82 (0) A psalm of Asaf:
(1) Elohim [God] stands in the divine assembly;
there with the elohim [judges], he judges: —(Elohim is stationed in the assembly of El, within the Elohim he is judging—adapted from Hebrew Interlinear)
2 “How long will you go on judging unfairly,
favoring the wicked? —(Until when will you judge disgracefully and lift up the faces of the wicked?—adapted from Hebrew Interlinear)
3 Give justice to the weak and fatherless!
Uphold the rights of the wretched and poor!
4 Rescue the destitute and needy;
deliver them from the power of the wicked!”
5 They don’t know, they don’t understand,
they wander about in darkness;
meanwhile, all the foundations of the earth
are being undermined. —(All the foundations of the earth are slipping—adapted from Hebrew Interlinear)
6 “My decree is: —(Me, I said:—adapted from Hebrew Interlinear)
‘You are elohim [gods, judges],
sons of the Most High all of you.
7 Nevertheless, you will die like mortals;
like any prince, you will fall.’”
8 Rise up, Elohim, and judge the earth;
for all the nations are yours.
Reading for the sense of the language as it’s written, I get this: “God stands within us and among us as a judge among judges, a God among gods. God wants to know, ‘How long will judgments keep on being unfair? How long will malicious people keep on being given wrongful preference?’’ God is there to be a witness to the verdicts that deny justice to children without parents, that demolish the rights of helpless people, and that abandon defenseless people into the hands of the powerful and corrupt. God’s witness says “Give justice! Defend helpless people’s rights! Rescue vulnerable people from harm! —Look, they don’t understand! They are slipping and sliding in the dark on ground that ought to be solid under their feet! Me, I tell you, you are gods, children of the Utmost, every one of you, even the helpless ones! Yet you will die anyway, and your power will fail you! Rise up, gods, and judge the world, because it belongs to you!”
5 “Then I will approach you for judgment;
and I will be quick to witness
against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers;
against those who take advantage
of wage-earners, widows and orphans;
against those who rob the foreigner of his rights
and don’t fear me,”
Here it is again! God approaches us for judgment!
God willingly stands as an indignant witness against con-artists, deceivers, betrayers, and false witnesses; against profiteers who take advantage of working people, welfare moms, and children without parents, and God speaks out even more dependably against those who rob foreigners of their rights; who dismiss God’s witness in their hearts and won’t admit that what they’re doing is wrong!
25 A discussion arose between some of Yochanan’s talmidim and a Judean about ceremonial washing; 26 and they came to Yochanan and said to him, “Rabbi, you know the man who was with you on the other side of the Yarden, the one you spoke about? Well, here he is, immersing; and everyone is going to him! 27 Yochanan answered, “No one can receive anything unless it has been given to him from Heaven.”
Here again is the theme of being a witness: John’s disciples reporting to John that Jesus, the one John spoke about, is off ceremonially washing people. John tells his disciples, “No one can receive anything unless it has been given to him from Heaven.” He’s trying to tell them they are missing the point. It doesn’t matter who is doing it, but simply that it’s being done! That what is being received is from heaven, and is cause for great joy and satisfaction. He’s also showing them that they are trying to be God’s gatekeepers when they argue about the laws of ceremonial washing, instead of paying attention to God’s witness and using their power of judgment on their own account.
Could it be that simple?
The other thing I couldn’t help noticing: the readings could easily have been written about what is happening right now, today, in the world: “Wage-earners,” “Advantage-takers,” “Parentless children,” and “Those who rob foreigners of their rights.” Maybe we should take heed.
alongside the enforcers;
beside the abandoned.
the callous motive;
the heartbreaking cry.
No one is listening.
The ground tilts.
Strong, we judge.
Helpless, we forgive.
Stumbling, we suffer.
Kind, we rejoice.
Patient, we endure.
All of us.