Tuesday, October 29, 2013

People Who Think That They're Gods

Today is the second day in our 43rd week, reading the Bible through in a year.  Our scriptures today are:  Ezekiel 4-6; John 2; Psalm 82

Have you ever known somebody who thought they were a god?  These people are difficult to deal with, as they can't be taught, reasoned with, or counted on to have an open mind.  They believe that their opinion is the only opinion, and that, like E.F. Hutton, when they speak, everyone listens.

The psalmist Asaph wrote about such people in Psalm 82 (NIV), when he said:

1God presides in the great assembly;
he renders judgment among the “gods”:
2“How long will you defend the unjust
and show partiality to the wicked?
3Defend the weak and the fatherless;
uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
4Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
5“The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing.
They walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
6“I said, ‘You are “gods”;
you are all sons of the Most High.’
7But you will die like mere mortals;
you will fall like every other ruler.”
8Rise up, O God, judge the earth,
for all the nations are your inheritance.

In the original Hebrew, these verses that mention "gods" are a bit troublesome.  Bible scholars disagree as to the exact meaning, because clearly, there is only one God.  The word elohim is what's referred to as a "singular plural," meaning that sometimes it takes a singular and sometimes a plural number.  The word "army" would be an English example of a singular plural--an army is one thing, but multiplicity is understood within it.  At times, elohim is translated as "God," and Christians understand that the multiplicity inside the singular refers to the Trinity.  At other times, it is simply rendered "gods."  To confuse things even more, sometimes elohim refers to angels, or "divine beings."

In this case, elohim refers to human rulers or judges, such as magistrates or members of the Jewish Sanhedrin.  It is impossible for elohim to mean "gods" or "angels" in this psalm, since verse 7 clearly states that these people are mortal.

In this psalm, Asaph pleads with God to judge the judges.  He comes against them for defending the unjust and showing partiality to the wicked.  He reminds them of their responsibility to work justice and righteousness and compassion on the earth.  Yet, their minds and hearts are far from God, so instead they walk in darkness.  A trickle-down theory applies here, in that the darkness of the judges creates a darkness over the whole land.  The psalmist reminds these wicked leaders that they are mortal, and that one day they will face the True Judge.

All of us have known people who believe that they are gods.  Some New Agers actually believe that they are divine beings in wrappers of flesh.  Other people simply put themselves in seats of judgment over people that they believe are beneath them.  Some of these folks work in government or in Hollywood, but others are right here in our own hometown...and they're in your community as well.  This psalm reminds us that they are mortal.  Meaning, of course, that their "reign" won't last forever.  It reminds us that they will stand before the Righteous Judge who will utter a just verdict.  

No comments: