Meditations on the Psalms
But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him. (Psalm 4:3 ESV)
Separation for God from the world is one of the major themes in the Psalms. We see God separate the wicked from the righteous in Psalm 1. Those who would separate themselves from God face His wrath and ultimately achieve their purpose in Psalm 2. In Psalm 3, Jesus, and those in Him, need not fear those who stand against them or God, for He will deliver. Here, the Psalmist declares God has set apart for Himself those who obey Him within the deepest thinking of their hearts. To set apart means to be distinct, marked out, separated, distinguished from others. God describes for us those who are His whom He has set apart. They are the godly, the faithful, holy, pious saints.
God reveals that those who exhibit and live holiness, He claims for Himself. These are the people who turn away from their sin toward God, who repent and walk toward Him in the faith He gives. They are His and cannot be taken from Him.
After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, some of those who witnessed the miracle went to the religious leaders of Judah, reporting to them what had occurred. They condemned Jesus and devised a premeditated plan to murder Him. They decided to murder Lazarus, the living witness to an irrefutable miracle. What were they going to do with Mary and Martha and all of the other people who witnessed Jesus’ miracle, who had seen Lazarus dead, then saw him walk out of a tomb after four days? They cannot kill everyone.
God uses the authorities of the world, whether they cooperate are not, to do His will and fulfil His purpose. In this case, the high priest, Caiaphas, prophesied what would happen by telling those under his authority what needed doing. In his mind and heart, the best solution to the problems Jesus raised by His presence, teaching and works, was to murder Him. Murder is against the law of God. Everyone who heard him, knew this. “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13 ESV; see Deuteronomy 5:17) is an explicit statement. Caiaphas declared Jesus had to die so the nation might continue to exist. His reasoning was that if Jesus continued to live the Romans would punish them all and take away their temple and disperse them throughout the world.
Let’s remember some of the history of the Jews. God had already destroyed the temple, dispersing the Jews throughout the world. He did this because they refused to trust Him as their God and obey His directives. In 586 BC, the Babylonians conquered the nation of Judah, the southern part of the divided nation of Israel. Around 70 BC, the Northern Kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians, its people dispersed throughout the world. Judah was ransacked, the temple destroyed, and many of the citizens of Judah were exiled in 586 BC. Seventy years later the Babylonian nation was conquered by the Medes and Persians. It was the Medes and Persian leader, Cyrus, who sent a remnant of Jews back to Judea to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. The religious leader’s of Jesus’ time should have known disobeying the direct will of God was not going to save their nation. Murdering His Son only brings His wrath. Before the end of the century Jerusalem is destroyed again, the temple is razed and the Jews are exiled.
But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. (John 11:47-52 ESV)
When the Jewish religious leaders killed Jesus using the Romans as their executioners, they ultimately accomplished the will of God. They were responsible for their actions, for the thinking of their hearts. Their physical, temporal nation was destroyed. But the eternal Kingdom of God is established and the eternal King is enthroned.
“As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. (Psalm 2:6-8 ESV)
God’s kingdom is filled with those He set apart for Himself, beginning with His Son, Jesus Christ. Because the One Man is blessed, so those who take refuge in Him are blessed. “Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:12 ESV). Peter describes the follower of Christ.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10 ESV)
We are set apart from the world for God.