Sermon on Psalm 143, for the 24th Sunday after Pentecost 2020 (A), "Wonderful Openness"

 Sermon notes

·         Read Introit with reference to Hebrew poetry parallelisms. Explanatory, deepening, reflective. Praying the Psalms is an exercise in meditation. Explore in this Psalm how a relationship in prayer creates a wonderful openness between us and God. May He create in us a clean spirit!

·         Context of Psalm: relationship between believer and God. Like many Psalms, shows God’s qualities and the posture of the praying believer.

·         V. 1-2 Humility and repentance before God’s judgment, seeking God’s mercy, faithfulness, righteousness. Acknowledging guilt. No false standing before God. When have you been crushed by your sin, your guilt and failure, and utter unworthiness before God? We cling to His mercy.

·         V. 5 Remember, meditate, ponder—days of old, all you have done, the work of Your hands. A reflective, focused state of mind, purposefully examining what God has done in your life. Like tasting a fine wine, or some other fine delight, concentrating on all the flavors. Turn God’s Word over in your head, examining prayerfully each phrase. Taking it into your life.

·         V. 6 Outstretched hands to God are like a soul thirsting for Him. A wonderful openness, a receptivity to drink in the blessings of God. A parched land—dried up by the heat of summer. Nourishing waters restore and saturate the land, so life blooms green again.

·         V. 10 I am teachable! Teach me God! Guide me by Your Spirit! Level ground—where my footstep is steady and the ground beneath me is stable. Not a place where I will stumble or fall into temptation.

·         V. 11 Confidence that for His Name’s sake, God will act to preserve my life. His righteousness (recall Reformation Day sermon on God’s Righteousness) moves Him to rescue our soul from trouble. Life and soul are paralleled. We are more than mere flesh—not “meat robots” like some unbelievers think. Whether tongue in cheek or not, it diminishes our humanity to think that way. It encourages us to sink to our baser instincts if we are merely animals. But soul is not merely the “non-flesh” side of us either. Body and soul are a union in Biblical theology. This is why we believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting, not transfer into a ghostly existence. Christ’s incarnation

·         What are the characteristics of God we’ve seen here? Merciful, faithful, righteous Judge. Mighty Deliverer of old, Living Water, Teacher and Guiding Spirit, Guardian of my life and Savior from trouble.

·         What are the characteristics of the praying believer seen here? Humble repentance, persistent prayer, quiet reflection and contemplation, receptivity and openness to God, a teachable spirit, and a confident trust in God.

·         Now read as Jesus’ prayer. V. 1-2 Jesus always was confidently assured that His Father heard His prayers. Jesus knew the full condition of sinful man, that no one was righteous on earth—this was the very situation He came to rescue. His prayer for mercy is an intercession for sinners, for God to show mercy because of the sacrifice Jesus was going to make.

·         V. 5 It was a source of strength to Jesus to meditate on the past, and all God had done. It was also the ground of much of His teaching, to teach His generation and generations yet to come, what mighty deeds the Lord had done. Jesus added greatly to that list of mighty deeds and the works of God’s hands.

·         V. 6 Jesus was constantly open and thirsty for God. He yearned for God’s Word, and as a child He stayed back to learn in the Temple while His parents had already begun the journey home. He thirsted in the desert temptation, but was refreshed and strengthened by God’s Word, not by the cheap temptations of the Evil One. He thirsted on the cross, and drank deeply of the Father’s will, as He did every deed that God willed for Him, before crying out, “It is Finished!”

·         V. 10 Jesus always sought alignment with the Father’s will. He walked by the Spirit of God, and completed all the Father asked.

·         V. 11 and when Jesus died on the cross, it was with confident trust that God would redeem His soul from the grave, He would preserve Jesus’ life and bring His soul out of trouble.

·         As Jesus prays the Psalms for us, and fulfills God’s Word for us, and becomes our Merciful Judge, our Mighty Deliverer, our Living Water, our Guiding Spirit, the Guardian of our Life and Savior from Trouble, we can pray these Psalms as our own. Jesus’ own wonderful openness to the Father’s will made Him the only perfect instrument of God’s mission to rescue us. And He lives and moves in us still today by His Spirit! Lifted up in our prayers by the prayers of Jesus and walked along the way of life by Christ living in us, we follow God’s ways and are open and receptive to His gifts. With the wonderful openness of a repentant and teachable spirit, and God’s great mercy and willingness to abundantly pour out every good thing, we rejoice to be in prayer with such an awesome God! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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