Prayer for the Persecuted Church - Psalm 35 Sermon From August 2014 Prayer Service
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / Psalm 35 / Wed August 6th 2014 / Season of Pentecost
A Prayer from David - a Prayer for the Persecuted Church:
Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me;
fight against those who fight against me!
Take hold of shield and buckler
and rise for my help!
Draw the spear and javelin
against my pursuers!
Say to my soul,
“I am your salvation!”
Let them be put to shame and dishonour
who seek after my life!
Let them be turned back and disappointed
who devise evil against me!
Let them be like chaff before the wind,
with the angel of the LORD driving them away!
Let their way be dark and slippery,
with the angel of the LORD pursuing them!
For without cause they hid their net for me;
without cause they dug a pit for my life.
Let destruction come upon him when he does not know it!
And let the net that he hid ensnare him;
let him fall into it—to his destruction!
Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD,
exulting in His salvation.
All my bones shall say,
“O LORD, who is like You,
delivering the poor
from him who is too strong for him,
the poor and needy from him who robs him?”
Malicious witnesses rise up;
they ask me of things that I do not know.
They repay me evil for good;
my soul is bereft.
But I, when they were sick—
I wore sackcloth;
I afflicted myself with fasting;
I prayed with head bowed on my chest.
I went about as though I grieved for my friend or my brother;
as one who laments his mother,
I bowed down in mourning.
But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered;
they gathered together against me;
wretches whom I did not know
tore at me without ceasing;
like profane mockers at a feast,
they gnash at me with their teeth.
How long, O Lord, will You look on?
Rescue me from their destruction,
my precious life from the lions!
I will thank You in the great congregation;
in the mighty throng I will praise You.
Let not those rejoice over me
who are wrongfully my foes,
and let not those wink the eye
who hate me without cause.
For they do not speak peace,
but against those who are quiet in the land
they devise words of deceit.
They open wide their mouths against me;
they say, “Aha, Aha!
Our eyes have seen it!”
You have seen, O LORD; be not silent!
O Lord, be not far from me!
Awake and rouse Yourself for my vindication,
for my cause, my God and my Lord!
Vindicate me, O LORD, my God,
according to Your righteousness,
and let them not rejoice over me!
Let them not say in their hearts,
“Aha, our heart's desire!”
Let them not say, “We have swallowed him up.”
Let them be put to shame and disappointed altogether
who rejoice at my calamity!
Let them be clothed with shame and dishonour
who magnify themselves against me!
Let those who delight in my righteousness
shout for joy and be glad
and say evermore,
“Great is the LORD,
who delights in the welfare of His servant!”
Then my tongue shall tell of Your righteousness
and of Your praise all the day long.
(Psalm 35 ESV)
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. I am a man marked for death. I stand before you wearing the clothes of a man who if he fell into the wrong hands would be dead today. This collar, these vestments, they all mark me for death, but this is all just fabric. If I was stripped bare of all this I have a tattoo on my leg, it's Luther's Rose and in the centre, on a heart, is the cross of Christ, my very skin marks me for death. whether stripped bare or not I am also marked for death as I stand before you today in my glorious dressings, my white robe of righteousness washed in the blood of the Lamb - my baptism - the sign of the cross on my forehead and on my heart. I was only 10 days old in this world and I was marked for death. The Holy Spirit washed away my sin and sparked faith in my heart and waiting in the wings were my enemies.
You may not have this collar, you may not have these vestments, you may not have a tattoo like mine, but you have your baptism. You, dear ones, are Christians and in this World of suffering and sin you have a target on your back - you are marked for death. Just as your brothers and sisters in Mosul Iraq were marked for death ... the difference is that you have no one in Regina who is telling you that you must convert to Islam, or pay a tax, or leave - or if you'll do none of those things be martyred, be murdered for your faith in Jesus the Nazarene, your faith in Jesus the Christ. ISIS harasses, abuses and murders Christian because the Koran permits it. Their leaders permit it. In solidarity you as a Christian might ask: What did I do that they hated me? It was not what you did, the hate they have for you is unearned hatred: these enemies hate us because of the Name into which we were baptised. Jesus says “If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you."
King David wrote Psalm 35 because he was experiencing undeserved, unearned hatred: He says, "They repay me evil for good" "when they were sick—I wore sackcloth; I afflicted myself with fasting; I prayed with head bowed on my chest. I went about as though I grieved for my friend or my brother; as one who laments his mother, I bowed down in mourning. But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered; they gathered together against me." David was marked for death too. Now David was a man of blood he'd killed many people in service of the Children of Israel, He was a soldier, as a soldier he'd killed 200 Philistines just to get the hand in marriage of King Saul's daughter, later he was King of Israel - David had enemies who wanted him dead ... but in this case David is saying, Dear LORD! Heavenly Father! These ones here, these ones I've done nothing but good to and they hate me and seek my life! In the same way you personally have not done evil against ISIS in Iraq but as a Christian they look at you and wish you to either convert to Islam, obtain your money under duress, leave their area of control or if you'll do none of those things they wish to have you dead. If you lived in an area that they controlled this would be your lot.
But I don't live there - and I'm not like David, sure maybe I have some people that don't like me but none of them are trying to kill me (at least none that I know of), they don't mock me and laugh at me, they don't seek my life! Remember that groups like Boko Haram, ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda want to run the whole world, they want to have an Islamic state everywhere and they want sharia law to be the law of the land everywhere. If that was to happen what then? Convert to Islam? No! Right there you are marked for death! Give them their blackmail money! Could you imagine Christians forcing a tax on none Christians if they didn't get baptised? Leave? If all the world was an Islamic state with sharia law where could you go? The Moon? Or then there's death. Today we are safe from having to make this decision but you have brothers and sisters in Christ who are not safe - they like David are caught between a rock and a hard place, and in that circumstance what is there to do? What is there to do when there is no good answer?
The temptation is to fight, get your guns and fight! Fight in the streets! Fight until you're fighting with your bear hands! Is that what this Psalm says? Does David who was a warrior, a soldier, a man of blood, say "I will go out and fight these men who hate me for no good reason! They have treated me badly so I will strike them down!" Does he say, "Well LORD when they do these things to me they are doing them to You, so let me fight for You to protect Your Honour LORD!" No. Quoting from Deuteronomy 32:35 Saint Paul writes the Roman Christians saying "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord”" David knows Deuteronomy 32 and in Psalm 35 David is calling on God to act, He isn't asking in the prayer to act for God, He isn't asking for permission to do something himself, no David - even though he would have been capable of action, puts His trouble into the LORD'S hands. He is asking God to act! He's praying for the LORD to do something.
Martin Luther had some thoughts on this too and they might be helpful for us today, you may remember that the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church had a bounty put on his head, Luther was marked for death by an official papal death warrant. Luther upheld what Scripture taught in its purity and because that interfered with the activities of the papacy he became an enemy of the Pope. While talking about the LORD's Prayer Luther commented,
"I cannot pray without cursing at the same time. If I say "Hallowed be Your name" I must thereby say "May the names of the papists and all who blaspheme Your name be accursed, condemned and dishonoured." If I say "Your kingdom come" I must thereby say "May the papacy together with all kingdoms on earth that are opposed to Your kingdom be accursed, condemned and destroyed." If I say "Your will be done," I must thereby say "May the plans and plots of the papists and of all who strive against Your will be accursed, condemned, dishonoured and brought to naught." Truly, thus my lips and heart prayed day in, and day out, and all who believe in Christ are praying this way with me."
Luther like David is putting his troubles into the LORD'S Hands, Luther knows that when He prays the LORD'S prayer he is pleading for God the Father to be merciful, to act on his behalf and save him from his enemies. Does this then put David's words from Psalm 35 into a different light when he prays "Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me! Take hold of shield and buckler and rise for my help! Draw the spear and javelin against my pursuers! Say to my soul, “I am your salvation!”" David trusts in the LORD, he puts it all into God's hands and yet he still asks "How long, O Lord, will You look on?" David pleads, "Rescue me from their destruction, my precious life from the lions!" Psalm 35 is a prayer for the persecuted, how long O Lord! How long?
Ultimately David's prayer was answered in Jesus, Jesus who was hated without cause, Jesus who was repaid evil for good. Jesus who took the persecution of the cross unto death so that all those who die in His name might have life. The ultimate rescue from such persecution comes in Christ resurrection. As Jesus hung on the cross dying He said, “Father, into your hands I commit My spirit!” And having said this [Jesus] breathed His last." David put his troubles into the Lord's hands, Saint Paul put his troubles into the Lord's hands, Luther put his troubles into the Lord's hands, you can put your troubles into the Lord's hands - and where we are often poor at this, where we desire to take revenge, where we fall into temptation and act out on our own behalf, where we sin and fail to trust our Heavenly Father we can remember that Jesus put His troubles into His Father's hands perfectly, He put His all in all into His Heavenly Father's hands, Jesus held nothing back for Himself. In His perfection you have your forgiveness. In your baptism - that same baptism which marks you for death at the hands of your enemies - you now have life - "all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life." You know these words of blessing from Saint Paul, he continues saying, "For if we have been united with [Jesus] in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with [Jesus] in a resurrection like His." Jesus says to you “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die." Then He asks you, "Do you believe this?”
Trusting that the Lord will deal with our enemies, and that at the cross He has defeated them, and answering Jesus "Yes" when He asks you "Do you believe this?” then we can respond with Saint Paul, when St. Paul says, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?" "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
The World marks me for death! Untold enemies seek to steal my life away? So What! They can do their worst, because I know that God the Father answers prayers and in Christ Jesus I have a friend who sought to take my life out of the clutches of the enemy - Jesus promises me, saying, "I give [you] eternal life, and [you] will never perish, and no one will snatch [you] out of my hand. My Father, who has given [you] to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch [you] out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.” In this same Jesus I am marked not for death but in Him I am marked for life. When I hear the words of Psalm 116, "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints." I remember that He raised up Jesus and He will raise me up too, on the last day He will raise up David who He spared from dying a martyrs death, and He'll raise up Luther who He spared from dying a martyrs death, and He'll raise up Saint Paul and the rest of the martyrs both ancient and modern who did die a martyrs death, because all of these are in His hand.
The disciples in our gospel lesson today put five loaves and two fishes into Jesus' hands and when they did they didn't know what he's make of them. From this trouble - the trouble of not having enough to feed the men, women and children gathered about them at the end of the day - from that trouble Jesus took their skimpy five loaves and two fishes and He fed over 5,000 people with twelve baskets of left-over's to spare. You've heard the saying when life gives you lemons make lemonade, a better way of thinking would be I give the Lord my lemons and from them he gives me lemonade. Think of the words from Saint Paul, "we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose." In the face of trouble put it in the LORD'S hands, in the face of death, put your life into the LORD'S hands, all the while remembering that you are already there in His hands. Ask Him to act and trust that in Christ Jesus He has! 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.
 Koran - SURAH 9:28 -33
 John 15:18
 Deuteronomy 32:35, "Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.’
 Romans 12:19
 A Commentary on Psalms 1-72, Northwestern Publishing House 2004, John F. Burg, pg 23.
 Luke 23:46
 Romans 6:3-5
 John 11:25-26
 Romans 8:31
 Romans 8:35
 Romans 8:37-39
 John 10:28-30
 Psalm 116:15
 Matthew 14:13-21 [Following John the Baptizer's death] " Now when Jesus heard this, He withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by Himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed Him on foot from the towns. When He went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them and healed their sick. Now when it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to Him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And He said, “Bring them here to me.” Then He ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
 Romans 8:28