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Sermon for March 4, 2018, Third Sunday in Lent

Psalm 69:9 (Third Sunday in Lent—Series B)

“Zeal and Dishonor”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

March 4, 2018

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Our text this morning is Psalm 69:9: “For zeal for your house has consumed me and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.”

          Writers will often use figures of speech to enhance the imagery of their story and the reader’s experience. One type of figure of speech is called synecdoche. Synecdoche often uses a part of something to represent the entire whole. For example, your friend buys a new car and you remark to her, “That’s a nice set of wheels.” What you mean is that you really like the whole car, but you use a part of the car, the wheels, to indicate the entire car. That’s synecdoche. The phrase “all hands on deck” is a demand for all of the crew to help, yet the word “hands”—just a part of the crew—stands in for the whole crew. That’s synecdoche.

          In John 2:17, part of the Gospel lesson this morning, the apostle John adds a parenthetical note that Jesus’ disciples remembered the Bible verse, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” It is the first half of Psalm 69:9. And I see this as synecdoche. John uses a very small part of this psalm so that the reader of his Gospel will think of the whole psalm in its entirety. It is Psalm 69 as a whole that interprets the cleansing of the temple event as a signifier of Jesus’ death and resurrection. John connects the clearing of the temple with the cross, and in this way, signals that the death of Jesus is the place of the once-for-all sacrifice, the place of the new purified temple, and the place of the new worship of the renewed and consecrated people of God.[1]

          This wondrous connection becomes clear when the whole of Psalm 69 is in view, and not just its part. Psalm 69 is either directly quoted or alluded to at least 15 times in the New Testament. The influence of this psalm on the New Testament texts suggests that from very early on, the whole psalm is interpreted of Jesus. Agreeing with the apostolic Scriptures of the New Testament, Dr. Luther comments, “The 69th psalm is a psalm of prayer in the person of Christ as He spoke on the cross in His suffering. He confesses in our place and laments for His crucifers and slanderers who, in His great thirst, gave Him gall and vinegar to drink. (So clearly and openly He speaks of His suffering to come.) . . . Finally, He announces also the new worship. He says, ‘I will praise the name of God    . . . and magnify Him with thanksgiving.’ This worship shall put an end to the old, for it pleases God better than all bulls and beast offerings one can provide, as the psalm here says.”[2]

          As Psalm 69 opens, David, the author, is up to his neck in mud and muck. The reason is that “More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause.” David’s enemies put on him unjust sufferings. Why? He says to God, “For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that dishonor has covered my face. I have become a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my mother’s sons” (Ps. 69:7-8 ESV). David is being persecuted for his faith and trust in God. “For zeal for your house has consumed me and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.” David is the subject of the taunts and mocking that are aimed at God. He’s become the target as a believer. “When I wept and humbled my soul with fasting, it became my reproach. When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them. I am the talk of those who sit in the gate, and the drunkards make songs about me” (Ps. 69:10-12 ESV). David is mocked and taunted for his faith, for his piety, for his worship. “Reproaches have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink” (Ps. 69:20-21 ESV).

          Shame, reproach, alienation—because of faithfulness to God. As we spoke about cross-bearing last week, in some form or another these all come into the life of every believer. We, as disciples of Christ, live under the cross. Our faith, our piety, our worship will be mocked and taunted. We will suffer at the hands of our persecutors in some way, shape, or form. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mk. 8:34-35 ESV). We are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom. 8:17 ESV). “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Pet. 4:12-14 ESV).

          From where does David seek help from the shame and reproach against him as a believer? He turns in faith to God despite the persecution. The psalm opens with these words, “Save me, O God!” Later David prays, “But I am afflicted and in pain; let your salvation, O God, set me on high!” (Ps. 69:29 ESV). David appeals to God’s work for deliverance. He trusts in the salvation that God will provide. In the same way, you and I turn to God in faith for deliverance from those who persecute us, asking for the Lord’s strength and deliverance, so that we do not fail to remain faithful to him. And so we pray, “Save me, O God!”

          God has heard David’s prayer and our prayers. He sent His One-of-a-Kind Son to become fully human in order that we might receive salvation. Jesus—The Lord Saves . . . but through suffering and death. “For zeal for your house has consumed me and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.” That which David suffered foreshadowed the even greater sufferings and afflictions of the promised Son of David, Jesus the Christ, who brings salvation.

          Jesus the Son of God, the Son of David, suffered the taunts, the mocking, the reproaches. St. Paul writes in Romans 15:3, citing Psalm 69, “For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me” (Rom. 15:3 ESV). The taunts, the mocking, the hatred, and the dishonor fell upon Christ. And so did the wrath of God because in His death on a cross Jesus had become not only the cross-bearer but the sin-bearer. Jesus took the sins of the mockers, the taunters, the haters, the liars, the thieves, the gossips, the sexually immoral, the drunks, the cheaters, the persecutors—the sins of all sinners—yours and mine. The temple of Jesus’ body bore our sins so that your body and mine might become temples of the Holy Spirit through whom Christ dwells in us. Zeal for all sinners devoured Jesus up so that He bore the scorn and shame and the reproach of the cross in order to save all people from sin, Satan, and death. Our sins are forgiven by Christ’s death and resurrection. We have been cleansed by that forgiveness through the shedding of His blood. By faith, Christ has made us members of His house, members of His family.

          What’s more, Christ will deliver us from all our earthly enemies as well. You and I face the afflictions and the persecutions of the devil and the world. They rouse unbelievers to make fun of us, to taunt us, to even hurt and harm us physically, mentally, and emotionally because of Jesus Christ and His Gospel. Shame, reproach, and alienation—because of faithfulness to God—are inflicted upon us by our spiritual enemies as they bring earthly enemies against us. These persecutions, dear saints, will not last forever. The taunts and the mocking will be brought to an end. The love and zeal of Christ that took Him to the cross and the grave for us is still ours in the midst of our cross-bearing. And He will see us through. God’s Word promises in 1 Peter 5:10, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Pet. 5:10 ESV).

          “Salvation unto us has come by God’s free grace and favor”! (LSB 555:1). Eternal life is ours because our sins are forgiven. Christ has rescued us from the hands of our enemies and will continue to do so into our future. Even as we face the taunts and the persecutions at the hands of those who hate us because of Christ, we will be victorious in our great God and Savior. “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37 ESV). Your heavenly Father will strengthen your faith so that you can continue to confess the name of Jesus and not be ashamed of the Savior and His Word in this generation. God grant you this comfort and confidence, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

         

 

         

[1]William C. Weinrich, John 1:1-7:1, Concordia Commentary (St. Louis: Concordia, 2015), 348.

[2] Martin Luther, Reading the Psalms with Luther (St. Louis: Concordia, 2007), 160.


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