Meditations in the Psalms
O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? (Psalm 4:2 ESV)
Jesus’ prayer, cried out in this Psalm, and the prayer of the Psalmist, is inspired by the thinking of the hearts of the people who rage against Him. They are wicked and ungodly people, the kings and rulers of nations, who surround Him, intent upon inflicting violence against His person. Their unrighteousness wars against His righteousness. God gives Him both grace and mercy when He answers His prayer and relieves His distress.
David, speaking for Jesus in this Psalm, asks those who dishonor Him with their lies, pointed, parallel questions. Honor means glory, glorious, abundance.Shamemeans disgrace, reproach, confusion, insult, ignominy, discredit. These combative people use propaganda to attack Jesus’ character and person. They embrace vanity or vain words, which are empty and idle speech, that lifts themselves up while tearing Him down. They seek and desire to believe and espouse lies, false, deceptive, untrue teaching and training. These are the same people who “plot in vain” (Psalm 2:1 ESV) against the “LORD and against his Anointed” (Psalm 2:2 ESV). How long are they going to continue their rebellion and vilify, belittle and slander Him?
Throughout the Jesus’ earthly ministry He consistently confronted and opposed the Jewish leaders and teachers of the law. They saw Him as a threat to their power and authority over the people. He viewed them as false teachers, who led people away from God.
Jesus performed a miracle, raising Lazarus from death after four days in the tomb. Lazarus’ body naturally started to decay and decompose. People reacted to Jesus’ miracle in two ways. Either they embraced Jesus, convinced He was who He said He was, or they did not believe Him and denied Him. What did Jesus declare about Himself? In the presence of the people, Jesus declared to Martha “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 ESV). Even though Jesus’ miracle is undeniable, executed in public, witnessed by many people, some of those who could accurately testify to Lazarus being dead and then not being dead, denied Him. “Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done” (John 11:45-46 ESV). They did not deny He performed a miracle. They denied His divinity, for only God can raise the dead.
How did the Jewish leaders react? “From that day on they made plans to put him to death” (John 11:53 ESV). But Lazarus was still walking around, a living proof of the miracle performed by Jesus. People came from all around to see him who had died and been raised. They wanted to see both Jesus and Lazarus. Not only did the religious leaders plot to kill Jesus, they also arranged to kill Lazarus, the living, undeniable evidence of the power of God flowing through the Man from Nazareth.
When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus. (John 12:9-11 ESV).
They plotted and schemed to murder two people who had done nothing against the law of God deserving of death. What was their motivation for premeditated murder?
“So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, ‘What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation’” (John 11:47-48 ESV).
They, who wanted the Roman occupiers to suffer the wrath of God, were afraid the Romans would remove them from power. They were afraid the Romans would remove their place, which is their temple, and their nation, already dominated by the enemy occupiers. Comfortable in their position in the world, the Jewish leaders did not really want to obey God and trust Him. People rumbled about making Jesus their king so He could defeat the Romans and feed them (see John 6:15). Jesus would not let them. This attitude of the people was not unknown to the Jewish leaders. They were afraid of Jesus, who represented a corrosion of their authority. At least under the Romans they had some control. They loved vanity and by their plotting to murder Jesus, sought to shame Him whom they should have honored.