Monday, May 14, 2012
The Jesus Song-Book: The Rising Warrior
Preached on Sunday, May 13, 2012.
Scripture readings: Psalm 3:1-8; John 10:11-18
It is said that there are two kinds of people in the world. There are those who wake up in the morning and say, “Good morning, Lord!” Then there are those who wake up and say, “Good Lord it’s morning!”
Psalm Three was written by one of those who could go to bed at night thinking, “O Lord, how many are my foes!” and wake up saying, “Good morning, Lord!” It doesn’t seem possible. It doesn’t even seem normal. According to this Psalm, it is the gift of God, to wake up well rested and well prepared in the morning, when life in this world seems to have you surrounded, and out numbered, and out gunned.
We are listening to God speak to us through this Psalm on Mother’s Day and, in a way, we shouldn’t. This Psalm is a warrior Psalm and we don’t usually think of mother’s as warriors, but they are.
Mother’s are mama-bears or she-tigers. Their children and their husbands know this. This Psalm applies to them and to any warrior, and all the people of God are warriors.
Even Jesus was a warrior. Jesus could be really scary; invading the
Temple in Jerusalem
with his disciples, making whips out of cords, attacking the merchants, whose
businesses were based in the
to supply animals for sacrifice and the proper currency and coinage for
purchases and offerings, turning over their tables and counters, and driving
them out. (John 2:13-16; Mark 11:15-17) Temple
When Jesus and his disciples did this they were hopelessly outnumbered. Jesus succeeded because he could be scary. He was scary because he knew he was doing the right thing for people he loved. Jesus showed a passion for this.
He was claiming the people of
, and all
those who came from other lands to worship God, as his children. He shouted,
“Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all
nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of robbers’. (Mark 11:17) Israel
Papa-bears and he-tigers sometimes don’t show the same level of commitment that the mama-bears and she-tigers do to defend their young, and Jesus was completely committed. He held nothing back. And yet Jesus was someone whom children and their parents would never fear. (Mark 9:36-37; 10:13-16)
Jesus grew up singing this warrior Psalm until he knew it by heart. It shaped him, as all the Psalms did. It shaped Jesus’ own awareness of who he was, and what his mission was, and how he would accomplish it.
It was a song of the warrior King David. It sang about his fight to bring order to his kingdom when it was tearing itself apart. There was corruption, and deception, and hypocrisy, and bitterness tearing the kingdom apart, and David’s own family was at the heart of that. David knew this, and he hated it, and it devastated him.
David had actually played along with what he hated. He had made his own contribution to it. You can read about this in Second Samuel, chapters fourteen through nineteen.
It was David’s failure as a father that caused the crisis, and surrounded him with enemies. But although David had failed, he still trusted God to help him do his best to set things right.
Part of the song said “Many are saying of me, ‘God will not deliver him.’” David himself was aware that he had made too many mistakes and failed too many times to be “delivered”.
David knew that he should be beyond help and beyond redemption. The amazing miracle, the contradiction that seemed too good to believe, was the truth that, “From the Lord comes deliverance.” (Psalm 3:8) This is who God is.
When Jesus learned this song, as a boy, he knew where it came from. He knew that horrible and tragic story behind David’s battle. Jesus knew that David’s own life had laid him low and left him prostrate, belly and face in the dust, unable to stand in his guilt and blame, in the presence of the greatest king who is God himself.
“From the Lord comes deliverance.” God was David’s shield when David had no defenses left. God was David’s glory when David had nothing to show but his shame. When David felt too weak and unworthy to do more than lie down in the dirt, God lifted up his head.
This was something that a king did, when he was faced with a subject, or a servant, or a surrendered enemy, who came to him and groveled before him, face down, in the dust. A king (if he decided to do so), in mercy and grace, would put his fingers under the chin of the person on the ground and lift his head. It was the king’s permission for the person to rise, to get up, to stand, and to know he was accepted, and free, and that would receive an answer from the king that was better than anything he could ask for.
David found this grace from God. It gave him hope and, in spite of all his troubles and all his enemies, he could rest and wake up, prepared to meet the day.
Jesus learned this song as a child and grew up to claim the song for himself, as no one else could. Jesus saw that he had come into this world to have more enemies than anyone could count.
Every sin, and evil, and injustice in this world is his enemy. Every action of ours, and every motive of our heart that works at cross purposes to Jesus, is his enemy. We are his enemies, and Jesus faces us without fear.
Jesus was willing to have no defense or shield against us. He was willing to have no glory that we could see. He was willing to have no pride or weapon except for the nails in his hands and feet, and the thorns on his head. He was willing to have no shield or glory except for his death on the cross for our sin and for the sin of the world. He knew that, giving himself up to all of this, he would be able to lift up his head, and stand up for us as our king.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” “The reason my
Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to
take it up again.” (John 10:11, 17)
Jesus knew that, after carrying our sins on the cross, he could lie down in death and wake up again. He could go into the world of death that seems to swallow up everything that is dear to us, and finally to swallow us up as well. He could sleep that sleep and wake again because the Lord sustained him. (Psalm 3:5) Then he could offer us grace, and abundant life, and everlasting life.
This was how Jesus claimed this song as his own. David had written a song that was far better than he realized. It was a song that only Jesus could fully claim. Jesus claimed this song for himself so that he could give it to us; to shape our faith in him.
When I was child there were times when I would get the chance to see puppies. There is a stage where puppies, just like babies, don’t have any teeth. You can put your finger in their mouth and they will chew your finger. They will chew, and chew, and chew; but they can’t bite you. They can’t hurt you. My dad would say, “Watch out, that puppy will gum you to death!”
Psalm Three tells us of God breaking the teeth of the enemy, as if our enemies could bite us and tear us apart. Our enemies are our life’s hurts and injustices. Our enemies are our own sins, and failures, and foolishness.
These have teeth. The teeth do the worst damage, but God can break the teeth of our enemies. We are hurt, but we are not torn. We are crushed, but we can mend. We have consequences to pay, but this does not kill us. They bring us down, prone in the dust, but we can rise, and stand, and fight again.
In Jesus, God lifts us up. God breaks the teeth of our enemies because the humility and suffering of Jesus give us mercy, and strength, and healing.
Mothers and fathers have many enemies because they have children. They fear for their children. They pray for their children. They know their children will make mistakes. The parents are aware of their own mistakes, and pray that God will break the teeth of their own failures and regrets, for their children’s sakes.
They pray that the world will only gum their children, and leave them unhurt. But the world is old, and it has long teeth. They pray that the world’s teeth will be broken and that their children will rise again, and again; and that they will be strong, and brave; and that they will be able to rest and wake up prepared for the next day.
The power of Jesus who lay down in death and rose from the dead is our power to rise. Parents receive that power from Jesus in the fellowship of the cross. Parents often feel crucified for their children. And the parents who know Jesus pray for their children to have that power of Jesus in them.
Jesus came to make that warrior song come true for all of us. Jesus came to make us warriors who can rise again.