1. God presides in the great assembly; he renders judgment among the “gods”.
2. “How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?
3. Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
4. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
5. “The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness;all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
6. “I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.”
7. But you will die like mere mortals; you will fall like every other ruler.”
8. Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance.
What does God think of the powers that be? Does he expect them to behave justly? Does he take note of their injustice? Will God hold accountable those who shape society to favor the wealthy at the expense of poor? Is God paying attention to our broken world?
This psalm is one of disorientation and shares many elements with Israel’s ancient laments. After all it describes a predicament among the nations that God will address. However, there is no opening plea for intervention or vow of praise following an expectant divine response. Instead the psalm places before its audience a portrait of divine judgement as the answer to problems caused by those in power. It tells a story, we need to hear today.
God rules over all. There is a lot of back and forth in scholarship surrounding the identity of the word gods in the texts. Some believe this is evidence of the polytheistic worldview of ancient people. Others believe it’s a way of referring to the rulers of the nations that often determine life the way a god would. What everyone agrees on is that this text shows that God is large and in charge. That God presides in the assembly means he rules sovereignly within the world. Nothing happens “out of bound” of God’s jurisdiction.
God is not just aware of the actions of rulers, he has great expectations for them. Both the charges brought against the rulers and the charge given the rulers centers on justice. The unjust are to be dealt with swiftly. The vulnerable rescued immediately. God is watching and he cares immensely. God’s loving kingdom rule has set the bar. Under his rule and reign all people, insiders and outsiders, rich and poor, are to thrive. God is watching, he has great expectations, and he’s taking notes!
The rulers depicted here have responsibilities that have been neglected and a future they will regret. Their negligence threatens the foundation of the sort of society God is after. Their willful ignorance of God’s ways both precipitates and blinds them to an impending divine response. Those who are once elevated as gods, that seem to rule with an apparent immunity, will “die as mere mortals.” God touches the untouchable, he makes the god’s mere mortals. “The bigger they are the harder they fall”. In this way, God’s response is not only complete it’s contemporary.
The world is still filled with gods that perpetuate systemic and overt forms of evil with no apparent justice in view. Remember, God presides in the kingdom of men. He is aware, he cares, and he is taking notes. No one operates in total immunity. There exists no god that cannot be touched, no systemic injustice too hidden to be unearthed. The rulers of this world regardless of creed are being measured by the one that presides in the assembly. He cares for you, and will return one day to make things right. Until then we lift these words with ancient voices…
“Rise up, O God, judge the earth; for all the nations are your inheritance”