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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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
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
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.”
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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?”