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Judging the Judges

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Psalms 82–84

As servants of a just God, we should seek and pray for justice in our world, as we wait for God’s perfect justice to arrive with Christ’s return. Yet even in this imperfect world, we can always find peace and satisfaction in the Lord’s presence.


Judging the Judges

Psalm 82–84


As we arrive at Psalm 82 in our Wisdom Journey, we are confronted by an issue often addressed in the Bible—injustice. Injustice is a matter of great concern to God because it violates His very nature. God is just; He always does what is right. He is not partial, and He cannot be bribed or influenced. He always stands against injustice wherever it is found, and He lays down some pretty severe warnings here in this psalm.

The author Asaph writes in verse 1, “God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods, he holds judgment.”

Now what is this council of the “gods” in which God is standing, about to pass judgment? Most English Bibles translate the Hebrew noun here (elohim) as “gods.” It is, in fact, one of the names for the true and living God. So, does this suggest that false gods or wooden idols are real? I don’t believe that for a moment. Indeed, the Bible is clear that wooden idols are nothing more than blocks of wood and that God Himself is God alone (2 Kings 19:19).

So, what are we to make of this verse? Well, several times in the Old Testament, this noun elohim is used for rulers or judges, and this is the case here. And that is because judges are to act on behalf of God, applying His standard of justice—of what is right and what is wrong. They intersect people’s lives, holding a position of great authority. Think about it—a human judge renders judgment on another person. You cannot get any higher on the food chain, so to speak, than that position.

This psalm is picturing God as about to render judgment on the judges of earth. He says here in verse 2, “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?”  They had been given the authority to represent a just standard, and instead they acted with partiality toward the wicked.

Note what God tells them in verse 6:

“You are gods [judges], sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.” 

He is saying, “You might be sitting high up there on some judge’s bench, but one day when you die, you are going to stand before the Judge and give account for your actions.” God is reminding them here of their mortality,[1] and ultimately of their accountability before God, the Judge of all judges.

This is a serious warning to anyone listening today who might be a judge or a political or corporate official with incredible power over people. You might have legal authority in your city, state, or country, but Psalm 82 ought to be on the dashboard of your automobile as you drive to work. God is listening and watching. He knows every verdict you render and every decision you make and why you actually make it.

Asaph delivers your job description from God Himself in verses 3-4:

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

In other words, do not be influenced by the fact that people cannot pay you back; render your verdict based on the character of God Himself.

The next psalm here, Psalm 83, deals with this same subject of injustice. In this case, pagan nations are preparing to attack Israel. The threat is described in verses 2-4:

Your enemies make an uproar . . . they consult together against your treasured ones . . . They say, “Come, let us wipe them out as a nation; let the name of Israel be remembered no more!”

There is no sense here that Israel has sinned and the nations in these verses are being sent as God’s judgment on Israel. The injustice here is that these nations are conspiring against Israel for two reasons: they hate God, and they hate God’s people.

Are there people at your work or your school who clearly dislike or perhaps even hate you, and you can’t figure out why? You have done nothing but show them kindness and you have basically tried to stay out of their way. But they don’t like you, and every chance they get, they say or do something unkind. Why? Because in their heart of hearts they hate God, and you happen to belong to Him.

Then in verses 9 through 12, Asaph asks the Lord to judge these nations just as He did in the past during the period of the judges. But is praying for judgment on those who act unjustly the right kind of prayer request for God’s people?[2] Well, apparently it is—at least in some cases—because the Word of God records it here without any apology.

The crucial question is this: What is your motivation for asking God to judge those who are unjust toward you or others? Listen to the motivation of Asaph here in verses 16-18:

Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek your name, O Lord. . . . let them perish in disgrace, that they may know that you alone, whose name is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth.

This is the right motivation, and it’s evangelistic: “Judge them, Lord. Bring them to their knees in defeat and shame so that they might come to follow You!”

Remember, beloved, that those people who hate you are not really your enemies; they are your mission field.

Now Psalm 84 was written by the sons of Korah. These men had been assigned to be the gatekeepers of the temple, near the place where God manifested His glorious presence (1 Chronicles 26).

Today we would think of these men as hard-working, salt-of-the-earth men. Their hands were calloused, and they wore overalls, so to speak, to work every day.

But these were faithful men who served diligently. And this song they wrote is absolutely amazing. In fact, I would like to think that I love the Lord as much as they did.

This psalm follows up nicely on the psalms we have just studied. We now have a reminder that God is the place of refuge from the injustice of the world.

Verse 3 says:

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.

Throughout the Bible the sparrow symbolizes something of little worth. Up to the time of Jesus, boys were known to trap sparrows and sell them for a few pennies at the temple because they were commonly used in the sacrificial system.

Today you might think you are just a little sparrow, not worth all that much in the eyes of the world. But God loves the sparrow and finds a place for it to dwell in safety.

The sons of Korah mentioned not only a sparrow here in verse 3, but also a swallow. Swallows represent a rather restless sort of busy living. Always fluttering here and there, a swallow will wear you out trying to follow it. But this psalm says here that the swallow has made a nest in God’s presence. It has finally settled down in the care of God.

Today you might be feeling worthless or restless; the world around you might be treating you unjustly—perhaps you have recently stood before an unjust judge. Be assured, though, that God is aware of your situation. He cares about you. He loves you. He hasn’t abandoned you. And before Him, the righteous Judge, you can build a nest. You can find rest and security and hope in Him alone.

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