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Psalm 26 Sermon From November 2013 Prayer Service

Psalm 26 Sermon From November 2013 Prayer Service

Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / Psalm 26 / Wednesday Evening Prayer Service November 6th 2013.

Vindicate me, O Lord,

for I have walked in my integrity,

and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.

Prove me, O Lord, and try me;

test my heart and my mind.

For Your steadfast love is before my eyes,

and I walk in Your faithfulness.

I do not sit with men of falsehood,

nor do I consort with hypocrites.

I hate the assembly of evildoers,

and I will not sit with the wicked.

I wash my hands in innocence

and go around Your altar, O Lord,

proclaiming thanksgiving aloud,

and telling all Your wondrous deeds.

O Lord, I love the habitation of Your house

and the place where Your glory dwells.

Do not sweep my soul away with sinners,

nor my life with bloodthirsty men,

in whose hands are evil devices,

and whose right hands are full of bribes.

But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity;

redeem me, and be gracious to me.

My foot stands on level ground;

in the great assembly I will bless 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. Syracuse Police arrested three men after they were caught in the act of burglarizing a home on North State Street at about 11:30 pm Friday (November 1st 2013).

Officers arrived at 1509 North State Street and found the three men inside an apartment that had its door pried open.

Police arrested 30-year-old Timothy Lankford, of Petersburg, Virginia, 26-year-old Willie Carter, of Syracuse, and a 15-year-old who is not being identified due to his age.

All three were charged with second degree burglary and attempted petit larceny. Carter was also charged with possession of burglar’s tools. The resident was not home at the time of the forced entry[1] This is an example of people who are caught red-handed, caught in the act of committing a crime. But what about false accusations? What about times when someone is falsely accused? Here's another recent story.

An innocent man spent nearly two decades in prison for a crime he did not commit after police in Chicago, Illinois intentionally suppressed evidence and plotted to frame him for the crime, according to a federal lawsuit filed by the exonerated man.

Alprentiss Nash was cleared by DNA evidence last year after serving 17 years in prison for the 1995 murder of Leon Stroud in his home on the South Side of Chicago. One year after his release, Nash has filed suit against the city of Chicago and eight current and former police officers. 

[Nash’s lawsuit claims that Stroud] was a known “bootlegger” who illegally sold alcohol, cigarettes, and crack cocaine out of his house. Two masked robbers broke into Stroud’s home at approximately 1:45pm on April 30, 1995 and robbed him. [The 54 year old Stroud,] was killed by a gunshot wound to the chest. 

Nash, then 19, was a drug dealer in his own right and [he was quickly] arrested, at which point he told police that he could not have murdered Stroud because he had been selling drugs that morning before buying a new set of clothes. He claims he was wrongly arrested after returning home around 4:30pm.  

Seeing an opportunity to quickly resolve the case involving the death of a bootlegger in a poor neighbourhood by arresting Nash, a drug dealer from the neighbourhood who had been running his mouth about…[local police officers; they, the police officers,] conspired to defame Nash,”[2] 

Two very different stories. What does it mean to be innocent? How does innocents fit into Psalm 26? This last case, the case of false accusation didn't mean that Alprentiss Nash was innocent of all sins in his life, Nash was not morally superior to the one who pulled the trigger and murdered Stroud, Nash was a known criminal like the three burglars in the first case, it just means that Nash (according to the DNA evidence) was innocent of what he was accused of when it came to the murder.

Have you ever thought of how innocence works? You've heard it before in sermons that a person can be both guilty and innocent at one and the same time? Simul justus et peccator - simultaneously justified and sinner, simultaneously saint and sinner. Guilty of sin yet forgiven of it. Luther puts it like this, “When the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: "I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!” Even if you are guilty of a sin, guilty of an accusation, in Christ the Christian has forgiveness. You like Nash may have your known sins and still be falsely accused of things you haven't done. This is where King David is sitting in Psalm 26. Just think of it, this is often how things play out in our daily lives as Christians: if you are innocent, you are innocent; if you are forgiven, you again are also innocent: the innocence of Christ becomes your innocence. Therefore, if you've been acquitted of a past sin by the grace of God in Christ Jesus and an accusation from either the devil, the world, some vindictive neighbour with a long memory, or even your own mind should level a charge against you after the forgiveness of Jesus has been granted to you; you can claim innocence in the blood of the lamb, in the waters of your baptism and in the absolution you've received, in the sacrament of the Altar. For forgiven sin is just that: It is forgiven, the guilt of forgiven sin is paid for in full, regardless of how the accusation may feel when it's repeatedly levelled against you, if you've been forgiven of it in the past you are forgiven, when it claws its way out of the past on the lips of those who hate you, it will sting, but you are forgiven and in the eyes of God you are forgiven, in the eyes of the world such accusations are damning.  

This is why we sing: "By grace I'm saved, grace free and boundless; My soul, believe and doubt it not. Why stagger at this word of promise? Has Scripture ever falsehood taught? No! Then this word must true remain; By grace you too will life obtain." These are the words of the first verse in the hymn "By Grace I'm Saved."[3]

So let's make this clear: We have two things: 1) a person can be a forgiven sinner by God's Grace and then claim innocence as a forgiven child of God, while 2) at one and the same time a Christian can be falsely accused of sins they have never committed at all. This is truly the key to understanding this Psalm of King David. This is the truth that Scripture teaches against the falsehoods of men, against the false words of accusation levelled against the redeemed in Christ Jesus.

Now the cat is sort of let out of the bag in respect to what's going on in Psalm 26, but let's think about Psalm 26 then anyways, the Psalm starts with David pleading out to God, pouring his guts out in song and prayer to the one and only judge whose judgment matters in eternal things singing "Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind." Instantly you will think to yourself, how does David get away with praying like this? [How does anyone get away with praying like this?] "This Psalm sounds more like the prayer of the Pharisee (Luke 18:11)[4] than the prayer of a godly man. Doesn't David know that "all have sinned" (Romans 3:23)?[5] This cry of innocence, however, is not a claim of sinless perfection, [not moral superiority], but like Psalm 7, it protest that the psalmist has done nothing to deserve the hatred of his enemies."[6] Just like Alprentiss Nash who knows he is a drug dealer but also knows that he is innocent of murder, David knows he is a sinner yet he protests false accusations of sin.[7]  "Vindicate" here means the same as though David were to say to God the Father: "Deliver a verdict, be Thou the Judge in this matter."[8] David Trusts that his hands are in fact clean before the Lord. And that the Lord who is all seeing, who is omniscient knows truly how to judge, David trusts that in this instance God will in fact judge him in truth, that as wicked as David heart might be, as sinful as his mind might be, once searched and tested by God, God will find that David's integrity in the face of these particular false accusations is intact. Beyond the false accusations David likewise knows that in all things he is clean because the Lord has made Him clean, because he is forgiven. "Create in me a nclean heart, O God," David says in Psalm 51, "and orenew a right1 spirit within me."[9] David knows his sin and he knows and trusts that it is washed away.

"O Lord, I love the habitation of Your house and the place where Your glory dwells. Do not sweep my soul away with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men, in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes." King David's appeal before God is for God to act according to the truth in the matter of these false accusations and that God would not take the lies of his accusers as truth, that God would see them for the lies that they are and for God not to lump David in with these evil men and their evil actions. That God would remember David and spare his soul. That God would be gracious and merciful slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.[10]  

How does God the Father do this thing that David asks? What does it mean when David sings, "For Your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in Your faithfulness." What is David going on about when he says, "O Lord, I love the habitation of Your house and the place where Your glory dwells." This is the language of faith. On one hand, all of these are pointing to stuff he experiences, the tabernacle tent, the altar of sacrifice, the ark of the covenant, the word of God in Scripture; while on the other hand, running alongside of David's experience are also things that David trusts and has faith in without experience: "the wondrous deeds" of God, the mighty works of God in the history of Israel, the rescue of the people from the hands of the Egyptians, and all of these thing point forward to the Christ, they all point to Jesus. Psalm 26 points to Jesus. This is where you come into the picture again: Just as David looked forward to the fist coming of Christ with his words in Psalm 26 we look forward to Christ Jesus' second coming where we will have our final vindication in the eyes of the world and all who hate us on Christ's account. What does Jesus say, "“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely hon My account."[11] Look forward to the day when your blessing is complete.       

Now you and David have something else in common: just as David didn't get to see Jesus face to face when he wrote this Psalm, we don't get to see Jesus face to face when we hear this Psalm read or sung. Yet having these words, and all the words of Scripture, is of paramount importance to the Christian and having them is the core of trusting in the justice of God on our behalf in Christ Jesus. Saint Peter puts the Scriptures above experience, above feelings, above all things and Peter was one who saw firsthand the Glory of God in Christ Jesus and heard with his own ears the voice of God speaking: St Peter says "we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I Am well pleased,”[12] we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with [Jesus] on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention has to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."[13]  So too then is King David in Psalm 26, here he too is carried along by the Holy Spirit, producing the very word of God that He trusts in.

Because of this: In the face of false accusations, David relies on the Word of God, the Word of God made alive in worship, the Word of God made alive in the sacrifices, the Word of God handed down by God's providential love and care, the Word of God that all pointed to Jesus, to the cross, the very source of David's vindication. Your personal vindication in the face of persecution, in the face of false accusation and even in the face of the sins you do commit is found likewise at the cross and above all other sources the truth of this is known from Scripture alone.

We therefore likewise trust like David on God's Word to teach us rightly about the Christ, to reveal Him to us, we stand looking back where David stood looking forward. And where do we look? David was innocent of some accusations, Alprentiss Nash appears to be innocent of murdering Leon Stroud but these men were not personally innocent of all accusations. Where do we look for the one who was falsely accused in all accounts, the one who is innocent of every evil, every sin, every fault? Look to Jesus, Jesus who was conspired against and defamed, Jesus who was arrested falsely under cover of darkness, who was tried in a kangaroo court and thrust into the hands of a politician under pressure from a powerful special interest group; Jesus who was wrongly convicted and publically beaten and executed. Jesus whose hands were clean of all sin, but whose hands at the cross ran red with your sin and the sins of all people. At the cross the Father put Jesus to the test and in your place He died the death that was yours, he died the death that was coming to you. Nash was released from his prison because DNA evidence exonerated him, he was proven innocent of Stroud's death, you are released from the prison cell of eternal damnation because Christ Jesus has forgiven you. You have been vindicated, forgiven of sin, this is freedom from false accusations.    

David sings this Psalm about himself, but these words in the mouth of Jesus carry more weight and the full vindication of Jesus, the moment when He is vindicated is the moment of the resurrection, when He walks alive from the mouth of death. Redeemed, redeemed from death.[14] The day you come up out of your tomb, the day you come up out of your grave, no accusation will touch you again - no accusation will ever touch you again: forgiven you will walk with Christ into eternity[15] beyond the reach of sin, beyond the reach of death, beyond the reach of the devil, beyond the reach of evil, beyond the reach of an accusation that may be true, beyond an accusation that may be false, for you will be forgiven forever, and you will never hear an accusation ever again in Christ Jesus. 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.

[3]"By Grace I'm Saved."Lutheran Service Book, hymn 566. This hymn is based on Ephesians 2:4-5 where Saint Paul writes that,  "God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—"

[4]"[Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14

[5]"But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith." Romans 3:21-25

[6]A Commentary on Psalms 1-72, Northwestern Publishing House 2004, John F. Burg, pg 312.

[7] David in this Psalm shows persistence, persistence like is found in Christ's telling of the parable of the widow and the jun just judge: "[Jesus] told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to His elect, who cry to Him day and night? Will He delay long over them? I tell you, He will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” Luke 18:1-8

[8]AE Luther's Works Volume 12 Selected Psalms 1, pg 184.

[9]Psalm 51:10

[10]Psalm 103:8

[11]Matthew 5:11

[12]The Transfiguration

[13]2 Peter 1:16-21

[14]"Redeem me, and be gracious to me. My foot stands on level ground; in the great assembly I will bless the Lord.

[15]"But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity;"