Tonight’s Psalm is a prayer against evil men. This makes it first of all a prayer against ourselves. The evil man has a tongue like a serpent, with venom under his lips. What else is this but the gossip we pass on, and how glad we are to speak of the bad qualities of others? The Large Catechism says,
People are called slanderers who are not content with knowing a thing, but go on to assume jurisdiction. When they know about a slight offense committed by another person, they carry it into every corner. They are delighted and tickled that they can stir up another’s displeasure, just as swine delight to roll themselves in the dirt and root in it with the snout. This is nothing other than meddling with God’s judgment and office and pronouncing sentence and punishment with the most severe verdict. For no judge can punish to a higher degree nor go farther than to say, “That person is a thief, a murderer, a traitor,” and so on. Therefore, whoever presumes to say the same things about his neighbor goes just as far as the emperor and all governments. For although you do not wield the sword, you use your poisonous tongue to shame and hurt your neighbor [Psalm 140:3].
What then can we do, but cry out, “Deliver me, O LORD, from myself”? We confess with Isaiah, “I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.”
For this reason the Word of God assumed our human nature into His person. As false accusations flew through the air at Him, Jesus responded with words of forgiveness. Yet the arrogant hid a trap for Him; with cords they spread a net; beside the way they set snares for Him.
Many times He escaped their snares, but finally He allows Himself to be trapped. He allowed Himself to be bound, to receive false accusations, to be convicted by an unjust judge.
In doing this, Jesus placed Himself entirely in the hands of the Father. Jesus was confident that the Father would judge rightly. He was confident that He would be vindicated.
This is likewise how the Psalm teaches us to live. We are surrounded by those “who plan evil things in their heart.” But the way of Jesus is shown in this Psalm. We do not plot against them in return, but entrust ourselves to Him who judges justly.
So the Psalm imagines victory over the evil men, but a victory entirely wrought by God. “Let burning coals fall upon them! Let them be cast into fire, into miry pits, no more to rise! Let not the slanderer be established in the land; let evil hunt down the violent man speedily!”
Even when battle comes, God Himself clothes the warrior: “You have covered my head in the day of battle.” Therefore in all our troubles, we stand still and wait for the Lord to act. And though He slay us, yet we know that our God raises the dead.
Going to sleep, then, we have nothing else to say but, “Into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul and all things; for I know that You maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy.” +INJ+
Preached at Immanuel Ev.-Lutheran Church, Alexandria, VA on June 13, 2018