Am I the oppressed or oppressor?
“God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgement among the “gods”:” Psalm 82
When I read the news I see stories of the weak and fatherless, the poor and the needy who are continually oppressed by the hand of the wicked. One headline about a police officer engaging in child pornography, another headline about a billionaire prostituting young girls, another about a former governor maneuvering his political agenda to get personally rich through adjusting tax laws. In Psalm 82, Asaph has something to say about these guys. Though they are “gods” on earth, they will die like mere men. Though this was written to the magistrates and officials in Israel at the time, they represent those in positions of power who through their decisions render a verdict that influences many.
This psalm is a statement to those in power to stop defending the wicked. And it’s a statement about the reality of human misuse of power and a plea to God to rise up and make a move.
When he accuses them of defending the unjust, that means that they’re choosing to ignore the misdeeds of their friends that harm others. Of course we’re all tempted ignore the sin that furthers our own agenda. We are all tempted to show partiality to the one who helps our personal cause. Asaph is calling these guys to look beyond themselves though. Are we able to look beyond ourselves in seeking someone else’s justice? What if I, in a position of power, pursue some agenda that automatically predisposes me to ignoring the cries of others that my agenda hurts. For those in positions of power (most of us in some form) the problem is that the cries of the weak and needy are usually pretty timid and quiet when compared to our own roaring voice.
Asaph takes his challenge to the “gods” and gives them an eternal perspective. “…you are all sons of the Most High. But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler.” If you are in a position of power over another it’s good to remember that your time and influence on earth is finite, limited and eventually you’ll be called to account. If you are in a position under an unjust power, you can have confidence that this ruler’s power over you will someday come to an end and they will be judged. Asaph wants the weight of mortality and judgment to settle heavy in the minds of those who misuse their power.
The reality is that all of us live under a human authority that has the ability to oppress, and sometimes we feel the weight of that oppression. All of us also live in a position of power over someone else – and we’ll be judged for our use of that power. If you’re watching the news and feeling the pain of oppression for someone else under an unjust police officer, billionaire or governor, let Asaph’s words give you a just cry to the God who cares and will act. “Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance.”
Today – am I the oppressed or the oppressor? Depending on that answer – am I malleable to the words of this Psalm?