Putting the Gods in Their Place
History is being played out on two levels. One is seen, the other is unseen. One has humans as the main actors; the other has “gods” as the main actors. The two scripts are interwoven but not identical. What happens among the “gods” affects what happens among us. And what happens among us affects what happens among them. The pattern of evil in the visible human fabric is a pattern woven by the invisible “gods.” Nevertheless the pattern comes from the “inventions” of human hearts and we are responsible moral agents not mere pawns of the “principalities and powers.”
Psalm 82 is an amazing exposè of the “gods”—what the New Testament calls “principalities and powers and world rulers of this present darkness.” God comes to the assembly of the “gods” and rebukes them for the pattern of evil in the world. Verse 1: “God takes His stand in the assembly of God; He judges in the midst of the gods.” This is what he says. (Remember he is talking to the “gods,” not to mere humans):
2 How long will you judge unjustly, and show partiality to the wicked? Selah. 3 Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them out of the hand of the wicked. 5 They do not know nor do they understand; they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
Verse five refers to the victims of the darkness caused by the “world rulers of this present darkness.” They are the people whom Hosea says are “destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). Paul says that the “god of this world” darkens the minds of unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4). God is calling to account the “powers of darkness” for this destructive darkening. It even shakes the foundations of the earth, because the foundations are light and truth. If darkness prevails, the foundations are shaken.
Then God warns the “gods.” He tells them that, although they are “sons of the Most High” (that is, angels, cf. Job 1:6; 38:7), nevertheless they will “die like men.” They are not men but they will die like men.
6 I said, “You are gods, and all of you are sons of the Most High. 7 Nevertheless you will die like men, and fall like any one of the princes.”
This is what Jesus was referring to when he said that “the eternal fire [was] prepared for the devil and his angels”—that is for the “gods”. In other words, their end will be as ignominious and horrible as the ordinary sinners they have used to weave their fabric of evil.
God asserts the truth we must hold to through all the cosmic conflict of this age: All the nations belong to God. Satan is a liar (using a half-truth to lie) when he says to Jesus in Luke 4:6 that the earth is his and he gives it to whomever he wills. No. The truth is:
8 Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is thou who dost possess all the nations.
Our God owns the nations. The “gods” are permitted for a season to wreak havoc. We are called to see beyond their suicidal schemes of sin. We are called to stand with God and bear witness to his truth against the darkness. In due time he will defeat all his enemies and the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
Exposing and resisting with you,
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org