Psalm 82 Remembering the First Temptation
In the book of Genesis, we are told of joy and happiness intended for human life. We were fashioned from dust to carry the divine image within. Adam and Eve walked in the garden with God. Their work was pleasure and state was innocent. It was a relationship and reality founded upon God’s love for the being He had made. We could give God the one thing He could not give Himself, our free will to love Him.
Then came the fateful event. Another creation, who had been made for service and succumbed to power, a principality that seems to tempt every sentient creation of God, an angel who had wanted to take God’s place, decided to try and destroy this being God so loved knowing this would hurt the heart of God. The tool he chose to use was the same one which caused his downfall. He would tempt the two to seek that place which belonged to God. He would focus on the woman, because the man had the responsibility for her. If the woman could be coaxed into the sin of commission, the man would be guilty of the sin of omission. Either way, the relationship between them would become one of blame and shame, or ignorance and arrogance. We know that the serpent, Satan, the author of lies and creator of evil was successful. His temptation, “You will be as gods, knowing right from wrong” was the hook and it held. Ever since that time, human beings have been following that same deceptive path of ignorance and arrogance as we act as our own gods, deciding what is good and evil.
Psalm 82 is a strange psalm. It makes a person who has been taught that the Lord God is one take a second look. Note the first verse. What does it mean, “He gives judgment among the gods”. And then in verse 6, the Psalmist records, “You are gods”. What is going on here? The Hebrew word used here is elohim (Hebrew for god). It is the same word used in the first commandment, Exodus 20:2-3 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” This word is frequently used throughout the Old Testament. Often it is easy to see God is speaking about the creation of false gods or idols or giving the powers and principalities we struggle against the same status as God.
But what about the way the word elohim is used in this Psalm? Some interpret the word in this passage to refer to the tribal gods of the people who surrounded Israel. Others apply the word to angels. Still others think it refers to the rules of the nations which surround Israel. However, each of these interpretations create some difficult theological problems.
If there are other gods, like the God we are called to solely worship, how can we know He is the right God? More than one God changes the meaning of what the term means. If God is just another sentient being, although a very powerful sentient being, if He is in competition with other powerful sentient beings, who is to say he is the best? The term God, better yet Yahweh, to a monotheistic faith, means THE GOD, there is no other God. He is absolute, the beginning and the end of all things. Existence of everything is because He chooses and is held together by and through Him; everything is under His sovereignty and control. To be with Him will be heaven; to be apart from Him is hell. He is love and righteousness. He is truth and life. He has created time and space and is not limited nor confined by neither. He is one, yet he is known as three, Father, Son, and Spirit. He is revealed in Scripture, witnessed to by nature, and our responsibility to him is written in every heart. His ultimate revelation is the incarnation of Jesus. We are created in His image and given life that will not end by virtue of His very breath. We find Him by faith, experience Him by His Spirit, and will eventually kneel before His throne in judgment or joy. Any other use of the word God has to do with the reality of a cursed, fallen, sinful, world of suffering and death.
What do you mean preacher? If the Bible is correct, and I very much believe it is, God does not enjoy watching us suffer. He gets no pleasure out of seeing the injustice, immorality, selfishness, greed, and wastefulness. He is, however, a God who keeps his word. The wages of sin is death. The world we live in is under a curse, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil has made us think as if we were gods ourselves. When we are born into this world, enter it not with an understanding as to why we were created, but with a desire to have our wants met. We never have to teach a child to be selfish, that will come naturally.
Human history since the fall has been one of conflict over wills. Who will reign in our hearts, our sin nature or God’s love for us? In the midst of this struggle, human beings have expanded this struggle into the realm of human to human relationships. In the midst of these relationship people take on the role of gods and judge one another. The struggle of humanity is filled with a history of our rewarding those who give in to our will and punishing those who do not. It started with Cain killing his brother Abel and continues to this day. Because of this we continually need to be reminded of verse 4-5 and the reality of verse 2. We must contend with unfairness and the unjust.
Paul tells us in Romans 13, God has decreed for any to have a chance there needed to be a system of order. Human behavior, in our desire to be our own gods needed restrain. Thus the magistrate was given the authority to examine human behavior in the light of laws. However, laws can easily be used not only to restrain evil, but also used to promote wickedness. Remember, Jesus was given a trial and legally sentenced to death. Evil still loves to masquerade as good. Evil loves to get us to judge one another. In Psalm 82 God speaks to a reality. He speaks to the gods of this world, human beings who have taken a place of authority over their fellow human beings. He is reminding them that they will not have the last say. He is reminding all who read this Psalm that we live in the reality of verse 5-7. We live the wages of death. We live in the dimension of sin.
OK, so how does this have an effect on my life. Jesus quotes this Psalm. He does so in John 10:34-35. In the passage in John 10:30 He declares He and the Father are one. This declaration so enrages the crowd, that some pick up rocks to stone him. They believe they have the right to judge what he says. He then with authority quotes this Psalm. He does so to remind them of the struggle within us all and the promise God has made to us if we will but listen.
Jesus did not come to judge. He states in John 12:47-48″As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day (NIV). Jesus has come to claim God’s sheep. He has come proclaiming the Kingdom of God is at hand. The Kingdom of God is in Him, in Him is the relationship with God for which we were created. In Him God speaks to the human heart. In Him faith is not blind but bound to our created purpose and blessed by our willingness to trust in Him. Jesus comes and offers us not a political solution, not a legal solution, not a human solution but a divine solution which is our salvation. In Him we become promised the hope of the Psalmist found in verse 8. In him is the strength move beyond our curse to be gods and to share with others. He came to be the cure for our condition. He reminds us we must be careful because we are as gods. He tells us not to judge on the basis of our deciding what is good and bad or else we will be judged by this standard. He reminds us we are responsible. This world will never be fair, it will never be just. It will always be filled with the struggle of wills.
Our world is filled with institutions created by human beings striving to make sense of the experience we now call life. We band together in our fallen state, as little gods, deciding for ourselves what is good and bad. We are not omniscient. We are very limited in our ability to predict what our actions and efforts will cause. Someday, we will be called to give an account. Someday, we will stand before of the God of creation. You see, we are eternal beings. We are gods in that sense. Death is the beginning of judgment. It is the portal to the wages we have earned. If we stand before the God as gods of our own will, we will have the same fate as the author of evil, as the tempter who thought he could take the place of God. Love cannot redeem that which has rejected it. We do not want to experience this fate. God does not want us to experience this fate.
A man in his 60s was brought before the court for having committed a crime. The judge gave him a 50 year sentence. The man cried out, “Judge, I am 60 years old, I will die before I have completed that sentence.” The judge replied, “That’s OK, just do as much of it as you can.”
Folks, eternity is a long, long time. Again, John 12:47-48 “As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day (NIV).”
This is not the destiny Jesus desires for us. In the same chapter that Jesus quotes Psalm 82, he states: John 10:10 I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. And how do we have this life: John 5:24 “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. We don’t make very good gods. Even at our best, we fall short. Isn’t it time we turned to the only hope we have out of the mess we are in. Is it not time to quit doing it our way and seek the Kingdom Jesus came to offer us.