Bread – gods

September 15, 2017


Psalm 82

God has taken His place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods He holds judgment…”  Ps. 82:1

Every so often in Scripture, God’s Word seems to play into the hands of our modern anti-God thoughts.  In my opinion, this is one of them.

How so?  Well, if you have the modern sense that God is somehow someone like the Chairman of the Board, then the “divine council” could be his board meeting.  Like all board chairman, he would yield a lot of power, but he can always be gotten rid of by the angry shareholders, which would, of course, be us.  And as modern people we often think this way, that we can just depose God from being God whenever we want when we don’t like the amount of profit we are getting from His enterprise.

Another modern sense which could be fed by this Scripture today is the sense that there is really a pantheon of “gods,” and that God is a first among equals, sort of like Zeus.  In this modern view, we can rise to the position of members of the divine council, as demigods, if we can but “channel” our thoughts in the right way.  An older version of this same thinking is in the pantheon of saints, who somehow have a special relationship to God because they are super-good people.

So, who are the “gods” which participate in the “divine council?”

Notice what I have done.  I have read into the concept of “divine council” the concept of participation.  Of having a right to speak.  And, more importantly, having a right to be heard.

But does this Scripture speak of any kind of co-equal participation?  No it does not.

What it says is that “God has taken His place.”  What is His place?  When you are the Creator, the King of King and Lord of Lords, … what is your place?  Is your place at the head of the table when you made the table, own the table, and choose who, if any, sit there as well?  When God takes “His place,” who has any right to be in the same room, much less at the same table?

And what is the nature of a “divine council?”  Is it a place where God appears to deliver to us His Word or where we make our requests known to Him (like, maybe, His throne room)?  Or is it a place where we participate, somehow joining with God in helping Him make His decisions?

And finally, notice that “in the midst of the Gods He holds judgment.”  He doesn’t make decisions based upon input; He judges.  He doesn’t take counsel from the gods; He judges the gods.

And so, when we consider that He is in His rightful place and that He judges “the gods,” doesn’t “the gods” sound a whole lot like us?

And, indeed, from our perspective we often are like gods, aren’t we?

I am fond of pointing out that, in our relationship to God, we can take only one of three places.  The first place is above Him, where we tell Him what to do and we interpret His Word in the ways we want to achieve our ends.  When we subject God to our judgment, we are elevating ourselves above Him and, in that moment, pretending that we are big-G God and He is not.

The second place we can take in our relationship to God is beneath Him.  In that role, we accept our position as servants (slaves) of the Most High, willing to accept that position in exchange for true freedom and unending life in Him.  If we are thoughtful Christians, we like to think that this the place we occupy.  And maybe sometimes we do.

But the third place we can occupy is right next to Him, maybe not as quite as a co-equal, but close.  In that position, we get to “participate” in the decision-making, we get to influence God to follow our desires, we get to “negotiate” with Him.  And, to some degree or another, this place is where most of us find ourselves all the time.  We are not quite God, but we are close and therefore “deserve” being called “gods.”

When we realize that this Psalm may therefore be directed to those of us floating around the third position of relationship with God, it has a strong message to us “gods.”  We may think of ourselves in the divine assembly, but God (a) takes His place and (b) holds judgment of us.

So the truth of this Psalm is simply to remind us that, when we begin to believe we are somehow close to His equal, we are not, and when we believe we are above or beside judgment, we are not.

God is not the Chairman of the Board and He is not Zeus, He is God.  And whether we think we are above Him, beside Him, or beneath Him, He is always in His place and He always judges.  No matter if we are “gods” or not.

_______

© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

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Bread – gods

March 29, 2017


Psalm 58

Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods?  Do you judge the children of man uprightly?  No, in your hearts you devise wrongs…” Ps. 58:1-2a

To some extent, we are victims of our particular Bible translations.  Today is an example.  In the ESV translation, the Hebrew word is translated “gods.”  In the NIV, it is translated “rulers.”  In the NKJV, it is translated “silent ones.”  The problem is that the literal translation of the Hebrew word actually used is “muteness.”

Rather than consider this a barrier to understanding, I think that such multiple interpretations or translations actually help us to see deeper into God’s revelation, and to realize that words and meaning are not flat and poor, but are multi-dimensional and rich.

If we were to think for a minute about some of our major barriers to effective Christian engagement with the world, what would they be?  Top of the list probably would be our seeking after other gods, other idols – money, honor, power, respect from the world, our selfish selves.  Perhaps second on this list would be how we actually rank the importance of people in how we actually conduct our lives – us first, family second, others third, God fourth.    And then third on this list would be our chronic view that God is not really present to the point we have to pay attention to Him; our perspective that God is mostly silent in our lives.

And all these concepts are wrapped up in our interesting Hebrew word today.  There is the concept that there are many gods, many idols.  There is the concept of these gods as rulers of our lives.  There is this concept that these “gods” of our lives are our bosses, our political leaders, our captains of industry, our significant others, our “leaders.”  There is the concept that these gods keep silent when maybe they shouldn’t, in our view.

At one level, David is addressing mere people who think they are gods and lord it over the rest of us, misjudging, and devising and implementing a litany of wrongs which we must suffer under.  At another level, David is addressing the idols of power and money (the values of the world).  At another level, David is addressing the forces which we think of as gods, as having power over our lives.

But, unlike us sometimes, David is not thinking of these gods as “God.”

Do we organize our lives in such a way that God is one of many gods for us?  Do we give Him even as much attention as we give our boss at work?  Do we organize our day around Him or around them?  Are our emotions wrapped up in God’s truth or the whispers of the other gods in our life?

If the gods are silent, do we think of God that way?  If the gods are noisy, do we think of God that way?  If we listen to the lies of gods, are we made clean?  Do our gods offer us eternal life, or merely existence in time?

The gods may instruct us to be silent in the face of evil, but God says otherwise.  The gods may tell us to fear the evil day, but God says otherwise.  The gods may be silent, but God is not.  The gods may be confused about their names and character, but God is not confused about His.

Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods?  The answer to that is “no.”  Do You indeed decree what is right, God?  The answer to that is “yes.”

If what I said is true, then why do we pay any attention to “gods” at all?

________

© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

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