Only One God
“God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:”
Psalm 82:1 (ESVUK)
There is only one God, and yet in Psalm 82 the writer refers to God as being “in the midst of the gods” and in verse 6 the phrase is used, “You are gods”. What is meant by “gods” in this passage, and does it imply that God is not the only god?
When faced with an apparent problem like this, it is often best to consider the original context. Psalm 82 puts unjust judges on trial. Judges themselves were decision makers about justice, and are called “gods”, meaning that they acted in lieu of God and that, ideally, they were to show God’s compassionate mercy and fairness in all that they did. Hence God is seen as taking his rightful place at the head of the divine council, and as sitting in judgment of the “gods”/judges who “judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked” instead of giving “justice to the weak and the fatherless” and maintaining “the right of the afflicted and the destitute” (verses 2-3).
Also, it is good to consider other related scriptures. Jesus explained more clearly how to understand verse 6 when he quoted it in John 10:34-36. The Jews judged that Jesus should be stoned to death because he had said that he and the Father were one. Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming’, because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?” Here “gods” refers to those to whom the word of God came. The judges were recipients of God’s word and should have judged accordingly but they had “neither knowledge nor understanding” and they walked about “in darkness” (Psalm 82:5); and they are not immortal gods because they shall die “like men” (verse 7).
Asaph, who wrote the song that is Psalm 82, concludes that there’s only one hope. No one judges fairly. Just like it is today, so at his time people had their prejudices, biases and selfish motivations. What was needed was a righteous judge, and only God, who is the only God, could fit the bill. He may not have known it, but Asaph was pointing to Jesus, the Son of God, whose return to earth is the hope for this world: “Arise O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations” (verse 8).
Great God and compassionate Father, thank you that you are the only God, and in you alone do I place my trust and hope. In Jesus’ name.
Study by James Henderson
About the Author:
James Henderson is the National Ministry Leader for Grace Communion International in the UK and Ireland. This Saturday James is speaking at a conference at 10.30am in the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre, Lurgan BT66 6NJ.
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