A Christian Perspective on Psalm 82

Asaph is identified with twelve Psalms, he is also known as one of the three Levites commissioned by David to be in charge of singing in the house of The LORD. In 1Chronicles 6:39, David appoints a man named Heman as the main musician or singer and Asaph is Heman’s right hand assistant and the Merarites at his left hand.  Asaph is also credited with performing at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple in 2Chronicles 5:12. During his long term, Asaph saw the best and worst of officials. His complaint against corruption among the rich and influential, recorded in Psalm 72 & 73, might have been directed towards some of the officials or rulers in Psalm 82.

The “gods” referred to in Psalm 82:1 and v6 are the rulers of Israel, who have failed to carry out their responsibilities as God’s representatives in the ruling of the nation. The way elohim (gods) is used elsewhere in the Old Testament, shows that the term elohim almost always refers to the one and only God, the God of Israel (Deut. 4:35,39). But it sometimes refers to the so-called “gods” of the gentiles (Judges 11:24; 1Kings 18:24). The term also occasionally identifies “… rulers and/or judges as divine representatives at sacred places…”. Several passages may use elohim in this sense: “Moreover, he [Aaron] shall speak for you [Moses] to the people; and it shall come about that he shall be as a mouth for you, and you shall be as God [elohim] to him” (Exod. 4:16 & Exod. 7:1 & Exod. 21:6).

The teaching of the Bible is that man was created in God’s image to reign and to rule as a vice regent over the earth (Gen. 1:26,28; Rom. 8:17-21; 2 Tim. 2:12). Rulers are appointed by God to carry out His purposes of restraining evil and rewarding those who do what is good (Rom. 13:1-4). In this sense rulers not only act for God; they, in a sense, act as god or as “gods”. In view of this, consider the warning; “And he said to the judges, Consider what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the Lord who is with you when you render judgment. Now then let the fear of the Lord be upon you; be very careful what you do, for the Lord our God will have no part in unrighteousness, or partiality, or the taking of a bribe” (2 Chron. 19:6-7).
Jesus used this Psalm to warn hypocritical leaders that God is their Judge of judges. See John 10:32-34-39. He referred to himself as the “son of God” and a God, because of his miracles being genuinely from God. A fact, which his enemies could not dispute, but they could not accept his divinity based on the miracles, even in the face of God’s Psalms referring to God calling the judges of Israel, “gods”.  This led Jesus to pronounce the harshest judgment & rebuke upon anyone, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues, and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation” (Luke 20:46-47). Could this kind of cruel sin lead God’s children to sing about God’s sentence of wrath upon irresponsible hypocritical religious leaders? It leads Jesus to command us to pray for our enemies and do good to them, because if they don’t repent now, there is coming a day for the worst punishment of all.

A Christian Perspective on Psalm 78

This Psalm of Asaph begins with a principle sometimes neglected among those who would speak wisdom to others: you must first gain the attention of your listeners if you would teach them and reach them. v1 points us to listen for the purpose of learning. Most people most of the time listen for the purpose of replying, but here the Psalmist is asking us to listen to learn. This kind of listener is a disciple that submits to the words of his master, with reverence of mind, silent and earnest, that whatever is pronounced for the purpose of instruction may be heard and properly understood, and nothing be allowed to escape. He is a hearer of a different type, who hears with care, for the purpose of learning or imitation, not to criticize, or for animosity, or to argue, but rather for a time to expand his reality.

”I will open my mouth in a parable means he is making reference to a proverb or a parable and the dark sayings have in mind hidden knowledge, things that can simply be difficult to understand – riddles that are good topics for instruction. “The word for parable (masal) gives the book of Proverbs its title. Basically this means a comparison, like a saying which uses one realm of life to illuminate another.

Psalm 78:2 is a prophecy of the way Jesus would teach. See Matthew 13:35.

Centuries later the Apostle Paul would explain that one of the great advantages God gave to Israel was that He committed to them His word, the oracles of God, Romans 3:2. John records in his Gospel that in trying to persuade Jesus to keep providing miraculous bread, those who had been fed quoted this line from Psalm 78:24 “Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat,” John 6:31. In quoting this psalm to Jesus, they fulfilled it in a negative way, showing the same ingratitude and willingness to test God that Israel showed in the wilderness with Moses. The “bread of heaven” did not rise from the earth, but descended from the clouds and so the words of the verse are literally accurate. Asaph had in mind the great power God showed in setting Israel free from their 400 years of slavery in Egypt. The exodus redemption is often presented in the Hebrew Scriptures as a demonstration of the power of God. “They did not remember his power, the day when He redeemed them from the enemy” Psa. 78:42. In the New Testament we have a new and ultimate demonstration of the power of God: the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:4, Eph. 1:19-20 & Php. 3:10). Paul might have rephrased Psa. 78:42. They did not remember His power, the day when He raised Jesus from the dead. This we should do every single time we praise Him who loves us!

A Christian Perspective on Psalm 69

If anyone who reads the Bible will take time to study Psalm 22, 69, 110 & 118, that person will have a real good grip on the purpose of praise that God desires for our hearts. Why? Because these four Psalms are most often quoted in the New Testament, and each one of them points to Jesus. Jesus identified with people who suffer from what seems to be a senseless purpose in pain, because he applies the words of Psalm 69:4 to himself, see John 15:25.

It was foretold of how Jesus would cleanse the temple, Psalms 69:9 says:  “For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.” This prophecy was fulfilled in John 2:13-17 & Romans 15:3

It was foretold of Jesus’ thirst on the cross. Psalm 69:21 says: “They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.”  This prophecy was fulfilled in Matthew 27:34 & John 19:28-30. “they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it”. (Matthew 27:34) “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:28-30). Notice just before his crucifixion, he didn’t consume the gall, but just before his death hours later, he consumed the sour wine, in this way he endured the full weight of suffering for our sins, through each and every part of his sacrifice. From Gethsemene to Calvary, he carried the full weight of our sins in his mind and throughout his body, Luke 22:44.

It was foretold of what would happen to the enemies of Jesus’.  Psalm 69: 22-23 says: “Let their own table before them become a snare; and when they are at peace, let it become a trap. Let their eyes be darkened, so that they cannot see, and make their loins tremble continually.”  This prophecy was fulfilled in Romans 11:5-10.

It was foretold of Jesus’ betrayal by Judas and the desolation of his camp. Psalm 69:25 says: “May their camp be a desolation; let no one dwell in their tents.” This prophecy was fulfilled in Acts 1:15-20, as God insured condemnation of the enemies of Christ as a reminder to their society and to this day, by recording the empty & rotten gravesite of Judas Iscariot in his suicide. God’s judgments are never relinquished or reversed from this day forward and into eternity.

A Christian Perspective on Psalm 53

Psalm 53 is a lot like Psalm 14, factually it is the same Psalm, just a new version which is so powerful that it’s quoted in Romans 3:10-12. But there are two differences: Firstly: There is LORD as in Jehovah used 4 times in Psalm 14 while in Psalm 53, God has a different name, as in Elohim. Secondly; There is a completely different direction in thought and meaning for verse 5 with both Psalm 14 & 53. Psalm 14 v5 points to God’s defense of his children, whereas Psalm 53 v5 points to God’s disdain for his enemies, while both verses speak of the enemies “fear”.

Why such differences? It’s kind of like the way the old 1860 English Hymn “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” written by Mr. Whiting for sailors & captains to sing of God’s love & deliverance over the stormy seas, but later the same song was re-written around 1940 for airmen & pilots to sing over stormy skies. Back in 1860 we didn’t have airplanes. So when Psalm 53 was re-written by the Holy Spirit through the Psalmist, we have a lesson taught to us that even God works to keep his ancient word fresh through the centuries of change we go through. You and I with newer generations of Christians have the same job of keeping an ancient gospel fresh by the way we maintain modern accuracy in our presentation of the gospel which is two millennia old. Hence why we have so many English versions of the New Testament today!

In Psalm 14, David wrote about Moses bringing the Israelites through the Red Sea. God had saved them from Egypt. But now, nearly 300 years after David died, God saved them again. This time he saved them from Assyria. So, Psalm 14 was “rewritten”. It became Psalm 53. It was still David’s psalm, but they had to make two changes:

1) He used the name God (Elohim) instead of LORD (Jehovah). Perhaps this was because he wanted everyone to know that he was God of the whole world. LORD is a name that Hebrews used for God amongst God’s people.

2) He changed verses 5 & 6 in Psalm 14 into just verse 5 in Psalm 53. This says that God threw away the bones of the people that attacked Judah. Those people were the Assyrians! In Psalm 14, those people were the Egyptians.
So in Romans 3:10-12, when these Psalms are quoted, do we see the echo of justice in God’s judgment executed against the wicked while the righteous can rejoice? In Paul’s day, new Christians were facing persecution from Jews and at the same time were themselves in danger of hypocrisy against their enemies. This is how the logic of God’s love can prevent us from becoming a modern pharisee. We all, both religious Jews & heathen people (gentiles), are needing salvation from the way we tend to condemn ourselves.