Psalm 69 – Doug Wilson

Doug Wilson’s sermon from Psalm 69 – among other points, it includes an analysis of why Judas betrayed Jesus and commentary on Jesus as ‘hell fire preacher’. Read more of my notes from Doug Wilson’s sermon below this video (international readers you can use google translater widget at the top right of the page). However, the best way is to watch the video for the entire message. Here’s a brief  excerpt from Wilson’s conclusion:

External religion – Sinners like to put on a show for God

External religion- how you set up the chairs, how you preach, how you do the liturgy, the music, all the things that we do out here, all those things are things that we can do better or worse. We can do them and we can feel that we have some sort of control in them. And, if we’re in better control of those things than that church down the road- if our doctrine is sounder, if our liturgy (our scripture reading) is more beautiful, if our music is more stupendous, we can feel like we’ve got something with handles that we can take pride in. And a certain kind of heart, an unconverted heart, a carnal heart latches on to those externals. Which is why the Bible tells us over and over and over again that God looks on the heart.

Now Jesus, when He talked about the pharisees who washed the outside of the cup- Jesus said, ‘Wash the inside of the cup’. If you wash the inside of a cup in such a way, the outside’s gonna get clean.

So why does God say, ‘I prefer this more than that?’ Because sinners would much rather have that than this. Sinners like to divide it and sinners like to pick the external. Sinners like to put on a show for God. We like to pretend that the doctrine of omniscience is not true. We like to pretend that God sees our outsides- God sees us singing, God sees us going through an open hymnal, God sees us with an open Bible, and, it makes us uncomfortable to know that God sees us with an open heart.

So, why? Because there is a natural predisposition on the part of sinful man to be religious.

Sermon: What Makes the Humble Glad | Psalm 69 (Douglas Wilson) from Canon Wired on Vimeo.

Some (of my) notes from sermon:

  • The wisdom of God found in Scripture is not just offensive to the carnal heart here and there, it is offensive to the carnal heart across the board and we’re gonna see a number of instances of this truth, this reality in this Psalm (Psalm 69)
  1. The first section of the Psalm is verses 1-4 and the psalmist is laying out his complaint for the Lord. He’s in trouble, he’s telling the Lord he’s in trouble, he’s telling the Lord he is sunk down in the mire; he needs deliverance. His enemies are numerous; this is a particular kind of affliction. We live in a fallen world, this applies to all sorts of affliction. But, this particular affliction the psalmist is going through is brought about by enemies, by adversaries, brought about by those who despise him.
  2. Verses 5-12: The thing that got him into trouble in the first place was the zeal that he had for the house of God. All of it is for God’s sake. We see in verse 5 that he is a sinner, in v. 5, we know he is not perfect. But the reason for the pushback is his righteousness, not his sinfulness.
  3. In the third section the psalmist is pleading for help, in verses 13-21 he is beseeching God for help. Reproach is what has broken his heart, it is the people coming after him and some of the people coming after him knew better, (they) understood that what they were saying was false.
  4. In the next section he calls for justice to be meted out against his adversaries, verses 22-28 he’s calling out for justice. The wrath of God is real in both testaments (vv. 24-25).
  5. In the last section in the psalm, he returns to his petitions and he anticipates, by faith, a positive response (v. 33). The Lord prefers true heart thanksgiving to external rituals.

This psalm has a number of anchor points. We need to pay close attention as to how the New Testament quotes the Old Testament.  What was Jesus’s favorite book? You could argue that Jesus’s favorite book was Deuteronomy. Why isn’t it our favorite book? We should let Jesus and the apostles point us to what we should be learning from and resorting to. The favorite books of the New Testament writers and Jesus were

  • Genesis
  • Isaiah
  • Psalms
  • Deuteronomy

This Psalm (69) has at least 4 quotations in the New Testament- and we learn quite a bit about this Psalm from the NT.

  1. We learn this Psalm is Messianic. It is about the Messiah. I would like to argue on another level that all the Psalms are about the Messiah, but some, explicitly so. At the same time, David’s life is a type. David’s life is a lived out prophecy and Jesus is the son of David. The difference between them is Jesus is sinless and His father David is not. So David is a type of the antitype who is Jesus, but you have to factor out certain things. One of the things you have to factor out is the sin. So, David is a fallen sinner. David stumbles, Jesus never does. At the same time there are a number of things that are true of both the type and the antitype. So, not every detail in the psalm is fulfilled in the life of the Messiah, but, much of it is. Jesus quotes verse 4 ‘They that hate Me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head‘. He expressly applies this psalm to Himself in John 15:25The same phrase is found in Psalm 35:19 If God knows the number of hairs on your head, and the enemies are the same as the hairs on your head, then God knows the number of your enemies.
  2. The first part of verse 9 is quoted as something that the disciples recalled after Jesus cleansed the temple. In the Gospel of John 2:17 the disciples remembered after Jesus cleansed the temple, „Zeal for your house is consuming”. The reason Jesus cleansed the temple is because Psalm 69 gave this pattern: Zeal for God’s house consumed Christ and so he cleansed the temple.
  3. The second half of verse 9 is quoted by Paul in Romans 15:3 and he applies it in another way to Christ. It says, ‘For even Christ pleased not Himself, but, as it is written- the reproaches of them that reproach thee fell on me’. That is referring to Jesus. What happened to David in a type, happened to Jesus in total fulfillment.
  4. The last 2 quotations – one is where David starts cursing his enemies. But, he is not cursing in his own authority. The difference between an autonomous, sinful curing is when you set your self up in your own name, to curse other people. You don’t have the authority to do that. When you relegate it, turn it over to God and ask God to do this, you’re inviting God’s judgement and it entails you in the judgement as well. If you’re asking God to do this unjustly, then God is not going to fulfill that curse and He’s going to chastise you instead. So, when Paul says in Galatians, „‘f we, or another angel from heaven preaches another Gospel, let him be accursed’, he’s committing it to God. This is a christian way of cursing. So, Paul, in Romans is talking about Israel having been closed off in unbelief. And he applies vv 22-23 to the judicial blindness and unbelief that had afflicted the Jewish nation at that time. And since that time, as Paul teaches, also in Romans 11, which affliction, which judicial blindness will one day be removed. But, in romans 11:9-10 we see that this judicial blindness is visited upon the Jews. We should note: The illusion in vinegar given as a drink, in verse 21, and we find in verse 25 cited in Acts 1:20, when Peter was explaining the fate of Judas. This would seem to entail Judas in the same kind of judicial blindness that had overtaken the jewish nation as a whole. So, in the earlier verses, the whole jewish nation was blinded as to the identity of the Messiah, or how the messiah was going to work.

Judicial blindness and Judas

And, it appears that Judas was caught up in that same kind of problem. Judas was not the universal sneak. He was not a character that was contextless. He was not a man without a nation. He was not a man without a background. He was not a man without political opinions. He was not a man without agendas. He wasn’t just a villain dropped into a story so that we might have someone to betray Jesus. Judas betrayed Jesus for a reason. Now, we don’t have this laid out explicitly, so we shouldn’t call it anything more than educated speculation. But, Judas realized these things we know from the Bible. Judas had seen the power of Jesus. He, Judas himself had cast out demons. When Jesus sends the disciples out, they all do what Jesus had commissioned them to do. Judas himself has cast out demons and it’s interesting that later Satan himself enters Judas. Judas had healed the sick himself. He saw Jesus walk on water, he saw Jesus feed the multitudes, he saw Lazarus come out of the grave. Judas knew Jesus was powerful. Judas knew that Jesus was blessed by God, the spirit of God was on Him. Jesus did remarkable things and Judas had front row seats. Combine all this with the fact that Judas knew Jesus was not going to fight the Romans, He was going to go to the cross. As soon as Judas sees that Jesus was condemned, he returns the money; he throws the money down and goes and hangs himself.

Now, why hang yourself if Judas’s intent was to betray Jesus and ‘let’s see Him get what’s coming to Him?’ If that was his (Judas’s) motive, why hang himself when the plot succeeded? Something else is going on. What was his motivation? I believe the only narrative that makes sense with the background of Psalm 69 is that Judas was trying to force Jesus’s hand. He was trying to make Jesus exercise His power in a particular way that would expel the Romans. He was trying to force Him, paint Him into a corner so that Jesus would have to do what He inexplicably wasn’t doing. Jesus has all this power. The Romans, the tyrants are here. We’re under this judgment. This evil pagans are here and Jesus can raise the dead, Jesus can walk on water for crying out loud, why isn’t He doing something about the Romans. Anybody, with any kind of sense would see that you have to do something about the Romans.

Now, part of the reason Judas was judicially blinded is not just the reason that he shared the assumptions that the jews of his era had about the Messiah. This was a common cultural assumption: When the Messiah comes He will expel the Romans. Jesus is clearly the Messiah, Judas knew and so He needs to expel the Romans, that’s what He has to do. And He’s not doing it, so let’s give Him a little encouragement, let’s put Him into a corner where He will surely reveal His power, He will surely rise up. But then, the Messiah is like a sheep that goes silently to the slaughter and Judas doesn’t get it. It’s inexplicable.

Personal motives- This is not just external cultural blindness that the whole jewish nation had. We also learn in John 12:6 that Judas was covetous- which also links to- if Jesus expels the Romans and we have a new Israel, I’m probably going to get a choice cabinet spot, I’m probably gonna be the secretary of the treasury and it’s not gonna be this little purse I’m carrying around with this itinerary preacher, but I’m gonna be in an important place , then I can really take advantage of that. John 12 tells us that Judas used to help himself to the money that was in the account of the disciples, Jesus and His band. So, we have personal motives for thinking the way he did.

Jesus as hell fire preacher 

There’s a glib assumption among many christians on this- yet, the curses of the OT are not eradicated with the NT. They are not erased by the Gospel, they are fulfilled in the arrival of the Gospel. Away with the notion that the OT God had problems and somewhere between Maleachi and Matthew He’s not angry anymore. No, these implications are fulfilled in the NT. Not only so, but, they are fulfilled in terrible ways. Damnation is a horrible reality and the hell fire damnation preacher of the entire Bible is the Lord Jesus. If you go from beginning to end (of the Bible) the hell fire preacher is the Lord Jesus. People like to think that Jesus was the original flower child preaching a simple message of love and peace and then He ran afoul of the authorities, because that’s what preaching peace and love will get you. And then, the apostle Paul comes along with his message of condemnation and all his severities and he somehow wrecks the pristine christianity. The problem with that is the apostle Paul never mentions hell once by name, in all of his letters. Jesus talks about it regularly. Jesus is the ‘hell fire, damnation’ preacher. People like to pretend that the God off the Old Testament was basically a God of wrath and the God of the New Testament is a God of love.

Where do we get this idea that flies in the face of the data? We get this idea because it’s flattering to us. We don’t like the idea of a final judgment, we don’t like the idea of God coming down and looking at our lives and being the kind of God who knows the hairs on our head and as it says in Psalms: If God were to mark iniquities, who could stand? So, if God is going to hold us in judgment  and is going to be severe, we NEED a SAVIOR! Well, mysteriously, wonderfully, there is a Savior presented, but we can’t avail ourselves of that Savior until we know the problem. We’re not gonna take the medication until we know that we’re sick and we’re not able to apply the solution until we understand the problem.

David resolves to give thanks to God with a Psalm

He calls down curses from God, he asks God to judge and then he gives thanks to God with a song (v 30). He then makes a comparison which lies at the heart of all evangelical religion. This is something the Bible does over and over and over again and does it for a reason. „I desire mercy and not sacrifices”, it says in Hosea. „To obey is better than sacrifice”, Samuel tells Saul. „Sacrifices and burnt offerings You do no require, but a humble and contrite heart”, we learn elsewhere in the Psalms. We have the same comparison here. David sets a thankful heart over against the external ritual ‘conformity’ to the sacrificial laws of God (v. 31). In v. 30- „I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs. When the humble see it they will be glad.”

What makes humble hearts glad

This reality makes humble hearts glad. What makes humble hearts glad? To see heart religion preferred over externals. The sacrifices he’s talking about were  required by God. But God gives us the whole book (Bible), He gives us the whole world view and he expects us to respond to Him in faith and when our hearts are humble, we see that God prefers  heart religion to external religion.

Why is this contrast set up at all? Why does the Bible do this repeatedly? The reason is that there’s a kind of person out there who latches on o the external requirements that God gives us and he manipulates those externals in a way that is conducive to their pride. When something comes along that topples that pride, that is what makes humility rejoice.

External religion – Sinners like to put on a show for God

External religion- how you set up the chairs, how you preach, how you do the liturgy, the music, all the things that we do out here, all those things are things that we can do better or worse. We can do them and we can feel that we have some sort of control in them. And, if we’re in better control of those things than that church down the road- if our doctrine is sounder, if our liturgy (our scripture reading) is more beautiful, if our music is more stupendous, we can feel like we’ve got something with handles that we can take pride in. And a certain kind of heart, an unconverted heart, a carnal heart latches on to those externals. Which is why the Bible tells us over and over and over again that God looks on the heart.

Now Jesus, when He talked about the pharisees who washed the outside of the cup- Jesus said, ‘Wash the inside of the cup’. If you wash the inside of a cup in such a way, the outside’s gonna get clean.

So why does God say, ‘I prefer this more than that?’ Because sinners would much rather have that than this. Sinners like to divide it and sinners like to pick the external. Sinners like to put on a show for God. We like to pretend that the doctrine of omniscience is not true. We like to pretend that God sees our outsides- God sees us singing, God sees us going through an open hymnal, God sees us with an open Bible, and, it makes us uncomfortable to know that God sees us with an open heart.

So, why? Because there is a natural predisposition on the part of sinful man to be religious. Unconverted men love religion. You do not have a system where you’ve got christians over here and a bunch of atheists out there. Atheism is not usually the way men go. Men are religious. There’s true religion and false religion. And, even atheism veers into externals. They try to have some sort of ethical system. They try to have religiosity of some sort, even with an overt denial of God. But, most men don’t do that, they’re just very, very religious.

External religion is a sin. And when God works among men and when he establishes His true religion, our temptation is to go out to the pagans, get their attitude towards externals and import it to the church. We must have an external embodiment. We’re external, not just bodies and souls. We come here to a place and we sing and we hear, and we do things. We have to have an external manifestation of our faith. But, we must be constantly reminded that God prefers this to that, because untended we prefer that to this.

But, we can’t do it unless God provides something, unless God’s at work. And, this is why we must remember: Christ is not powerful to save you if you repent or if you do something. Christ is powerful to give you repentance. Christ is the one who does it. God gives repentance, God gives faith. When God moves… you see the beauty of the Christian faith. You see the beauty of the one true religion: God saves sinners. Which is very, very different than sinners preparing themselves to be saved. When the initiative lies with us: God will do this if you prepare your heart, or if you go through these motions. The sentence begins: …but God intervenes… but God sent His Son… but God gave repentance… If God gives Jesus to die on the cross, to be buried and come back from the dead so that you can be put right and He’s the one that put you right, using that means, that’s good news. But God, is good news. But I, is bad news. But I, is false Gospel.

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