Posted on July 15th, 2010
Sermon on Ps. 43 from last night’s Vespers service:
The opening verse of tonight’s psalm is used as the Introit for the Fifth Sunday in Lent, called Judica. That’s from the Latin translation, “Judica me, Deus,” “Judge me, O God.” How dare we say such words? We can only call upon God to judge us if we have confidence that we will be found righteous.
You probably noticed that this psalm is similar to last week’s, largely because it ends with a verse also found in Ps. 42: “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.”
The psalmist is asking for vindication, for judgment against those who have caused his deep sorrow, his depression. While we too have known and experienced sorrow and depression, we also know its cause: we are poor, miserable sinners. The real miracle is that we are not more depressed, more sorrowful! But our LORD Jesus has no cause within Himself for such sorrow. His suffering comes at the hands of others who perform injustice against Him.
Thus He alone can say, Judica me, Deus! Judge Me, O God! Vindicate Me! Only the LORD JESUS Christ has the right to ask for vindication before God the Father. He alone has the right, for He alone is righteous. When we pray the psalm, when we ask for vindication and a judgment in our favor, we must make that request in Christ.
We New Testament Christians make that request the same place it is made in this Old Testament psalm: at the altar. And we make it in a spirit of penitence.
The Service of Corporate Confession in our hymnal begins wisely with a verse from tonight’s psalm: “I will go to the altar of God: To God my exceeding joy.” As we approach the altar, particularly for the blessed Sacrament, we approach in the same spirit, and those words would be good to have on our own lips, as a reminder of what is taking place: “I will go to the altar of God: To God my exceeding joy.”
“I will go” because God is there. God is everywhere, of course. Yet He is not everywhere for us. The psalmist says, “Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling.” The Lord, who is everywhere, is found located in a particular location, a particular place to administer His grace. Thus we find the LORD, He is located, in the place where He has put His grace, that is, in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
The altar referenced in the psalm, of course, is the Old Testament altar of sacrifice. We cannot go to that altar. It no longer exists, for it has been done away with, along with the entire sacrificial system. Our Lord JESUS Christ is the final, all-availing sacrifice. By His blood the sin of the world is taken away.
But we go to a new and greater altar of God, God our exceeding joy. The altar of the New Testament church is not a place where we offer a sacrifice for propitiating God, but a place where we receive the sacrifice offered by Jesus.
We do offer sacrifices, though. The NT speaks about Christians offering the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Also the works of mercy we are to do for others are called sacrifices. This is what I remind you of each Sunday before the offering: “Through Christ let us offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving,” which is what? “The offering of lips confessing His name.” But there is more to our sacrificing: “But to do good and to distribute,” that is, distributing the possessions God has given us to those who need them, to do that “forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well-pleased.” Truly He is well-pleased with you, because He is well-pleased with His Son, who was vindicated in His glorious resurrection from the dead. In Him shall we too rise. Therefore hope and be utterly confident in God, for you shall praise Him in eternity, your salvation and your God.