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Psalm 43


 

Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me! For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.(ESV)

Being Right and Counting Right 

Friedrich Wyneken, Pastor and Missionary

4 May 2015

If you have small children in your home, try this: Bake fresh, moist chocolate chip cookies, preferably using the legendary Neiman-Marcus recipe. After they cool ceremoniously place them in a cookie jar on the kitchen counter. Then take the children who are probably by now hovering nearby drooling and explain to them that the cookies are not for them, not at any rate, until dinner time. Forbid them to touch the cookie jar, and place them under whatever sanctions seem appropriate to them and you. Place a video camera trained on the cookie jar and wait to see what will happen. I absolutely guarantee that the children will try everything and attempt every ruse to get their hands in that jar. If you had made the cookies when the children were not present and then put them in the cookie jar and not told them about the cookies, and certainly had not forbidden them to touch the jar, they would not likely have sought to get their hands in it. Driven by the prohibition, they are quite certain that what is in the jar is very desirable for them.

 

There is nothing wrong either with the prohibition nor the sanction in themselves. The greedy human heart goes wrong, because we have not the power to obey the law's prohibitions, but instead, righteous and holy though they are, they inflame our desire by the prohibition itself. "Don't touch that cookie jar!" The law then points out our sin, spiritual weakness, lack of a good will, and downright wickedness, that the thing which ought to direct our steps becomes the very cause of wickednesses. The law is good. We are not. What a mess we make of things, that God's own instrument for righteousness becomes the incitement to sin. What grief this should cause us! What a huge offense it is! What anguish we should experience because we have so perverted, in our abuse, this good gift and blessing of the law. When we sin against the law we are offending against it as a gift of God and against its author. Oh, let us repent for our ongoing offense. Let us cry to our Father that He would open His arms and embrace even us, who have so mistreated His law!

 

The enormity of the offense gives some small measurement of the generous opulence of the remedy. God has superseded the law, by putting it to death in Christ, though it is His own creation. See how He loves us! He takes His own creature and sacrifices it through the death of His own precious Son, to our desperate need. Though the law is good and holy, it is killing us. Rather than see the death of a sinner, God has seen to it that the law is done to death in Christ. How gracious He is toward poor sinners. How easily God could have stood on His rights as the holy lawgiver: "Why would I kill the law? It is mine. It is good and right. Let the humans deal with it; it is after all their problem." And He would have been right. But God is not interested in being right, but rather He is interested in counting us right for the sake of Christ, His beloved Son, who was crucified for us.

 

John Chrysostom

 

"'But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me every lustful desire' (Rm 7:8). Do you see how he has cleared the law of all blame? For sin and not the law, increased sinful desire, and the opposite of the law's intent was accomplished. This came of weakness, and not of any badness. For when we desire a thing, and then are hindered from it, the flame of the desire is only increased. Now this came not of the law; for it attempted to keep us off from it. But sin, that is, your own listlessness and bad disposition, used what was good for the reverse. This is not the fault of the physician, but of the patient who applies the medicine wrongly. For the law was given, not to inflame sinful desire, but to extinguish it, though the reverse came of it. Yet the blame attaches not to the law, but to us. If a person had a fever, and wanted to gulp cold water when it was not good for him, and one were not to let him take his fill of it, and so increase his lust after this ruinous desire, one could not rightly be blamed. The physician's business is simply prohibiting it, but the restraint is the patient's.

 

"What if sin did take occasion from it? There are many evil men who by good precepts grow in their own wickedness. This was the way in which the devil ruined Judas, by plunging him into greed, and making him steal what belonged to the poor. However, it was not the being entrusted with the bag that caused this, but the wickedness of his own spirit. Eve, by bringing Adam to eat from the tree, threw him out of Paradise. The tree was not the cause, even if it was through it that the occasion took place.

 

"If Paul treats the discussion about the law with some vehemence, do not be surprised....The wicked often undergo greater punishment from good things. However, we shall not accuse the blessings of God, but rather admire them all the more. We shall throw the blame on the spirit of those who abuse the blessings to contrary purpose. Let this then be our view with regard to the law also....

 

"It will be said, 'what is the good of the law, if it adds to the disorder?' None, but much mischief even. Yet the charge is not against the law, but the listlessness of those who received it. For sin wrought it, though by the law. But this was not the purpose of the law, no, the very opposite. Sin then became stronger, he says, and violent. But this again is no charge against the law but against their obstinacy. 'Apart from the law, sin lies dead' (Rm 7:8), that is, not so easily recognized. For even those before the law knew that they had sinned, but they came to a more exact knowledge of it after the giving of the law. And for this reason they were liable to a greater accusation. It was not the same thing to have nature to accuse them, and then besides nature the law, which told them distinctly every charge against them."
 
John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 12
 
Prayer

Lord Jesus, You have restored us to life by Your death under the burden of the holy law. Show us our sin by it, but keep us from being captivated by the law; mesmerized by its power to demand righteously from us. Free us by the blood of Your death for us. Send Your Spirit to us that we might trust You alone for our rightness. Amen.

 

For Sandra Stohlhandske, who is recovering from a stroke, that the Lord would grant her full healing or the strength to accept her affliction

 

For KFUO, the radio outreach of the LCMS, that those who listen to its programs would be drawn to the cross of Christ

 

For the international theological conference in Wittenberg, Germany, that those who attend would be built up in the holy faith of the church

Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Resurrection (1515)

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