Jesus, Death & Trust - Psalm 31 Sermon From April 2014 Prayer Service
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / Psalm 31 / April 2nd 2014
In you, O LORD, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me!
Incline your ear to me;
rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me!
For you are my rock and my fortress;
and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me;
you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.
I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols,
but I trust in the LORD.
I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
because you have seen my affliction;
you have known the distress of my soul,
and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
you have set my feet in a broad place.
Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
my eye is wasted from grief;
my soul and my body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity,
and my bones waste away.
Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach,
especially to my neighbours,
and an object of dread to my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street flee from me.
I have been forgotten like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel.
For I hear the whispering of many—
terror on every side!—
as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.
But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand;
rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
Make your face shine on your servant;
save me in your steadfast love!
O LORD, let me not be put to shame,
for I call upon you;
let the wicked be put to shame;
let them go silently to Sheol.
Let the lying lips be mute,
which speak insolently against the righteous
in pride and contempt.
Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
which you have stored up for those who fear you
and worked for those who take refuge in you,
in the sight of the children of mankind!
In the cover of your presence you hide them
from the plots of men;
you store them in your shelter
from the strife of tongues.
Blessed be the LORD,
for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me
when I was in a besieged city.
I had said in my alarm,
“I am cut off from your sight.”
But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy
when I cried to you for help.
Love the LORD, all you his saints!
The LORD preserves the faithful
but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the LORD!
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.
"O sacred Head, now wounded, With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded With thorns, Thine only crown.
O sacred Head, what glory, What bliss, till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine."
In the years to come we will all contemplate death more and more. There is a reason for that. First we are in the midst of the time when the oldest of the baby boomers parents have started to die, once they have all reached death the oldest of the baby boomers will begin to go, and there will be much death around us. Psalm 31 is one in which King David is contemplating death, in particular his own death, but by the workings of the Holy Spirit King David is also prophetically contemplating the death of Jesus the Christ. Our Hymn tonight is likewise a contemplation of the death of Jesus upon the cross, a reminder that death is not our friend, and death is not truly beautiful or kind but is hard and filled with pain suffering and sorrow.
We don't generally like to think about pain and suffering and sorrow in the face of death, but tonight let's look at how King David tackles these things in Psalm 31 and how our hymn "O Sacred Head Now Wounded" tackles the dyeing woes of Jesus, because we each need to think on this, as our time will come too and life in this fallen world is shorter than we all think. We know this especially all too well when we see it come to our families, when we see death take down the ones we love.
In the book of Revelation Saint John tell us of his vision. In it John saw, "Around the throne [of the LORD in heaven, that there] were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads." These twenty-four elders represent the whole church in Christ Jesus, the twelve tribes of Israel from the Old Testament and with Israel reduced in the New Testament the twelve Apostles of our Lord Jesus. Twelve and twelve is twenty-four and on their heads rest crowns of gold.
Upon the cross, the wounded head of Christ Jesus wears a crown of thorn so that His church will be crowned with gold. The thorns digging into His sinless brow are but one part of the price paid for your future glory and those thorns also became a part of our faithful confidence in Jesus. David's Psalm, Psalm 31, is full of confidence: And in the midst of the pains of death the Christian can have confidence in God the Father and confidence in Jesus His Son. Even in the struggles of grief they can have confidence.
Psalm 31 is a prayer: David's prayer looking towards death. Psalm 31 is also one of Jesus' prayers from the cross. Psalm 31 therefore can be your prayer in your dying woe. Filled with trust David prays to the LORD, "Incline Your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!" With confidence David confesses his faith in the LORD saying, "For You are my rock and my fortress;" David the one who wrote Psalm 23 "The LORD is my Shepherd" in Psalm 31 prays to the LORD, "for Your name's sake You lead me and guide me;"
For some the words of Jesus at the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” are a puzzle, some see them as evidence of Jesus wavering or doubting, this is not the case. With these words Jesus is quoting Psalm 22, which is another of David's Prayers that Jesus turns to in His suffering upon the cross. Psalm 22 like Psalm 31 is also a Psalm of trust, a prayer of confidence: Psalm 22 holds in it the same trust and hopefulness that we see in today's reading in Psalm 31, when David says to God, "You take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for You are my refuge."
At the cross, in the pain of having His heavenly Father turn away from Him because of the sins He's taken onto Himself, even in the face of death, Jesus doesn't doubt God: Jesus still trust in His heavenly Father; Jesus still trusts in the LORD God of Israel. Jesus trusts that His Father in heaven will take Him out of the net of the cross, out of the net of the grave, out of these nets that Jesus' adversaries have set for Him. Jesus in the midst of anguish, with sore abuse and scorn poured upon Him, trusts in God His Father that His Father would rescue Him from grim death, this is why Jesus says with His last breath “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” On Jesus' lips are King David's words from Psalm 31 "Into Your hand I commit my spirit," David writes these words in Psalm 31 with an eye to the future, David prays to the LORD, "Into Your hand I commit my spirit," following it up by saying, for "You have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God."
David is confident that God has seen his affliction, that God knows the distress of David's soul. Jesus knows David's distress, Jesus personally experienced the afflictions of death, Jesus experienced it in a brutal and miserable way. The author of the Book of Hebrews in chapter four comforts us when he says that in Jesus we have a high priest who sympathizes with us in our weaknesses in life, the example there given is temptations, but as we think on the crucifixion and we think on Psalm 31 and king David's prayer we know likewise that we have a Saviour in Jesus who sympathises with us in our death.
On your death bead you yourself can pray with David, David's words "Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away." You can pray these sorts of words to God knowing that clothed in your iniquity and sin Jesus' life was spent upon the cross in sorrow, His body and soul and His very bones were wasted away in grief, He knows your agony in death.
In verse six of "O Sacred Head Now Wounded" we sing "My Savior, be Thou near me When death is at my door; Then let Thy presence cheer me, Forsake me nevermore! When soul and body languish, O leave me not alone, But take away mine anguish By virtue of Thine own!"
Jesus hangs upon the cross as a result of people plotting to have Him killed, Matthew's Gospel tells us that "the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill Him." David's words in Psalm 31 paint a picture of their plot: David writes, "I hear the whispering of many— terror on every side!— as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life." These words prophetically tell of Jesus' trouble leading up to the crucifixion. As Jesus is lead beaten and bloodied to the place of crucifixion with His sacred Head wounded and bruised David's words again paint a picture of Jesus' passion, David writes, "Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbours, and an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me." And when all was finished and God hung dead upon the cross in your place, David's words ring out, "I have been forgotten like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel." Jesus then is buried in the tomb.
In verse five of "O Sacred Head Now Wounded" we sing"What language shall I borrow To thank Thee, dearest Friend, For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end? O make me Thine forever! And should I fainting be, Lord, let me never, never, Outlive my love for Thee." This verse of the hymn is a prayer of trust, "let me never, never, Outlive my love for Thee."
Psalm 31 has these words in the face of death, ''I trust in You, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in Your hand." You have heard it said, you've likely said it yourself "It was their time to go." We each will die and when in the Lord's Prayer we pray "Deliver us from Evil," we ask in part to be granted with a "blessed end," that God our Heavenly Father would, "graciously take us from this vale of tears to Himself in heaven." We confess this in the Small Catechism and in your hour of death be comforted that Jesus will answer your prayer.
Remember His promise to you, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I Am you may be also." For this reason we have every hope that our heavenly Father will "rescue [us] from the hand of [our] enemies and from [our] persecutors!" That the LORD, will make His face shine on us as He made it shine on Jesus His servant when He raised Jesus from the dead. We have every confidence that the God the Father will save us in His steadfast love just as He in His steadfast love saved Jesus, His Son, from the grave that first Easter Sunday Morning.
You along with King David will not be put to shame on the last day because Jesus took the shame of the cross for you. Your salvation and the forgiveness of your sin was the very joy that was set before Christ as He endured the cross, despising the shame: And because He is now risen and ascended we confess that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the throne of God where your crown of gold awaits you, were in your baptism it already belongs to you. For in the wounded head of Christ Jesus and the blood He shed upon the cross you are hidden away from your accusers, from those who hate you, from your persecutors and slanderers, from sin and death and the devil, in the righteousness of Christ that your received at your baptism you are even hid away from your own sinful self; You're washed clean in the blood of Jesus' crucifixion.
In verse seven of "O Sacred Head Now Wounded" at the end of our time together we will sing "Be Thou my consolation, My shield, when I must die; Remind me of Thy passion When my last hour draws nigh. Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, Upon Thy cross shall dwell, My heart by faith enfold Thee. Who dieth thus dies well." I commend the words of this Hymn to you, and I also commend the even better words of Psalm 31 to you this night when David concludes by saying to you, "Love the LORD, all you His saints! The LORD preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride." Therefore, "Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!" For it is by the blood of Jesus that the LORD plucks you out of the net of death and the grave, and it's for the sake of the sacred wounded Head of Jesus that the LORD crowns your brow with an eternal crown of gold. 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.
 Revelation 4:4
 Matthew 27:46
 Psalm 22:1
 Luke 23:46
 Psalm 31:5
 Psalm 31:5
 Psalm 31:7
 Hebrews 4:15
 Matthew 26:3-4
 Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation, Concordia Publishing House, pg 22.
 John 14:1-3
 Romans 10:9
 Hebrews 12:2