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Remembering Psalm 69

Sermon passage: (John 2:13-22) Spoken on: January 7, 2018
More sermons from this speaker 更多该讲员的讲道: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee
For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: John

Tags: Messianic

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About Rev. Wong Siow Hwee: Rev. Wong is currently serving as a pastor in the children and young family ministries, as well as the LED and worship ministries.

Title: Remembering Psalm 69
Date: 7th Jan 2018
Preacher: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee

Reading: John 2:13-22

First, allow me to explain what is happening in Jesus’ story. During the annual Jewish festivals, such as the Passover, Jews who had been scattered throughout the Roman Empire would make the pilgrimage to the Jerusalem Temple to offer their sacrifices. But whether you travel by land or by sea, bringing animals along across long distances would be foolhardy. The selling of animals for sacrifices at the Temple offered these distant pilgrims a great convenience. Those who could afford it would buy cattle and sheep, the poor would buy doves. Why not just make a monetary offering directly? That would save the trouble of offering animal sacrifices. Well, you would face a different kind of problem. The Roman coins all contained the insignia of Roman deities or Emperors. How could you offer something like that to God? Therefore, the moneychangers were actually offering a service to change the unworthy coins into proper Jewish coins without graven images that were worthy of sacrifice to God. As you can imagine, when Jesus chased away the animals and overturned the moneychangers’ tables, what was the result? The entire Temple system collapsed until order could be restored to the market again. Jesus basically destroyed the Temple system and prevented the pilgrims from worshipping during those very crucial days of the festival. In today’s context, it would be like someone coming into the sanctuary and smashing the pulpit, the elements communion table and all the musical instruments. It would be hard to continue with worship as per normal. That was how serious Jesus’ actions were. It was one of the key reasons why the Jewish authorities wanted to kill Jesus.

So why did Jesus do it? In Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus accused them of turning a house of prayer into a house of thieves. The usual explanation is that these animal merchants and moneychangers must have been overcharging all the pilgrims who had no choice but to pay a heavy price in order to offer their sacrifices. But in John, the accusation was even simpler: Stop turning my Father’s house into a house of market! This means that even if there were no over-charging going on, Jesus would still have chased all the traders out of the Temple. But what is wrong with trading? Is there anything wrong with a marketplace? Actually no. There is nothing wrong with the act of buying and selling in itself. So for example, I’m perfectly fine if you need to buy or sell lunch in a church. There is nothing wrong with trading. But when Jesus emphasized in the Gospel of John that this is “my Father’s house”, he was highlighting the issue of ownership. The Temple is a house that belongs to God. In this house, it is God who decides on the worthiness of the worship and it is God alone who gives grace and truth. And when Jesus described it as being turned into a house of market, it was as if it now belonged to the traders. What does that mean? What happens when trading becomes part of the Temple worship system? It means that now you have to trade in order to worship. You have to trade in order to receive grace from God. It is as if you have to buy your way in in order to interact with God. In the end, it is as if grace and truth of God now becomes a trade between God and Man. You offer me that, then I give you this in return. You see the difference? It can be a subtle, but very critical difference. Worship to God is not a trade.

So this explains Jesus’ zeal to tear down the system, because the grace and truth of God is not a trade. God is full of grace and truth, and he is fully willing to offer his grace and truth to Man, and the proof is Jesus himself. Remember what we said on Christmas eve, in both the morning and night services: John 1: 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

So if you compare a house of trading where grace has to be bought from the traders, and a house that belongs to the Father whose grace comes fully through Jesus Christ, you can then understand Jesus’ actions at the Temple. Verse 17 tells us that Jesus’ zeal for God is so great, it “consumed” him. Consumed can mean that his passion was so powerful and overwelming, that he had to act them out. Consumed also has the double meaning of being burnt up and destroyed. In the end, because of his cleansing of the Temple, Jesus was killed by the Jewish authorities for his actions. Jesus had to suffer and be consumed by death, because of his zeal to make worship right.

Let’s take a moment to reflect on the situation. The cleansing of the Temple was a matter of great controversy. Jesus had basically destroyed the Temple system, the one and only way the Jews knew about worshipping God. Imagine someone doing the same today, destroying the pulpit and the Communion table and the instruments and saying that everything is wrong. How would you feel? The Jewish authorities were right to question his authority. In a way, I can appreciate why they were upset and why they wanted to make Jesus suffer, even to the point of death on the Cross. The apostles were Jews themselves. They must have pondered over this great controversy. Should they keep the Temple system as they had practiced in their entire lives so far? Or was Jesus right to destroy it? Jesus suffered and died for the cleansing of the Temple. Do his suffering and death mean that he was wrong? Or do his suffering and death actually mean that Jesus was right? This is the crux of the problem that the apostles had to resolve.

Today I wish to highlight a uniqueness in John’s account: the remembrance of Psalm 69. I believe Jesus’ disciples found their answer in Psalm 69. This occurred in verse 17 of today’s passage. After describing Jesus whipping the people and animals, driving out the merchants, scattering the coins and overturning the tables, John said: 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” This is a verse from Psalm 69:9. And then, as a conclusion to the entire episode, John re-emphasized: 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture (again referring to Psalm 69) and the words that Jesus had spoken. The words “remember” and “recall” inform us that the disciples had pondered over the Temple cleansing event in their minds, and slowly linked this significant event to Psalm 69.

What did they discover in Psalm 69? Let us now look at some verses of Psalm 69 and try to see why this Psalm is so relatable to Jesus.

Psalm 69: 1 Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
From here, we can see that the Psalmist, possibly King David, crying out to God for his troubles. What kind of troubles?

4 Those who hate me without reason
outnumber the hairs of my head;
many are my enemies without cause,
those who seek to destroy me.
7 For I endure scorn for your sake,
and shame covers my face.
8 I am a foreigner to my own family,
a stranger to my own mother’s children;
9 for zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.
10 When I weep and fast,
I must endure scorn;
11 when I put on sackcloth,
people make sport of me.
12 Those who sit at the gate mock me,
and I am the song of the drunkards.
These verses are the clues to the background story. David was suffering from mockery and scorn from his own kinsmen. Yet, he was maintaining his innocence for the troubles he was suffering. In fact, he claimed that he was facing these troubles for God’s sake. They arose out of what he did due to his zeal for God. Therefore, since what he did was for God, these insults and persecutions were unjustified.

16 Answer me, Lord, out of the goodness of your love;
in your great mercy turn to me.
17 Do not hide your face from your servant;
answer me quickly, for I am in trouble.
18 Come near and rescue me;
deliver me because of my foes.
21 They put gall in my food
and gave me vinegar for my thirst.
These verses tell us that despite his innocence, unfortunately God’s salvation had not yet arrived. It doesn’t mean that David did not have faith, he was still crying out to God. But there was also an admission of loneliness in his suffering. The gall and vinegar immediately connects us to the loneliness of Jesus on the Cross who was also offered vinegar for his thirst. But David wanted salvation to come from God.

22 May the table set before them become a snare;
may it become retribution and a trap.
23 May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see,
and their backs be bent forever.
25 May their place be deserted;
let there be no one to dwell in their tents.
Here, David prayed for God’s judgement upon the wicked for doing this wrongfully to him. Why? Because this story was about David’s wrongful suffering. And what was wronged because of God, must be made right by God himself. God must vindicate his innocence and punish the false accusers for their insults and mockery.

In Psalm 69, this was the story of David, under persecution from Saul, his own family. In his suffering, David cried out to God for help, and lamented about all the treachery he suffered wrongfully. In fact, his troubles arose precisely out of his choice to fulfil God's will. It was the kingship given to David from God that led to Saul’s persecution. Therefore, the enemies of David were the enemies of God himself. In that sense, the psalm becomes more than the typical distress call from life’s sufferings of pain and trouble. The issue is wrongful accusation because of God, and so the solution can only be divine vindication, nothing less. This psalm is an appeal to God, but more importantly a declaration of righteousness. David was not a victim of circumstances. He was fighting the good fight, fulfilling the mission of God against his enemies. It was God who had to vindicate him for his sufferings and make things right [1].

In what way is David’s story in Psalm 69 so relatable to Jesus’ story? Because Jesus’ sufferings also arose for God’s sake. He was doing it for God. However, he faced mockery and rejection from his own fellow Jews, and the cleansing of the Temple led to his suffering and death. Psalm 69 is a call for justice. To make what was wrongful right again. Thankfully, God acted. Eventually, David was vindicated against Saul. God made it clear that despite the suffering, David was right and Saul was wrong. The suffering that came with the accusations and mockery was wrong. This is the message of Psalm 69: wrong suffering made right by God’s vindication. Jesus’ disciples found their answer in Psalm 69. Jesus was also vindicated when God raised him from the dead on the third day. The New Testament writers recognized the same story of unjustified suffering and divine vindication. God acted for Jesus and against his enemies. This was why Paul used the judgment in verses 22,23 on his Jewish opponents in Romans. And Luke used verse 25 on Judas Iscariot in Acts. They saw in Psalm 69 the same story in Jesus. Yes, Jesus might have suffered unjustly for God’s sake, but the vindication from God came eventually. And the vindication proved that Jesus was right, and his actions of cleansing the Temple were right. And this is why our worship is not a Temple sacrifice that involves trading. Jesus’ body replaced the Temple. Today, we worship God directly in Jesus Christ.

One thing I learned from the passage today is a renewed appreciation of our free worship to God. The final verses of Psalm 69 tells us:
30 I will praise God’s name in song
and glorify him with thanksgiving.
31 This will please the Lord more than an ox,
more than a bull with its horns and hooves.
32 The poor will see and be glad—
you who seek God, may your hearts live!
33 The Lord hears the needy
and does not despise his captive people.
Brothers and sisters, whoever you are, rich or poor, in Jesus’ name you can directly worship God. That pleases God more than sacrifices. And God will listen to your prayers and give you life. This is the promise from God. Sometimes I wonder, have we forgotten how precious this is? We come to church at our own convenience. We sing praises based on our own liking like a karaoke session, we only sing when we feel like it. This is not worship. Jesus suffered and died to make worship right again! How should we respond? Let us appreciate such grace given to us. In Jesus’ name, we worship each day and every Sunday with our hearts filled with thanksgiving. Amen.