“If a claim to spiritual revelation leads us to depend less on the once-for-allness of the historical Word that comes to us by Jesus Christ through the apostles (Hebrews 2:3), then that claim is dubious.” —John Piper
“God, change me today because I have spent time being exposed to Your thoughts in Scripture. As risky as it is, I want Your Word to cut away everything in me that doesn’t look like Jesus.” —Kenneth Blanchard (see Hebrews 4:12)
A scrip on my back, and a staff in my hand, I march on in haste through an enemy’s land; The road may be rough, but it cannot be long; And I’ll smooth it with hope, and I’ll cheer it with song. —Henry Francis Lyte
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I may have heard more confusion, bad preaching, and even heresy based on Psalm 82 than almost any other passage! Most of the confusion comes from just verses 1 and 6, but if we read the entire psalm, I think confusions are quickly cleared up.
The biggest point of confusion is the use of the word “gods.” The Hebrew language doesn’t have capital and lowercase letters like we do. So the word God (with or without a capital “G”) is the same Hebrew word—el (singular) or elohiym (plural)—which means mighty One or mighty ones. Humans can be mighty ones, but only Yahweh is the Mighty One.
Further adding to the confusion for some people is that Yahweh God is sometimes referred to in the plural in Hebrew: elohiym. This is understandable because we believe God is Three-in-One. Not three gods, but one God in three Persons.
Bible translators have to use context clues to determine whether the biblical authors are referring to Yahweh or a pretend deity. Thankfully, English Bible translators have helped us out:
when the Hebrew word is Yahweh, most Bibles print it LORD
when the Mighty One is implied in the text it’s God (with a capital “G”), and when it’s just a mighty person it’s typed god/gods (with lowercase a “g”).
the NIV translators really helped us in Psalm 82 by designating the false deities in quotation marks (“gods”), almost as if they’re saying “the so-called gods.”
When we were looking at the Selah in Psalm 81, I pointed out the importance of remembering that context is king. Clearly, from the context in Psalm 82, these are false gods (lowercase “g” and inside quotation marks).
Asaph only speaks in the first and last verses of this psalm, but notice his commentary that “God presides…He gives judgment.” As in, God gets the final and decisive word. In fact, God does the most speaking in this psalm (in verses 2-7). God indicts wicked people for…
defending the unjust
showing partiality to the wicked
knowing nothing, understandingnothing, walking around in darkness
and notes “you will die like mere men”
Now notice what the Selah pause connects. This is a pause for us to contrast two things: the righteous way and the wicked way. Or maybe we could say the contrast is between the way of the righteous Mighty One and His followers, and the way of wicked mighty ones.
The Selah really begs an important question, “How long will your pride keep you doing these wicked things?” Notice what God calls on people to do in opposition to what the wicked are doing:
the wicked defend the unjust vs. the righteous are to defend the weak and fatherless
the wicked show partiality to the wicked vs. the righteous maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed
the wicked are concerned only about themselves vs. the righteous rescue the weak and needy from the hand of the wicked
The Selah is intended to prompt us to ask ourselves: “Which are we? What am I doing or not doing?”
The word for rendering a judgment is used four times in Psalm 82:
God gives judgment on the activities of the “gods”
the wicked defend the unjust, meaning that they condone their unjust activities
the righteous defend the weak, meaning they speak up for those being oppressed by the “gods”
finally, Asaph declares in verse 8 that God renders the final and decisive judgement
“God is not merely mending, not simply restoring a status quo. Redeemed humanity is to be something more glorious than unfallen humanity would have been, more glorious than any unfallen race now is (if at this moment the night sky conceals any such). The greater the sin, the greater the mercy: the deeper the death, the brighter the re-birth.” —C.S. Lewis
“Zeal for God feeds itself upon the thought of the eternal future. It looks with tearful eyes down to the flames of Hell and it cannot slumber: it looks up with anxious gaze to the glories of Heaven, and it cannot but bestir itself. Zeal for God thinks of death, and hears the hoofs of the white horse with the skeleton rider close behind. Zeal for God feels that all it can do is little compared with what is wanting, and that time is short compared with the work to be done, and therefore it devotes all that it has to the cause of its Lord.” —Charles Spurgeon
“For those who know the sound of a Goliath, David gives us this reminder: Focus on giants—you stumble. Focus on God—your giants tumble.” —Max Lucado
Fight The New Drug shares the results of a survey of pornography actresses, that shows their lifestyles are highly unhealthy compared to the general population. Read the full article here. Here is the important takeaway: If you are watching porn, you are keeping these young ladies in bondage to these destructive habits.
Jeffrey Kranz at the Overview Bible Project has a great infographic to help us all understand why publishers sometimes change an English translation of the Bible. (And while you’re there, check out all the other great resources on the Overview site.)