A prayer asking God, who calls all unjust rulers to account, to establish his righteous reign on earth.
st. l =vv.I-2
st. 2 = vv. 3-5
st. 3 = vv. 6-8
Interpretations of Psalm 82 vary on many details, but one thing is clear: the psalmist has seen–and most likely experienced–that those who wield authority on earth are prone to promoting injustice rather than defending the powerless and oppressed (see also 58). Yet God sits in judgment as the great King over all such rulers (st. 1), calling them sternly to account (st. 1-2). In spite of their arrogant confidence in their power (st. 2), the LORD will terminate their little season of authority with death. In faith the psalmist sees the supreme Judge presiding over the heavenly court and prays for God to establish his righteous rule over all the nations on earth (st. 3). In the post-exilic temple liturgy, this psalm was sung at the time of the morning sacrifice on the third day of the week. Henry Zylstra (b. Platte, SD, 1909; d. Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 1956) prepared the versification in 1953 for the 1959 Psalter Hymnal; it was slightly altered for the 1987 edition.
Zylstra earned an undergraduate degree at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan; studied German literature at Iowa State University; and received his Ph.D. in comparative literature from Harvard University. From 1943 to 1956 he taught in the English department at Calvin College. His tenure there was interrupted by service in the United States Navy (1943-1945), during which he received the Bronze Star for "unusually meritorious service." He was studying under a Fulbright professorship at the Free University of Amsterdam when he died of a heart attack in 1956.
A founder of Reformed Journal, Zylstra was a greatly esteemed teacher and leader at Calvin College and in the Christian Reformed Church. His writings on education and on the relationship between culture and the Christian faith were especially valued; many of his essays were collected posthumously in Testament of Vision (1958). His translations of theological works from Dutch into English were also of a high calibre. From 1951 until his death Zylstra served on the committee that prepared the 1959 Psalter Hymnal.
When the church needs to speak against unjust use of power–especially by government.
--Psalter Hymnal Handbook