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Mercy Faithfulness Righteousness Justice - Psalm 36 Sermon From September 2014 Prayer Service

Mercy Faithfulness Righteousness Justice - Psalm 36 Sermon From September 2014 Prayer Service

Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / Psalm 36 / Wednesday September 3rd 2014 / Season of Pentecost - Mercy Faithfulness Righteousness Justice


          Transgression speaks to the wicked

                   deep in his heart;

          there is no fear of God

                   before his eyes.

          For he flatters himself in his own eyes

                   that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.

          The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit;

                   he has ceased to act wisely and do good.

          He plots trouble while on his bed;

                   he sets himself in a way that is not good;

                   he does not reject evil.

          Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens,

                   Your faithfulness to the clouds.

          Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;

                   Your judgments are like the great deep;

                   man and beast You save, O LORD.

          How precious is Your steadfast love, O God!

                   The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.

          They feast on the abundance of Your house,

                   and You give them drink from the river of Your delights.

          For with You is the fountain of life;

                   in Your light do we see light.

          Oh, continue Your steadfast love to those who know You,

                   and Your righteousness to the upright of heart!

          Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me,

                   nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.

          There the evildoers lie fallen;

                   they are thrust down, unable to rise.

(Psalm 36 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. What is God like? In just two verses king David gives us a snapshot of the attributes of God. In Psalm 36 David writes, "Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; Your judgments are like the great deep." Another way of saying steadfast love is to say mercy, so here we see that the LORD is Merciful, Faithful, Righteous and Just.

It doesn't take long to look at what mankind is like to see that humanity lacks mercy, faithfulness, righteousness, and justice. When we look at ourselves closely, or at those we love dearly, we see these failures; Saint Paul says in his letter to the Roman Christians, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"[1] ... but wait you say! I have people in my life who I love dearly who have shown great mercy, who have been incredibly faithful, who were righteous in the eyes of their neighbours and have been fair to me and others - correcting me when I needed it and defending me when I needed it - they acted justly. These attributes which are perfectly found in God are the fruits which the LORD desires to have found in His children: When we see them in ourselves, or in the ones we love, they are there because God has made them grow, He has planted the seeds of these things and made them grow, (Like a seed they come from outside of the soil, but once they are sowed in the soil they have opportunity to grow). It is the LORD then who has cultivated them, and tended to these seeds of mercy, faith, righteousness, and justice, It is God who has produced them in us, and in the ones we love.

Sometimes God acts in such a subtle way that the World might not even see God's hand in the work and believe rather that these precious and good things have sprung forth from the person, out of a purely good heart. Jesus warns us that, "from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” Jesus says.[2] It is as though we are able to produce noxious choking weeds with little effort and it is God who produces good fruit in us, fruit we cannot produce in ourselves by our own work. It is God who gardens our soul and picks the weeds out with the spade and shovel of confession and absolution, with repentance and forgiveness.

Psalm 36 is a prayer, and in it David prays that God would continue His mercy to those who know the LORD and trust Him, that God would continue His righteousness to His children.

Jesus tells a quick little story that helps show what David is praying for. In the Gospel of Luke Jesus told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And [the vinedresser] answered [the man], ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”[3] Earlier in the Gospel of Luke John the Baptizer warns some of the very self secure self-righteous types that, "Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”[4]

Someone will have to intervene, someone will have to dig around the fig tree; a tree cannot fertilize itself, a tree cannot spread manure on its own roots. In this parable Jesus provides hope. The vinedresser takes the fig tree and tends to it, and shows mercy, saving it from being cut down, faithfully providing it time to grow and bear fruit. David asks for the LORD to show him this continued patience, in the centre of the Psalm David prays to God saying, "man and beast You save, O LORD." In these words David prays 'Save me,' 'cast me not away,' 'protect me from the wicked people of the World who have no love towards You, O LORD,' David prays, "Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away." 'Have patience with me, O LORD, put manure on my roots and let not this fig tree in Your vineyard be cut down, take away the axe and "Save Me!" Help me grow in mercy, faithfulness and justice, keep me in your righteousness!'

David knows that he cannot save himself, he is a man of blood - he has the blood of many people on his hands, both rightly and wrongly; rightly like the Philistine giant Goliath and wrongly like his faithful solider Uriah the Hittite, who David had had killed to cover his adultery with Uriah's wife Bathsheba. What's David like? David the Hero? Yes, but also David the selfish, David the abuser of his God given authority, David the Murderer, David the Adulterer, David the thief, David the Liar, David the Greedy, David the poor Fig Tree: David was all these things and yet Saint Peter in the Book of Acts calls Him "a man after [God's own] heart."[5] How can this be? Peter calls David this because in the midst of David's trouble and sin, David wants to do better, he is repentant. David sees the contrast between the evil of man and the goodness of God, he's tormented by how evil men can be and at the same time he hopes in the perfect goodness of the LORD. David even in the midst of his sin desires after this goodness of God, and when - in his life - he is blind to it and is reminded of God's goodness in light of his own sin David quickly repents and turns back to the LORD.[6] David writes of God, "In Your light do we see light," David knows that the LORD "will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart."[7]

David, who wrote many of the Psalms found in the Bible, knows he cannot save himself; the World tells us that we can save ourselves, that we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, that we must improve ourselves. Is the World right or is David right? Can you save yourself? Can I save myself? How can you be saved, how can I be saved? Psalm 36 says that it is the LORD who saves both "man and beast?" How and when will He do this?

In the book of Revelation Jesus says, “Behold, I am making all things new.”[8] This is the ultimate goal of salvation - that "man and beast," that all of creation and you in it, you and your loved ones who have gone on ahead in the faith, that all of these would be redeemed and be made new (They do not make themselves new - they are made new). Scripture tells us that the ultimate purpose of God's Mercy would be accomplished by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. Accomplished as Jesus willing went to the cross to be the innocent sacrifice for sin at the hands of men who had "no fear of God," men who had plotted trouble against Jesus,[9] men who plotted Jesus' death, both in the day and "while on [their] bed" in the night, men who had nothing but flattery for themselves and hate for Jesus. In your baptism Jesus' sinless/innocent blood becomes yours, Jesus becomes your righteousness, retroactively down through the ages Jesus' blood was the answer to David's prayer, Jesus' blood was David's righteousness too. In God's eyes it covers David. The ugliness of Jesus' death on the cross is like manure spread on the roots of your fig tree. God the Father has taken the blood of His Son shed by the hands of evil men and made it a blessing to you and to David.

In this way Jesus took the brunt of injustice so that He could be justice for you. When you suffer injustice in the world remember Jesus suffered injustice and you are not alone in your suffering. When Jesus makes "all things new" all injustice will be wiped away[10] like tears from the eyes of a child. On the last day on the day of the Resurrection of the Dead, on the day of final judgment, because of Jesus, God the Father will show you His perfect Steadfast Love, His Mercy will be yours. By the Faithfulness of Jesus His Righteousness will be your righteousness, in His court of Law His Justice will be applied to you and the verdict will be innocent - you and David and all those with their faith and trust in Christ Jesus will receive this verdict of forgiveness, a verdict that comes to you from the Cross, and from the empty tomb, a verdict that is yours in the Blood of Jesus. A verdict that sees the axe taken away from the roots of the tree, a verdict that saves the fig tree from being cut down, a verdict that produces the fruits of mercy, faithfulness and justice, the verdict that applies His righteousness to you and me.

On the day of judgment, on that day, as David says, "the evildoers [will] lie fallen; [and] they are thrust down, unable to rise." On that day David's prayer in Psalm 36 will be fully and completely answered and the baptised, the believing, the faithful, the saved, will, enter that final  Supper they will rise up and "feast on the abundance of [the LORD's] house, and [Jesus will] give them drink from the river of [His] delights." Jesus says “It is done! I Am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment."[11] I Am the Water of Life.[12] “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,"[13] Jesus says.

Today we receive a foretaste of the feast to come in the Holy Communion we share this night, where with angles and arch-angles and all the company of heaven (including those who have passed on ahead of us who are in paradise with Christ Jesus) come together to sing God's praise, where we and all the faithful receive Jesus' body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins and the strengthening of our souls unto that very same eternal life.

David's prayer is one that marks the contrast between the heart of man and the heart of God, David longs to be counted with the children of God who take refuge in the LORD. The answer to David's prayer for the Justice, Righteousness, Faithfulness, and Mercy of God is put in our hands and in our mouths in this meal, in Holy Communion. David's prayers in Psalm 36 are answered in the person and work of Jesus who is the same yesterday, today and forever, Jesus who is Just, and Righteous, Jesus who is Faithful and Merciful. When we look at the World and we look at each other our hope is not in what we see around us, our hope is in Christ Jesus and Him for us. Aside from Jesus, "there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”[14] David longed for Jesus' coming as he prayed Psalm 36, we long for Jesus' return as we pray Psalm 36 this night. 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] Romans 3:23 

[2] Mark 7:21-23   

[3] Luke 13:6-9

[4] Luke 3:9

[5] Acts 13:22

[6] 2 Samuel 12:1-15 And the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man's lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” Then David's anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”

                Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbour, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’” David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.” Then Nathan went to his house. And the LORD afflicted the child that Uriah's wife bore to David, and he became sick.

[7] 1 Corinthians 4:5     

[8] Revelation 21:5

[9] Matthew 26:3-5

[10] Revelation 21:4 "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

[11] Revelation 21:6

[12] John 4:10-26

[13] John 14:6

[14] Acts 4:12