Psalm 82

God and the gods   - Poor Bishop Hooper

It may surprise you to know that people of the OT believed there were many gods at work in the world.  Israel was delivered from slavery in Egypt where one of the chief gods was a golden bull from whom the Pharaoh claimed divine right to rule.

When Israel came into Canaan they encountered the people’s gods – Baal, Moloch, and Mammon.  One biblical scholar states that “the Caananite polytheistic system elevated economic survival to ultimacy at the expense of compassion.” [1] 

Israel, however, was summoned to have ‘no other gods before YAHWEH.’  YHWH alone commanded ultimate allegiance.

We may scratch our heads at this picture of a ‘council of gods,’ surely a word picture designed to teach them and us a deep truth about the world.  In the NT, Paul uses the language of ‘principalities and powers.’  There are some striking images he uses to describe the work of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

12 For we are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age.   [Ephesians 6.12]

Then Paul stoutly affirms that this Jesus Christ has defeated the powers:

God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets.      [Colossians 2.14-15, THE MESSAGE]

If Christ has disarmed the powers, we recognize that they still exert power in our world.  The gods of economic exploitation, of nationalism and militarism, of racial superiority, still exercise a malignant influence in our world.  As Christians, however, we pray, ‘Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as in heaven.’   

We profess that we live solely under the rule of the God of compassion who loved the world and in his Son announced a new reign of justice and righteousness.

Recently, African Americans and others celebrated the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington on August 28, 1963.  Martin Luther King led some 300,000 people into the city.  Standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial, King gave his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech which articulated the dream of a country freed from false gods which enslave to becoming a nation free at last!

[1]  J.F.M. Walsh – The Mighty from their thrones: Power in the Biblical Tradition.