Here Comes the Judge

Psalm 82

Need to take side trip to Romans 13:1-7 to establish setting.

There’s God, then everyone else. God is omnipotent – means he has power to do any and all things he chooses. Also, because God is Creator, means God is sole source of power. Anyone else who has power / authority have their power / authority because God granted it to them. Positions of power and authority exist within human society because God instituted them and invests them with power. Right along with that comes expectations, boundaries, accountability.

Earthly authorities are proxies for God – standing in for him, acting on his behalf in their given role. When they act on God’s behalf, God expects them to perform their duties according to God’s principles and priorities. Three times – identified as God’s servants (v.4, 6) expected to serve God’s people. Primary responsibilities are: maintain order, promote justice. Rulers have duty to use their power and authority to encourage their subjects to do what is good and right, discourage those bent on doing what is evil. Have power of the sword which they can use to maintain law and order for good of the righteous, intimidate and if need be punish the unrighteous.

Everything’s cool as long as good rulers carry out their duties well. Doesn’t always work out that way, though. All through pages of Scripture, accounts of those who failed to carry out mandate given by God. Same is true of history books, newspapers, personal experience – bad rulers who implement laws and policies contrary to God’s principles abound, make life difficult for the truly righteous. If all we had were history, news accounts, experience, wouldn’t have much cause for hope. Tyrants rule with impunity, seemingly no consequences at times. What’s the little guy to do? Take heart, there’s still God. And, he hasn’t gone to sleep.

A. call to order v.1

“God takes His stand in His own congregation” NAS

court is in session, all please rise for the honorable judge, the Creator of all things

God has summoned the defendants to appear – those he had appointed to positions of leadership

close parallel to this Psalm occurs in Isaiah 3:13The LORD stands up to plead (contend), And stands to judge the people.”

“He judges in the midst of the rulers.” NAS

has called in human judges and rulers to defend themselves and their actions, holding them accountable for how they have served God by serving God’s people

gives new meaning to the whole concept of the “Supreme Court”, doesn’t it! may be highest court in particular country, but certainly not the highest court there is

no temporal / earthly power is autonomous – all people regardless of station are under watchful eye and restraining hand of God

whole idea of the supreme judge holding all lesser rulers and authorities accountable should give child of God great comfort

God, the source of all power, cannot be thwarted in his purpose; has all the resources necessary to do his will

God, in covenant with his people, will not be diverted from his purpose; has a vested interest in the outcome

means he will do all that is necessary to make it all turn out right – just like he expects earthly authorities to do, good will be rewarded, evil will be punished, justice will be served… perfectly

whether those who cry out in v.8 or from under the altar in Rev. 6:10 “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”, their cry will be answered

B. the case presented v.2-5

the charges:

injustice (2a)

right and wrong not decided by social contract, a vote, personal opinion, definitely not feelings

there is absolute standard that never changes; how principles apply vary, but right is right and wrong is wrong according to what God has given in Bible

ruler’s / judge’s job is to implement or interpret laws according to biblical model

Bible outranks precedent, majority vote, anything that would contradict

their task not to promote personal or political agenda; it is “simply” to determine what is just, act accordingly

leaders in Asaph’s day (as well as ours) charged with injustice: unjust laws and policies, unjust legal rulings

favoritism (2b)

“Some suitors could get their claims settled at once, and in their own favour, while others were wearing out their lives by waiting for an audience, or were robbed by legal process because their opponents had the judge’s ear: how long were such things to be perpetrated?” CHS

close parallel to this Psalm occurs in Isaiah 3:14-15

“…you have eaten up the vineyard; The plunder of the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing My people And grinding the faces of the poor?”

Selah – stop and think about it; don’t give your stock answer, the Judge knows better

the expected standard:

defend those who cannot defend themselves (3a)

here’s one of consequences of sin that required instituting civil authority: those who can take advantage of those who can’t

role of civil authority is to prevent/discourage that from happening, bring about redress when it does

in doing that, ought not go to extreme: ignoring the injured, over-injuring the perpetrator (injustice either way)

use power to promote interests of afflicted and needy (3b)

needy: rûsh – lower working class – these are ones on margins of society – oppressed because of station in life or circumstances

also applies to those living on the edge, hand to mouth, one crisis away from disaster, ones who need a hand up, not a handout

don’t use power / position to promote self-interest – civil authority never stops being in role of “servant of God” intended for the good of others

deliver the powerless (4a)

needy: ‘ebyôn – those needing protection

people in every culture fit that category because of social or economic status, particular circumstances – can’t fight city hall, for example; also the unborn, the infirm at opposite end of life

free them from enslavement (4b)

brick ovens in India

sex and drug trafficking “industries” operate on similar model: “Sixteen children as young as 13, rescued from the sex trade …pimps who brought the victims to New Jersey for Super Bowl weekend”

welfare system here in some ways not a lot different – no consistent plan for ever being free once in the system

v.5 => “This is a right description of all godless governments, whether overt godless governments like that of the former Soviet Union and the Communist bloc, or more subtle godless governments like our own. A government that does not acknowledge God and try to govern according to the responsibilities for it that God has laid down will inevitably succumb to the three perils listed in this verse. First, ignorance. It will not perceive what is happening or what to do about it; events will outstrip its ability to cope. Second, inept action. When it does act, it will operate ‘in darkness,’ and its programs and policies will be ineffective. Third, the foundations of common life will be shaken. . . . Our most basic institutions, like the courts, public schools, and even government itself, are in turmoil, and it is increasingly unsafe even to walk on our streets.”—James Montgomery Boice

C. the sentence pronounced v.6-8

even the most powerful, standing in for God as his servant, is still mortal

may avoid at least appearance of accountability for much of this life but… God will have his day

not a morbid thought, strong reminder to temporal rulers / judges that their power is not without limit – do not have the power to add to or subtract from number of days God has allotted them

and a solemn warning: Heb. 9:27 “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment”

if justice isn’t served in this life, it will be in the next – they will answer to the Supreme Judge in the Supreme Court

call for final justice

we must do our part, but…: have duty to do what is right, challenge rulers and authorities when they don’t

to extent we can be part of process – jury duty, civil service, voting booth – must endeavor to promote justice

are circumstances when we can do nothing to right wrongs, to see that oppression stops, especially for brothers/sisters in other places; what then?

don’t lose hope, call upon God to act and do what only he can do – real hope for true justice ultimately found in God

This call to God to undertake the judgment of the world is like the cry of the Church to her absent Lord, that He would make haste to right the wrongs of time and to bring in his glorious kingdom. F B Meyer

From this contemplation faith gladly turns to God. The cry goes forth that He would quickly take to Himself His great power and reign, and mold all hearts to be submissive to His will. May glorious prospects gladden our transported gaze, when we pray, Your kingdom come. Henry Law


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