In March 2005, a woman contacted Florida’s Palm Beach Police Department and alleged that her 14-year-old stepdaughter had been taken to Jeffery Epstein’s mansion.
In June 2008, after Epstein pleaded guilty to a single state charge of soliciting prostitution from girls as young as 14,he was sentenced to 18 months in prison. However, instead of being sent to state prison as are the majority of sex offenders convicted in Florida, Epstein was housed in a private wing of the Palm Beach County Jail. He was able to hire his own security detail and was allowed “work release” to his downtown office for up to 12 hours a day, six days a week. He served 13 months before being released for a year of probation. While on probation he was allowed numerous trips on his corporate jet to his residences in Manhattan and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Palm Beach police chief accused the state of giving him preferential treatment, and the Miami Herald said U.S. Attorney Acosta gave Epstein “the deal of a lifetime”
Last week, Epstein was arrested in New Jersey on sex trafficking charges. According to witnesses and sources, about a dozen FBI agents broke down the door to Epstein’s Manhattan townhouse with search warrants. Two days later, prosecutors charged him with sex trafficking and conspiracy to traffic minors. Court documents allege that at least 40 underage girls were brought into Epstein’s mansion.
Jeffrey Epstein has finally been brought to court for his crimes.
And at least 40 women with their families say: “It’s about time!”
Today, we’ve heard the Psalmist account of the gods who have finally been brought to court for their crimes. And the world says: “It’s about time!”
Perhaps it was Job who said it the best when he looked at the state of the world around him and observed:
The earth is given into the hands of the wicked; God covers the eyes of its judges (Job 9:24).
The truth is that Job speaks for many of us when he asks:
Why do the wicked live on, reach an old age, and grow mighty in power…Their houses are safe from fear, and no rod of God is upon them (Job 21:7-9).
We look at the conditions at the border that Vice President Mike Pence calls “unacceptable” and with Job we lament:
The poor of the earth all hide themselves. The throat of the wounded cries for help; yet God pays no attention to their prayer (Job 24:4-12).
Job painfully observes that things on earth are not good. Injustice is thriving. Evil seems to be winning. Kindness is waning. Love seems to be failing. Whoever is in charge of things down here needs to give an accounting. The gods must be taken to court! The gods must be brought to trial.
Pollution has created an ecological crisis in the Gulf of Mexico. We have dishonest and greedy politicians Washington; Child abuse and inhumane conditions at the border; Drug addiction in Fort Smith; and ICE Raids in ten cities throughout our country on this the Lord’s Day, the Christian Sabbath. We have racism, poverty, homelessness, violence spreading around the world. We have perpetual war; inequality, White Christian Nationalism; Climate Change, bigotry, sexism, and sick religion.
Whoever is responsible for the pain and brokenness of this world needs to be brought to justice now!
And the Psalmist declares: “God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment.”
The gods are on trial. They finally have their day in court.
And, with Job and the rest of the world we cry: “Well, it is about time!”
But who are these gods?
Other “gods” are mentioned throughout the Bible, and Psalm 82 is not the only Psalm to mention other gods: “There is none like you among the gods, O Lord” (86:8); “For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be revered above all gods” (96:4); “Our Lord is above all gods” (135:5); “Ascribe to Yahweh, gods, ascribe to Yahweh glory and strength” (29:1); “He is exalted above all gods” (97:7); “For Yahweh is a great god, and a great king above all gods” (95:3).
Idolatry is considered to be the greatest of all sins. The first of the Ten Commandments is: “Thou shall have no other gods before me.”
But again, who are these gods? Who is guilty of injustice toward the weak and the orphan and who shows partiality to the wicked? What god refuses to maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute? What gods fail to rescue the weak and the needy and deliver them from the hand of the wicked?
A couple of weeks ago, we read where Jesus criticized would-be followers for placing people above his call to discipleship.
One man wanted to bury his father. Another wanted to say goodbye to his family. Jesus’ response, albeit harsh sounding, reminds us that we are oftentimes guilty of putting people ahead of our call to be followers of Jesus.
So you could say that any person that we put above God can be considered to be a god.
A week ago, we read where Jesus sent seventy disciples out on a mission trip with the instructions to travel light, to leave some things behind, reminding us that we are also guilty of placing thingsahead of our call to be followers of Jesus.
The truth is that anyone or anything that competes for our allegiance to the God that is revealed in the Scriptures and in the words and works of Jesus is false god.
Prophetic preacher and one of my favorite writers John Pavlovitz is right when he says:
Idolatry is a horrible, dangerous thing. [And] sadly, far too many Christians are so very guilty of it.[i]
There are many things and many people we put above God: Our family; Our race; our nationality; our way of life; our religion. But there may be one god that we put above all other gods. There may be one god thatshows the most partiality to the wicked and refuses justice to the weak and the orphan, that tramples on the rights of the lowly and destitute.
Pavlovitz names Fear as the god of many people today, including some in the church. He writes:
Fear has become their false god, one they worship with complete and undying devotion.You can see it in the way they complain on social media, in the way they comment on the news of the day; in the defeatist, alarmist language that they use as to describe the world.
When Fear is your God, “everything becomes an imminent threat:” asylum-seekers, Muslims, atheists and agnostics, the media, Hollywood, and anyone that doesn’t pray like you, vote like you, speak like you and love like you.”
When Fear is your God, you cling to every little bit of worldly power that you can, whether or not you agree with the morality or ethics of that power.
When Fear is your god, you worship anything that prevents you from worshipping the God who loves all people of all nations, all races and all languages.
Last Sunday, I believe you could see it in the extravagant patriotic worship services in many large evangelical churches throughout our country, but especially in the South. In some worship services last Sunday, it was not certain to whom the worshiper’s allegiance was pledged: To a nation? Or to the God to whom all the nations belong?
When Fear is your god, patriotism turns into nationalism which quickly becomes idolatry.
When Fear is your god, you turn all of your attention to the things in
When Fear is your god, you develop a “me-and-people-like-me-first” position, and your heart becomes callous to the suffering of anyone who is different.
When Fear is your god, you can’t afford to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty and care for the sick.
When Fear is your god, it is too risky to welcome the stranger and visit the imprisoned.
When Fear is your god, life is about self-preservation, self-protection, and it becomes unashamedly self-serving.
When Fear is your god, dying to self is unimaginable, loving others as yourself sounds ridiculous, and carrying a cross, well, that is just foolishness.
The truth is that if Fear is the god of enough people, the entire creation suffers. We all walk in darkness, and the very foundations of the earth are shaken (Psalm 82:5).
The good news is that the gods are on trial, declares the Psalmist, and here comes the judge! The God of all nations, the Holy One who spoke the world into being and walked on the seas and healed the sick and raised the dead is having a reckoning!
The false gods are being put in their place! And it is way past time!
For when we put the true God, the God of the Holy Scriptures who we know most fully in the words and works of Jesus, above all other gods, much of the problems that our world faces today, some of the very same problems that Job observed in his world, will not only be addressed, but many of them can be solved.
I love the closing prayer of the vigil that we had Friday night for those suffering at the border. It was a pledge to the true God:
I will not fear people who don’t look like me, vote like me, worship like me, speak like me, or love like me. We are all God’s children.
I will not fear immigrants, dissenters, or troublemakers.
My country was built by immigrants, dissenters, and troublemakers.
I will not fear the false prophets who spread fear to make me hate. They are weak. They do not speak for me.
Let us stand, let us speak, and let us be heard.
Because our God has put the gods of the world on trial. Judgment has been rendered. Fear has been convicted and cast down and out by Love. And the verdict is in: Love always wins, and it will never be silenced or ever fade away.
May we share it boldly and loudly in such a way that the entire world will cheer: “It’s about time!”