A Homily for Trinity XIII
All Saints Anglican Church, Prescott, AZ
Text: Psalm 24
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
As we wrap up our summer study of the Psalms we come to the majestic and festive Psalm 25. We have learned of some of the attributes of God, how at the center of God’s nature is His glory, and we looked at how when we read the Psalms through the lens of the New Testament we can see Christ.
As we wrap up today there is a point I want to make that I think up until now I have failed to drive home. The Psalms are an ancient prayer or hymn book. There are sections that we are pretty sure were used in worship on pilgrimages, sections of lament from various parts of history including the exile in Babylon, and David’s sexual misconduct. We see joy and sorrow. In fact in one Psalm you’ll read this week, if you’ve been reading along, you’ll even see rage. The ending of Psalm 137 is particularly hard for us to read because of its violent expression of rage and its wishes against another’s child. The Psalms, as I hope you’ve come to see, cover the gamete of human emotions.
And what do we do with all of this? It reminds us that we take all things to the Lord in prayer. We do not cover up our anger, our frustrations, or our joy. We do not cover up our sin, or heartache, or hope. God can use all of it, but we must take it to him and lay it at the feet of the throne. We must also remember to forsake the advice of Job’s wife, and we are never to “curse God,” and die no matter how dark the day may get.
This past summer we have seen the depth and breadth of who God is, and I hope this has helped to strengthen your walk with the Lord, but I hope you have also seen in the Psalter a new tool to use in your walk with the Lord. We know that thousands before have used these same words to call out to the Lord and when we pray through the Psalms we walk with them and are encouraged to know that just as the Lord was faithful to them, He will be faithful to you. In the Psalter we also grasp a little more deeply the magnitude of who God is. So continue to put your trust in the Lord, whether you are in the green pasture or the valley of darkness, or simply going through the daily ins and outs of life.
Psalm 25 works as a nice capstone for our study because it points us back again to the idea of the sovereign reign of God, reminding us that He is our Lord. Secondly, it has historically been used in the Paschal and Ascension liturgies. It acts to remind us that Christ is the very king of glory, the Lord of lords, worthy of our worship. As we look at this Psalm we will be continually reminded of this good truth. Some have even argued that this Psalm fits in nicely into Advent as well, for although Christ has been enthroned in heaven, we are waiting expectantly for His coming again. We pray, come Lord Jesus comes.
One commentator reminds us of the breadth of this Psalm, saying: In contemporary lectionaries the psalm is used in the season of Advent and on the Sunday of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. On these occasions the psalm discloses the mystery of Mary’s child. The babe born in a stable is the king of glory. The man who enters the holy city only to be rejected and executed is the hidden king of glory. In him God comes to us and for us to bring blessing and righteousness.
As we dig into the Psalm we see that there are three parts, first in verses 1 and 2 the owner of the earth is identified. Next, in verses 3 through 6, we see who keeps the Lord company and finally, in the last 4 verses, we are shown how He is the king of Glory.
We are reminded again of the reign of God over the earth, and of His sovereignty as we read the first two verses – We affirm that the earth is the Lord, it can belong to no other. There is no corner that he does not rule over, nor no action that He is unaware. This summer we have seen how he knows the heart of men, and how he uses their actions for His glory and the good of the church.
These proclamations of grandeur stand in contrast to last week’s pastoral Psalm. Last week we saw God as tender shepherd, and this week we see him as Lord, we see him rightly reigning and owning all the earth, but we are reminded that he does not need to be one or the other, but He is both.
In verse two we are reminded again that He created all the earth. Ancient Near Eastern religious practices would often have seen the gods as creating life out of the water and the seas as being a place of violent chaos. The Psalm rejects this and reaffirms that God created the earth with order, and God is over even the sea which is filled with dark mystery. The Psalmist makes no mistake in his description of the Lord as creator as we notice echoes of the Genesis account.
But we are also reminded and encouraged in all of this that the Lord is Lord over even the deepest chaos of our life. There are times that is seems that everything is swirling out of control. For those of you who have gotten to know me well, this won’t be a surprise, but perhaps some of you haven’t figure out this past time of mine. I spend a great deal of time thinking about culture and the American church. Both the positives and the negatives. One thing that I have seen both within American Christianity, and the broader culture is a desperate need to be in control.
There is, of course, a goodness in being a good steward of the gifts that God has given you, whether we are good stewards of the possessions we have so that we may glorify God, or using our money wisely, or using the emotional gifts to walk with others and encourage them in the Lord. However, we would be fools if we thought we could control the outcome of everything we do. None the less, how often is this our mindset! We want a simple formula in our devotional life – if I read x, and pray y, I’ll get z. We want to control God and not submit to His will. When we don’t get what we want we feel that chaos ensues and we become tempted to think God is not in control.
Do not give into this mindset. Rather, recognize that God is in control, even though the world around us may seem to rage like the stormy sea. Do not trust in our own rationality, but be wise in the Lord, constantly seeking to do His will. Do not have the hubris to think that we have everything under control, but trust in the Sovereign Lord who works all things out for God.
This brings us quite nicely to the second section – who is called to the company of the Lord, who are His people?
The Psalmist begs the question – who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord or who shall rise up in his holy place? The Hill of the Lord of course referring to the mount on which the temple was placed. However, in the broader context, in the ancient Near East all temples were often placed on a hill, we see this in Athens, and other cities where pagan religions were dominant. There is even a theory that seems perfectly reasonable that the garden of Eden was a temple garden placed on a hill or mountain, in which Adam and Eve were able to walk perfectly with the Lord.
So, the question is – who shall walk in this holy place with the Lord?
Even he that has clean hands, and a pure hard; and that has not lifted up his mind unto vanity, nor sworn to deceive his neighbor, the Psalmist writes, and this gives us pause. For who has a pure heart, or clean hands, who has never been vane, nor lied?
Only one person fits this description – Jesus Christ our Lord. For we fail morally, we are broken, we struggle with our sins, and then we struggle with the guilt of those sins and we cover them up and tell ourselves that the Lord doesn’t know. We live in darkness, not because we don’t know the light or want to know it, but because we feel shame and feel that we could never live up to the moral standard of the Book. Yet, here is the promise, that we are made righteous in Christ. It is not our own righteousness that we wear, but we wear Christ’s righteousness.
Here is your second cultural observation for the morning, in the modern church in America we have this temptation to think that dwelling in the grace of Christ means that we are simply forgiven for all our sins, past, present, and future and so we can go on living as we have always lived. This is an easy mindset to fall into, and if it is something that you have struggled with – I promise you, you are not alone. However, what we do matters and how we live is important.
We see a pendulum in the mindset of the church. The Church fathers swung it one way, where mortification of the flesh was the highest call, they would forsake all things to the point that life almost sounded miserable.
Yet, in the church in America we have no reached the other side of the pendulum. We do not fast, we do not forsake even a little bit, we always have plenty, and when we don’t have plenty, we think “certainly the Lord doesn’t love us!” This is not biblical friends. No, there is a goodness in fasting, in abstaining from physical and emotional pleasure for a season, there is a time to repent with sorrow in our heart.
Yes! Christ has covered our sins! Yes! Christ will seek down the 1 who has wondered and bring him back. Yes! Christ’s love is deeper than you could possibly imagine, but we must come running back to Him. It is good to repent, it is good to flee from your sin, it is good to fast at times, so that we might learn to trust more deeply in the Lord. Don’t be afraid of these things, but see them for what they are – very good.
So, here is the call, when we put on the righteousness of Christ we are being made into different people. We are called to submit ourselves to the gift of the spirit, that He would write His law on our hearts. We are to respond to the burning of our consciences that say “repent!” when we fall short of the glory we are called to. We are called, not to licentiousness and lawlessness, but we called to holiness and submission to the Holy Spirit. So, let us live as ones who seek the Lord for there we do not find self-righteousness but put on the righteousness of Christ.
The final 4 verses explode with the paschal and ascension song. In verse 7 it is almost as though the heavenly gates are reverberating with joy as Christ enters in and I suspect when we finally see them, they will be. For we are reminded that after His resurrection, when we start to grasp who He is, we see Him ascend to the right hand of the father and certainly that was a glorious day. However, the modern church is wise to tie this Psalm not only to the ascension, but the beginning of the New Covenant in Christ. As we enter into Advent each winter we are reminded of both his first coming and his coming at the end of times and in this. Each moment in time is marked with His glory. For at Christ’s birth we know that all of the heavens sang out with joy and likewise on that great last day, when all is made right, when our hearts are finally made whole, and wholly submitted to the Lord, and what a glorious day that will be! Aren’t we therefor encouraged to lift up our hearts up with all of creation and sing praises to the Lord.
In verse 8 – we are told that the Lord is strong and mighty in battle. We see as we read about the Israelites that so often they would falter along, that they would think that THEY could win the battle and forget that it was the fact that the Lord who was with them who could win. The moment they forgot the Lord, the moment they looked to the ark of the covenant as a lucky talisman and not as a reminder to trust in the Lord with their whole heart, they would lose that battle.
Before we scoff at the Israelites, look at our own heart. Do you have a sin that you struggle with? I suspect most of us do, how do you approach it? Do you ignore it? Do you think, that with a little more will power you can overcome it? Or do you ask the Lord to come into battle with you? Do you come to the Lord on your knees when the temptation becomes strong? It is the last approach we want to adopt. We want to flee from those sins, but we want to flee by the grace of God and in the grace of God. We are called to trust in the Lord in all things, and he will not fail us as other things have failed us.
We reach the end of this Psalm with the amazing proclamation – “Who is this King of glory? Even the Lord of hosts, He is the king of glory.” We see these hosts in the prophetic literature of the Old Testament and again in the apocalyptic literature of the New. We are reminded that this Lord of Hosts is Christ our Lord and all of creation, the seen and the unseen sing praises to His name. We are reminded of all that we learned from this study, that he is righteous, just, steadfast in love, and faithful to His children. What a good word this is. So let us rejoice, let us be glad that the king of glory has come in, that He is coming again, and let us take sure hope in this promise.
As we finish this morning it is my hope and prayer that you have found a new friend in the psalms. For the Psalms have many good words of wisdom, they are a profound treasury of prayers, and songs of lament and joy. They remind us continuously that the king of Glory reigns on high and no matter how fiercely the world rages – His is sovereign. So let us rejoice, again I say – rejoice in the Lord always no matter what the winds of the world brings to your door step.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.