Has it not been written in your Law, 'I said, you are gods'?
A Call to Justice
Understanding God’s justice will lead us to judge accurately.
As we watch the groundswell of calls for justice in the wake of the George Floyd‘s brutal murder at the hands of Dereck Chauvin, the cry for justice reverberates around the world. Mankind has sought justice since the fall of Adam and Eve and the subsequent expulsion from Eden. The first murder was that of Able at the hands of his brother, Cain. When confronted, Cain’s response was to deny guilt, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” When punishment was meted out, Cain cried out, “My punishment is too great to bear.” So began the search for justice for victims and their loved ones and perpetrators complaining that their punishment is too great.
How are Christians in our generation to respond to the cry for justice? This is a growing problem as culture moves from modernism to postmodernism. In subsequent articles, I will be presenting additional articles about judging and justice.
In John 10:34, Jesus makes a statement that startled and inflamed His accusers even more than they were already. They were furious regarding His claim to be the Son of God. He asks the question, “Has it not been written in your Law, 'I said, you are gods'? What strange a statement to our ears. However, these Pharisees and legal experts, were familiar with the Scripture to which He was referring. In Psalm 82:6 we find this statement, “I said, ‘You are gods...’”
To understand what Jesus was saying, we need to understand both contexts. Psalm 82:1 states, “God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers.” God stands among His people to enact justice on earth. He did this through His appointed leaders. Verse 2 is an indictment against the rulers because they were not doing the task God had given them: “How long will you judge unjustly, And show partiality to the wicked? Selah. A lack of justice is due to the failure of leadership.
Instead, leaders are appointed by God to execute justice in the land:
Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute.”Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked. They do not know nor do they understand; They walk about in darkness; All the foundations of the earth are shaken. (Ps 82:3-5)
This applies to all governments. Paul states:
Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil. Wherefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake. (Rom 13:1-5)
The obligation to ensure justice has existed since God first established government following the flood by instituting the death penalty which had not existed before and has not been abolished by God since. This applies whether government leaders believe in God or not.
It is at this point that the psalmist states the moral of the psalm, I said, “You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High. "Nevertheless, you will die like men, And fall like any one of the princes." (Ps 82:6-7)
Finally, Asaph prays, Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is Thou who dost possess all the nations. (Ps 82:8) The reality in Asaph’s day as with today, government leaders have failed to ensure justice. We will be waiting until the Lord reigns on earth to see perfect justice. In the meantime, the multitude cries out for justice.
By applying this psalm to the Jewish leaders, Jesus was condemning them for their failure to judge correctly. In this context, their greatest failure was in judging Him as a liar when He referred to Himself as the Son of God. In fact, they were blaspheming the One who they claim to be their God because of His testimony concerning Jesus on serval occasions and because they saw the works of Jesus, knowing they could only be accomplished by God thus validating Jesus’ claim. They who claimed to know so much, “ye are gods” went so far as to commit the greatest injustice in all of history. Knowing who Jesus was and that He was not guilty of any sin nor had He broken any law, still condemned Him to death, the cruelest death man has ever devised.
What are the abiding principles here for Christians today? There are numerous, but we will focus on a few that are most significant for us in this generation.
- Justice is the responsibility of the government.
- While we live on this earth, there will always be injustice.
- If there is injustice, it is because of the failure of the government.
- Those who know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, those who will one day judge angels (1 Cor 6:3), are responsible to seek justice in every way as we have the power and resources.
- We too will one day be judged by the perfect lawgiver and judge, Christ Jesus the Son of God. (cf. 2 Cor 5:10; Jas. 2:12;1 Pe 4:17)