The Duty of Magistrates.
6 I have said, Ye are gods and all of you are children of the most High. 7 But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes. 8 Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.
We have here,
I. Earthly gods abased and brought down, Psalms 82:6,7. The dignity of their character is acknowledged (Psalms 82:6): I have said, You are gods. They have been honoured with the name and title of gods. God himself called them so in the statute against treasonable words Exodus 22:28, Thou shalt not revile the gods. And, if they have this style from the fountain of honour, who can dispute it? But what is man, that he should be thus magnified? He called them gods because unto them the word of God came, so our Saviour expounds it (John 10:35) they had a commission from God, and were delegated and appointed by him to be the shields of the earth, the conservators of the public peace, and revengers to execute wrath upon those that disturb it, Romans 13:4. All of them are in this sense children of the Most High. God has put some of his honour upon them, and employs them in his providential government of the world, as David made his sons chief rulers. Or, "Because I said, You are gods, you have carried the honour further than was intended and have imagined yourselves to be the children of the Most High," as the king of Babylon (Isaiah 14:14), I will be like the Most High, and the king of Tyre (Ezekiel 28:2), Thou hast set thy heart as the heart of God. It is a hard thing for men to have so much honour put upon them by the hand of God, and so much honour paid them, as ought to be by the children of men, and not to be proud of it and puffed up with it, and so to think of themselves above what is meet. But here follows a mortifying consideration: You shall die like men. This may be taken either, 1. As the punishment of bad magistrates, such as judged unjustly, and by their misrule put the foundations of the earth out of course. God will reckon with them, and will cut them off in the midst of their pomp and prosperity they shall die like other wicked men, and fall like one of the heathen princes (and their being Israelites shall not secure them anymore than their being judges) or like one of the angels that sinned, or like one of the giants of the old world. Compare this with that which Elihu observed concerning the mighty oppressors in his time. Job 34:26, He striketh them as wicked men in the open sight of others. Let those that abuse their power know that God will take both it and their lives from them for wherein they deal proudly he will show himself above them. Or, 2. As the period of the glory of all magistrates in this world. Let them not be puffed up with their honour nor neglect their work, but let the consideration of their mortality be both mortifying to their pride and quickening to their duty. "You are called gods, but you have no patent for immortality you shall die like men, like common men and like one of them, you, O princes! shall fall." Note, Kings and princes, all the judges of the earth, though they are gods to us, are men to God, and shall die like men, and all their honour shall be laid in the dust. Mors sceptra ligonibus æ quat--Death mingles sceptres with spades.
II. The God of heaven exalted and raised high, Psalms 82:8. The psalmist finds it to little purpose to reason with these proud oppressors they turned a deaf ear to all he said and walked on in darkness and therefore he looks up to God, appeals to him, and begs of him to take unto himself his great power: Arise, O God! judge the earth and, when he prays that he would do it, he believes that he will do it: Thou shalt inherit all nations. This has respect, 1. To the kingdom of providence. God governs the world, sets up and puts down whom he pleases he inherits all nations, has an absolute dominion over them, to dispose of them as a man does of his inheritance. This we are to believe and to comfort ourselves with, that the earth is not given so much into the hands of the wicked, the wicked rulers, as we are tempted to think it is, Job 9:24. But God has reserved the power to himself and overrules them. In this faith we must pray, "Arise, O God! judge the earth, appear against those that judge unjustly, and set shepherds over thy people after thy own heart." There is a righteous God to whom we may have recourse, and on whom we may depend for the effectual relief of all that find themselves aggrieved by unjust judges. 2. To the kingdom of the Messiah. It is a prayer for the hastening of that, that Christ would come, who is to judge the earth, and that promise is pleaded, that God shall give him the heathen for his inheritance. Thou, O Christ! shalt inherit all nations, and be the governor over them, Psalms 2:8,22:28. Let the second coming of Christ set to-rights all these disorders. There are two words with which we may comfort ourselves and one another in reference to the mismanagements of power among men: one is Revelation 19:6, Hallelujah, the Lord God omnipotent reigneth the other is Revelation 22:20, Surely, I come quickly.