Sunday, August 28, 2022

Sermon for the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity - Lk 18:9-14


Trinity 11

                                                                                       Lk 18:9-14



          The “greatest” is an adjective that gets thrown around in sports quite a bit these days.  It is so easily applied to current players and teams by commentators and writers that one can only conclude that our society has a collective amnesia when it comes to sports.  It is as if nobody had existed prior to ten years ago.

          On the one hand our culture probably does have less of sense of history.  When you live life through the phone in your hand, everything is instantaneous and now.  What happened a month ago is forgotten – much less what happened twenty years ago.

At the same time, much of this is driven by our setting with sports talk shows and social media.  They feed off each other and generate a constant banter about sports.  This leads to discussions about who is the greatest.

This environment certainly encourages current players to start comparing themselves and their teams to past greats.  Draymond Green and the Golden State Warriors have won four of the last eight NBA championships.  Green made news recently when he stated on Twitter that his team would have easily beaten Michael Jordan and his 1998 Chicago Bulls.  Now Green did acknowledge the difference in eras, but claiming that you could easily beat a Michael Jordan championship team seems rather arrogant.

In our Gospel lesson this morning we hear a Pharisee brag about how great he is.  In fact, it sounds like he is saying that he is the greatest.  And he certainly engages in the act of comparing himself to another individual – a tax collector – as he states how much better he is.  The Pharisee sounds like the way the world does things. Yet our Lord teaches us that in the kingdom of God, it is the tax collector whose humble repentance is pleasing to God and receives forgiveness.

Our text begins by saying, “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.” The topic is certainly related to what we talked about in last Sunday’s sermon – about how Jews of the first century had a positive view about their spiritual abilities and had confidence in doing of the law as a means to be righteous before God.

Our Lord starts the parable by introducing two character as he says: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.” Now as readers of the Gospel of Luke we know exactly whom Jesus is addressing in this parable.  He is speaking to the Pharisees.  Jesus has been engaging in regular conflict with the Pharisees.  Two chapters earlier he said of them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”

The Pharisees did trust in their own ability to live according to God’s law and to be righteous.  The apostle Paul had been a Pharisee before his conversion and when he described his past – how he viewed himself – he told the Philippians: “as to righteousness under the law, blameless.”

Yet the Pharisees weren’t just focused on doing the law. They had their own interpretation of the law, and they considered this to be the only real way to keep the law.  They had taken parts of the Old Testament law – the Torah – that were meant only for priests, and applied them to everyone.  This was the way to be righteous before God.  The Pharisees had set themselves apart by doing so, and as you would expect, they looked down on those who didn’t.  If that was the way they felt about normal Jews, you can imagine how they viewed those who were involved in activities that were wrong and sinful.

Now to outsiders, the Pharisees would have appeared to be very pious.  They were people who were clearly serious about doing God’s law.  On the other hand, a tax collector was the exact opposite. They had the reputation for being dishonest – for using their position to take more than was owed.  Jesus’ first century hearers would have expected the Pharisee to be the hero in this parable, and the tax collector to be the villain.

We learn that both men went up into the temple to pray.  Prayer at the temple took place in the morning and the evening when a burnt offering was offered, as well as incense.  It was a public affair, and as we listen to the parable we need to recognize that this prayer was spoken out loud.

Jesus says that the Pharisee stood by himself and said: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.”  The Pharisee put himself on display and thanked God that he was so good. In particular, he compared himself to the tax collector who was present. His references to fasting and tithing indicated that he went over and above what was normally expected. This was certainly someone who trusted in himself that he was righteous and treated others with contempt.

On the other hand, the tax collector’s behavior was very different.  Our Lord says, “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’”  Instead of calling attention to himself, the tax collector stood off at a distance. He sought anonymity – as if he was trying to disappear.  Though engaged in prayer to God, he would not even lift up his eyes.

          The tax collector was beating his breast, which was a sign of repentance and humility.  And in contrast to the long winded prayer of the Pharisee he said one simple phrase: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”  In deed and in word he confessed his sin, and asked God to be merciful to him – to forgive him.

          Then Jesus concluded the parable by saying, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”  The supposedly pious Pharisee didn’t go home justified – declared righteous and forgiven by God.  Instead, the repentant tax collector did.

          Our text this morning teaches us about how we are to approach God.  You just confessed at the beginning of the service that you are “poor, miserable sinner.” You are exactly right.  You confessed that you justly deserve God’s temporal and eternal punishment.  You are exactly right. 

          You confessed about your sins that you are “heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them”? But are you?  There is always the danger that we can fall into the trap of just going through the motions.  This leads to a question: When was the last time you thought about the Ten Commandments?  I know that the parents, youth, and children who attended Learn by Heart on Wednesday can honestly say that they have thought about the Third Commandment. Or of course all of you can say you just thought about the Fourth Commandment as we read it and its explanation before the service.

But apart from that, when was the last time you actually thought about each of the Ten Commandments and examined your life on the basis of them? In the preface to the Large Catechism, Martin Luther wrote, “I must still read and study the catechism daily, and yet I cannot master it as I wish, but must remain a child and pupil of the catechism – and I also do so gladly.” Here “catechism” means the six basic texts of the Christian faith – the first of which is the Ten Commandments. 

We need to return to the Ten Commandments – and their explanation in the Small Catechism – and compare our life to them. This the way that we are confronted by God’s law with the sin in our lives. This reveals the actual sins of thought, word, and deed. This takes us beyond the blanket statement “I am a sinner” by which we protect ourselves from being confronted by the ugly ways that sin really is present in our life.

When God’s law reveals this sin – when it confronts us and condemns us as sinners – we have no excuse.  Unlike the Pharisee, we know that we have nothing to offer to God. There is nothing we can say except, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”  Yet we speak these words knowing that God wants us to come to him in repentance.  We speak these words knowing that we turn to the gracious and merciful God who has already acted to forgive us.

The tax collector went up to the temple to pray. He prayed at a time when the sacrifice commanded by God was offered.  In humility he said, “God be merciful to me.” What you can’t see in English is that the Greek verb used is the one that more commonly means “to propitiate.”  This is language used of the sacrifices in the Old Testament.  Now in pagan religions, sacrifices were something that were offered to the gods in order win them over and make favorable toward the individual – to propitiate them.  It was a work done to gain favor – and in this it was no different than the way the Pharisee was approaching God.

But the sacrifices that God commanded Israel to offer were different.  They were the means by which God atoned for their sin – by which he took away the sin that stood as a barrier to fellowship with God.  It was God who did this through the sacrifice, and the result was that God was propitiated – he now viewed the individual in a favorable way because the person was forgiven.

The sacrifices of the Old Testament pointed forward and found their fulfillment in the sacrifice that took place as Jesus Christ died on the cross.  Here again it was God who acted to atone for our sin.  The Son of God entered into our world as he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.  True God and true man, he came to bear our sin on the cross.  On the night when he was betrayed Jesus said, “For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.”

Christ took our every sin upon himself – every way we break the Ten Commandments.  He received God’s judgment against our sin as he suffered and died. God was just in punishing sin.  But this was God’s work to give us forgiveness and to defeat death. And on the third day, God raised Jesus from the dead.  He vindicated Jesus, and in that resurrection began what awaits us. 

In the death and resurrection of Jesus God has acted to give us a righteous standing before him as we receive his favor.  This has all been God’s doing.  God is the One who took away our sin by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ – he atoned for our sin.  God is the One who is propitiated by what he has done – he now views the individuals in a favorable way because they were forgiven.

There is nothing that we can do except to confess our sin and believe in Jesus Christ, and what God has done for us through him. We can only say, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”  We address this to the God – who wants to be merciful – who has been merciful by giving us forgiveness through the death and resurrection of his Son. 

The result of this confession is certain and sure.  Jesus says at the end of our text, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”  We know that we are justified – that we are righteous and innocent before God.  This is true right now, and it is the exact same thing that will be true on the Last Day when Jesus Christ returns in glory and we appear before him as he judges.  We will be declared righteous and innocent because of his death for our sins.

In the last sentence of our text Jesus says, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”  When we humble ourselves in repentance – when we confess our sin to God – we are exalted.  We are exalted as we are the forgiven sons and daughters of God. And we will be exalted because the Lord Jesus who has saved us by his death and resurrection, will raise us from the dead on the Last Day to live forever with him in a life where there will never be sin again.








Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle


Today is the Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle.  Bartholomew was one of twelve apostles chosen by Christ (Matthew 10:1-4).  Most likely he is called Nathaniel in the Gospel of John (John 1:45-51).  If this identification is accurate, then his personal name was Nathaniel and Bartholomew is an Aramaic patronymic (i.e. identifying the person as the son of someone: “the son of Tholomaeus” or the like).  Nathaniel was from Cana and was present with six other disciples when the risen Lord appeared by the Sea of Galilee and hosted a breakfast for them (John 21:1-14).  According to some Early Church Fathers, Bartholomew brought the Gospel to Armenia, where he was martyred by being flayed alive.

 Scripture reading:

 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”   John 1:43-51

Collect of the Day:

Almighty God, your Son, Jesus Christ, chose Bartholomew to be an apostle to preach the blessed Gospel.  Grant that Your Church may love what he believed and preach what he taught; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.



Sunday, August 21, 2022

Sermon for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity - Rom 9:30-10:4


Trinity 10

                                                                                       Rom 9:30-10:4



          Sir Alexander Fleming was a Scottish researcher working at a laboratory in a London hospital.  He was studying staphylococcus, the bacteria that causes staph infection.  Now apparently, Fleming had the reputation for being a somewhat careless lab technician.

          Before leaving on vacation, Fleming prepared some petri dishes with the bacteria.  His intention was that when he returned from vacation, the bacteria would have grown and he would have more material with which to do research.

          However, when Fleming came back from vacation he found that a mold was growing in some of the petri dishes. He noticed that in those petri dishes there had been little to no growth by the bacteria.  The petri dishes that Fleming had set up before leaving had not been entirely clean.  They were contaminated with a mold.  But Fleming recognized that something about this mold prevented the growth of the bacteria.  Fleming wasn’t looking for it when he set up the petri dishes. But the mold he found when he returned from vacation was the medical break through that produced penicillin, and it went on to save millions of lives.

          In our epistle lesson this morning, the apostle Paul describes an even greater unintended discovery.  He speaks of how the Gentiles were not seeking God’s righteousness – his work that has brought salvation. Despite this, it has now become theirs through faith.  And on the other hand, he explains the sad irony that the Jews who were pursuing God’s righteousness have not obtained it.

          “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” That’s what Jesus told the twelve apostles in the Gospel of Matthew as he sent them out with the instruction: “And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.”

          This limitation of their mission to the Jews – to the descendants of Israel – sounds rather surprising to our ears.  Yet it teaches us an important point that we easily forget.  Jesus came as Israel’s Messiah.  Purely because of grace, God had taken Israel to be his people.  He had rescued them from Egypt in the exodus.  Yahweh had made them his treasured possession as he brought them into a covenant with him.  He had promised the Messiah who would descend from Israel’s king David.  God’s righteousness – his saving action to put all things right – was meant from the start for Israel and her descendants.

          Now to be sure, God had also declared that he was working through Israel to bring salvation to all people.  When he called Abraham, God told him, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”  Yahweh had said through the prophet Isaiah about his Servant: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

          Jesus Christ had died on the cross as the sacrifice to provide forgiveness to all people.  God had raised him on the third day as he defeated death and began the resurrection of the Last Day.  As we learn in the Gospel of Matthew, the risen Lord had now told the apostles to make disciples of all nations.

Paul, then known as Saul, had been a persecutor of those who believed in Jesus. But the risen and exalted Lord had appeared to him on the road to Damascus.  Christ turned Paul’s life upside down as he called him to be an apostle.  Paul had proclaimed the Gospel to both Jews and Gentiles.  Yet the special focus of his ministry was certainly the Gentiles.  In fact, in the next chapter he describes himself as the “apostle of Gentiles.”

The work with the Gentiles was bearing great fruit as they believed in Jesus Christ across the Mediterranean world.  Certainly, there were Jews who did believe. But the reality was that the majority of Jews – the descendants of Israel – were rejecting the Gospel.

Why was this happening?  In chapter nine through eleven in his letter to the Romans the apostle Paul deals with this question.  In our text he considers a key and central factor that has already dominated the earlier portion of the letter. He begins by saying, “What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law.”

The Gentiles had not even known God.  But now through faith in Jesus Christ they had received God’s salvation – his righteousness.  However, the Jews who knew God and had received his law, had treated this law as if it was a means to the righteous standing before God, and it had not produced this result for them.

Paul explains as he goes on to say: “Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works.”  The fundamental error was that they treated their own works as if they had a role to play in their standing before God. It is not as if Jews completely ignored God’s grace.  But we also know they had a rather positive view about human abilities in spiritual matters.

Here, they were dead wrong. And this is by no means an error that was unique to the Jews of the first century.  People always want to run things in the way of the law.  No matter whether they think everything will turn out ok after death because they have been a “good person,” or whether they believe God’s grace enables works that justify, or whether they think they can believe in Jesus by their own power – everyone wants to think they can do something.

Yet Paul has already killed this idea. He has said in chapter three “that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin.”  In our fallenness, sin is a power that has robbed us of all spiritual abilities. That is why he said in the same chapter, “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Works and doing can never give us a right standing before God in any way.  Instead, Paul declares that this occurs through faith – faith in Jesus Christ who died on the cross and rose from the dead.  Paul has said earlier that Jesus was “delivered up for our trespasses.”  He received God’s judgment against our sin. But on the third day God raised Jesus from the dead.  In doing so he conquered death for Paul says in this letter, “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.”

In our text, Paul describes the Jews’ failure to believe in this way: “They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”  Combining words from Isaiah, the apostle contrasts two different reactions to Christ. He is a stone of stumbling and rock of offense to those who want to rely on themselves.  However, those who believe in the risen Lord will not be put to shame. They have salvation with God.

          These words from Isaiah reveal why we need Jesus Christ.  In their original setting they were a part of texts that told Judah how in the face of the Assyrian threat, they needed to trust in God and in God alone.  The same thing is true in our lives as we face challenges related to health, relationships, and work. Do we trust in God completely?  Are we free from all worry? The answer is no.  And in this we see our sin as we break the First Commandment.

          This is why we need the good news that all who believe Jesus Christ have forgiveness.  As Paul says “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”  And then he goes on to add the exact same verse from our text: “For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’”

          Because we believe in Jesus Christ we have forgiveness and salvation. We know that we are saved by God’s grace through faith.  The law is no longer something that is our concern as we look to receive God’s saving righteousness. 

At the end of our text, Paul says, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”  Here Paul is probably playing on the Greek word translated “end” since it can mean either “end” or “goal.”  Christ is the end of the law for righteousness, since it is only by faith in him that we can be justified.  But at the same time, Christ has been the goal of the law all along – the fulfillment of God’s covenant and the means by which Israel has become a light to the nations.

Christ is the end of the law when it comes to attaining a righteous standing before God.  Christ is the end of every idea about doing when it comes to salvation.  Instead, it is faith alone – faith in Christ – that provides this.

Faith which receives this gift is passive.  In fact, Paul defines it as the opposite of doing.  Earlier Paul quoted the verse from Genesis, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Then he went on to add: “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”

          Yet faith which has received this gift is not passive.  I cannot be because the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead has created it.  In both Romans and Galatians the apostle Paul addresses the issue of whether works are involved in being saved.  In both letters he adamantly declares that faith alone saves.  Yet in both letters he then goes on to speak about how faith acts in love.

In fact Paul says this very thing to the Galatians when he writes, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” Then a little later he adds: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” We find the same thing in Romans chapter thirteen where Paul says, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”

          Faith in Christ acts in love towards those around us.  It acts in service to our family, friends, and neighbors.  Led and enabled by the Holy Spirit this love fulfills the will of God.  In doing so, it fulfills what the law given to Israel was all about.  

For those who act in this way, Christ is not a “stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” Instead, they are those who have received the saving action of God – his righteousness – through faith in Christ.  Their faith acts because of Christ. It acts knowing that the one who believes in Christ will never be put to shame.    


















Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Commemoration of Johann Gerhard, Theologian


Today we remember and give thanks for Johann Gerhard, Theologian.  Johann Gerhard (1582– 1637) was a great Lutheran theologian in the tradition of Martin Luther (1483–1546) and Martin Chemnitz (1522–86) and the most influential of the 17th-century dogmaticians. His monumental Loci Theologici (23 large volumes) is still considered by many to be a definitive statement of Lutheran orthodoxy. Gerhard was born in Quedlinburg, Germany. At the age of 15 he was stricken with a life-threatening illness. This experience, along with guidance from his pastor, Johann Arndt, marked a turning point in his life. He devoted the rest of his life to theology. He became a professor at the University of Jena and served many years as the Superintendent of Heldberg. Gerhard was a man of deep evangelical piety and love for Jesus. He wrote numerous books on exegesis, theology, devotional literature, history, and polemics. His sermons continue to be widely published and read.

Collect of the Day:

Almighty God, you give the gift of teachers to your Church.  We praise you for the gifts of grace manifested in your servant Johann Gerhard, and we pray that your Church may never be destitute of such gifts; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


(Treasury of Daily Prayer, pg. 632)


Sunday, August 14, 2022

Sermon for the Ninth Sunday after Trinity - 2 Sam 22:26-34


Trinity 9

                                                                                       2 Sam 22:26-34



          There was a time when our culture tried to protect the reputation of national heroes.  So, Benjamin Franklin was held up as one of the founding fathers of the United States.  He was one of the drafters and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.  His work in France as the United State’s representative proved crucial in securing French support, that ultimately helped provide victory in the American Revolutionary War.

          However, in his own day, those in the know were well aware that Franklin had mistresses and affairs with many women.  In fact, on June 25, 1745 Franklin wrote a letter to a young man entitled, “Advice to a Friend on Choosing a Mistress.”  We’re in church - so I won’t go into any of the details – but let’s just say that Franklin’s advice is appalling.  In order to protect Franklin’s reputation, the letter was not published in the United States in collections of Franklin’s papers.

          Today, of course, our culture does not seek to protect reputations of national heroes and historical figures. Instead, it seeks to expose their dark secrets and publicize them.  This is done for two reasons. First, there is often an ideological motivation to tear down the respected leaders of the past. And second, there is profit and attention to be gained in the sensationalism this provides.

          The Holy Scriptures certainly do not seek protect the reputation of the important figures in the Bible.  Here, God’s Word does not do this in order to tear them down.  Instead, the Holy Spirit simply tells us the truth.  He reveals the sin present in their lives.  He shows them to be people of great faith, but also fallen sinners.  We find in them examples of faith to emulate, and at the same time also witnesses to how the grace, mercy, and forgiveness of God are needed by all people.

          In our text we hear the words of King David.  A very similar version of this is found in Pslam 18. In the verses just before our text, David has written, “The LORD dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the LORD and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all his rules were before me, and from his statutes I did not turn aside.

I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from guilt.”

          Now for those who have read what Scripture tells us about David, these words sound quite surprising. After all, David had sex with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah one of his faithful warriors.  When she became pregnant with his child, David tried various schemes to make it look like Uriah was the father.  When these failed, he had Uriah killed.

          In Psalm 51, David confesses this sin. He says, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.” 

          David was a sinner, and he confessed this.  But in our text the focus is not on David’s life as a whole.  Instead, the chapter begins by saying, “And David spoke to the LORD the words of this song on the day when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul.”  David speaks about himself in relation to Saul and his enemies.

          Here, David had been righteous.  David was a faithful servant of King Saul.  When Saul became jealous of David’s military success and popularity, he tried to kill David.  On two different occasions, Davd had opportunity to kill Saul, but he refused to do so because Saul was the Lord’s anointed.

          There is a helpful distinction to be learned here. It is true that we are all sinners, and that from a theological perspective our every action is stained by sin. Yet if we only view things in this way, we would never seek to do anything good because we would say, “Well what’s the point?  It’s just going to be sinful anyway.”

          However, the Psalms – and as I mentioned basically the same text appears in Psalm 18 – are also willing to speak in a more basic way.  It is possible to say we have done what is right, and that we have not wronged a person.  This is no claim to absolute freedom from sin, but rather the recognition that our actions do matter.  They can be evaluated. We can say that we have done the right thing, because the action was right.

          Now in David we also find that these two ways of speaking come together.  First, David is clear that even in the claim that one has done what is right – that we have not wronged another – there is no room for boasting or spiritual arrogance.  In our text he says, “You save a humble people, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them down.” The humble are those who make no claims before God.  The humble know that they are totally reliant on God – on his grace and mercy.  The Hebrew word used here is the same one that stands behind Jesus’ statement in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

          And second, we find in David the reason that we know our general sinful condition – the sin that infects everything – is forgiven before God.  He does not see us as sinners.  Instead, he only sees the good that we do – good that he himself gives us the ability to do.

            In the last verse of this chapter, David says, “For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations, and sing praises to your name. Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever.” David refers to himself as Yahweh’s “anointed” and speaks of his offspring.

          “Anointed” in Hebrew is “Messiah,” and in Greek is “Christ.”  David had been designated as Israel’s king when he was anointed by Samuel with olive oil.  But David’s significance in God’s plan was far greater than just being the king of a nation.  God had promised David earlier in 2 Samuel, “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”  God promised to establish David’s royal line – his kingdom – forever. 

            Through the prophets, God declared that a Messiah would descend from David who would bring God’s end time salvation.  This Messiah would be anointed not with oil, but with the Holy Spirit.  Isaiah wrote: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.”  He said of this One, “with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.”

          Not surprisingly Israel and her descendants the Jews expected this Messiah to be a mighty and powerful victor. Yet in Isaiah God spoke about another One upon whom he would place his Spirit.  In chapter forty two he said, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.”

          Matthew begins his Gospel by saying, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” When Joseph, a descendant of David, took Jesus who had been conceived through the work of the Spirit to be his own, Jesus became part of the line of David. Jesus was anointed with the Spirit at his baptism – God put his Spirit upon him.  He was the Messiah descended from David, but he was also the Servant of the Lord who came suffer for our sins.

            Jesus received the judgment against our sins as he died on the cross.  He was buried, and it did not appear there was any way he could be the Messiah.  But in fact, the Holy Spirit had revealed through David himself what God would do in Pslam 16.  On the day of Pentecost, Peter said of David, “Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne,

he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.”

          God not only raised Jesus up but exalted Christ as in the ascension Jesus was seated at God’s right hand.  This too, the Holy Spirit had made known through David when he wrote in Psalm 110: “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’”

          In our text David says, “For you are my lamp, O LORD, and my God lightens my darkness.” The risen Christ is our lamp that lightens the darkness of sin and death. Baptized into Christ, our sins are forgiven. In Christ, God no longer see our every deed as tainted by sin.  Instead, through the Spirit he brings forth deeds that he considers to be good.

          David says in our text, “This God--his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” The word of the Lord has proven true. What he promised in the Old Testament, he has fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Son of David.  The risen Lord has defeated death, and so he is the shield for all those who take refuge in him.

          God has revealed his saving love in the death and resurrection of his incarnate Son - the Messiah descended from David and anointed with the Spirit.  Because he has, we can say with David, “For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?”