1 God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.
2 How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah.
3 Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.
4 Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.
5 They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course.
6 I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.
7 But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.
8 Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.
God instructs the judges of the earth to execute justice by His standards, as they too will one day stand before the judgment bar of God Himself.
Our hearts are overcome by a holy reverence for the absolute sovereign rule of God over all the kings of the earth. We are somewhat impressed by the power of presidents who have authority over one billion people. Yet, as somebody once noted, even the most powerful men in the world put their pants on one leg at a time. That is, they are all mere men, and one day they will all stand before the judgment seat of God. The same cannot be said of God, Who is the absolute Sovereign. In the words of another Psalm, the kings of the earth had better kiss the Son lest He be angry and they perish from the way (Ps. 2). Whenever we recite this psalm, we send a grave warning to those judges in our countries and states who refuse to acknowledge the law of God as the standard of all justice.
Verse 1. The psalmist pictures God presiding in judgment over all the gods of the earth. The use of the term “gods” should not confuse us here. When the Bible refers to “a god,” it speaks of an authority. In one sense, there are many authorities or “gods” in the earth. But in another sense there is one Ultimate Authority over all, and He is the One the Scriptures reveal as “Almighty God.” Those God-ordained authorities, such as fathers and mothers or judges and presidents, may be referred to as “gods” or “powers” over some region or sphere. Yet all are accountable to the God of heaven because He is over all spheres, and He will certainly judge every judgment they have made.
Verses 2–5. Now comes the exhortation for these judges, many of whom have refused to judge righteously according to the laws of God. They have exonerated the wicked and condemned the righteous in their courts. It is rare to find a judge or a legislator who will even confess to fear God in our day. So it should come as no surprise that most political authorities act in complete disregard of the law of God (which delineates between that which is righteous and that which is wicked). But pretending that God does not exist will not relieve a judge of the problem of God’s existence and His judgment over all the “gods.” Most certainly, God takes note of every judge who confiscates land from an innocent man, every legislator who condemns an innocent baby to death, and every president who signs a budget providing millions of dollars to abortionists.
In verses 3 and 4, God Himself instructs the judges of the earth to defend the cause of the weak and the fatherless. At the very least, these judges should repudiate the killing of orphans and unwanted children and do what they can to prevent the confiscation of the property of those poor widows who cannot afford onerous taxation imposed upon them. God is teaching these judges that His standard of justice is defending those who cannot defend themselves.
Some will take this to mean that the government must assume control of charity for the poor, making their healthcare decisions for them and redistributing the wealth from the rich to favor the poor. But the Bible clearly disallows any redistribution of the wealth as Karl Marx and other humanists have advocated. God’s standard of justice is clear: “You shall not countenance a poor man in his cause” (Exod. 23:3, 6; 30:15). God calls for the same justice for the rich as for the poor. When taxation on property, income, and purchases are so high that they force widows into bankruptcy and reliance on welfare (government-based slavery), this is nothing less than oppression of the poor. When a legal system favors the defendant with a gaggle of expensive attorneys over the poor man who cannot afford a competent defense, the government has fallen into the hands of the wrong people. When a legislative body is largely controlled by high-dollar campaign donations and well-endowed lobbyists, the citizens will be oppressed and the government will be utterly corrupted.
According to God’s standards, a poor man should not receive a whit less justice in court than a rich man. Biblical law requires equal taxation under the law. Certainly, the wealthy should not benefit from collusion with powerful governments. Big farming should never receive subsidies from redistributed wealth. Neither should the poor receive subsidies by the forced redistribution of the wealth. In the present system, it is usually the middle income taxpayers (who do not have the opportunity to collude with big government and big banking), who bear the brunt of the taxes. The lobbyists who benefit the most from government contracts and programs usually contribute the most to the political campaigns of the legislators or presidents who favor them. Such are the injustices of present-day systems that oppress the poor.
Speaking of wicked unjust judges, the psalmist says in verse 5, “They know nothing… they walk about in darkness.” Without the light of God’s law, they have no basis whatsoever for the ethics they propound. Their ethical judgments are reduced to arbitrary, random, contradicting notions of kindness. They usually think very highly of themselves and their “liberal” causes, but in the end they enslave the poor, shred the integrity of the family unit, create monopolies, tyrannize the populace, and bring more evil into the world. After a society is ruled for one hundred years by this wickedness, it is reduced to chaos. The wicked gradually forfeit their right to rule the nation as they progressively abandon God’s law. The people resort to more anarchy, which is the breaking of God’s law by the individual, and tyranny, the breaking of God’s law by the body politic. Anarchy results in more tyranny, which produces even more anarchy, until the entire system breaks down. That is why every humanist empire collapses, just as the Greek empire, the Roman empire, the Spanish empire, the French empire, and the English empire collapsed. This is what the psalmist means when he says, “All of the foundations of the earth are out of course.” When civil leaders give up on justice, all bets are off for salvaging that civilization.
Verses 6–8. As the psalm ends, God reminds judges that they are mere men and will die like every other man who has ever lived. All men in all positions may be considered sons of the Most High in that they have been created by God Himself and have an obligation to obey Him. When men are caught up in the euphoria of power and money, they have a hard time humbling themselves long enough to consider their own mortality. Any person in a position of power who has a modicum of wisdom would do well to heed this exhortation. In essence, the psalmist says, “Mr. Judge, you sit in judgment today. But one day you too will stand before the judgment seat of the Judge of the whole earth. Acknowledge this Judge today and adjudicate your cases according to His standard of righteousness.”
In the last verse, the psalmist calls on God to rise up and judge the earth because all the nations of the earth belong to Him. This is the heart cry of every saint who loves God’s righteous law and sees men violating these principles all over the globe. May God’s standard of justice and the blessing of liberty prevail everywhere!
1. Men often get carried away by their own power and greatness. This is especially true in countries of great wealth and affluence. They forget to fear God, so they ignore His law. But every great empire of man comes down, and every powerful judge will be judged by Almighty God. The wealthiest and the most powerful man in the world will die, and what good will his riches do for him then? What is the use of living life without acknowledging God? Wise men will always take into consideration their fundamental duty, which is to fear God and keep His commandments in every area of life. “For God will bring every work into judgment” (Eccles. 12:13–14). Whether we exercise a little power or a lot of power, whether we are judges, legislators, or just voters, we ought always to follow God’s standard of righteousness, contained in His holy law, in every one of our decisions.
2. One practical thing we can do to follow the exhortation contained in verses 3 and 4 is to defend the lives of millions of babies—usually fatherless—who die each year by the hand of the abortionist. We can do this by supporting godly candidates who commit to making this issue a high priority in their service in civil government. Also, we can support ministries that work hard to rescue babies from these clinics.
Worship provides an opportunity to prophetically declare God’s absolute authority over every earthly power, including legislators, judges, and other civil authorities. In doing so, we call them to submit themselves to God’s righteous law. Occasionally, these prophetic warnings should play a part in psalm-singing, prayers, and sermons when we gather to worship God.
1. What is meant by the use of the word “gods” in this psalm?
2. How does one defend the poor in judgment?
3. What happens to every human judge in the end?
4. What is another psalm that instructs the judges of the earth to humble themselves before God?
5. In what sense is every judge a son of God?
6. Give several examples of Didactic Psalms.
1. How does pride blind us from recognizing God’s authority?
2. How can a judge defend the rights of a poor widow in our day? What can we do to defend the rights of the poor and the oppressed in civil government or in other areas?