Blog / Book of the Month / The Law of the LORD is Perfect / Psalm 19 & John 2:13-22 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday March 7th 2021 / Lent / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

The Law of the LORD is Perfect / Psalm 19 & John 2:13-22 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday March 7th 2021 / Lent / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

The Law of the LORD is Perfect / Psalm 19 & John 2:13-22 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday March 7th 2021 / Lent / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday March 7th 2021: Season of Lent / Psalm 19 & John 2:13-22 "The Law of the LORD is Perfect"

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

          The heavens declare the glory of God,

                   and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.

          Day to day pours out speech,

                   and night to night reveals knowledge.

          There is no speech, nor are there words,

                   whose voice is not heard.

          Their voice goes out through all the earth,

                   and their words to the end of the world.

          In them He has set a tent for the sun,

                   which comes out like a bridegroom leaving His chamber,

                   and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.

          Its rising is from the end of the heavens,

                   and its circuit to the end of them,

                   and there is nothing hidden from its heat.           

          The law of the LORD is perfect,

                   reviving the soul;

          the testimony of the LORD is sure,

                   making wise the simple;

          the precepts of the LORD are right,

                   rejoicing the heart;

          the commandment of the LORD is pure,

                   enlightening the eyes;

          the fear of the LORD is clean,

                   enduring forever;

          the rules of the LORD are true,

                   and righteous altogether.

          More to be desired are they than gold,

                   even much fine gold;

          sweeter also than honey

                   and drippings of the honeycomb.

          Moreover, by them is Your servant warned;

                   in keeping them there is great reward.

          Who can discern his errors?

                   Declare me innocent from hidden faults.

          Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins;

                   let them not have dominion over me!

          Then I shall be blameless,

                   and innocent of great transgression.

          Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart

                   be acceptable in Your sight,

                   O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19 ESV)

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple He found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And He poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And He told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make My Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house will consume Me.”

So 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 He was speaking about the temple of His body. When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. (John 2:13–22 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. King David in Psalm 19 teaches us something the World regularly bristles at when David writes, “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul,” sinners of all kinds and varieties will take umbrage to such a statement. It is offensive to them; and because you are likewise a sinner in need of the mercy of God, like everyone else in the World including myself, there will be times when this will be offensive to you too … even though the Christian with devout parents or teachers in the faith will have been taught better.

Sinners dislike what is taught here, “The law of the LORD is perfect,” because they can’t imagine the LORD’s law to be perfect. What is? On the one hand, everything in life has imperfections and daily we see mistakes, flaws and spoilage in everything around us while on the other hand ‘it can’t possibly be true that the law of the LORD is perfect because it demands that I change my ways in order to keep it.’ Cynicism, skepticism, pride, and even a deep distrust of anything described as perfect all interfere with the acceptance that “The law of the LORD is perfect” as David teaches.

The sinner would rather believe that God’s law is not perfect, that men interfered with it or that it doesn’t mean what it says. Did God really say, “You shall not murder,” “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not steal,” … “You shall not eat of this specific tree in the garden.”?[1] And so, the old Adam in us will cry out ‘it can’t be murder if it’s not a person,’ … ‘it can’t be adultery if I don’t physically touch them,’ … ‘it can’t be theft if they are dumb enough to be gouged in the marketplace,’ … ‘it can’t be sin if I think it is good for me,’ but these are all falsehoods told to the self to excuse sin or lessen the blow of the reality of the very sin that “is crouching at the door,” of every man’s heart with the contrary desire that Sin has to master us all.[2] By such objections, and a thousand other ones that you have told yourself in an attempt to make evil small and personally manageable, you and every sinner attempts to sidestep the perfect nature of the LORD’s law. Another common sidestep is to claim that the law of God is simply an illusion designed to control ignorant people, a relic of an outdated culture which we in our new found wisdom have outgrown in our modern, sophisticated and advanced times. Yet the law of God is inescapable as St. Paul says, it is “written on the hearts”[3] of all men even those who did not have it handed down to them at Mount Sinai on tablets of stone by God through His prophet Moses. 

If you were to be honest, the sinner in you doesn’t much like to hear any of this; in fact you don’t like being labelled or called a sinner at all, even though you know it to be true that you have sinned and do sin against the law of God.

Psalm 19 points out another sticky point when David asks, “Who can discern his errors?” Without the law of God, without a preacher or a devote father or mother or spouse or friend the answer is no one can - no one discerns his errors - because the old Adam in us seeks to stay hidden in the dark with his sins and seeks to keep you blind to the scope and scale of them. I ask you, as you sit in the dark with your sin, “Who do you fear? Do you fear your sin or do you fear the LORD?” “As you listened to the Old Testament reading did you brush the Ten Commandments off or did they terrify you?” “Did even one of them cause you to worry?” “How well have you studied them and contemplated their meaning in your life?” … you may say, “Oh when I was 13 or 14 years old I did, back when I was in confirmation of Baptism classes,” but I ask you, “what did you know of the World at 13 or 14 years old? Do you take the law of the LORD to heart now? Do you continue to study it today?”

The perfect and straightforward law of the LORD given to the people through God’s prophet Moses is described by David in Psalm 19 as “sure,” “right,” “pure,” and “true,” and those of you well instructed in the Small Catechism will remember how the explanations of each of the Ten Commandments start. Our dear teacher in the faith doctor Luther starts each explanation with the words “we should fear and love God so that we …” But often in our day and age we are told we shouldn’t fear the LORD: He’s regularly presented simply as our buddy, our pal, our friend and while in some ways this is very true the LORD is also all-together holy without sin, a consuming fire[4] of righteousness. In the fourth verse of the hymn “How Firm a Foundation,”[5] God’s plan for you is ‘to consume your dross and refine your gold,’ an allusion to the LORD being a consuming fire of righteousness and a lyrical presentation of the wisdom of Proverbs 17 verse 3, “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts.”[6]

In Psalm 19 therefore David says that “the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.” An honest reflection on your sin, given to you as a gift by the Holy Spirit,[7] comes to you as a repentant heart and such a heart grows to understand that, as the book of Proverbs puts it, “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”[8] Psalm 19 likewise makes this plain when David teaches us that, “the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” Every person who is instructed in the law of the LORD, who takes it to heart as the gift that it is for their own good and for the good of their family and their neighbour, is both wiser and better for it. The Good news for you is that God doesn’t give His law exclusively to some elite, aristocratic, clandestine set of people. He gives it to everyone from the simple to the high and mighty; and those who embrace this gift are made brothers and sisters in Christ, equally part of the same family of God with the very same access to the perfect wisdom of the LORD.

Again this is not the wisdom of the World; the wisdom of the World champions the “survival of the fittest,” the World teaches that “might is right,” that “the ends justify the means,” that you need to “look after yourself first because no one is going to look after you,” “what goes around comes around,” “to thine own self be true.” The World pushes such false wisdom because it cannot abide what David teaches you in Psalm 19. David, as he teaches these things, is not alone in Scripture when he highlights that there is a discrepancy between the wisdom of sinful man and the wisdom of God: St. Paul in today’s Epistle teaches us that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men,”[9] that, “in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom,”[10] so, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.”[11]

Dear ones this brings us to our Gospel reading for the day and to your Lord and Saviour Christ Jesus. He is the one who followed the perfect law of the LORD that was given to the people through the prophet Moses; Jesus followed this law without fault. Jesus not King David is the one who embodies Psalm 19. David is not speaking of himself in the Psalm. His fall into sin has been recorded in Scripture as a warning to you, and as an example of the forgiveness that is granted to the repentant. Concerning Jesus, however, St. Peter says that, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth,”[12] which is more than we can say for David or for ourselves. It is this very same Jesus who drove all the money-changers out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen at the beginning of that first Holy Week. It was Jesus who poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables saying, “Take these things away; do not make My Father’s house a house of trade.”

Where we fail to fear, love, and trust in God above all things Jesus did not fail. Where we fail to help our neighbour to improve and protect his possessions and income by stepping in to stop those who prey upon the week and helpless with unfair and exploitative business practices Jesus did not fail. Where we fail in breaking schemes designed to chip away at what belongs to our neighbour in a way which only appears right Jesus did not fail. With this one Gospel reading we see how Jesus was consumed with zeal for the house of the LORD, how He was truly about His heavenly Father’s work actively working in service to all the faithful who came to the temple in Jerusalem for the Passover celebrations by helping them keep what was theirs and not be robbed of what income they needed to care for their families and community. Jesus was and is no robber He took none of what was theirs. He protected people from robbery. Jesus honoured His heavenly Father keeping His Father’s house holy, because Jesus knew that His Father was more interested in “a broken and contrite heart,” than He was in false sacrifice: That a repentant heart was more delightful to His Father than burnt offerings[13]  rendered empty of such a heart of repentance, ultimately profited off of by wicked and sinful men.

Dear ones this is your Jesus. Perfect, Sure, Right, Pure, Clean and True. He is the Law of the LORD in action and the faultless fulfilment of it. Such a One cannot be held by death. The day Jesus cleared the temple in total fulfilment of the Law of the LORD, the sinners there – those money-changers and everyone who supported them, all those who had been fleecing the people – hated Jesus for it. His perfect fulfilment of the law of God exposed their sin and drove them to question Him demanding, “What sign do You show us for doing these things?” to which Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” They scoffed at this seeing it as foolish because what wisdom they had in them was corrupted. So they shot back at Jesus, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” In the darkness of their sin they were blind to what was about to happen that very week, yet our Gospel explains the wisdom of God in Jesus’ words: Jesus was not speaking of the stones that made the impressive temple that they were standing in He was speaking about the temple of His body.[14]

Perfection is hated by the World; and the plot to destroy Jesus intensified, by Friday He hung nailed to the Cross and as St. Peter preached on Pentecost, “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” The money-changers, scribes and Pharisees, the Sadducees and elders of the people didn’t help and support Jesus in every physical need; they put Him in the hands of men who didn’t follow the law of the LORD – Roman soldiers: Men who were pressed to bring about Jesus’ death. And yet, “God raised [His Son Jesus] up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for [Jesus] to be held by it.”[15]

And so as St. Paul says, “we preach Christ crucified to you, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”[16] Jesus’ death and resurrection turns the law of the LORD for the redeemed in Christ Jesus into a teaching “more to be desired … then gold, even much fine gold; [a pure and trustworthy truth] sweeter also than honey,”[17] And why? Because Jesus has fulfilled the Law and all its demands[18] even the wages of sin which you owed because of your sin have been paid.[19]

And as Christians, we are now free to study, to follow and to grow in this Holy Law not because we can keep it perfectly or in order to save ourselves by following it perfectly, but rather because in Christ the law of the Lord now serves the faithful: It serves as a protective curb for a warning in our life, an honest mirror for repentance when we sin, and a trustworthy guide for the wellbeing and good of all people. In this way we Christians no longer live under the law but in the law.[20] Christ Jesus now brings us the mercy we so desperately need and with it the “great reward” which He won, not for Himself but for you and for all who trust in Him[21] – the gift of eternal life for on the Last Day death will not be able to hold you because it could not hold Jesus.

Therefore, dear ones “consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus;”[22] for in Him your soul is revived and you are free. King David needed the forgiveness and mercy of God as much as you and I need it. Let our heart then rejoice with David, who teaches us the character and nature of the law of the LORD in Psalm 19. During Lent as you make your way to the foot of the cross of Good Friday and the empty tomb of Easter morning, continue to reflect on the truth that you and David are sinners in need of Christ Jesus and in Jesus you and David and are more than that … for with your faith firmly fixed in Him you along with David are forgiven sinners, blessed recipients of the grace and mercy of God. In Jesus you are now counted as blameless and innocent. Yes, it is true: “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul,” Jesus is the faultless fulfilment of that perfect law and He alone is the one who revives your soul. 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] Genesis 3:1
[2] Genesis 4:7
[3] Romans 2:15
[4] Deuteronomy 4:24
[5] “How Firm a Foundation,” Lutheran Service Book, Concordia Publishing House 2006, #728
[6] Proverbs 17:3                                                                              
[7] 2 Timothy 2:24-26, Acts 11:18, John 16:8-10
[8] Proverbs 9:10
[9] 1 Corinthians 1:25
[10] 1 Corinthians 1:21
[11] 1 Corinthians 1:27
[12] 1 Peter 2:22
[13] Psalm 51:16–17
[14] John 2:18–21
[15] Acts 2:23–24
[16] 1 Corinthians 1:23
[17] Psalm 19:10
[18] Romans 8:3–4, 10:4
[19] Romans 6:23
[20] Formula, Solid Declaration "Article VI. The Third Use of God's Law" Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, Reader's Pocket Edition, Concordia Publishing House 2009, 797[18]
[21] Psalm 19:11
[22] Romans 6:3-11

All Photos from Crucible, David with Harp, Serpent, Moses, Sitting in the Dark, Dark Tunnel, Foundry, Scripture, Prayer with Crucifix, Ancient Coins, Sheep, Temple Wall, Jesus Crucified by Soldiers, Jesus Crucified, and Holy Spirit.