Psalm 82: God in the Midst of the Divine Council

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Berry Kercheville

Isaiah prophesied that in the messianic age, “darkness shall cover the earth and thick darkness the peoples” (Isa. 60:2). Indeed, it is all around us and we are at times both confused and amazed. How can so many people be so wicked? How have people become so deceived? Psalm 82 has the answer – and also the solution.

The psalm speaks of a divine council with God bringing the “gods” into judgment. Verse 6 refers to these gods as “sons of the most High” who in spite of being given this lofty position will be weak and die like men. Because of these gods, unjust judgment is practiced in the world. The weak, fatherless, afflicted, and needy are languishing and delivered into the hand of the wicked. The foundations of the earth (foundational principles of law and order and morality by which the world is to function) are shaken and the world is without knowledge and understanding. Who is at fault? It is the gods whom the Lord has called into his divine council.

Jesus helps us understand the text in John 10:31-39. Jesus answered the Jews’ accusation of blasphemy by quoting Psalm 82:6. Jesus argued that the word of God had been committed to these “gods.” In other words, their commission was to bring “knowledge and understanding” by delivering God’s word to a dark world. Instead, they failed their purpose. On the other hand, Jesus accomplished the purpose God gave him to bring light into the world. If the gods who failed could be called “gods,” then Jesus who succeeded certainly had the right to be called the Son of God.

At first, we might be surprised that spiritual beings or angels were commissioned to deliver the word or had some direct influence on the world. But consider briefly the following texts:

  1. The Law of Moses had been delivered through the agency of angels (Acts 7:53; Heb. 2:2).
  2. Satan raised up two allies to deceive the world: the Sea Beast [government] and the Earth Beast, or False Prophet [religious deception] (Rev. 13).
  3. God used a “lying spirit” in the mouth of Ahab’s prophets to bring about his death (1 Kings 22:22).
  4. Our battle is not against humans but against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12).
  5. Paul said that though an idol “has no real existence,” there are “so-called gods in heaven or on earth” (1 Cor. 8:4-5). Paul also argued in 1 Cor. 10:19-22 that an idol is nothing, but what the pagans offer to idols is actually a sacrifice to demons.
  6. The angel who came to answer Daniel’s prayer revealed that he had been delayed by “the prince of the kingdom of Persia” and could not overcome him until Michael came to help him. Further, the angel revealed that after he battled with the prince of Persia, he would go and battle the prince of Greece (Dan. 10:10-21).
  7. Adding to the above, Moses revealed that when God gave the nations their inheritance, “he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God” (Deut. 32:8).
  8. Finally, in regard to a “divine council,” we see a similar council in Job 1:6 with Satan joining the council.

We could go on, but the above should be sufficient to see the influence of Satan’s kingdom through the spiritual forces of wickedness on both individuals and governments in our present world. But what should we make of this knowledge? How are we to respond to the influence of beings so powerful that some of God’s own angels are hindered?

First, the psalm reveals the ultimate power of God to judge and crush these forces. “Arise O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!” (vs. 8).

Second, the offspring of the woman will crush the head of the Serpent (Gen. 3:15). In Revelation 12:10, the “accuser of our brethren has been cast down.” In Romans 16:20, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” And in 1 John 4:4, “You have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

Third, we must stop being so casual about our spirituality. Jesus and the apostles repeatedly warned us to watch, pray, and put on the armor. Our comfort and wealth in America makes us believe all is well and that we are secure. We are not! Persecution is already on the horizon. As Paul warned in his day, the present form of this world may soon be passing away. We need more intentional prayers and we need to go beyond a superficial knowledge of “doctrines” and diligently seek God in all 66 books of scripture.

Fourth, we must boldly step into the battle. We cannot hide as darkness grows. We are the light of the world and we are commissioned to bring the light. When Isaiah warned of the coming thick darkness of the world, he added, “but the Lord will arise upon you; and his glory will be seen upon you. And the nations shall come to your light” (Isa. 60:2-3). As the darkness grows, God promised that our light will shine even brighter, and through our light he will bring the nations to us. We need not fear the darkness, for light will overcome it. We “conquer by the blood of the Lamb, the word of our testimony, for we love not our lives even unto death” (Rev. 12:11).

The gods of the divine council were judged because they failed their commission. Jesus fulfilled his commission and then passed that commission on to us. We must not fail our Lord lest we find ourselves called into a similar council.