Thursday, February 21, 2013
Sermon on Psalm 89, for Lent 2 midweek, "God's Anointed"
· Psalm 89: sings at length of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. A song and praise to sing for all generations—a song the heavens join in singing. To the incomparable God, greatly feared, all powerful, surrounded by faithfulness. A song sung from the mountaintops and throughout all creation—wherever the might of God’s hand has been displayed. In the power over creation, power over His people’s enemies, and His steadfast love. v. 14 “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne, steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.”
· Lays a sure foundation of the Psalmist’s hope. Pillars of God’s throne and rule. His unchangeable qualities, on which we can bank. Foundation of our confidence to call on Him for help. Lays foundation for a major prayer and crisis in the 2nd half of the Psalm.
· v. 19-37 (still first half), recounts God’s covenant, His promise to David and his throne (2 Sam. 7). Specific example of faithfulness. v. 3-4 already mentioned: “You have said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn to David my servant: ‘I will establish your offspring forever, and build your throne for all generations.’” Prophet Nathan—throne established forever, steadfast love will not depart (even despite discipline). A promise that would have to fall short if spoken only of human descendants—already David’s rule has been broken. But looks all the way forward to Jesus, the ‘Anointed One’ of v. 51, and the One who cries in v. 26, “You are my Father, my God and the Rock of my salvation.” Of whom God says, “I will make Him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.”
· This leads into the distress—though God’s steadfast love and faithfulness are sure—the and His covenant inviolable, it now seems as though God’s promises had failed. Psalm written at a time (unknown to us) of national crisis—so deep that the crown is defiled in the dust, the enemies triumph, God is “full of wrath against your anointed,” falling in battle, end of splendor, days cut short, covered in shame. Deep cry of affliction—How long O Lord? Will you hide yourself forever? How long will your wrath burn like fire? What happened to your favored dynasty? Remember us! Remember your covenant, your steadfast love & faithfulness. Show us again—show us your merciful face, your mighty hand acting in mercy toward us.
· Psalmist is wrestling with the apparent failure of God’s promises—but comes to the wonderful conclusion: “When God’s promises seem to have failed, then affirm them in joyful song (1, 2) and bring all the grief of the unfulfilled promises to God in prayer (46–49, 50–51).” The Psalmist prayed even without realizing the remedy—the remedy hidden in this very Psalm! The sad history of Israel’s kings and the children of Israel (v. 30), disciplined by God for forsaking, the punishment with the rod & their iniquity (guilt) with stripes (v.32) would merge together with the punishment of Jesus’, God’s own Son, the anointed, the Messiah. Born from their rebellious line of ancestors, born with human blood yet without sin, Jesus would bear the rod and the stripes, He would bear the chastisement that brought us peace, so that by His stripes we are healed.
· As Israel’s history, as the covenant promise of the throne, merged together with the offspring of David, Jesus, God’s anointed, highest of all the kings of the earth—this Psalm takes on a new character and meaning. Foundational are God’s promises, His faithfulness, steadfast love and covenant—but also the distress of God’s people over Jesus’ own sufferings, His humiliation, His days being cut short, His being covered with shame—all raises the question of the apparent failure of God’s promises. So fully did Jesus identify with us, with sinners, with rebellious descendants of David and more, that He bore God’s wrath. Jesus stands fully in our sinners’ shoes, and wears all the garments of our shame and guilt. He bows His head silently under the bitter outpouring of God’s wrath. And here, it is not Father against Son, but God as One in will and purpose, bearing within Himself all the guilt, hurt, and wrong of sin. And so, even Jesus, the Son of Man, did not live without seeing death. But God’s foundational promises stand sure. God did not remove His steadfast love or faithfulness. He did not violate His covenant. Though Jesus was mocked and insulted by His enemies at the cross, God’s steadfast love would return to Him. Past the moments, and hours of forsakenness, into the barely glimpsed bright future, a glint of hope and triumph shines. Blessed be the Lord forever! Amen and Amen! The last words of the Psalm recommit the Messiah’s hope, the people’s hope, our hope to the God whose faithfulness has already been established and gone before.
· It is enough now, even if the scale of God’s promise-keeping goes beyond our narrow time-window on life, to confess that God’s promises cannot fail, and to set our Amen! to them. For Amen and amen means, “Yes, Yes, it shall be so!”