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Jesus Your Light & Refuge in Despair - Psalm 43 Sermon From April Prayer Service

Jesus Your Light & Refuge in Despair - Psalm 43 Sermon From April Prayer Service

Prayer Service, Lenten Mid-Week 6, April 1st - 2015.  Rev. Ted Giese, Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Regina SK. Psalm 43,

          Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause

                   against an ungodly people,

          from the deceitful and unjust man

                   deliver me!

          For You are the God in whom I take refuge;

                   why have You rejected me?

          Why do I go about mourning

                   because of the oppression of the enemy?

          Send out Your light and Your truth;

                   let them lead me;

          let them bring me to Your holy hill

                   and to Your dwelling!

          Then I will go to the altar of God,

                   to God my exceeding joy,

          and I will praise You with the lyre,

                   O God, my God.

          Why are you cast down, O my soul,

                   and why are you in turmoil within me?

          Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him,

                   my salvation and 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. In 1 Corinthians Chapter 6, Saint Paul asks, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?"[1] Also in this section Paul teaches that, the bodies of Christians "are members of Christ," part of His glorious Body, and since, "God raised the Lord [Jesus from the dead, God] will also raise us [Christians] up by His power.[2] What thought leaps to your mind when you think of a Temple? Is it something architectural? You might think of Solomon's Temple made with the cedars of Lebanon, fashioned out of beautiful stones and shining burnished gold. Or you might think of a medieval cathedral with flying buttresses and arched and ceilings of stone with colourful stain glass. What we often don't think of, at first, when we think of a Temple is our own bodies and if we were pressed to think of a body as a Temple we would often rather think of an athlete or a super model's body before we would think of our own bodies in that way.

By know you may be thinking how does this all fit into Psalm 43? Psalm 43 and last month's Psalm 42 are closely related, you may remember how when looking at Psalm 42 we thought about the "house of God," and how the psalmist longed to go into the house of God, "with glad shouts and songs of praise," how the psalmist remembered going into the Temple of the LORD at Jerusalem with "a multitude keeping festival,"[3] and how he wanted to do that again.

His problem was that He couldn't, he and the Jewish people were trapped in captivity in Babylon, and the Temple had been destroyed and all he was left with was his memories. Psalm 42 was in fact a desperate longing for the Temple in Jerusalem, a longing for it as it was, a remembrance of a time when they were not cut off from it.[4] The psalmists of Psalm 42 and 43 live in a dark time with a destroyed Temple, all they have to cling to in the darkness of their trouble is hope, hope that God will remember them and save them. Both Psalm 42 and 43 have the competing themes of despair and hope: The temptation to despair and the great need for hope in a time of terrible trouble. John Keats in a private letter described his despair like this, he said, "I am in that temper that if I were under water I would scarcely kick to come to the top."[5] 

Are there people today who are living in this kind of trouble, who may be tempted to despair? Yes, they are not walled in behind the walls of a city like the Jewish people had been in Babylon but rather they are trapped behind boarders and checkpoints unable to escape. They are your brothers and sisters in Christ who long for freedom to worship God without fear? Unlike the psalmist, who remembers the Temple and looks to God for a possible restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem, the modern Christian living under oppression and mistreatment has no earthly Temple to remember and no Temple to look toward with longing. And yet as they take refuge in the LORD, might they like the psalmist simultaneously be praying to God saying, "why have You rejected me!" There is fear there, fear that says maybe God has abandoned me. For that kind of fear and despair a Christian need not be under the persecution of ISIS or the dictatorship of North Korea, they could feel that way in a time of illness or a time of unrest at home or at work. In the face of Cancer or job lose, or marital infidelity or abuse. In those dark times the Christian needs hope. The prayer of Psalm 43 doesn't only provide food for hope to those living under persecution and oppression, it also provides hope to you in your trouble.

Where does the Palmist find Hope? At the centre of Psalm 43 the psalmist, who may well have been a Levitical priest[6] (A man familiar with the Temple), prays to God pleading, "Send out Your light and Your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling." Do these words make you think of any other parts of Scripture? Jesus said of Himself in John's Gospel “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life,”[7] and later in John's Gospel Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."[8] Jesus then is God the Father's Light and Truth, Psalm 43 when looked at through the lens of the rest of Scripture isn't just a longing for temporary help, or a longing for the restoration of the Temple, no Psalm 43 is ultimately a longing for the coming Christ, the Messiah who will lead the psalmist to God the Father and usher him into the presence of the Most High.

For His Old Testament people, the Temple was the place where God had promised to dwell. The Temple was located on God's holy hill, and while the psalmist would have known and trusted that the LORD was everywhere, because God is omnipresent, he also had the promise of God that God would dwell in the Temple in Jerusalem. When taken together Psalm 42 and 43 have as their emblem of hope the Temple. After the Jewish people were rescued from Babylonian captivity they quickly began their work of restoring the Temple in Jerusalem. Over time this focus on the Temple as an emblem of Hope became firmly entrenched in the minds of the people. This is how it had become by the time of Christ.

During the Season of Lent we have been following Jesus to the cross. The footsteps of Jesus, who is the Light of the world and who is the Truth, take us from the Mount of Transfiguration in Galilee up to Jerusalem. In Holy Week everything happens in Jerusalem where God's holy hill can be found and where king Herod had built a massive Temple complex with beautiful colonnades, an impressive Temple compound dwarfing all previous Temple buildings like the Temple first built there on the same site by Solomon, king David's Son. Following Jesus' Triumphant Entry in to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday of Holy Week, and Jesus' cleansing the Temple of the money changers and the sellers of animals for the sacrifices, while Jesus was teaching in the Temple "the Jews said to Him, “What sign do You show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But [Jesus] was speaking about the Temple of His body. When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that [Jesus] had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken."[9] Jesus was not speaking of the Temple building itself He was talking about His own body: Beaten, broken, crucified, dead, destroyed, buried and finally in three days risen up to new life, everlasting life. Writing about Jesus, John one of those same disciples, teaches us that Jesus "the Word became flesh" [and] "dwelt among us."[10] No longer did Israel need a Temple building, Jesus was the Temple of God in the Flesh, where He went there God's True Temple was, their God's True and only Light shone forth. 

Everything that happened historically in the physical Temple in Jerusalem, all the animal sacrifices, all the prayer and praise all pointed to Jesus, all pointed to another 'holy hill,' it all pointed to The Place of a Skull, to Golgotha, the hill where Jesus, the Lamb of God - the perfect spotless sacrifice was sacrificed on the wooden altar of the beams of the cross in His crucifixion. At the cross Jesus fulfills His purpose, at the cross in life and in death Jesus dwells with His people. At the cross the Temple of Jesus' body is destroyed.

In the midst of Holy Week imagine the heartfelt lamenting of the disciples and followers of Jesus after the Temple of Jesus' body was destroyed at the cross and He was buried in the tomb. On the evening of Good Friday on the day of Holy Saturday their only hope to see Jesus again would be in God; with the Psalmist they could only pray and comfort each other by saying, "Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God." In Jesus' death the disciples were just as cut off from the Temple of Jesus' Body as the psalmist had been cut off from the stone Temple of Israel's past glory. The body of Jesus lay in rubble just as the Temple had laid destroyed hundreds of years earlier as the Children of Israel sat in their Babylonian captivity. The disciples with the psalmist would have pleaded with God to lead them through their time of despair. The Jewish people at least had hope in the restoration of the Temple, the disciples what did they have? They had not fully understood the many times Jesus had told them that He would be killed and then three days later be risen from the dead, as a result they didn't know what to think, they simply grieved, locked away in the upper room in fear.   

Because we know that Jesus is risen from the dead, and because we know from Saint Paul that we as Christians are members of the Body of Christ we now put our hope in two promises of Jesus, First that He is with us even to the end of the age, and also that He is coming again (Matthew 28:20) Added to that we have the promise of a personal resurrection from the dead, where we will have a resurrected body like Jesus' glorious body (Philippians 3:21). As we wait with longing for Jesus' final return on the Last Day, We pray "come, LORD Jesus[11] and come quickly." This is how we pray Psalm 43, we pray it in Solidarity with our oppressed brothers and sisters in Christ, in our solidarity with the growing number of martyrs today around the world who die at the hands of unjust men, who are oppressed by enemies of the Gospel and enemies of Jesus: We pray for vindication[12] and for defence. In our own trouble we trust that it will be Jesus and Jesus alone, the Light of the world, the very Truth, who will led us home to be with the Father. 

So for the Christian today Psalm 43 is a prayer prayed with an eye on Jesus' second coming, a prayer for the times when troubles bring despair like thick dark water and you can truly trust Jesus, to be your light and refuge, your Salvation. 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] 1 Corinthians 6:19

[2] 1 Corinthians 6:14-15

[3] Psalm 42:4

[4] Looking at the Psalm 42 in relation to Isaiah 45:1-8

[5] Oxford Treasury of Sayings & Quotations, Oxford University Press 2011, pg 122.

[6] A Commentary on Psalms 1-72, John F. Burg, Northwestern Publishing House 2004, pg 433.

[7] John 8:12

[8] John 14:6-7

[9] John 2:18-22

[10] John 1:14

[11] Revelation 22:20

[12] Revelation 6:10