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Betrayal and Faithfulness - Psalm 86 Sermon, April Prayer Service

Betrayal and Faithfulness - Psalm 86 Sermon, April Prayer Service

Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Wednesday April 4th 2019: Season of Lent / Psalm 86 "Betrayal and Faithfulness"

          Incline Your ear, O LORD, and answer me,

                   for I am poor and needy.

Preserve my life, for I am godly;

                   save Your servant, who trusts in You—You are my God.

          Be gracious to me, O Lord,

                   for to You do I cry all the day.

 Gladden the soul of Your servant,

                   for to You, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.

          For You, O Lord, are good and forgiving,

                   abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon You.

          Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer;

                   listen to my plea for grace.

          In the day of my trouble I call upon You,

                   for You answer me.


          There is none like You among the gods, O Lord,

                   nor are there any works like Yours.

          All the nations You have made shall come

                   and worship before You, O Lord,

                   and shall glorify Your name.

          For You are great and do wondrous things;

                   You alone are God.

          Teach me Your way, O LORD,

                   that I may walk in your truth;

                   unite my heart to fear Your name.

          I give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,

                   and I will glorify Your name forever.

          For great is Your steadfast love toward me;

                   You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.


          O God, insolent men have risen up against me;

                   a band of ruthless men seeks my life,

                   and they do not set You before them.

          But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,

                   slow to anger and

abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

          Turn to me and be gracious to me;

                   give Your strength to Your servant,

                   and save the son of Your maidservant.

          Show me a sign of Your favour,

                   that those who hate me may see and be put to shame

                   because You, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.

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. Naked he ran in the dark through the garden looking for somewhere to hide. His hands were cold as he approached the fire from across the faint morning light of the courtyard. He wasn’t sure just how much rope he would need but he thought he had brought enough for the job. His wife’s father was talking to him as they walked with the crowed to the judgement seat but his mind was on what he would say when they got there. Lowered down by ropes He sat alone in the dark pit knowing what was to come He continued to pray. “In the day of My trouble I call upon You, for You answer Me.”

Good Christian Friends. Psalm 86 is a Psalm of King David. And as we know all the Psalms serve a dual role in Scripture: They tell us about the life of the Psalmist, the time in which they were first written and they also point to Jesus and illuminate His life. In fact Jesus Himself said that the Psalms foretold His cross and passion, His death and resurrection.[1] Now for our purposes, in this the season of Lent, today we have before us the theme of Betrayal and Faithfulness; so when we contemplate Psalm 86 let us think on it in relation to the events of Jesus’ cross and passion especially thinking on that contrasting theme of Betrayal and Faithfulness. Consider the ways in which Jesus was betrayed and the ways in which Jesus was, is and ever will be faithful and true. In Psalm 86 then we can see for ourselves a pattern of prayer in times of trial and temptation when we stand on the dividing line between Betrayal and Faithfulness.

Have you ever betrayed a trust? Have you ever had your trust betrayed? Betrayal comes in different ways. There are the betrayals that come from those we love who are closest to us and there are betrayals that come from those we are to love who are in fact our enemies the ones that King David describes as “insolent men,” “a band of ruthless men” fixed on their own goals who “do not set [the LORD] before them.” Men like Caiaphas and his father-in-law Annas the High Priests who with the Scribes and the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the Elders of the people persuaded the Sanhedrin to seek Jesus’ death, men who plotted Jesus’ death in secret and then in public walked to the set of judgment and petitioned the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate to crucify Jesus like a common criminal, men who brought false accusations against Jesus saying that Jesus used sorcery, exorcising people by the power of demons,[2] and that He was fumigating a rebellion and insurrection against the Roman Emperor and empire by making Himself a king in opposition to Caesar.[3] But before you feel superior to such men remember that little incident in the garden of Gethsemane, at first you think of Judas to whom Jesus said, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?,”[4] when Judas came with Temple guards to the Mount of Olives under cover of night with torches and swords and clubs to arrest Jesus as though Jesus were a robber bent on theft. This is certainly a betrayal and as events continued to unfold for Judas it lead to yet another ungodly betrayal when Judas not content to “wait for the Lord” and “take courage in Him,”[5] and in what He taught, took instead a rope and went to hang himself. Had Judas waited for the Lord and repented would he not have been forgiven? No the little incident that I speak of is the one where as Jesus was being arrested and taken away by Judas to Caiaphas and Annas, “all [Jesus’ disciples] left Him and fled.” That moment when the young man who had been following Jesus, the one who was dressed with nothing but a linen cloth about his body was seized by the guards but instead of standing his ground in faith and being taken away with Jesus to face trail as the Lord would face trial “he [rather] left the linen cloth and ran away naked.”[6] Wriggling out of the linen naked he ran in the dark through the garden looking for somewhere to hide. This too is a betrayal. It is the same sort of betrayal as happened after St. Peter approached the fire from across the faint morning light of the courtyard and when asked if He knew Jesus Peter, who did know Jesus, denied the Lord three times. We may not act as Caiaphas or Annas, we may not be as blunt as Peter, or as dramatic in our actions as Judas, but our betrayals, our denials, our sins against Jesus are just as insolent, and ruthless as theirs turned out to be, and when we behave in these ways, even if it is to run away from Jesus in naked silence, we to fail to “set the LORD before our eyes” and we instead put ourselves first.

Now Psalm 86 was originally written by King David and in this Psalm David displays his faithfulness to God, saying things like, “Preserve my life, for I am godly;” and “save Your servant, who trusts in You—You are my God” that said we also know enough of King David’s life to know that while he was certainly faithful to God for the most part, even described by God as “a man after [God’s] own heart,”[7] David was also a sinner who in his sin betrayed God’s law and in so doing betrayed God too. So if we are to look for one who is faultlessly faithful to God in his whole life, one who is truly faithful through and through, in Psalm 86 then we need to look to Christ Jesus in Psalm 86 and not to David, and certainly not to ourselves. For it is Jesus who was truly faithful to His heavenly Father: When it comes to faithfulness Jesus’ faithfulness “is the same yesterday and today and forever.”[8] St. John in His Gospel tells us that on the night in which Jesus was betrayed “when Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.”[9] Meaning Jesus’ faithfulness towards His disciples never wavered, even when they ran away, He was true to them just as He was true to His Heavenly Father right up to and including His dying breath.

The ones who plotted in Psalm 86 are described by David when David says, “O God, insolent men have risen up against me; a band of ruthless men seeks my life, and they do not set You before them.” Because the ultimate fulfilment of the psalm is in Jesus and because Jesus is God the betrayal of these men against Jesus breaks both the first and second table of the law; they prove to be men who are not faithful to their neighbour, men who are likewise not faithful to the God the Father or to His Son or to His Spirit. Insolent men rose up against King David and insolent men also rose up against Jesus? Yet their betrayals did not shake Jesus’ faithfulness towards His heavenly Father. We know that, and Jesus the Son of God certainly knew that, “the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;” and with the writer of the book of Lamentations we can say to our heavenly Father, “great is Your faithfulness,”[10] and we can trust in God the Father when we pray just as Jesus trusted perfectly His heavenly Father when He prayed.

Does betrayal ever come without a cost? Sin against God and our sin against others is never truly without an impact, even if family and friends and neighbours are unaware of your sin your betrayal towards them still has an impact, as it likewise does when we betray the ones we love and they do know about it: Their knowing or not knowing doesn’t change whether or not they have been sinned against. They may experience the hurt of your betrayal differently based on their knowledge of it but they are still sinned against either way. God of course always knows when He has been sinned against. God knew it when David lusted after, slept with, murdered for, and covered up his actions with the wife of Uriah the Hittite, Bathsheba. The nations of Israel many not have been fully aware of what King David did but God was aware. Just as God the Father was fully aware of the sin that was heaped on Jesus by those who plotted Jesus’ death and brought about His crucifixion. And Jesus in His trial when He was blindfolded and beaten and they wanted Him to say who it was that hit Him and He remained silent, didn’t remain silent because He was unaware of who it was who hit Him, Jesus knew. He knew their betrayal just as He knows your betrayal in your sin. There is no hiding from Him. So what hope do we have?

Our hope is in this same Jesus. It is in His faithfulness to His heavenly Father both in prayer and in action, in word and in deed. In this faithfulness we have our salvation, our rescue. In the Gospel of John Jesus said, “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from My Father.”[11] This is faithfulness, His keeping true to this plan of Salvation shines clear in His crucifixion because in it evidence of  faultless faithfulness of the Son to His heavenly Father and Jesus’ resurrection on Easter morning is the evidence of the faithfulness of the heavenly Father to His son Jesus, as Psalm 86 says, “Show Me a sign of Your favour, that those who hate Me may see and be put to shame because You, LORD, have helped Me and comforted Me.” This faithfulness extends to you. Jesus is faithful to you even though we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment, even though our sin betrays Him He does not betray you.  

Here’s an example of that faithfulness, the same kind of faithfulness found in Psalm 86 that places everything in the hands of God, who alone is God, I mentioned at the beginning of the Sermon the man lowered down by ropes who sat alone in the dark pit knowing what was to come, the man who prayed. That is Jesus, we know from Scripture that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane just before Judas came to betray Him, and we hear in the Psalms phrases of thanksgiving like, “He drew Me up from the pit of destruction … and set My feet upon a rock, making My steps secure. [God] put a new song in My mouth, a song of praise to our God [so that] Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.”[12] Under the Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu which is part of Jerusalem there rests the traditional site of the High Priest Caiaphas' house and deep down in its lowest point there is a jail cell where it is believed Jesus would have been held along the way on the day of His crucifixion. This room in the basement is a dark pit, too deep to climb up out of, a holding cell. It is believed to be one of the first places Jesus was held when He was bounced back and forth between Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate, Herod, and back to Pilate during His trial and if Jesus wasn’t held in that exact pit of a jail cell He would have been held in one just like it. For Jesus, for anyone placed there, there would be nothing to do down there but pray and wait in patience. Him being put in such a places raises an interesting question, “could Jesus get out of it?”

Certainly Jesus could have: This same Jesus was the Jesus who walked across the water on the Sea of Galilee to His disciples in the night,[13] this same Jesus on another occasion calmed the same sea;[14] this same Jesus hid Himself from the crowd of people in His home town seeking to throw Him from a cliff walking away untouched,[15] If Jesus wanted to He could get Himself out of the pit, out of the jail cell, out of custody, out of His crucifixion, but He didn’t and why?, because Jesus was faithful to His Heavenly Father and to the plan of Salvation. If He had run naked into the night Jesus would have betrayed His heavenly Father and He would have been betrayed you. His staying in it, in that dark pit, in His remaining in custody, in His pressing forward when the gears of His crucifixion had been put into motion, in His every footstep to the cross is the evidence of His faithfulness, again to run away or to stop events as they were unfolding would be a betrayal to His heavenly Father and a betrayal of you unto everlasting death and damnation in Hell but Jesus did not take the temptation to escape. Instead He remained faithful in His love for you. Yes, He loves you and remains faithful unto the end, and beyond the end unto life everlasting. For God the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon God just as David says in the Psalm 86. 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.

[1] Luke 24:44–49, “Then [Jesus] said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of My Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
[2] Matthew 12:23–24, And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.”
[3] John 19:12–16, “From then on Pilate sought to release [Jesus], but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he delivered Him over to them to be crucified.”
[4] Luke 22:48
[5] Psalm 31:24, “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!”
[6] Mark 14:50–52
[7] Acts 13:22
[8] Hebrews 13:8
[9] John 13:1
[10] Lamentations 3:22–23
[11] John 10:17–18
[12] Psalm 40:2,3
[13] Mark 6:45-56
[14] Mark 4:35-41
[15] Luke 4:14-30