Reproached for God's Sake
(6) Let not those who wait on you be put to shame because of me, Lord, Yahweh of hosts. Let those who seek you not be humiliated because of me, God of Israel, (7) for it is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that humiliation has covered my face. (8) I have become a stranger to my brothers and a foreigner to the sons of my mother, (9) for zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me. (10) When I wept and (humbled) my soul with fasting, it became a reproach to me. (11) When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them. (12) Those who sit in the gates gossip about me, and (I am) the song of the drunkards.
Several repetitions enable us to discern the thrust of this segment which is filled with grief and lament. David uses three names for God, “Adonai,” “Yahweh,” and “Elohim” (vs. 6), as he cries out for help. Twice he employs the phrase, “because of me” (vs. 6) and follows that up with “for your sake” (vs. 7). The word, “reproach,” is found four times in these verses (once each in vss. 7 & 10 and twice in vs. 9). “Humiliated/humiliation” occurs twice (vss. 6 & 7) as well as the equivalent phrase, “put to shame” (vs. 6). “I became” is used twice with the synonymous terms “reproach” and “byword” or “proverb” (vss. 10 & 11) indicating that David's enemies are mocking him with their gossip and drunken revelries (vs. 12).
The key to this segment is the psalmist’s declaration, “It is for your sake that I have borne reproach” (vs. 7). In other words, the negativity he is experiencing from those around him is due to his commitment to Yahweh and his passion for temple worship reflected in the phrase, “zeal for your house has consumed me” (vs. 9). John quoted this phrase in his Gospel (Jn. 2:17) to describe Jesus’s passion for the holiness of the temple, his Father’s house of worship.
Bearing reproach for God:
- Let it not be because of me, but for your sake, God. (6 & 7)
- I have become a stranger to my brothers. (8)
- I have been consumed by zeal for your house. (9)
- I am ridiculed for humbling myself before you. (10-12)
A consuming passion for God may alienate us from our relatives and friends and subject us to the ridicule of scoffers.
The words, “religious fanatic,” carry terrible overtones in today’s world of terroristic threats. Those who are passionate about their devotion to God risk being viewed as the enemies of tolerance and open-mindedness, sometimes with good reason. All too often it is religious fanatics who strap explosives to their bodies and destroy helpless bystanders by means of suicide bombings that threaten the very fabric of our society. It is the pro-life fanatics who have a reputation for shooting doctors at abortion clinics, all in the name of protecting the unborn. To be zealous for one’s faith and committed to evangelistic outreach can appear in today’s world not only to be senseless but threatening, an activity that sometimes seems like criminal behavior.
David knew what “zeal for God’s house” meant for him: alienation from his family and ridicule from the rest of society. Jesus, to whom John applied the words of verse 9 when he cleansed the temple (Jn. 2:17), also experienced that kind of negative response from his own family and fellow Israelites as he lived and proclaimed the Good News. If we demonstrate this kind of passion for the truth in today’s world, we may risk the same kind of suspicion and alienation that he endured.
While we know that commitment to Christ should never involve our becoming a physical danger to those around us, unbelievers among our family and friends who observe our lives and hear our testimonies may be made to feel quite uncomfortable and even threatened by our passionate zeal for Christ. Like David, we need to be prepared to bear reproach, hopefully not for our sakes, but for the sake of the one who gave his life for us. And if we do, we should, like the disciples rejoice because we have been “counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the name” of Jesus (Acts 5:41).