Saturday, November 22, 2008

November 23, 2008 Last Sunday A Psalm 9

I will thank Yahweh, in all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will praise Your Name, Highest One. In the turning of my enemies backward; they stumble and perish from Your face. For You establish my justice and my cause; You sit on a throne, judging righteously. You rebuked nations and destroyed wicked ones; their name You blotted out forever and ever. The enemy has come to an end of lasting devastation; and their cities you uprooted, their memory you lost. And Yahweh, forever He sits; He establishes for judgment, His throne. And He, Himself will judge the world in righteousness; He will bring justice to the peoples in uprightness. And will be, Yahweh, a high fortress for the oppressed; a stronghold in times of trouble. And they will trust in You, those knowing Your Name; for You have not forsaken those who seek You. Sing praise to Yahweh Who sits in Zion; declare to the peoples His actions. For He Who demands blood, those ones, He remembers; He doesn't forget the cry of the afflicted. Be gracious to me, Yahweh, see my affliction from those who hate me; You lift me up from the gates of death. So that I may account all Your praises; in the gates of the daughter of Zion, let me rejoice in Your salvation. Sunk, are the nations, in the pit they made; in the net they hid, their own foot has been caught. Causing Himself to be known, Yahweh established judgment; in the work of his hands is ensnared the wicked one. (Playing a zither...exalt!) Will return, the wicked, to Sheol; all the nations who forget God. For not always forgotten will the needy be; nor the hope of the afflicted perish forever. Rise up, Yahweh, do not let prevail, man; Let the nations be judged before Your face. Impose, Yahweh, fear in them; let the nations know they are but men. Exalt!

In today's Gospel, Jesus pictures you as a sheep. Now sheep are known
for being kind of *dumb*, and in our Lord's description today, we don't
disappoint. Although perhaps not stupid sheep, we are portrayed as quite
ignorant. For you, this ignorance is bliss, for it is the ignorance that
makes you a wise sheep, even though you remain ignorant of most of the
good works given you to do. "When did we do these things for you?" we
ask in our ignorance. It is in the mundane service of daily vocations.

The picture for the goats may look the same on the surface, but it is
completely different. They too have their works which appear good. Some
claim to have taught in the streets for Jesus, to have fellowshipped with
Him, to have prophesied in His Name, even to have cast out demons and
performed miracles for Jesus. But those goats who are keenly aware of
what they have tried to do for their Lord, and are counting on such
works to merit Jesus' favor, will be sorely disappointed.

What is the difference between being judged as sheep vs goats? The
psalmist today nails it. In wisdom David notes how it is God's work
alone which saves. God must establish justice for the final judgment.
His is the only pure righteousness which brings us justice. David
recounts not his own works, but those of God His Savior. He recognizes
that God alone lifts us out of the death we deserve because of sin.
David rejoices in the salvation that comes only from God's Own work.

But the wicked are fools, just like goats. Goats are so focused on what
they do that they will consume your shirt off your back without
hesitation. Like goats, wicked people are self-confident. The are sure
that they can contribute, at least in part, to their own salvation. The
wish to make themselves co-Saviors with Jesus, if they could. But they
cannot. As men, they try to prevail of their own efforts. David prays
that God will not let this happen, but instead judge these men's actions
as failures.

The wicked dig a trap for themselves without realizing it. They have
good intentions, wanting to do stuff which they think is God-pleasing.
But they act from the Law, which ensnares them, since they can never do
enough, or perform with sufficient perfection to merit any favor from
God. The more they try, the more guilty they become, since their
so-called righteousnesses are but filthy rags. There works are more than
corrupted. They collect the monthly blood.of death of a child that never

Be forewarned not to fall into this same trap yourselves. Stop *trying*
so hard, thinking that your efforts can make God love you more. He
already loves you completely in Christ Jesus, for the blood of the Son
which God demanded has already been shed for you at Calvary's cross. His
grace there is sufficient. It is the one thing needful for your
salvation, which comes to you from His word proclaimed, and put into
action with water in baptism and with bread & wine in the Lord's Supper
to forgive you.

Don't fear as Jesus returns soon for that final judgment on the last
day. He will indeed judge you on works, but not on the ones you strive
to do for Him. He judges you as dumb sheep, mostly ignorant of the good
works He prepared in advance for you to walk in via your daily
vocations. Simply be glad & rejoice in the righteousness of Jesus
already given you, & in the right things He does through you.

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