The Solemn Charge Of
The Judge Of Judges

a brief study of Psalm 82, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 3 April 2009

In John 10, we have a record of the Jews confronting the Lord Jesus about who He was. “If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly” they charged (v. 24).

The Lord Jesus admonished them by saying that He had already told them so, but they would not believe. They would not believe, He told them, because they were not His sheep. His sheep would hear His voice and follow Him. But in order to make sure the Jews who were dull of hearing understood who He was saying, He was, our Lord said: “I and my Father are one” (v. 30).

The Jews understood clearly what He was saying this time, for they immediately took up stones to stone Him (v. 31).

The Lord asked them with holy sarcasm: “Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?” (v. 32).

The reason I say it is sarcasm is because I believe the Lord knew that they were not stoning Him for good works, but really for claiming He is God.

And they confirm it by saying: “For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God” (v. 33).

The Jews understood that the Lord was claiming to be God.

But at this point the Lord said something rather mysterious:

Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? 35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; 36 Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?

Now, those who deny the deity of Christ will pluck out what the Lord says here and exclaim: “There you have it: the Lord himself is disclaiming deity. The Jews had jumped to the wrong conclusion. Claiming to be equal with the Father, and claiming to be the Son of God is not the same as claiming to be God.”

But is this what the Lord is saying? Well, no, not at all! Our Lord is not disclaiming deity, or else the whole passage will make no sense, and our Lord would be guilty of double-talk.

No, if you think about it carefully, you will realise that what the Lord is really telling the Jews is that they ought not to stone Him merely because of what He says, for words can easily be misunderstood. They should rather consider what He is doing. So He adds:

37 If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. 38 But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him

But now the deity of Christ is not really the direct subject of our study this evening. Rather, we came to this incident because the words ‘I said, Ye are gods’, which our Lord quoted comes from this Psalm.

We shall perhaps understand better what the words he quoted mean as we study this Psalm together. But we may entitle it, “The Solemn Charge of the Judge of judges.”

This Psalm has an interesting structure.  It paints the scene where the chief Judge, the Judge of judges addresses the judges or the magistrates of the world before a congregation. It begins with an introductory statement, that sets the scene.

1 God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.

This is followed by the speech of the Chief Justice, and concludes with a rejoinder by the congregation to call upon the Judge to arise to execute justice.

8 Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.

Who is this Chief Justice who is also called God, and would inherit all nations?

He is, no doubt, the one whom the Father addresses in Psalm 45:6—“Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom” (cf. Heb 1:8).

He is the one whom the Father told in Psalm 2:8—

“Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Ps 2:8)

He is the one to whom the judgement of the world is committed (Jn 5:22).


Who is this, but the only begotten Son of God, the Messiah? “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (Jn 5:22).

So the picture here is that of Messiah the Judge addressing the judges of the earth. These are called ‘mighty’ as they are the powerful men of society. They also are called ‘gods’ in verses 1 and 6. Why are they called ‘gods’? Not because they are truly gods, for there is but one living and true God only. Rather, it is because they are representatives of God. They are the magistrates or ministers of the sword ordained by God to execute justice in the world (Rom 13:1ff).

They are supposed to act as the conscience of society, the deputy of God in the soul of the world. They are to judge the world and steer the world in the right way today before the Day of Judgement.

Unfortunately, these deputies of God, or ministers of the sword, often fail in their duty, and must be summoned before the Judge of judges to be admonished by the Chief Justice.

Now, of course, this meeting does not actually happen today. There will indeed be a day when the judges will have to give an account of what they have done, but in that day there would be no more opportunity for them to repent and to correct their failures.

What then is this Psalm about? Well this Psalm serves two purposes. First, it is for the Church to cry out unto the Lord to arise to vindicate His people. Secondly, it is for the very purpose of the meeting painted in it. It is for God’s people to sing to admonish the judges and civil magistrates of the land.

Now, of course, in secular and pluralistic society of today, the judge and magistrates will hardly get the opportunity to hear this Psalm. Does this mean that we should therefore not sing it? Of course not!

What it means is that all the more we should promote it and to make it known especially if we find injustice being tolerated in the land.

But other than that, as we sing this Psalm to admonish one another, we remind ourselves that our Lord is the Lord of Justice. He hates injustice and unfairness. He loves justice and righteousness. And so we are reminded to practice justice and fairness in all spheres of our lives—at home, at work, in school and in church.

Likewise, we are reminded to pray for our civil and church government that there will be justice and fairness. And again, we are given the assurance that our Lord is not blind to the injustice and unfairness that we suffer in this life. Rather, He will hear our cries. He will arise and vindicate His people when they are unfairly treated in this world, especially when it is for His name’s sake.

But now, let us look briefly on what the Lord would say to the judges of the world.

Essentially, the Lord does 3 things. First, He accuses the unjust judges; secondly, He commands them to do what is right; and thirdly, He warns them of judgement against them.

1. The Accusation

2 How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked?

Now, this is really a question, but it is an accusatory question.

The judges have perverted justice. They have accepted bribes, and freed the wicked and guilty at the expense of those who were taken advantage of.

The Lord asks:

·        How long are you going to continue doing what you are doing? 

·        Don’t you know that I see?

·        Don’t you know that though I appear to tolerate what you are doing, I am angered by your failures?

·        Don’t you know that you are storing up wrath against the Day of Wrath?

·        How long will it be before you wake up and repent of your wickedness?

·        How long will it be before you begin to do that which is right?

·        There is yet time for you to repent before My patience runs out. Oh will you not cease from your wickedness?

But now consider the command…

2. The Command

3 Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.  4 Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked. 5 They [the wicked] know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course.

The judges and magistrates of the land are appointed by the Lord to be ministers of God not to be a terror unto good works, but to the evil (Rom 13:3).

As such, they have a duty to defend and deliver the poor, and the fatherless, and the needy, and the afflicted, who are being oppressed by the wicked.

The judges’ eyes should be open to their plight. Their ears should be opened to their cries just as our heavenly Father sees our grief and hears our cries.

The wicked, on the other hand, do not care. They are blinded in their ease, their pride and their wealth. They walk in darkness. Selfishly, they turn the natural course of justice and the order and compassion of society upside down. This way, they destroy the foundations of the moral fabric and the law and order of society.

Justice, as a result, is denied to the righteous. “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Ps 11:3). The society becomes lawless. Children are taught not that honesty pays, but crime pays. Honesty and righteousness gets you nowhere, they are taught. You got to learn to be shrewd. You got to learn to look after yourself.

The society begins to crumble when that happens. We think of how this has happened in so many places in the world. We think of the situation in parts of Mexico, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Nicaragua, Congo, parts of India and Pakistan, etc.

Such as are called to be judges and magistrates in the land must take heed to uphold a high standard of justice, or they would be instrumental in the destruction of the nation. And not only so, they would also have to answer to the Lord the King of kings, and Judge of judges.

This is the warning that our Lord issued…

3. The Warning

6 I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. 7 But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.

Our Lord appoints judges and magistrates as His ministers whether they are conscious of it or not. They are vested with great powers. They are called, as it were, ‘gods’. They are given great privileges like the children of the most High.

But privileges come with responsibility; and a failure to fulfil responsibility comes with the Lord’s chastisement or punishment.

The mighty judges and leaders of this world will all die. They will die like all men. They must not forget it. Every prince in this world, however great, have fallen and died.

Some have died terrible deaths that bear the marks of divine judgement. Others have died less violently. Whichever way they died, they will have to come before the Judge where they have to give an account of what they have done with the great power vested upon them in their offices.

Let all who would aspire to positions of power take heed to the Lord’s remonstration.

Let all who have been unjustly afflicted cry out unto the Lord as in the final words of this Psalm:

Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations” (Ps 82:8)

May the Lord of Justice whose ears are open to the cries of the widows and fatherless hear our cries and vindicate His people!


The God of gods, the Judge of judges has spoken. We have been admonished. We have been encouraged. How shall we respond? May I suggest three simple applications:

First, let us, beloved brethren and children, pray that God will raise up more righteous and godly leaders in our land.

Secondly, let us pray for our existing leaders. It does not take much for the devil to tempt an unbelieving judge or magistrate to commit injustice so long as it can be done secretly.

Thirdly, let us, if we are given the opportunity to, render any assistance we may to believers in the world who are persecuted for their faith because of evil judges and magistrates in their country.

May the Lord help us!


—JJ Lim