1 God stands in the great assembly, judging gods who gather there: 2 “How long will you clear the wicked with the judgments you declare?
3 “Vindicate the weak and orphans, and the rights of those oppressed. 4 Save the weak, support the needy; from the wicked give them rest.”
5 They are void of understanding; no right judgment can they make. On they walk in utter darkness; all of earth’s foundations shake.
6 “You are gods,”—so I addressed them— “you are sons of God Most High. 7 But like mortal men you’ll perish, and like other rulers die.”
8 Rise, O God, and come in judgment; justice for the earth command, For you hold as your possession every race and every land..
The editors of Sing Psalms suggest the tune Stuttgart for this Psalm
This Psalm reminds me of the scene in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix when Harry is on trial at the Ministry of Magic. Unjustly accused, Harry is sat on a small wooden chair, while the Ministry’s judges are sat ‘on high’, ready to protect their interests. But despite how mighty and judicial they all look, there is another one who is judging the situation. Dumbledore steps in dramatically, and at that point true justice enters the room. This justice seeks the truth and protects the vulnerable.
Some leaders today operate to protect their own interests, and some will point to Romans 13 if one complained. Psalm 82 gives an important balance to Romans 13. Psalm 82 puts world leaders in their proper place – under God, working on God’s Kin-dom building project. God stands in the UN assembly, judging the human ‘gods’ who are gathered there. “So-called leaders, when will you defend the first peoples from corporate greed? When will you help the people fleeing war instead of closing your borders and stoking racism and fear? When will you help those oppressed because of gender, sexuality, religion or ethnicity?”
Leadership comes with responsibility to God, but the Psalmist tells us that the leaders don’t get it. They are oblivious to how their actions shake the foundations of the earth to its core. Their actions are like earthquakes working against what God is building.
The Psalmist admits that, yes, they are leaders, but God will judge their actions. Leaders are human, not divine. They will not live forever. God will. God will continue to seek justice for all the peoples of Creation. If you are a leader who wants to work with God and not against, the Psalmist believes that your divine orders are clear. (See verses 3 & 4).
God, We pray for those in leadership – international, national and local. We pray that they will work with you and your kin-dom building project. Help the leaders work together for a world that: “Vindicates the weak and orphans, and the rights of those oppressed. Saves the weak, supports the needy; from the wicked gives them rest.” Amen
The Rev’d Angela Rigby is minister at Christ Church URC Tonbridge and St Johns Hill URC Sevenoaks