Thursday, November 6, 2014

Choking on the Psalm

“O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your anger,
Nor chasten me in Your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am pining away;
Heal me, O LORD, for my bones are dismayed.
And my soul is greatly dismayed;
But You, O LORD - how long?
Return, O LORD, rescue my soul;
Save me because of Your lovingkindness.
For there is no mention of You in death;
In Sheol who will give You thanks?
I am weary with my sighing;
Every night I make my bed swim,
I dissolve my couch with my tears.
My eye has wasted away with grief;
It has become old because of all my adversaries.
Depart from me, all you who do iniquity,
For the LORD has heard the voice of my weeping.
The LORD has heard my supplication,
The LORD receives my prayer.
All my enemies will be ashamed and greatly dismayed;
They shall turn back, they will suddenly be ashamed” (Psalm 6:1-10).

Me. My favorite topic. That’s how I consistently want to read the Scripture – through the interpretive framework of the most important person in the universe. Me, me, me. Then I get to verse 8a, where the Psalmist says, “depart from me, all you who do iniquity.” My first instinct is to think of all those workers of iniquity I’d like to banish from my presence. Nasty sinners. Mean people. Insensitive grumps. Ignorant Philistines. That’s the instinct. My self-centered, self-righteous, foolish, and sinful instinct. Because even as I try to pray this phrase as my own, I hear a much more authoritative Voice speaking these words...

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; [as it says in Psalm 6:8a] depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:15-23).

Oh. This isn’t my Psalm. It’s my Lord’s song and prayer. A Psalm of David, the prophet of the risen Lord Jesus (Acts 2:30,31). Now I have to go back and re-read the Psalm, hearing my Master and Savior pray it in the long dark nights between dealing patiently with the needy and slow-to-believe. I have to hear His voice as He is hounded by the religious proud in their schemes. As He is rejected. Condemned. Scorned. Shamed. As He receives the cup – my cup (the one place I can say “me” is in the deserved wrathful dregs) – from His Father. As the Father rejects Him because of my iniquity, my lawlessness.

It’s not my song. It’s His.

“Return, O LORD, rescue my soul;
Save me because of Your lovingkindness.
For there is no mention of You in death;
In Sheol who will give You thanks?” (6:4,5).

And because it’s the song of His perfect, sinless, beloved Son, the Father hears the prayer and there is a third day, a resurrection day, the Lord’s Day.

“In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety” (Hebrews 5:7).

He sang the song, and He was heard. Hallelujah, He was heard!

“For the LORD has heard the voice of My weeping.
The LORD has heard My supplication,
The LORD receives My prayer” (Psalm 6:8b,9).

In the midst of this is the command to “depart from Me, all you who do iniquity.” When the Lord quotes it to His disciples, He says, “you who practice lawlessness” (those whose religion is the twisting, perverting, ignoring, and breaking of God’s Law).

The Psalm teaches us that the resurrection is an announcement of judgment against the enemies of the risen Christ. He will give command that His angels remove the lawless from His Kingdom (Matthew 13:41), for He hates lawlessness (Hebrews 1:9, quoting Psalm 45:7).

Lest this “Lord’s Prayer” become a cause of deep grief, beloved...

...remember the blessing: “But to the one who does not work [for his salvation], but believes in Him Who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David [in Psalm 32:1,2] also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are those who lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.’ Is this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say [with Genesis 15:6], ‘faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness.’ How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised; and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him Who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, He Who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification” (Romans 4:5-12,23-25).

...remember the great purchase: “...our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus...gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:13,14).

...remember the covenant with every lifting of the cup (for the cup points to the blood of the covenant, Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25): “And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying [in Jeremiah 31:33,34], ‘“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days,” says the Lord: “I will put My laws upon their heart, and on their mind I will write them,” He then says, “And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin. Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He Who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:15-25).

Ah, the daily reading of the Psalms for this sinner: taking a big, deep breath to sing it out loudly from a self-centered heart, only to have the words get caught in my throat, choking on the Psalm, as I realize the Lord prayed them concerning me, the sinner, and then to realize that in the Father answering this petition from the Son through resurrection, I have life, too. It is beautiful beyond art and infinitely wiser than merely human words. It is gracious beyond what even the most perfect me I can imagine could ever deserve. It is the barest of tastes of how the days of eternity will be spent, for “in the ages to come He [will] show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7).

He is good, and His merciful covenant-love endures forever and ever and ever...

No comments: