Evidence of Rebellion
For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. (Psalm 5:9 ESV)
Jesus stands in God’s courtroom, presenting the evidence of rebellion to the eternal Judge. God is righteous and just. Jesus prayed for God’s attention, then announces God’s character for all to hear. God does not tolerate those who lie, especially about Him to those who are His. Jesus enters God’s house, His Temple, the eternal courtroom of God’s presence, seeking to follow the absolute will of God in all ways. Those who revile God, who mutiny against Him, who lead others in their rebellion, face God’s judgment. They are the defendants in God’s courtroom, representing themselves against the Prosecutor, who wants to cover them with grace and mercy but cannot because of their continual obstinate and unlawful behavior.
Who they are, the defendants standing in God’s courtroom, is shown from their innermost selves, the evidence of their vile words. Their intent dictates their actions. They will do that which they think and feel. God already proclaimed “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5 ESV). Man’s spiritual condition has not changed since the time of Noah, or from the first act of rebellion against God in the Garden of Eden by Adam and Eve. God destroyed all but eight in the time of Noah. He will not do that again until the end of time. Then He will judge each according to their sin.
“For there is no truth in their mouth.” Truth means fixed, established, securely enduring direction, referring to the contemptible words that spew from their mouths. The word nomeans nothing, without, lacking. Nothing that comes from their mouths is fixed or provides direction. Their words and standards for living are arbitrary, changing at a whim, the exact opposite of God’s words. Their hearts, the inmost self is destruction, which is evil desires, a chasm of calamity. Everything about the thinking of their hearts, made known through their words and actions, is not true by any standard of truth. There is only one standard. He, who created all things and set laws in place, reveals truth for all to know and follow.
Jesus presents the evidence and then drives it home by repeating that evidence. Not only is there no truth in their mouths, when they open their mouths all that is contained and spills out is deadness. Their throats are an open grave, a tomb or sepulcher, which contains dead and decaying bodies. With their tongues they flatter, which means to divide, plunder, impart and share, smooth and slippery. Their words tickle the ears of their hearers, enticing them to follow and embrace that which is not true. They are false witnesses, declaring they speak for God to those who would see God, but intentionally leading them away from Him whom they seek.
Toward the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, during the Passover week before His crucifixion, He again entered the Temple and drove out those who desecrated God’s house. “And he entered the Temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, ‘It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers’” (Luke 19:45-46 ESV). Those with the responsibility to lead the people to God, who were in charge of the Temple, hated Jesus for challenging their authority. They hated Him but the people they lead loved Jesus and listened intently to His teaching. “And he was teaching daily in the Temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words” (Luke 19:47-48 ESV).
What follows Jesus actions and teaching in the Temple is a series of challenges by those religious leaders. They challenge His authority, try to trap Him in His words, look for anything they could to condemn Him. They ask about the baptism of John (Luke 20:1-8). They ask if it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar (Luke 20:19-26). They ask about marriage and what will happen in heaven (Luke 20:27-40).
Jesus then tells the people to beware of the teaching of the Scribes and those who claim spiritual authority.
And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” (Luke 20:45-47 ESV)
Matthew 23 is a litany of woes and declarations against the Scribes and Pharisees. “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “’The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice’” (Matthew 23:1-3 ESV). Jesus presents the evidence that those who are tasked with leading people toward God actually lead them away from God.
God will not tolerate those who change His words and turn worshipping Him into idolatry. Their leading and teaching bring death not life. They have turned the truth into a lie and speak the lies to a people eager to hear them and believe anything but truth.