The first casualties of upheaval can be love, kindness, and patience. But crisis is also a moment when love for God & one another can spring up. For 150 days, starting on 17th March 2020, I will write 300 words based on one of the 150 psalms in the bible. How can I find and give love in the midst of coronavirus?

This week my son was watching the Lord of the Rings films with a friend who had never seen them (extraordinary I know!). When watching or reading Tolkien, to allow the story to work, you have to enter into the worldview of the people in Middle Earth. You need to accept that there are elves, dwarves, wizards, talking spiders – and above all that there is magic. If you decide that the magic is just nonsense, then you can’t enjoy the story. This is how fantasy or science fiction stories work – you have to accept the understanding of the world behind them – otherwise,you can’t enjoy them.

I’d say we need to do the same with Psalm 82. It brings us into a world, that many of us are unfamiliar with.

God presides in the great assembly; he renders judgment among the ‘gods’: ‘How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. ‘The “gods” know nothing, they understand nothing.  They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. ‘I said, “You are ‘gods’; you are all sons of the Most High.” But you will die like mere mortals; you will fall like every other ruler.’ Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance.

Do you notice anything? When the word “gods” is used, it appears with inverted commas. There are 2 reasons for this, firstly because there is some debate about the best way to translate the word ‘elohim’ into English – but mainly because we find it hard to enter the world of the thinking of people up to 3000 years ago.

For someone from Israel or anyone in the Ancient Near East, it was taken as read that there are powerful spiritual forces at work in the world. There are gods in every nation, in the sea, in the sun and at work around the world. One of the remarkable things about the God of Israel is that He is the one above all of these and he judges them – as we can see in this Psalm.

So the prayer of this Psalm is that God will exercise His power over these gods, knowing that they are not serving the just, but favouring the wicked. They are not defending the fatherless and the oppressed – and the prayer is for God to judge them.

The New Testament says that:

our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

As we look at our world, we need to recognise that there are forces at work that need defeating. And while the judgements in this psalm can be applied to some human rulers – there are also unseen rulers at work and we should resist them and pray

Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance.

May God strengthen you today. Love Matt