Drawn up From the Death Trap - Psalm 40 Sermon from January Prayer Service
"Drawn up From the Death Trap" / Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / Wed January 7th 2015: Season of Epiphany, Psalm 40
I waited patiently for the LORD;
He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the LORD.
Blessed is the man who makes
the LORD his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after a lie!
You have multiplied, O LORD my God,
Your wondrous deeds and Your thoughts toward us;
none can compare with You!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
yet they are more than can be told.
In sacrifice and offering You have not delighted,
but You have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering
You have not required.
Then I said, “Behold, I have come;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
I delight to do Your will, O my God;
Your law is within my heart.”
I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips,
as You know, O LORD.
I have not hidden Your deliverance within my heart;
I have spoken of Your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness
from the great congregation.
As for You, O LORD, You will not restrain
Your mercy from me;
Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness will
ever preserve me!
For evils have encompassed me
my iniquities have overtaken me,
and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
my heart fails me.
Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me!
O LORD, make haste to help me!
Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether
who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonour
who delight in my hurt!
Let those be appalled because of their shame
who say to me, “Aha, Aha!”
But may all who seek You
rejoice and be glad in You;
may those who love Your salvation
say continually, “Great is the LORD!”
As for me, I am poor and needy,
but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God!
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews tells us that "when Christ came into the world, He said [to His heavenly Father],
“Sacrifices and offerings You have not desired,
but a body have You prepared for Me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
You have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God,
as it is written of Me in the scroll of the book.’”
When [Jesus said], “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then He added, “Behold, I have come to do Your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Jesus quotes Psalm 40 applying it to Himself. King David by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit first put Psalm 40 down in words prophetically pointing forward to Jesus.
The Psalm points to Jesus' death, it points to the passion narrative. Psalm 40 says, "I waited patiently for the LORD; He inclined to Me and heard My cry. He drew Me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set My feet upon a rock, making my steps secure." Now there are two things to think about with these opening words from the Psalm. We'll start with the first thing and at the end of the sermon we'll think about the second thing.
First things first. On the night when Jesus was betrayed, when He was arrested in the darkness of the Garden of Gethsemane, the garden where He was paying, where His sweat was like great drops of blood, on that night, one of the places to which He was taken was the High Priest Caiaphas' house, Caiaphas' palace: Jesus was to stand trial first before Caiaphas in Caiaphas' court.
In Jerusalem outside of the walls of the Old City there is a place that has long been believed to be the location of Caiaphas' house, his palace, his court. for over 1,500 years there have been shrines and churches built on that very location to mark it. The current church on the site was built in 1931 and is called the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu (or the Church of St Peter's Denial) Gallicantu means the Roster's Crow. Deep down in the lowest part of it under the modern church building there is an ancient dungeon. The place where a person would be put as they waited to be questioned. The style of this dungeon is such that there would have been only one way in, only one way out, this one way in or one way out was through a hole in the ceiling of the prison cell. Prisoners would be lowered down into the cell by a rope. There would be no light down there - just darkness - if the hole in the ceiling of the cell was covered it would be pitch black.
"The pit of destruction" from Psalm 40 is a death trap and should Jesus - the Light of the World - have been held in such a dungeon as is found in that house believed to be Caiaphas' palace, Caiaphas' court, than it would be a fitting description because Matthew's Gospel describes how at Caiaphas' "the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put Him to death." Jesus was ensnared in the death trap.
Outside of Caiaphas' court in the cold Saint Peter (one of Jesus' disciples) sat: Peter who would that night deny Jesus. Think on this when Psalm 40 says "Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD. Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!" Peter would not believe his own lie, his own deniel, he wouldn't turn to Caiaphas' lies or the lies of and Caiaphas' prideful crowd - Peter would be forgiven, in repentance and the fear of the Lord Peter would place His trust in Jesus and Jesus would forgive him.
Before that dark night north of Jerusalem, Peter had been with Jesus and the brothers James and John up on the Mount of Transfiguration. He with them had seen Jesus' face shine like the sun, they'd seen Jesus' clothing as white as light. They, along with Jesus, heard God the Father say “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” In Psalm 40 David says "You have given Me an open ear." Jesus knew the will of the Father, Jesus and the Father are one. Yet God also saw fit to give Jesus an "open ear" to hear Him, and graciously provided words for Him and Peter, James and John to hear too. The ear doesn't go around looking for things to hear - it simply picks up the sound around it. Having an ear to hear is a blessing given by God. Given to Jesus - Given to Peter - Given to you. If God couldn't communicate with you, you would be lost. In the cold outside Caiaphas' house Peter would have been able to remember those words of God on the Mount of Transfiguration. Today God speaks to us in His written word and in the preaching of the church.
When applying Psalm 40 to Jesus many see the words of verse 13 as an insurmountable obstacle when the Psalmist says, "For evils have encompassed me beyond number; my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me." When you first hear these words they don't seem to match up with the messianic interpretation, Jesus is perfect without sin what iniquities could He be talking about, what iniquities would there be that could overtake Him? "Remember that Scripture describes Jesus as one who was made "sin for us. " Christ was counted as a sinner so that we could be counted as children of God. When He willingly assumes the guilt of our sins, our burden became His and He bore all the consequences of our sins. Think of His agony at Gethsemane and His [crying out to God the Father on the cross.] [Jesus'] willing death removed this burden from Him and from us. And He will come again a second time "without sin" to bring salvation." He took on your iniquities, your sin at the cross and made them His so that they would no longer be yours and Jesus then took them into the pit of destruction, into the pit of death, into the darkness of death and that's where they remain separated from you as far as the east is from the west.
And this brings us back again to those words. "I waited patiently for the LORD; He inclined to Me and heard My cry. He drew Me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set My feet upon a rock, making my steps secure." St. Matthew tells us that when Jesus hung dead upon the cross, "When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And [Joseph] rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away." And there the body of Jesus laid; Jesus was again in the death trap, and the jaws of death had closed over Him. Jesus was swallowed whole and lay in the belly of death, for three day Jesus lay in the darkness of death, He was dead ... and now the words of the Psalm, "I waited patiently for the LORD." In death I waited. And then on the first Easter Morning, God the Father "inclined to [Jesus] and heard [His] cry. He drew [Jesus] up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set [His Resurrected, Nail pierced,] feet upon a rock, making [His] steps secure" as He walked out of the tomb Easter Morning. And like Saint Paul says, "if we have been united with [Jesus] in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His."
What does this mean? It means that the Words of Psalm 40, this beautiful prayer of trust in the face of death, are now your words. David prayed it in advance of Jesus, in anticipation of Jesus' first Coming: Jesus claimed this prayer as His own and now it is your prayer too. A gift from God to you, when you pray it you can trust that God will rescue you and your body out of the death trap, out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, God hears your prayer and on the last day your feet will be eternally set upon a rock, upon Christ Jesus your Rock and your Salvation, God the Father will make your steps secure in Jesus.
Everyone who has an ear to hear, everyone with an open ear listen: "On the Last Day those who delight in your hurt will be turned back and brought to dishonour, they will be appalled because of their shame and you in the resurrection will rejoice and be glad in the LORD - leave them in God's Hands, He'll deal with them - ; and on that Last Day when God has acted on your behalf, you will say continually, “Great is the LORD!” Because it will be clear that the Lord remembered you and all His promises to you in Christ Jesus. Until That Day we say, "I am poor and needy" - deliver and help me! "do not delay, O my God," You listened to Your dear Son and answered His prayer, listen to my prayer and answer me. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Hebrews 10:5-10
 Matthew 26:57-27:2
 The Cock's Crow
 Matthew 26:59
 Matthew 26:62-68
 Luke 4:28-30, Matthew 12:14, Mark 11:18, and John 5:18; 7:19,30; 8:40; 12:10.
 Matthew 17:1–9
 Matthew 17:5
 John 10:30
 Romans 10:17, "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ."
 Psalm 40:12
 2 Corinthians 5:21, "For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."
 Hebrews 9:28 "So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him."
 A Commentary on Psalms 1-72, John F. Burg, Northwestern Publishing House 2004, pg 422.
 Psalm 103:12, "as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us."
 Matthew 27:57-60
 Acts 4:10; 13:30
 Romans 6:5