Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
Select a thought to read by choosing a collection, the month, and then the day:
“[The Lord] judges among the gods.”
At first glance, the above Scripture from the book of Psalms seems to be a contradiction of other Scriptures which say that the gods of the nations are “nothing”. But it is not really a contradiction of any other Scripture about the gods of the Gentiles because this Scripture is not speaking of them. If it were speaking of them, it would be a strange verse indeed, for it would not magnify God for His great wisdom, since it would not require much wisdom for Him to judge among gods if they don’t really exist.
But to judge among the gods that do exist, that requires wisdom such as no one but God possesses. In the Bible, these gods are human. An early indication of this is when God sent Moses to Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, saying, “I have made you a god to Pharaoh” (Ex. 7:1). Later, God used the term, “the gods”, to refer to the men who ruled over the people of Israel (Ex. 22:28).
We should understand that whenever humans are given by God to occupy a place of such authority that they are called “gods”, it is never so that men are to be worshiped. Those in authority may be honored and respected, but never worshiped. Worship belongs only to God.
Centuries after Moses, David was moved by God to refer to the great honor of men being elevated to the status of “gods”. God spoke through the prophet to Israel, saying, “I have said, You are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But you shall die like men” (Ps. 82:6-7). Jesus explained this Scripture fully when he asked the Jews, “Is it not written in your Law that ‘I said you are gods’? If God called them ’gods’ to whom the word of God came, and the Scripture cannot be broken, are you telling him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You blaspheme,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?” It is a blessing that Jesus gave us this understanding of how it is that mortal men can be raised up to occupy positions of such majesty that the Creator Himself would honor them with the title of “gods”.
When the word of God comes, it changes everything and everyone that it touches. It is the same word that created the heavens and all that is in them. “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth” (Ps. 33:6). And when the word of God is welcomed into a human heart, that person is elevated far beyond the plane of normal earthly existence.
Though elevated above the plane of ordinary human existence by the word of God, the people “to whom the word of God has come” are still human, and as such, can err. They can, and do, differ in many areas of ordinary earthly life. They may differ by being male or female, rich or poor, educated or ignorant, healthy or ill, or in any of hundreds of other ways. Some understand the word of God that has come to them better than others understand it. Some will value it more than others will. Some will obey it more perfectly than others will obey it. And any of the many possible differences between mortals holds the potential of causing conflicts “among the gods” which only God can solve. Paul and Barnabas differed greatly in their opinions concerning whether or not the young man Mark should be allowed to go with them on their second missionary journey. “And the contention was so sharp between them that they departed asunder one from the other. And so, Barnabas took Mark and sailed unto Cypress. And Paul chose Silas and departed” (Acts 15:39-40).
Such conflicts “among the gods” are far beyond the ability of mere mortals to resolve. It is impossible for carnal, worldly judges to judge those gods because the life of any one of those gods is superior to any man of earth. In comparison to the life that God gives to His people, “every man at his best state is altogether vanity” (Ps. 39:5). “Every man [of earth] is vanity” (Ps. 39:11), but no child of God is “vanity”. They are all holy, and they all have God’s eternal life dwelling in them. David’s declaration that the Lord “judges among the gods” magnifies God for his ability to make righteous judgment when there is disagreement among holy people.
The apostle Paul became indignant when he learned that one of the saints in Corinth had sued a brother in Christ and forced him to go before an earthly judge in order to settle their dispute. It angered Paul for that saint to have taken a brother to an earthly court because it was an insult to the Lord. As Paul saw it, this saint was asking a mortal man, a worldly judge in Corinth, to “judge among the gods.” What respect could the world have for Jesus if Jesus could not even provide his servants with the wisdom to settle disputes among themselves? It would not have been unusual for a judge in Corinth to offer a sacrifice and pray for wisdom for that day’s court proceedings from Athena, the goddess of wisdom, or from Zeus, the chief of the gods of Olympus, or from both, or from some other gods. So, in this Corinthian court case, what Paul saw was this: A servant of the true God had humbled himself before a servant of the gods of Olympus to obtain judgment. Paul could hardly contain his indignation as he explained to the saints in Corinth how wrong this was. “To go before the unjust” for justice among the saints was unthinkable to him (1Cor. 6:1). It was backward. Most tragically, it was a horrible testimony against “Christ, the wisdom of God”, and it put sinful men’s souls in greater danger because it made them less likely to trust their souls to Jesus.
“Among the gods”, when a controversy arises, there is often some degree of “right” on both sides. Sometimes, both sides may appear altogether right. All of God’s children have His Spirit within them. All of them have been made holy by the Spirit of holiness that their heavenly Father has given to them. The world cannot even comprehend that simple truth; much less can it determine who “among the gods” is really in the right when God’s saints disagree. How can they, when every one of those to whom the word of God has come is more “right” than anyone in the world? In order for the world to be able to “judge among the gods”, it would have to be able to discern which saint involved in the controversy was being led by the Spirit and which one was not. The world knows nothing about being “led by the Spirit”; how then can it determine who the Spirit is leading at any given time, and who is not being led by the Spirit?
To resolve disputes within the family of God here on earth, we must be granted wisdom from God. Without His wisdom, every man is doomed to fall short of His glory in any judgment that is made. Only God knows all things at all times about all people, “both the great and the small”. This is the real meaning behind David’s declaration, “[The Lord] judges among the gods.” When we comprehend the greatness of God’s wisdom to do that, we experience David’s overflowing joy and say with him, “Praise ye the Lord!”