The Willing Obedience of Christ and His Christians. Advent Midweek 1, 2015
Advent Midweek 1
St. Peter Lutheran Church
December 2, 2015
“The Willing Obedience of Christ and His Christians”
(adapted from G. Stoeckhardt’s Adventpredigten, 10th Sermon)
I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told. In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O Lord. I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation. As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me! For evils have encompassed me beyond number; my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me. Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me! O Lord, make haste to help me! Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether who seek to snatch away my life; let those be turned back and brought to dishonor who delight in my hurt! Let those be appalled because of their shame who say to me, “Aha! Aha!” But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the Lord!” As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!
Then I said, behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.
These words are at the center of this Psalm. But who is talking here? Is it David? No, the patriarchs did not write about David in the scroll of the book; they didn’t wait and hope for David. David isn’t the Messiah of Israel. These are the words of the Son of David, who speaks through David’s mouth. He is the One the Scriptures promise. The epistle to the Hebrews explicitly puts these words of the Psalmist in the mouth of Jesus Christ. In the tenth chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, which we just heard, it says: “When Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burn offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’” (10:5-7) These words refer to the arrival of Jesus Christ in the world, His advent. But the whole Psalm deals with Christ.
It’s hard to grasp that, because so much of the psalm sounds very human, as if a sinful human being is crying and begging God for help. He says in verse 18: I am poor and needy. But the Son of God, who came into the world, has become true man and has made all the poverty and needs and distresses of us poor children of Adam to be His poverty and need, His distress. We cannot draw Christ down deeply enough into the flesh; He fully shares in all that is ours, all our woes and suffering.
Even more, it sounds like in this psalm a sinner and transgressor is talking to God. “My iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head.” V. 13 How could those words be in Jesus’ mouth when He had no iniquity? Because Jesus has truly taken on Himself humanity’s sins; He has reckoned them to Himself, as if they were all His.
“Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do your will, O My God; your law is within my heart.” (v. 7-8) These words are the heart of this psalm. Christ, David’s Son, is showing in these words His willingness to carry out the will of God, God’s mission and desire, in the world. This willing obedience of Jesus is what gives Jesus’ office and work its great value.
But the Psalmist also speaks of the congregation of God in this psalm, those who “see and fear and put their trust in the Lord,” those who “love His salvation and say continually, ‘Great is the Lord!’” Jesus the King stands these people who receive Him and serve Him next to Himself. And He is the one who rouses His people to willing service and obedience.
So we now consider
The willing service and obedience of Christ and His Christians.
This was Christ’s will, desire, and joy—to do the will of God and to serve us men.
He gives Christians willingness and joyfulness to serve and obey Him.
“Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” (v.8-9) Those are the words the Son of David spoke when He came into the world. He was in the beginning with God; He came into this world from heaven, from God, eagerly desiring to do the will of the Father.
And He says, “In the scroll of the book it is written of me.” The holy men of God, moved by the Holy Spirit, from the beginning wrote of Jesus and spoke of Him; they told of His coming in the Scriptures and prepared God’s people for His coming.
And Jesus longed for His humiliation. He longed to come and serve mankind, to redeem us. He said, “I delight to do your will, O my God.” It was the Father’s will that He should save the world, that He should take on Himself all our misery and wretchedness. But it was also the Son’s own will. He delighted to be born, to empty Himself, to bear our sins. He said: “Yes, Father, yes, most willingly/ I’ll do what you command Me./ My will conforms to Your decree. / I’ll do what You have asked me.” Or as another hymn says: “He comes, He comes, all-willing, moved by His love alone, all fear and anguish stilling, for all to Him are known.”
”I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart…In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given Me an open ear.” Jesus had an open ear that listened to God’s Word and accepted His will. He carried the Word and Law of God in His heart. He was obedient to God in everything and by His obedience He served us, making His obedience stand in for our disobedience. None of us have fulfilled God’s commandments. In fact, nothing is more disagreeable to human beings as they are by nature than to have to obey God’s commandments and Law. By nature we want to bring sacrifices and make up all kinds of other works for ourselves to please God. But none of this earns God’s approval. But now, behold, Christ has come, and He has gladly fulfilled from His heart the Law of God. He has satisfied the law for us by His obedience to it.
“Behold, I have come…I delight to do your will, O my God.” Jesus said this, that He delighted in God’s will, even when He was sunk into the depths of suffering. He remained obedient to the will of God even to death and the cross of shame. He was plunged into “the pit of destruction…the miry bog”—into shame, humiliation, and agony, the likes of which no human being has ever experienced. He cried out: “Evils have encompassed me beyond number” (v. 12). He was surrounded by a cruel army of torturers and mockers, who spit on Him, flogged Him with whips, tortured Him. Enemies sought “to snatch away his life.” (v. 15) Enemies rejoiced as He writhed in the agonies of death. They gleefully called out, “Aha, aha! Let God help Him now!” But the most painful suffering was that He felt the sting of sin. He called out to God, “My iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see, they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me.” Did you hear that? “My iniquities.” He calls the sins of the entire world—yours and mine—“My iniquities”. In His own person He was without sin. He never broke God’s law, whether by word or even by a thought in His heart. But now His heart failed Him, as though it was sinking in quicksand. Why? Because He was suffering the agony of our souls before God. He calls your sins, “My sins.” But even there, as the sins of the world lay heavy on Him, and He drank from the most bitter cup of God’s wrath, He was obedient to the Father and said, “Not my will, but Your will, be done.” He said, “I will gladly suffer it;” “I delight to do Your will, O My God.” And what was the Father’s will? That He should not only fulfill the Law for us, but that He should bear the punishment belonging to us. Willingly, with great patience, even with joy, Jesus gave Himself to be the burnt offering and the sin offering for the whole world. He came in order to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. In the midst of pains and agonies of death and hell, He did not murmur against God’s will. Nothing else came forth from His lips except prayer and thanksgiving.
Because He learned and practiced obedience in what He suffered, because He was obedient unto death on a cross, because He so willingly gave His life into death, Jesus’ sacrifice was sweet and acceptable to God. So God redeemed His life from the pit. He drew Him out of the pit of destruction, set His feet on a rock, and put a new song in His mouth. He raised Him from the dead.
Through this we are reconciled to God. God is propitiated; He is satisfied and pleased with us through the willing obedience of Christ, through His obedience in suffering. By that will, says the letter to the Hebrews—by the will of God that Jesus fulfilled, we are sanctified, redeemed, delivered. (Hebrews 10:10)
And what does Jesus do after He suffers and then is drawn up from the pit of destruction and set on a rock? The Psalmist sees Him sitting on the throne of His father David and ruling His kingdom. That is, He gives joy to His congregation with His Word. “You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us…I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.” “I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O Lord. I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and salvation…” (v. 9-10) What does Jesus do after His resurrection? He preaches, proclaims, and will not be silent. His desire and joy is to make known before the great congregation, the Church, the wonderful thoughts of God, the counsel that God has brought about through Him. Jesus preaches God’s righteousness in His suffering and death by which He justified us. He proclaims the salvation which we receive through Him. Through His Word and preaching Jesus testifies to Himself as the Lord and Savior of the world, to the salvation that He accomplished in His cross and resurrection. He proclaims that in His suffering God punished our sins and in His resurrection God raised us up and counted us not guilty. Through the preaching of His Word today Jesus still fulfills God’s will in giving us the righteousness that He accomplished on the cross. And through this He gathers a people of His own, who are willing and eager to serve and obey God.
Christians have the mind of Christ. We receive the Holy Spirit from Christ, who is a willing, joyful spirit. Christ the Son of David speaks in our psalm, “Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.” (v.4) In the Word Christ holds before our eyes what God has done in and through Him. And many see it; they hear these new great things which the Lord proclaims to them. They are amazed and glorify God, and believe in the Lord who has redeemed them. And this very Word, this Gospel of God’s grace, love, and faithfulness, is the thing that changes the heart, that wins over the rebellious, that converts the sinner and causes him to improve his sinful life. When a sinner truly realizes what the Lord has done and suffered for him, how He willingly gave Himself up for us, this melts our hard hearts and we begin to love the Lord who loved us unto death. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. In this way Christ gathers through His Word a “great congregation,” a people for Himself, which is devoted to Him, which obeys His Word from the heart, which serves God with joy, which carries God’s law in the heart and is eager for all good works.
And Christians, who belong to Christ, remain in faithfulness and obedience to their King even in suffering. The psalmist says, “Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!”(v. 4)
It is true that those who serve Christ the king have a difficult time in this world. The proud, the liars, those who mock and hate this gracious King, also go after the souls of Christians. If Christians ever stumble and falter in their obedience to God, the world cries out in malicious joy, “Aha! Aha!” And besides this there are evils without number to which only Christians are exposed. It is precisely those who are Christians who will often be seized and frightened by their sins. The evil one plunges them into the pit, into the miry bog of fear and temptation, telling them, “How can you be a Christian when you are such a sinner?”
But blessed is the man “who makes the Lord his trust” even in such times of affliction, who trusts in the Son of David who suffered for our sake and has overcome all fear and agony in His resurrection. Blessed are those who willingly endure all humiliations, submit their will to God’s will, and even under the hardest beatings say, “Great is the Lord” (v. 17). Blessed are those who cry and pray out of the depths with a childlike spirit: “I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me…Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me! O Lord, make haste to help me!” “O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me!” Blessed are those who in this way suffer, sigh, call, and pray with Christ. In the end they will be able to glory with Him: “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.” Those who suffer with Christ will be delivered with Christ and by Christ. Those who suffer with Christ will be raised from the dead in victory with Christ. Christ, their Savior and King, upholds our courage and faith during the anguish of our hearts. And in His time He will also raise us up and refresh us.
Those who are Christ’s own say, in joy and pain, throughout their lives, “Great is the Lord!” Christ Himself puts His new song in our mouths. Through His Gospel He fills our hearts with joy, delight, pleasure, and love. So we sing to the Son of David a joyful “Hosanna” throughout our whole life. And one day, when He comes again and redeems us from every evil, we will sing His praise in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.
Soli Deo Gloria