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Remove Your stroke from me - my hope is in You - Psalm 39 Sermon From December Prayer Service

Remove Your stroke from me - my hope is in You - Psalm 39 Sermon From December  Prayer Service

"Remove Your stroke from me - my hope is in You" / Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / Wed December 3rd 2014: Season of Advent, Psalm 39

          I said, “I will guard my ways,

                   that I may not sin with my tongue;

          I will guard my mouth with a muzzle,

                   so long as the wicked are in my presence.”

          I was mute and silent;

                   I held my peace to no avail,

          and my distress grew worse.

                   My heart became hot within me.

          As I mused, the fire burned;

                   then I spoke with my tongue:

          “O LORD, make me know my end

                   and what is the measure of my days;

                   let me know how fleeting I am!

          Behold, You have made my days a few handbreadths,

                   and my lifetime is as nothing before You.

          Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!

                   Surely a man goes about as a shadow!

          Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;

                   man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!

          “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?

                   My hope is in You.

          Deliver me from all my transgressions.

                   Do not make me the scorn of the fool!

          I am mute; I do not open my mouth,

                   for it is You who have done it.

          Remove Your stroke from me;

                   I am spent by the hostility of Your hand.

          When You discipline a man

                   with rebukes for sin,

          You consume like a moth what is dear to him;

                   surely all mankind is a mere breath!

          “Hear my prayer, O LORD,

                   and give ear to my cry;

                   hold not Your peace at my tears!

          For I am a sojourner with You,

                   a guest, like all my fathers.

          Look away from me, that I may smile again,

                   before I depart and am no more!”

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. Those words, those words ... Oh how they haunted King David, from the moment the prophet Nathan said them they were lurking in the shadows, and then they'd pounce out and take David to the ground, repeatedly David was being schooled by those words. To the modern ear they sound like something from a Shakespearian tragedy or maybe like something from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and now at the end of David's life they come again to haunt him, those words, but unlike the idea of a ghost rattling chains in the dark like some phantom of 'Christmas Past' those words of the prophet are manifestly real and truly full of trouble, they are a present torment and they again come to David in his old age as death fast approaches and he lay their doctoring and in poor health.[1]  

The prophet Nathan had said to David, "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."[2]  Evil out of your own house ... the sword shall never depart from your house ... yes David was forgiven when he repented and turned back to the Lord but even after his repentance there were still consequences: The son he bore with Bathsheba, the one conceived in adultery would die, and did die - yet the LORD gifted them with a second son Solomon. But Solomon was a little brother to three older brothers, the Eldest Amnon, the second oldest Absalom, then Adonijah and after these three then Solomon. Solomon's older brothers were all in line to the throne and each one brought forth evil fruit out of David's family tree, each one caused the sword to be raised up, each one brought heart break and disaster.

Amnon's name means "faithful," Absalom's name means "father of peace," Adonijah's name means "the LORD is my master,"[3] and yet in them there was selfishness, wrath and infidelity. Amnon raped his half sister Tamar the natural sister of Absalom[4] who took justice into his own hands and in revenge had his older half-brother Amnon murdered at a dinner party for what faithless Amnon had done to Tamar.[5] After that Absalom, the 'father of peace," who believed he'd make a more just king than his father David,[6] brought civil war upon the kingdom in an effort to un-throne David and make himself king in his father's place. David's cousin and one of his closes advisors, Joab David's trusted general, was the one to put a final end to Absalom's rebellion personally bringing a verdict of capital punishment to Absalom who while waging his war against his father had become caught in a tree as he was trying to escape justice.[7] And now in his last days King David is left with his two sons: the older Adonijah and the younger Solomon.

The regular way things should go would see the eldest son Adonijah take the throne at David's death but in his impatience Adonijah set himself up as king before David had died and Adonijah rallied around him some of David's closest advisors - even his cousin Joab[8] (a defection that brought deep pain to David).[9] The trouble in all of this was that David had sworn an oath that Solomon would be king after his death not Adonijah and on his sick bed, his eventual death bed, Bathsheba Solomon's mother - David's wife, and Nathan the prophet both came to David to remind him of the oath and to inform him of Adonijah's impatient self-promotion. St. Paul tells us that all authority comes from God, therefore there is great danger in attempting to take a position of authority where it hasn't been given.[10] By trying to seize the throne for his own Adonijah proved that he was not content to let the LORD be his master and receive the authority that was coming to him in the regular way. This seems to be the situation into which both Psalm 38 and tonight's Psalm, Psalm 39 were written.[11] Psalm 38 and 39: Reflecting on the events of David's life, words pondering his current situation at life's end. Here you have some of David's thoughts, his prayer to the LORD at the close of his life; David's lament, his prayer that acknowledges how evil had yet again come out of his own house ... how the sword yet again had proven to plague his house just as the Nathan had said, how fleeting and transient everything is and how he can hope in nothing but the LORD for nothing that he has done has helped to prevent the troubles he has faced.

Psalm 39 talks about how he'd tried to keep the peace by keeping silent, David says, "I was mute and silent; I held my peace to no avail and my distress grew worse." David had been very reluctant to deal harshly with his sons even though they had greatly sinned against him and against God and against each other, that reluctance only made things worse over time.[12] What is David to do? David over time had been learning by his mistakes, he didn't want to sin with his tongue, he had guarded his mouth and had learned when to speak and how to speak. When word of Adonijah's impatience self-promotion came to him David knew he had no time left, he knew that his life was but a few handbreadths more so he opened his mouth and said to Bathsheba, “As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my soul out of every adversity, as I swore to you by the LORD, the God of Israel, saying, ‘Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne in my place,’ even so will I do this day.”[13] And much to Adonijah's surprise as he feasted with his friends and supporters word came to him of how his little brother Solomon was anointed king of Israel that very day and his own hopes for the throne were dashed to nothing:[14] And even as Solomon sits upon David's throne and David says, "Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who has granted someone to sit on my throne this day, my own eyes seeing it,”[15] David also knows that Adonijah lives and may not be well with this turn of events and that because of this fact David's words in Psalm 39 are very true, "man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!" David goes to his death not knowing what will happen after he dies, will Solomon keep the throne - will his son Solomon take the great wealth that David amassed during his kingship and build the Temple? Will his son Adonijah try and take the throne from his brother as Absalom had tried to take it from David?[16] As David comes closer and closer to his death he learns that all he can truly do is put it into the LORD's hands. David knows that he must trust that it will be the LORD who will provide for Solomon, as the LORD had provided for him even in all his troubles.   

In these last days as he awaits his death King David prays, “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You. Deliver me from all my transgressions. Do not make me the scorn of the fool!" He prays, "Remove Your stroke from me; I am spent by the hostility of Your hand" David is asking for relief from those words, those words delivered by the Prophet Nathan: Relief from the evil that had been coming from out of his own house; Relief from the stroke of the sword that brought death to his sons Amnon and Absalom; Relief from the hostilities that had plagued his house from the day that Nathan spoke those words: Relief - and who knows maybe an earthly extension of life in better health.

Ultimately David's prayer in Psalm 39 is a prayer for eternal relief - a prayer for Salvation. This is part of the prayer of the Church in Advent. In Advent we join our waiting with the Old Testament Church, all the faithful who waited for the coming Salvation - the Salvation that would come in the birth of Jesus and ultimately come at His death upon the cross and in His resurrection from the grave. When David says, “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?" David is waiting for the LORD to act to send His Salvation to do as St. Paul would later say in Galatians when Paul says, "when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman:"[17] This is the LORD's answer to David's prayer. This is what David is waiting for - even in his old age - he waits, putting it all in the LORD's Hands, David says to God, "My hope is in You." Take this all away from me, take all this trouble away, "Do not make me the scorn of the fool," "Deliver me from all my transgressions." Hosanna, Save me!

David prays, “Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear to my cry; hold not Your peace at my tears! For I am a sojourner with You, a guest, like all my fathers. Look away from me, that I may smile again, before I depart and am no more!” He is saying what the hymn writer would later say "I'm but a stranger here, Heav'n is my home; Earth is a desert drear, Heav'n is my home. Danger and sorrow stand Round me on ev'ry hand; Heav'n is my father-land, Heav'n is my home."[18] In Advent we trust in Jesus' first coming and look forward to His second coming, His second Advent when He will take us into our Father's House - we with David look to the day when we will depart from the troubles, heartbreaking struggles and sins of this life and for all the world we will depart from it and be no more in it until it is made new by Christ Jesus at His Second Advent.[19]

When David prays "look away from me," he is praying that the LORD would not look at him in judgment but would rather turn to look at him in love. In Christ Jesus the LORD does just that, in Christ Jesus the LORD draws near to us and no longer stands aloof because we are clothed in His Son. Back in Psalm 38 David cried out to the LORD, "My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague, and my nearest kin stand far off." His son Adonijah and his cousin Joab and many others stood aloof in his twilight days, stood aloof in his final days upon his death bed - they couldn't wait for him to die and it broke his heart - David however knows who stands with him in his death, David trusted that the LORD was standing with him, God was not far off, that is why David prays to God in His trouble - because the LORD meets us in our troubles: Whether they are family troubles, or if they are the troubles coming from the consequences of our past and/or present sinful life, if they are the troubles of illness and imminent death the LORD meets you in your troubles just as He met David in His, He will hear your prayers just as He heard David's prayer. In the end this fleeting life will pass away and you will emerge into an immeasurable life in Christ Jesus - this Advent Season, and always, until that day wait for the LORD, He is your hope. 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 Kings 1:1-4

[2] 2 Samuel 12:9-11

[3] "Yahweh is my Master"

[4] 2 Samuel 13:1-22

[5] 2 Samuel 13:23-33

[6] 2 Samuel 15:4

[7] 2 Samuel 18:1-33

[8] 1 Kings 1:5-10

[9] Psalm 38:11, "My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague, and my nearest kin stand far off."

[10] Romans 13:1, "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God."

[11] A Commentary on Psalms 1-72, Northwestern Publishing House 2004, John F. Burg, pg 404.

[12] After Amnon's rape of Tamar Scripture is silent about David's response to this sin against his daughter and it's a full two years after the event when Absalom springs his revenge on his half-brother (2 Samuel 13:23-33). When David's one son Absalom murders his oldest son Amnon, Absalom flees to his grandfather's house in Geshur and lives there for three years and while David longs to go to Absalom David does nothing (2 Samuel 13:34-39) - and once David does bring Absalom back David again doesn't see his son for two years saying, “Let him dwell apart in his own house; he is not to come into my presence.” (2 Samuel 14:24). David avoids directly dealing with these transgressions. And when Absalom rebels against his father David, David didn't personally ride out in battle against him (2 Samuel 18:1-4) rather David commanded that Absalom for David's own sake be dealt with gently (2 Samule 18:5).      

[13] 1 Kings 1:29-30   

[14] 1 Kings 1:41-48

[15] 1 Kings 1:48

[16] Adonijah does attempt to take the throne from Solomon but fails in his attempt (1 Kings 2:13-25).

[17] Galatians 4:4 

[18] I'm But a Stranger Here, Lutheran Service Book, Concordia Publishing House 2006, Hymn # 748.

[19] Revelation 21:5, “Behold, I am making all things new.”