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The Last of the Penitential

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice
The Truth Network Radio
October 11, 2020 8:00 am

The Last of the Penitential

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice

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October 11, 2020 8:00 am

Nothing we do is ever entirely apart from sin, Martin Luther once said. Even my repentance needs to be repented of. So, hows a Christian to cope?Listen as Dr James Boice lays out our unrighteousness and its remedy, from Psalm 143.


The entire life of a Christian should be marked by repentance, but our hearts often deceive us into believing we are somehow righteous in ourselves. It's at times like these, we need to hear God's judgment on our perceived virtue and be set straight and welcome to the Bible study our radio and Internet broadcast with Dr. James Boyce preparing you to think and act biblically. Nothing we do as believers is ever entirely apart from sin, that being the case, we shouldn't see repentance as merely a single act. We should instead see repentance as an ongoing need in our lives. Let's join Dr. Boyce as he examines Psalm 143 in the heart and mind of David as he confessed his helpless state and sought God's aid and mercy.

Psalm 143 is the last of the Psalms on the Psalter that have been identified as penitential in the liturgical tradition of the church. Others were Psalms 632 3851, 102 and 130 Psalm is mostly about David's enemies on the problems that he finds himself in this particular point and his request for deliverance from these animations where the Psalm ends and got I say I don't think that it's wrong regardless as penitential solvent for a number of reasons.

First, although these opening verses are in the form of a general confession of sin rather than a personal one. David does not say here, I have sinned, and they don't mention what he did or not explicit.

Nevertheless, they do On the chief problem for anyone who really is seeking mercy from God. And that is that God is righteous and where not. Moreover, God is the judge of all universe and as a righteous judge of the universe. Yes to do what's right. And since we are sinners, it means that he has to judge sin question. The question of all human existence. They the great question of creation itself is, how can sinners come into a right relationship with God or departed from the other side. How can God forgive people who are unrighteous all you can understand how we might say I don't care. You know, forget it all right. But God is responsible for justice.

How can he forgive sinners and be just at the same time, the answer of course is through the work of Jesus Christ is exactly the problem Paul raises in the third chapter of Romans when he says, how can God be both just and the justifier of the ungodly and it's that he justifies the ungodly, who believe in Jesus Christ so he punishes their sin and Jesus. And then I think this is a penitential Psalm for another reason is because it gives instruction, the flow of thought has a way of telling us the areas in which we should be penitential or should ask for forgiveness. It's true that we begin by asking God for mercy which is what the first two verses of the Psalm do. But that's not the whole of Christianity. It's true we need forgiveness for our sins.

We need to trust Jesus Christ as our Savior, but at that point we need to go on, and so David does what you find in the continuation of the Psalm is that he first describes his dangerous condition is in trouble. Secondly, he reminds himself of God's past work. 36 God's guidance so that he might know what he should do and last of all he asked for God's persevering race so he might continue to live and serve him as a way of saying repentance should characterize our entire relationship with God throughout our entire lifetimes. Now what I want to suggest is that this understanding of repentance is something that affects all of life needs to be recovered in the evangelical church today because what is happened in the evangelical church today in the Western world, particularly in America is that we have become in many ways, very much like the church of the Middle Ages before the Reformation which is a way of saying we need a new Reformation. I'm explain it this way in April of last year. The alliance of confessing Evangelicals held a meeting for evangelical leaders in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and out of that came the Cambridge declaration. One of the papers that was presented at this conference was by Sinclair Ferguson, professor at Westminster seminary often worship with us will be here in Philadelphia and it was on repentance. Ferguson discussed the errors of the Middle Ages, against which Luther was reacting and he argued that at least five features of that old meeting evil Christianity are noticeable today in contemporary evangelicalism. We just review them first of all, repentance has been increasingly seen as a single act severed from a lifelong restoration of godliness. Number two.

The Canon or the rule for Christian living has increasingly been sought in the spirit inspired living voice within the church rather than in the spirits voice heard in Scripture. Thirdly, the divine presence was brought to the church by individuals with sacred powers deposited within them and communicated by physical means. Number four the worship of God is increasingly presented as a spectator event of visual and sensory power rather than a verbal event in which are engaged in a deep soul dialogue with the triune God, and finally number five success of ministry as measured by crowds and cathedrals rather than by the preaching of the cross by the quality of Christians lives and by faithfulness.

Now if we put these insights into the need for repentance and we needed in each of those areas into our reflection on Psalm 143. What we need to say is that repentance needs to be present in every single one of the items it's mentioned in the song list of them earlier. David's dangerous condition is the repent of that because it's a sin that got them into the trouble is remembrance of God's past works which he remembers inadequately as we ourselves also remember inadequately his plea to God for guidance and his desire for God's persevering grace to live and serve him.

Patents has to be part of each one of those matters because nothing we do as Christians is ever entirely part from sin. Martin Luther said one occasion, I think wisely and not at all. Facetiously I have learned that even my repentance needs to be repented of. Now let's look at the Psalm of that in mind. First of all verses one and two first stanza cry for mercy. Verse one asked for mercy. Verse two explains why and is because the writer like all men and women is unrighteous descends constantly now as I said, or at least alluded earlier some commentators regard this is a weak confession because it's neither personal or specific. David does not say I have Cindy does that of other Psalms.

Or does he say this is what I've done some of the other Psalms do that's true enough. But the Psalm is profound in other ways. One thing that acknowledges the universality of sin.

This is what Romans 320 says no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law rather than the law we become conscious of said or again, Paula certainly knew the Psalms and was drawing on them wrote in Galatians 2nd chapter verse 16 by the law no one will be justified. There's unrighteous know that when I left no small matter. Reason is not a small matter is it is very difficult for us to come to that persuasion, we may say X were taught at this part of the credo. Yes, we are all sinners, but we don't actually believe in what we really think is that we're righteous. So we have to hear God's judgment on our righteousness to be straightened out.

God said through Isaiah in the 64th chapter verse six. All our righteous acts on our bad acts are righteous acts of things that we think we are at and most deserve commendation from God on our righteous acts are like filthy rags, so if are going to be saved by God it can be on the basis of our righteousness has to be on the basis of our righteousness, not our own. Martin Luther called an alien righteousness, a righteousness from outside of us, it has to be on the basis of the righteousness of Jesus Christ just looking at those verses.

Again, there's this great insight. David is appealing for mercy on the basis of God's faithfulness and righteousness. Do you see that faithfulness and righteousness. We think, how can that be how can David appeal for mercy on the basis of God's righteousness, because the problem is that he's not righteous and that God is righteous, God has to judge him for his sin and punish him. How can God be merciful. Will the answer is found in the word faithful because a word faithful throws his back on the promises of God. God is faithful to his promises. What God's promise to do is send the Savior there from the very beginning of the Bible first mention of the third chapter of Genesis, but all the way through the Old Testament is what Jesus Christ expounded to the Emmaus disciples doing it from the entire Old Testament God has promised to send the Savior, and so on the basis of his faithfulness to his promises.

David appeal for mercy and say what about righteousness.

Righteousness comes to us because of Jesus Christ. In other words, is because of God's faithfulness that he satisfies his righteous demands in the death of the Savior on our behalf. Paul writes about in first Corinthians 521 God made him that is Jesus, who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

I asked the question did David understand all that when he wrote verse one and here's one of those places that I have to say I don't know.

I don't know how much David understood that what I do know is that what he wrote is exactly what the apostle John later wrote in his first letter when he said if we confess our sins he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness, faithful and just and first-run 19 is exactly the same thing as faithfulness and righteousness. In Psalm 143 so both of these verses strong verse in the Old Testament and the strong verse in the New Testament teach us that we are saved righteously only on the basis of the death of Jesus Christ and stanza to verses three and four unfold the circumstances in which David is asking God for mercy and should be familiar to us now because we could hardly read a Psalm of David's anywhere in the Psalter in which he doesn't mention enemies.

He's always beset by enemies.

In this case it seemed to be a single enemy who pursues them, crushes them to the ground, makes them dwell in darkness, like those long dead since this follows immediately upon David's confession of sin and his prayer in verse two. Do not bring your servant into judgment. It must be a recognition that the problems he is facing in describing are due, in part, at least in this case to God's judgment on them for a sin so these repenting of them.

I would David acknowledges in verse four, is that his enemy has succeeded to the extent that he is been crushed by his relentless opposition. My spirit rose think within me. My heart within me is dismayed in the third stanza. David puts himself under an important spiritual discipline. We just remember God's acts on his behalf and on behalf of other people in former days uses three verse to describe what he does.

I remember I meditates and I consider others versus a very short capitulation of what we find drawn out at great length, and other Psalms entire set of Psalms in the Psalter in which the author rehearses at length.

God's mighty deeds.

Some involve his deeds in creation only made the heavens and the earth and displayed his wonders in the world. We know they had to do with God's mighty works in delivering the people from Egypt and giving them a lawn sign.

I am bringing them into their promised land. David doesn't spell out a great length here as we have it in Psalm 136 or 104105 and others, but he is saying the same thing you say first of all he remembers how God had been with him previously and he meditates on that deliverance and he considers or reasons for my past experience of the present call this an important spiritual discipline is one that we need to recover. We need to begin to think in a biblical way and it goes like this, God is help me in the past. He saved me through Jesus Christ.

I have many experiences of his grace God is always the same. He doesn't change his feelings toward me. Don't violate their part of God's help me in the past.

He certainly will help me in the present so as he reflects on these things, he finds that his faith is strengthened as verse six.

I spread out my hands to you my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. That's like the beginning of Psalms 42, 63, the second of which is also by David and it's an important sentence because it says the David here as he praises not only concerned about what God can do for family doesn't common prayer just to get something from God, but does do things for him and he does get things from God, but rather what it says is that he's thirsting for God himself, which is far better. My soul thirsts for you like a parched land and the question is do you thirst for God himself not just generally the case.

This too is something that needs to be repented of the next section. Stanza four. David turns to God in direct appeal and what is asking for here, chiefly as God sees in trouble. He does know what to do and so he says what should I do this is the progression I see first of all, bring me word of your unfailing love, David needs Revelation. Secondly, show me the way I should go. David needs direction. Third, teach me to do your will. David needs motivation. In other words, it's not enough merely to know God's will. What David knows is that he also has to have the motivation to do what he needs to do it.

Most of us will pray in asked for God's will that sort of a common question among Christians. Oh God, I want you to show me what job I should take who I should marry, where I should go how I should handle this particular problem. We pray that way. We pray that prayer of verse eight show me the way I should go. We don't very often pray the prayer of verse 10. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God, so that's another area in which we need to repent. That is our sandlot cluster following after the all mighty. We want God to give us pointers and we want to retain the right to decide whether were going to take God's advice or not. We don't ask God for the ability actually to do what God commands and then we come to the end. The last verses where David asked God to silence or destroy his enemies.

This sounds like another one of those imprecatory passages in the Psalms that are troubling to so many people that I've talked about before, but it isn't quite that because there's actually an order here notice these important matters in order of importance. Number one preserve my life. Number two bring me out of trouble. Number three silence my enemies and then if that isn't enough if something more is required in order that I might be preserved and kept alive to serve. You will then destroy all my photos. The arguments he gives here all had to do with God. This is how he's arguing to get God to be favorable. First, do it for your namesake that is for Your Honor, not mine on earth God's promise to keep his people and defend them therefore preserve my life in order that everybody may know that you are the great God, you really are always on strong ground. We can argue for God's honor rather than our own. Number two in your righteousness. This means justly and in accord with their very nature God is utterly righteous.

Therefore, in order that rights might prevail and evil might be judged. Deliver me and over turn the malice of my photos are always on solid ground when we can ask for God's righteousness to be exalted in praise and then finally in your unfailing love, because in the final analysis, our hope is in the love of God, all the flows to loss by way of his mercies comes because he sets his love upon us, and then in the very last line is he did at the beginning. David refers to himself as God's servant. I am your servant.

What an honor that is to be a servant of the most high God and responsibility to because a servant of the most high God needs to serve faithfully knowing that even when he does his best.

We are at best. As Jesus said, unworthy servants. So here the very end of the Psalm we find David repenting now at the beginning of this study I mentioned the first of Martin Luther's 95 theses send I use that as a unifying note, let me wrap this all up by going back to Luther among Luther's many sermons on the Psalms are extensive sermons on the penitential Psalms and of course there is a good and along London Psalm 143 I read it in preparation for my own study and I was somewhat surprised startled to find, as Luther worked his way through the Psalm that in every case, no matter what he referred to the always sought is speaking of God's grace, which is revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

For example, verse three, the enemy persecutes my soul. Luther says that the wicked always persecute the playas who live only in the faith and righteousness of God again verse five.

I remember the days of old. Luther saw this is teaching that God has never sustained anyone through his own works, abilities, knowledge, or piety, but only through the gospel again. Verse 11 for my namesake. Oh Lord, preserve my life.

Luther wrote about this God's name is honored when men declare that he gives life and righteousness by grace without merit. As I read that it seemed to me that however right. His theology was. Luther was really reading that in the song didn't actually say that I was about ready to put the book down and think it would be very helpful to me when I came upon these final comments is what Luther wrote. Now someone might say to me. Can't you ever do anything but speak only about the righteousness, wisdom and strength of God rather than a plan, always expounding Scripture from the standpoint of God's righteousness and grace always harping on the same old string always singing the same old song caught my attention because that's what I have been thinking and then Luther went on to this, I answer, said Luther. Let each one look to himself. But as for me, I confess, whenever I found less of the Scriptures than Christ. I was never satisfied, but whenever I found more than Christ.

I never became poorer. Therefore it seems to me to be true God the Holy Spirit does not know and does not want to know anything besides Jesus Christ for Christ is God's grace, mercy, righteousness, truth, wisdom, power, comfort and salvation given to us by God without any merit on our part that in the very final sentence is great reformer talked about our sins and the need to weep over them and then with humble law to long earnestly for grace and mercy.

Well, it may not be strict exposition but it is the gospel is what Luther was talking about Psalms talking about when we're taught that the life the entire life of a Christian man or women should be marked by listening to the Bible study hours featuring the teaching of Dr. James Boyce during those times in our lives, we feel the most threatened. There were four essentials we can cling to that we will never be without find out more about them through a free CD entitled God my shepherd by Dr. Boyce listen as our teacher explains these essentials from Psalm 23 is free CD offers our way of saying thanks call us at 1-800-488-1888 will be honored to send you a copy of God. My shepherd again. Our number is 1-800-488-1888 Dr. Boyce's messages continue going out of the airwaves and Internet long after his home going in the year 2000.

How teachers insights are just as relevant today as they were when he first delivered them because they grounded solely in the unchanging word of God you can help us keep this ministry available with your prayers and generous financial support. Contact us to make a tax-deductible donation online at the Bible study our data work, you can phone us at 1-800-488-1888, and our postal address is 600 Eden Rd., Lancaster, PA 17601 the message you just heard as well as other content from Dr. Boyce and many reformed teachers, authors and speakers is that's reformed hi Mark Daniels, I'm glad you listened them. Psalm 144 is a Psalm of victory in deliverance, a deliverance that is yet to come. It's a highly personal prayer of David that examines his weakness and God's greatness.

Tune in next time. Is Dr. James Boyce examines David's prayer of complete confidence in his God and the nature of true religion. That's next time one Bible study hours preparing you to think and act biblically all

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