You Are Gods
(H) A psalm of Asaph. (1) God presides in the great assembly. He judges in the midst of the gods. (2) “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? (3) Do justice to the weak and the fatherless. Vindicate the afflicted and the poor. (4) Deliver the weak and the oppressed. Rescue them from the hand of the wicked. (5) They know nothing. They understand nothing. They walk about in darkness. All the foundations of the earth are shaken.” (6) I said, “You (are) gods, sons of the Most High, all of you. (7) Surely like men you will die and like any one of the princes you will fall.” (8) Arise, O God! Judge the earth, for you will inherit all the nations.
The first issue that must be decided in this brief psalm is the identity of the term that stands out, the repeated word, “gods” (vss. 1 & 6). Scholars are divided over this issue. Some maintain that “gods” refers to angelic beings while others view them as human leaders. Two pieces of evidence rather convincingly push us in the human direction. The first is the warning given, “like men you will die” (vs. 7). The second is found in Jesus’ use of this passage in John’s Gospel where he defended his claim to be Israel’s Messiah against the unbelief of his enemies (Jn. 10:34-36). There he made it clear that the psalmist was referring to human beings by the phrase, “If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came” (Jn. 10:35).
The next issue that must be addressed is who is speaking and to whom. It is clear that the psalmist begins the psalm by offering a description of God presiding over the great assembly of the “gods,” that is, the rulers of the nations (vs. 1). Then we have God’s declaration of judgment on these rulers for their ignorance and injustice (vss. 2-5). “I said” (vss. 6 & 7) indicates that the psalmist is again speaking for God, describing the destiny of these failed rulers. Finally, because no one among the “gods” is found worthy to rule, the psalmist calls on the one who “will inherit all the nations” (cf. Ps. 2:7 & 8, a clear Messianic reference) to arise and judge the earth (vs. 8).
Other repeated words include three forms of the Hebrew word for “judge/justice” (vss. 1, 2, & 3), “wicked” (vss. 2 & 4), and “weak” (vss. 3 & 4). Two clusters of synonyms should also be noted: "weak…fatherless…afflicted…needy...oppressed” (vss. 3 & 4) as well as “deliver and rescue” (vs. 4).
I. Setting: God presiding in judgment over earth’s rulers (1)
II. Judgment: earth’s rulers charged with injustice (2-5)
III. Sentence: earth’s rulers dying like ordinary men. (6 & 7)
IV. Resolution: Messiah arising to rule justly (8)
Because earth’s rulers have failed to provide just and effective leadership, God will send Messiah to rule justly on the earth.
C. S. Lewis in an extended quotation from his book, The Weight of Glory, helps us understand the psalmist’s use of the word, “gods,” to describe human leaders. “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals with whom we joke, work, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors and everlasting splendors. It is a serious thing...to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or the other of these destinations.”
We struggle to grasp the potential that lies within each of us as human beings. Two great truths help us gain the kind of appreciation we need. First, the doctrine of the Incarnation conveys the amazing truth that God’s only begotten Son became one of us, took on our humanity, and became the God/man for eternity. Then the doctrine of Glorification promises us that God has an amazing destiny in store for each of us in Christ. The Apostle John describes this in his first epistle: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he (our glorified Lord) appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn. 3:2).