Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sermon for March 24

The Sixth Midweek in Lent
March 24, 2010
Text: Psalm 3

Dear Friends in Christ,
Again today we have a Psalm of David. It was written at the time when David was fleeing from his son Absalom. David, like all eastern monarchs, was faced with many difficulties in his last years. Part of the problem was the practice of polygamy. Many times a wife was part of a treaty with another ruler. For example, David was married to Michal, the daughter of Saul, to establish his claim to the throne. She was childless. God closed her womb because she mocked David when he brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. Many times when a king defeated an enemy he took their wife or wives for himself. This was intended to show the king’s power. David did this on at least one occasion. David had many other wives as well. And they often didn’t get along. One of his sons raped David’s daughter from another wife. Absalom took vengeance against his half brother for doing this. The various wives were constantly scheming against one another, trying to make certain that their son became king. On more than one occasion, David would have to act to prevent one of his sons making themselves king. In one case, that of his son Absalom, open revolt was raised and David had to flee from Jerusalem. Eventually, David was able to rally his supporters and defeat his son. Absalom was killed fleeing from the battle. David would write this psalm at the darkest hour, when the outcome of the battle was uncertain.
“Many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God...” Many people over the centuries have equated material success and wealth with God’s blessing. If a person is successful, God must have blessed them but if a person struggles, has trial in life, God must not like them. David here is summarizing that attitude. People were saying that God had abandoned David. God must have transferred His affection to Absalom.
In this psalm David makes it clear that this attitude is wrong. God is still a shield around him. God answers David from his holy hill, that is from Jerusalem, from His throne atop the Ark of the Covenant. One of most interesting lines is found late the psalm: “For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked.” God kicks their teeth in. That sound almost like the insults of school children on the playground. Yeh, God’s going to come and kick your teeth in, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah! But notice the tense of the verbs. Present tense. It’s not God will do this. God does this. This caries with it a sense of continuing action. God is always doing this to protect His people. God is always fighting for His people. That doesn’t mean that everything will always be peace and light. There will be struggles. But God is still with us.
Today, we have, in America, the prosperity preachers - name it and claim it theology. If you’re rich you must be a really good person and God has blessed you. If you’re poor or have problems in your life, God is angry with you and you need to change your life. But this is contrary to Holy Scripture. David teaches us that even in the midst of great trials, God is with us. God cares for us. He will not abandon us.
At the root of the prosperity heresy is the belief that we can stop sinning. Some people are good people who have it so together that they don’t sin. But this again flies in the face of Scripture. The Bible tells us that David was a man after God’s own heart. Yet, he was a murder, an adulterer, and a liar. He tells that he was conceived in sin. He is not saying his parents marriage was defective. Rather he was saying that he was sinner from his very conception. I would suggest to you that David was one of the most sinless men that ever lived. Yet, he was constantly sinning. So too for us. We are sinners. We cannot earn a blessing from God. In fact, the idea that we can earn something from God by our behavior is the sin of pride, the sin of self righteousness.
God’s favor is not earned by us but by Christ. Nor does Christ live a blessed life. He does not have His best life now. Christ was arrested, hauled before judges, beaten, mocked, and crucified. Far from having his best life now, Christ gave up His life. He gave it up as a sacrifice for the sin of the world. By Christ’s suffering, we have God’s favor. In this life there will be trials. There will be suffering. We will face persecution and injustice. I fear we may soon see the injustice of euthanasia. This health care bill was a giant leap in that direction. But that does not mean that God has abandoned us. He is still with us. He is still our shield. And He still fights against our enemies. It may not always look like it. Sometimes it seems like the bad guys always win. Sometimes it seems as though evil prevails. And man continues to increase his ability to carry out evil. But in the end, the wicked will be destroyed - if not in this life, then in the judgement. But even in the midst of such trials we also know that God has a purpose. He is using even the evil of men to accomplish His purpose. He used the wickedness of Judas, Annas, Caiaphus and others to place Jesus on the cross. So also for us. The wicked things done against us, are still being used by God to accomplish His goals. He is still protecting us from that which would harm our souls. That is certain.

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