cruel nails surrendered

 So let us learn how to serve
And in our lives enthrone Him
Each other’s needs to prefer
For it is Christ we’re serving

  1. vs. 5 The judges and rulers walk in darkness

Asaph then gives us God’s sad indictment of the judges and rulers of his day with these words,

“They know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken”.

 This indictment contains three elements:

  1. They are ignorant and lack understanding
  2. They walk in darkness
  3. They cause the society to be disrupted

Lets then have a closer look at each of these three elements of God’s indictment on the judges and rulers of his day.

  1. They are ignorant and lack understanding

God says of these wicked judges and rulers,

“They know nothing, they understand nothing”

 If we came before a judge today and we were told that this judge happened to be clueless and lacked understanding of both the law and life we would feel like we had little chance of getting justice. This is how both the judges and rulers were like in Asaph time.

Allan Harman writes,

“They lack the very qualities that should have been paramount in their work as judges and rulers”.

Spurgeon makes this point even clearer,

“A wretched plight for a nation to be in when its justices know no justice, and its judges are devoid of judgement. Neither to know his duty nor to know it is rather the mark of an incorrigible criminal than a magistrate”.

 When judges and rulers look away from God and stop fearing him then they are on a slippery slope into clueless incompetence. Proverbs 1: 7 says,

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction”.

These judges and rulers were acting as though God did not exist and their actions as judges and rulers was in direct contradiction to the revealed word of God little wonder they knew nothing and lacked understanding.

Jesus made it clear how we can know the truth or have real understanding in John 8: 31 – 32,

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

  1. They walk in darkness

Not knowing anything and lacking understanding leads to the next indictment against these judges and rulers namely,

“They walk about in darkness”.

 Darkness is the result of turning form the God of light and this is image used in number of places in the scriptures to describe this. Proverbs 2: 12 – 15 describes how these wicked judges and rulers operated and why they walked now then in darkness,

“Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse,13 who have left the straight paths to walk in dark ways, 14 who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, 15 whose paths are crooked
and who are devious in their ways”.

Jesus came into the world to bring us out of spiritual darkness as John 1: 4 – 5,

“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”.

However John 3: 19 – 20, tells us,

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed”.

But the next verse tells us the way out of this darkness,

21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God”.

So as Christian leaders we need to walk in the light and John later in his first letter to churches he was ministering to spells this out a bit more in 1 John 1: 5 – 7

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin”.

When Christian leaders and churches move away from the light of God’s word then they too like these wicked judges and rulers in Psalm 82,

“Walk about in darkness”.

  1. They cause the society to be disrupted

The third and last indictment by God of these wicked judges and rulers is,

“All the foundations of the earth are shaken”.

 James Coffman explains this expression with these words,

“This simply means that with a corrupt judiciary, Israel’s foundation as a nation was already in a very precarious condition. No nation can long survive when the judiciary becomes corrupt”.

Many countries in the past and even today have had their foundations shaken by their corrupt courts and leadership. Massive movement of refugees is taking place in our world today because people are fleeing cruel unjust regimes where the idea of justice is a cruel joke and the corrupt leadership of their countries only offer instability and even death to its ordinary citizens.

Such is the darkness of the world we live in and only the message of the Gospel can really change these countries predicament as Paul tells the Roman church in Romans 1: 16 – 17,

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”[

  1. 6- 8   GOD’S JUDGMENT ON THE JUDGES AND RULERS

We come then to the last section of this Psalm, which is three verses, that nails down God’s judgment on the corrupt and wicked judges and rulers of Asaph day. I have broken this final section into two parts as well and they are:

  1. 6 – 7   God’s judgment on the judges and rulers
  2. vs. 8   God’s judgment on all mankind.

 Lets have a closer look at each of these two parts to this final section.

  1. 6 – 7   God’s judgment on the judges and rulers

We have this second reference to the judges and rulers of Israel being “gods” (“Elohim”) and this reference is the one that a lot of commentators who interpret the word “Elohim” – gods literally make their decision to do so. I think this is the reference Jesus is speaking of in John 10: 34 – 35. He could be also referring to the use of “Elohim” – gods in the two references in Exodus (Exodus 21: 6 and 22: 8-9), which is speaking of Jewish judges.

In any case I go with Jesus interpretation of the idea of ‘gods” being human judges and rulers and not angelic beings or demons. This interpretation has helped me open up this Psalm and so I will continue with this view in understanding what verse 6 is telling us.

Verse 6 and 7, reads like this,

“I said, “You are ‘gods’” you are sons of the Most high. But you will die like mere men; you will fall like other rulers”.

 I see two main things that God is teaching us in these two verses:

  1. Judges and Rulers are in a privileged but responsible position
  2. Judges and Rulers who fail to act like God will be judged

Let me now explain and expound what I mean in these two main ideas.

  1. Judges and Rulers are in a privileged but responsible position

If verse 6, as Jesus interpreted it, is referring to judges and rulers as “gods” and “sons of the most high” then this means that those who judge us and rule over us are in a very privileged and responsible position.

I mentioned at the start of this Psalm talk the way in which Paul and Peter spoke of how we as Christians should respect and obey our earthly leaders. Paul even says in Romans 13: 1, that we must submit to the governing authorities,

“For there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves”.

Paul is saying those who rule over us have been put their by God and in a sense they act as “god’s” over us. They are supposed to administer laws and justice in this world. In 2 Timothy 2: 1 – 4 Paul urges Timothy and the church or churches he leads to pray for those who rule over us. His prayer request for kings and those who have authority over us is so that the society we live in might have peace and the opportunity for or men and women to come to God, through Jesus Christ our saviour,

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth”.

It is sad to realise that many countries even in our world today have people in authority there who outlaw the opportunity for Christians to share the Christian Gospel and even put Christians in prison for doing it or worse have them executed for doing it. God’s judgment and condemnation in the next verse applies to these governing authorities.

So anyone who exercises power and authority over others is an earthly leader who must exercise this power and authority the way God wants them to do it. My advice to Christian brothers and sisters who live in countries where the gospel proclamation is banned by the governing authorities is to follow Pauls advice and example and that is to first of all pray for those who rule over you. Then follow the advice if Jesus gives us in Mark 12: 17,

“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”

This means we must be law abiding citizens but when it comes to the preaching of the Gospel so that men can be saved we must obey God first in this matter and continue to find ways of spreading his message in this most dangerous and difficult situation.

We must do this with another piece of advice from Jesus in Matthew 10: 16,

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”.

Even in the church we must be respect and obey our leaders something mentioned a number of times in the New Testament but I like how the writer to the Hebrews puts it in Hebrews 13: 17,

“Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you”.

This is something I have had to repent for in the past when my disagreement with ministers in my church in the past got out of hand and I have sinned in this matter. Again if we have a minister we disagree with then we should first of all pray for them and then maybe lovingly approach them to discuss this.

However if a minister started preaching heresy or worse gave up the bible as God’s final authority then I would obey God and would be forced to leave that church and join one where the minster was preaching from God’s word correctly. This praise God has never happened to me except when I have been on holidays in a strange place and attended a church that had moved away from the word of God.

  1. Judges and Rulers who fail to act like God will be judged

We come then to God’s final word of judgment on the judges and rulers of Asaph time and we find this in verse 7,

“But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler”.

 These rulers who were to be like god on earth administering his justice and love were we learnt in the previous verse acted corrupted without justice and care for the poor and weak as God wanted them to so they now face God’s judgment.

Note they face God’s judgment, those who take on being God’s agents of judgment like the extreme Muslims will face God in judgment as James says in James 4: 17,

 “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbour?”

 And Matthew 7: 1 – 3,

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

So these judges and rulers of Asaph day and any judge or ruler of any day who does not perform his or her duties with justice and love will die just like any man or women in this world. They will fall into the hands of God the judge of everyone as Paul declared to the philosophers in Athens in Acts 17: 31,

“For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

 Death then is the great leveller of all men and women as both the high and mighty and the lowly of this world suffer the same fate, death. The difference then to how we end up after God’s judgment is not determined by your financial status, or social position in this life but rather where we stand with God. Corrupt and unloving judges and rulers in this life will face a just and loving God in the next and as Hebrews 10: 31 says,

“ It is a dreadful (or fearful) thing to fall into the hands of the living God”.

Judges and rulers hold a privileged and responsible position in this life but with the privilege and responsibility comes greater scrutiny and judgement by God as James 1: 3 says,

“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly”.

And as all the prophets of Israel and Judah implied on a number of occasions like Micah in Micah 3: 1 – 4,

Then I said,” Listen, you leaders of Jacob, you rulers of Israel. Should you no embrace justice, 2 you who hate good and love evil; who tear the skin from my people and the flesh from their bones; who eat my people’s flesh, strip off their skin
and break their bones in pieces; who chop them up like meat for the pan, like flesh for the pot?” Then they will cry out to the Lord, but he will not answer them. At that time he will hide his face from them because of the evil they have done”.

Finally the corrupt religious leaders of Israel and Judah are also signalled out by the prophets as well for God’s judgement, like Ezekiel 34: 7 – 9,

 “‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock,

therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 10 This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them”.

Jesus also condemned the religious leaders of his day in New Testament passages like Matthew 23 and I would like to share just verses 33 – 36 here to show how they too face God in judgment for the miss use of their privileged position on earth,

“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation”.

Jesus is also speaking of God’s judgement that fell on Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70, which came about in these religious leaders generation.

Those of us who teach and take on leadership then in the Christian church must do so with the warnings of Psalm 82 and other scriptures in mind. Pauls principle for Christian leaders and teaches is well summed up by his word to the younger Timothy in 2 Timothy 2: 15,

“ Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth”.

  1. vs. 8   God’s judgment on all mankind.

 Asaph in this last verse turns his attention to the judgment of all mankind and writes,

“Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance”.

But what prompted Asaph to pray for God’s Judgment on all mankind?

Maybe Asaph once he realised that Israel’s judges and rulers where under God’s judgement maybe he thought of the state of the world at large, which he would have known, was full of corrupt and unjust judges and rulers so with this in mind he calls on God to Judge everyone.

Asaph knew his bible and if he lived during the time of any prophet of Israel he would have known that God would one day judge everyone as Isaiah 26: 21,

“See, the LORD is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood shed on it; the earth will conceal its slain no longer”.

 So Asaph prays for this judgement to come for all the earth. He speaks at the end of this that all nations are God’s inheritance. Spurgeon explains this as,

“The time will come when all races of men shall own their God and accept him as their king”.

 This final word of prophesy is fulfilled in the coming of the true King of all the earth, Jesus Christ and through him all the earth or people from every nation will be God’s inheritance as Spurgeon speaks of in his explanation of this term.

Jesus in his first coming opened up a way for people of every nation to come to God. Through his death and resurrection he could now draw all men unto himself as Jesus predicted he would in John 12: 32,

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

For this reason Jesus commands all his followers to, Mark 16: 15 – 16,

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

 Finally in Jesus second coming this prophecy of Asaph is completely fulfilled as Paul teaches us in Philippians 2: 9 – 11,

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.

Paul is speaking hear about the final judgement something he spoke of in Athens in Acts 17: 31,

“For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

Should Christians like Asaph pray for God’s judgment to come?

The answer to this is we already do pray for this as part of Jesus model prayer we call the Lords Prayer he taught us to pray in Matthew 6: 10,

“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”.

Praying for God’s kingdom to come on earth has a double meaning.

Firstly God’s kingdom can come through our going out into the entire world with the Gospel message-calling people of every nation to come to Jesus as their Savoir a king.

Secondly praying for God’s kingdom to come is praying for Jesus to return to earth and bring about God’s final judgement and of course the resurrection from the dead for all believers to enjoy their inheritance with God forever.

I close as I usually do with an original poem and a final word of prayer.

 GOD JUDGE THE JUDGES

(Based on Psalm 82)

 God judge the judges of this world

God judge those who rule over us.

Look upon their often-unjust deeds

Help them see they failed to trust

In you Lord above

Who wanted them to be

Your instruments of love.

 

Defend the weak and poor Oh Lord

Despite the strong who rule over them.

Uphold the rights of the oppressed

Who are often hurt and condemned

By cruel unjust regimes

That persecute the poor

With their evil schemes.

 

Chorus:

Come Now Jesus to this world

May your banner be unfurled

The banner of your mighty love

That came to us from God above

When you died for us

Upon the cross.

 

Shine your light in this dark world Oh God

The light you have given through the sending of your son.

When he came to earth as one of us

And through his death our life was won.

Help us Lord to see

The wonder of your love

You gave to us so free.

 

Help us God to be your sons today

And may we show the world the way back to you.

Put down the mighty who persecute

And oppose the message that is true.

May all opposition go

That stands in our way

To preach the Gospel true.

 

Chorus:

Come Now Jesus to this world

May your banner be unfurled

The banner of you judgment

That from heaven will be sent

When you come again

To judge all men.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

Dear father in heaven may you judge those who judge and rule over us unjustly. May those who persecute your often down trodden people be stopped so that they can live in peace and have opportunity to preach your wonderful Gospel where they live. Help us to pray for those who lead us and help us to be your instruments of peace and love in this often dark and hostile world. This we pray in Jesus Name Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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