Trinity 12 2015

Trinity 12
St. Mark 7:31-37 (Psalm 70)
23 August 2015

In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

We have too shallow a view of praise and of joy. We praise God in thankfulness and recite His goodness to us in history. He has taken up our cause in the virgin’s womb in order to die as our Substitute and Sacrifice. He has risen from the dead to open heaven and ascended to lead us there. He has rescued us from the accusations of the Law and the injustice of Satan. He has declared us to be His own children, righteous in His sight and pleasing to Him through faith. That rightly fills us with joy and causes us to sing. That is why we like Christmas and Easter.

But we should note that the people in the region of the Decapolis who brought the deaf mam with a speech impediment to be healed by Jesus also liked Christmas and Easter. They rejoiced and praised God that He makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak. They were not wrong, but they were not quite right either.

There is more to more to praising God than responding to pleasure and beauty and goodness. The Church also praises God on Good Friday, at funerals, and even in the face of possible persecution or martyrdom. Job sings: “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.” The Psalmist cries to God for deliverance and help not only when he is in trouble but also when things are going well and he praises God no matter what the circumstances.

In that regard, let us consider Psalm 70, a Psalm of David and the Introit for today.

Psalm 70 (KJV)

1Make haste, O God, to deliver me; Make haste to help me, O Lord.

2Let them be ashamed and confounded that seek after my soul: Let them be turned backward, and put to confusion, that desire my hurt.

3Let them be turned back for a reward of their shame That say, Aha, aha.

4Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: And let such as love thy salvation say continually, Let God be magnified.

5But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: Thou art my help and my deliverer; O Lord, make no tarrying.

No matter how beautiful the weather is, whether our man is in office or not, no matter how successful we are in this life or how happy our marriage, how well prepared we are for retirement, how well respected we are by our peers, no matter what we need God’s help and we need it now. Four times in five lines David emphasizes the urgency of his need: “Make haste, O God, to deliver me.”Make haste to help me, O Lord. Make haste unto me, O God. And O Lord, make no tarrying.  He wrote this Psalm as a memorial offering at the dedication of the ark. It is a Psalm of praise, written and first sung at David’s success, but it requests God’s help in the strongest and most urgent of terms.

Even though David is celebrating a victory, he continues with a serious request for either the conversion or the destruction of those who still desire his hurt or who mock his faith. To be turned backward by God, to be put to confusion in our pride and sin, is a glorious thing. We thank God for it even when it hurts. Thank God that St. Peter was turned back from his pride, that St. Paul was ashamed of his sinful actions against the church, and that we are being called constantly to repentance and faith in mercy and for the sake of that mercy even enduring the Law’s harsh threats and sometimes punishments. The angels in heaven rejoice over repentance. So should we. And we should thank God for the sorrows of His Law that keep us humble and turn us back.

Ask yourself this, o pious one: “Can I pray all of Solomon’s prayer or do I only pray the first half?”

Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:8–9, ESV)

I know that you ask God to keep you from being poor. Do you also ask that He spare you from being rich for the sake of your eternal fate?

Those who love salvation, who truly love Christmas and Easter, also love Good Friday, not only when it happens to Jesus but also when it happens to them. Again, they say with Job: “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away: Blessed be the Name of the Lord.” David says that those who seek the Lord praise God continually and for all things. They don’t only praise God for healing deafness and muteness, they also praise Him for deafness and muteness, for the Law and the Gospel, for life and death. They trust that in Christ God works all things together for good to those who love Him and even when men or demons act in evil ways, even when there is injustice and torture and falsehood God works it for good. So they praise God and ask Him to keep them humble, to spare them from the test of wealth and success even as they ask that He lighten their circumstances and relieve their pain.

This is a hard teaching and we are weak with sin. Paul Gerhardt may have embraced it with heroic faith like the world has never seen apart from Christ Himself, but David, I think, was more like us. He wants to confess it. He wants to praise God in all circumstances, to live by faith and trust, to be satisfied and at peace no matter what the world, his flesh, and the devil throw at him, but he is not quite perfect. He ends his Psalm with this confession:

I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: Thou art my help and my deliverer; O Lord, make no tarrying.

Here is hope for those who are not as wise as Solomon and who, in their foolishness, want to be rich. Here is comfort for those unlike Gerhardt whose mourning is accompanied by doubt or anger. “I am poor and needy. I am not worthy. I have failed. I have lusted for riches, for power, for pleasure. I have not trusted you as I should. I have been angry and jealous and caved inwardly to my own sadness. Make haste unto me, O God! Hurry up. Come soon. Relieve me. Not only do I hurt, but my faith cannot remain without you and your intervention. Turn me back. Do what you must. I trust it will be good. But do not tarry. Do not delay. I am poor and needy. You are my only Help, my Deliverer. You are my Messiah and there is none other. Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly, and bring to completion what you have begun in me. Fulfill the promise of my Baptism. Make haste, Lord. Show yourself to be faithful and compassionate unto the weak.”

That is highest praise. Gerhardt is a poet without equal, but the Holy Spirit flows through David’s pen. He, the Spirit of Christ from the Father, does all things well. He not only heals the deaf and the mute, He also afflicts those who need afflicted and He remembers His children. He sends Nathan to David, accepts the tears of Peter, and causes the scales to fall from Paul’s eyes. He does likewise what is good for you.

4Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: And let such as love thy salvation say continually, Let God be magnified.

In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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