Psalm 13 Sermon From October 2012 Prayer Service
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / October 3rd 2012: Season of Pentecost, Psalm 13 "In The Face of Death, O LORD, Light up My Eyes"
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in Your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
(Psalm 13 ESV)
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all are 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. You may recall how in Psalm 11 King David, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, put his main point, his thesis, his theme, right in the middle of the psalm; David does the same here in Psalm 13. In Psalm 11 the central thought in the midst of David’s prayer was this: “The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD's throne is in heaven; His eyes see, His eyelids test the children of man.” In Psalm 13 the central theme, the central idea also revolves around eyes, this time it’s not God’s Eyes but David’s eyes; David calls out to the Lord praying, “light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,”
Someone once asked me, “How can I suffer such agony and not die?” The same person in desperation wished that they would simply die and that God would act, either to give them relief or death, fervently they wanted God to act, to do something. David too wants God to act, to do something, we’ve seen this before, this longing for action from King David; David in his deep turmoil begins his lament, his complaint saying, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” behind his earthly enemies David knows his toughest enemy is Death, that relentless enemy that was loosed into the world by the sin of Adam at the fall, that enemy that takes each one of us into its gapping maw, its evil mouth and works to devours us.
David was surrounded by death and the dead: the ones he killed in active duty (like the Philistine Goliath); the ones who died because of him, for they followed him into battle; and also most grievously the ones who died, not out of duty and fulfillment of the vocation of solider, general and king, but out of David’s sin (like Uriah the Hittite and David and Bathsheba’s firstborn son for whom he fasted and prayed to God for as the child lay dying with a terminal sickness). Death was close to David, and not just the death of other’s but the threat of his own death, the threat that came from King Saul who wished him dead, the threat that came from David’s own son Absalom and from the Philistines and the other enemies of the people of the Lord; The threat that came from the temptations of Satan, and from his own sin. Even in his youth the Lions and Bears and Wolves who sought to kill the sheep he shepherded brought death to his doorstep and kept David mindful of this enemy. He knew Death well and David knew that Death sought him out constantly. Martin Luther saw this enemy Death in league with the devil and with all “those who act against us with spite and evil tricks. As a result we [like David] are cast down and grieve when we see such evil aligned against us. But prayer is stronger than all misfortune.” Prayer is even stronger than death.
In the midst of David’s despair and fear and fixation over the enemy of Death he prays to the Lord that God would “light up [his] eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,” he says. Death and Darkness go hand in hand, however Jesus, the promised Salvation, calls Himself the Light of the world. From the beginning Jesus has been the antithesis, the opposite of Death; Saint John says that, “In [Jesus] was life, and the Life was the Light of men.” John tells us that, “The Light [Who is Christ Jesus] shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” King David in dark despair says “light up my eyes,” and Jesus says “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
When you are surrounded in darkness and death, when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death fear no evil, for Jesus, Who is the Light of life, is with you and He has conquered death.He has conquered Death where King David could not;He has conquered Death where you cannot. This is the hope that is in King David when he writes, “I have trusted in Your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me.” Flowing from the cross of Christ Jesus, that place of death, is Life it’s self: Jesus took what was meant for evil and made it into a gift of Life! And as David waited for the coming Christ; we now wait for Christ’s return on the last day: for on that day, death will be cast into the lake of fire, death will be cast into out (along with Satan and all his evils) and it (and they) will never touch you again. In your resurrected flesh you will know no death, no corruption, no illness, no cancer: death’s fingerprints will be washed from your body and you will live forever.
This is the Good News of what is to come in Christ Jesus, what you have as a precious gift, even now through your baptism, and in the celebration of Holy Communion with your Lord and with the Holy Church and all its Saints; ‘yet I like David grown in lament,’ you say! ‘In my mind I know this and in my heart by faith I trust it as best as I can, yet I like David lament the death that pursues me and the ones I love, I like David fear that this Enemy Death will say, “I have prevailed over him,” or say, “I have prevailed over [her]” or, “I have prevailed over [the ones you love so dearly].” I like David don’t want the Enemy Death to have such smug satisfaction at my expenses and the expense of the ones I love.’
Dear Children of God, Death looks like a winner but ultimately it loses. At the foot of the cross you can hear Death in the mocking words hurled by the chief priests and the scribes at Jesus as He hangs dying on the cross, they say, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself.” Three days later at the mouth of the open tomb, Death is mute when the women hear the angel say, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, Who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.” Your own grave, on the Last Day, will be as empty as Jesus’ was that first Easter Sunday.
David asks, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?” God answers with the cross, and with the empty tomb; God remembers us all at the ascension and at the baptismal font and at the communion rail and in His Holy Word and when we pray. He remembers us in His Son, Jesus.
If you are caught in the hard place with King David that place in which hope despairs, and yet despair hopes at the same time: Remember there is forgiveness for you when you have put your anxieties before your trust in God, there is forgiveness for the times when you’ve made worrying about death your central concern and have abandoned the praise and worship of God. There is forgiveness for you when you have let Death have its way with you and let Death be your master instead of Christ Jesus. Receive the forgiveness Jesus has for you and pray with David that the Lord would “light up [your] eyes,” pray that the Holy Spirit would fix your eyes on Jesus “the founder and perfecter of [your] faith,” pray that your focus, even in the midst of Death would be on Jesus, the One,“Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame,” That your eyes would be riveted upon the One Who is now “seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” For in Him death has no victory, Death has lost its sting, it may have you in the maw of its mouth but it has no teeth and cannot eat you without heaving you back up (Revelation 20:11-13) upon the ground. In Jesus you can rejoice in the midst of Death, in Jesus you can sing in the face of the enemy. Death can’t separate you from the Love of God in Christ Jesus. “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.” For as Christ Jesus says; “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. Do you believe this?” David did, even in the depths of his despair, David trusted this truth. I so can you. 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 Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.”
1 Samuel 17
2 Samuel 12:15-23
1 Samuel 18:11
2 Samuel 15:4
2 Samuel 16:7-8
1 Chronicles 21:1
1 Samuel 17:36
Reading the Psalms with Luther, Concordia Publishing House 2007, pg 37.
“The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16 ESV, 2 Kings 4:19-37
1 Corinthians 15:20-28
1 Corinthians 15:53-54