For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you.(Psalm 5:4 ESV)
God cannot abide ungodliness. He separates for eternity those who hate Him from those who love and obey Him. Yet, because of sin, none can work their way into eternity with God. Everyone is ungodly but some recognize their sin, realize the consequences and turn toward God in faith. God honors those who strive to come toward Him in obedience.
Wickedness is a word related to the word wicked first seen in Psalm 1. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked” (Psalm 1:1 ESV). David speaks, and Jesus affirms, that God has no delight, which means to take pleasure, in anything that contradicts His holiness. Evil means disagreeable, malignant, bad and describes the thinking of the heart of those who hate God. To dwell means to abide, stay, live and also means to stir up or quarrel and cause strife. God is not pleased with any who fight against Him, who disobey Him, yet seek to live with Him because of His generous and gracious nature. This statement, in Psalm 5:4, is reminiscent of the previous Psalm. “There are many who say, ‘Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!’” (Psalm 4:6 ESV).
Jesus delights in entering the House of His Father. Many who lived in the vicinity of the Temple would take advantage of the obedient sacrifices of the people for gain and profit. At the beginning of His earthly ministry, Jesus entered the Temple in Jerusalem during Passover week and drove out the vendors who had set up their wares in the courtyard of the Gentiles. The place was called Annas’ Bazaar. Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the High Priest.
In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”(John 2:14-16 ESV)
In this marketplace were vendors selling animals for the requisite sacrifices and money-changers who would exchange foreign currency for that used locally. Before a person could offer a sacrifice to God to fulfill their obligations under the law, the animal being sacrificed had to meet the requirements of the law. The animal had to be perfect, with no blemishes. Many people, traveling from great distances, could not bring an animal with them, so after they arrived they bought an animal to sacrifice. The prices for the animals were higher in the temple than anywhere else. Or, if they did bring an animal to sacrifice from their own possessions, a priest had to inspect the animal to ensure it was perfect and suitable for sacrifice. The inspecting priest would find something wrong with the animal and send the pilgrim to the vendor for an exchange and upgrade. Those pilgrims coming from other countries would have to exchange their currency for the local shekel, also at an exorbitant rate. Then they would have to buy an animal with the money left. In all of the exchanges many of the priest would receive a kickback.
Jesus often visited the Temple often. It was customary for the Jewish people to come to Jerusalem once a year, during Passover, to celebrate God. Annas’ Bazaar was a daily event, for someone was always offering a sacrifice according to the law. Jesus was familiar with the marketplace within the Temple walls. His anger toward the desecration of the Temple had built over time. At this Passover he took action against those buying and selling in the Temple courts.
He made a whip out of cords and began driving people from the Temple, attacking the vendors selling their wares. It was not that being a seller was wrong. It was that they were selling in the temple and overcharging people to the profit of the priests. He flipped over their tables. He dumped their money on the ground. Jesus violently disrupted the workings of the temple because of the evil dwelling in the house of God. God does not delight in wickedness and evil may not dwell with Him.
Notice what Jesus said when He drove them away. “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade” (John 2:16 ESV). Since His childhood Jesus identified the temple as the house of God and that God was His Father. “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49 ESV). He was His Father’s Son.“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. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:7-9 ESV). Jesus was doing that which God had given Him to do.
During the first Passover week, at the beginning of His earthly ministry, Jesus shouted the message He was Messiah. He wrote the Laws of the sacrifices. The Temple was His house and that He was in control. He threw down the gauntlet and formally challenged the authority of the religious leaders of His people. His was not a true challenge but a statement of fact that He was their authority.