Today’s Bible reading
God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
“How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
Give justice to the weak and the orphan;
maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk around in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
I say, “You are gods,
children of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, you shall die like mortals,
and fall like any prince.”
Rise up, O God, judge the earth;
for all the nations belong to you! – Psalm 82
More thoughts for meditation
The Ketuvim is the third and final section of the Tanakh after Torah (instruction) and Nevi’im (prophets). In English translations of the Hebrew Bible, this section is usually entitled “Writings.” The Ketuvim are believed to have been written under divine inspiration, but with one level less authority than that of prophecy.
Found among the Writings within the Hebrew scriptures, I and II Chronicles form one book, along with Ezra and Nehemiah which form a single unit entitled “Ezra–Nehemiah.” Collectively, eleven books are included in the Ketuvim: Three poetic books – Psalms, Proverbs and Job, Five Scrolls (Megillos) – Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, and Other books – Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles.
The Psalms are the largest collection of the writings and of any one book in the Bible. They have been the “hymn book” of the church for generations. C.S. Lewis cautions us in Reflections on the Psalms to be sure to avoid seeing the Psalms like we see other kinds of literature in the Bible:
What must be said … is that the Psalms are poems, and poems intended to be sung: not doctrinal treatises, nor even sermons. … Most emphatically the Psalms must be read as poems; as lyrics, with all the licenses and all the formalities, the hyperboles, the emotional rather than logical connections, which are proper to lyric poetry. They must be read as poems if they are to be understood; no less than French must be read as French or English as English. Otherwise we shall miss what is in them and think we see what is not.
That being said, we can and do learn a lot about who God is and how to worship the Lord by worshiping with the psalm writers. John Dominic Crossan said that the psalm in our reading for today might be one of the most important writings in the whole Bible in his book The Birth of Christianity
Before celebrating . . . [the] incarnation [John 1:14, “the Word became flesh”], we must address a prior question about the character of the divinity involved. And . . . [Psalm 82] best summarizes for me the character of . . . [the biblical] God. . . . It imagines a . . . scene in which God sits among the gods and goddesses in divine council. Those pagan gods and goddesses are dethroned not just because they are pagan, nor because they are other, nor because they are competition. They are dethroned for injustice, for divine malpractice, for transcendental malfeasance in office. They are rejected because they do not demand and effect justice among the peoples of the earth. And that justice is spelled out as protecting the poor from the rich, protecting the systemically weak from the systemically powerful. Such injustice creates darkness over the earth and shakes the very foundation of the world.
While this Psalm has been repeatedly studied and pondered, since God is pictured in a council of the gods and calls human being “gods,” it also shows what kind of God is redeeming the world in Jesus.
Suggestions for action
Try on this prayer from today’s writing: Rise up, O God, judge the earth; for all the nations belong to you!
Maybe you could begin by rewriting the prayer in a way that is more like the poetry you write. You could put it to music. You could make it the first line of a psalm you write. You could make it your breath prayer for the day.
The Bible Project’s summary of the Psalms [link]