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Jesus: King of Guilt

December 12, 2018
By Rev. David French

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Jesus: King of Guilt
Psalm 80

Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved. Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth. You transplanted a vine from Egypt; … it took root and filled the land. Restore us, Lord God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.

It’s a prayer; a prayer of God’s people. They’ve fallen out of favor. They’ve messed up, and they know it. They got caught up in the things of this world and with false gods and became careless with the one true God’s Holy Word. The enemies who surrounded them have defeated them.

Psalm 80 is the prayer of refugees, God’s people of the Northern Kingdom who fled to Jerusalem in the south when the Assyrian army took over the north. Everything they possessed was left behind; their homes, their places of worship, their government. All of it was gone. Everything they had saved or built, all the things they were putting their trust in—every single thing that had distracted them from their heavenly King who gave them all they had, was in a moment taken away.

And so, they ran. They did the only thing you can do when all the structures, all the stable things you rely on, are disintegrating around you like quicksand. They ran home. To Jerusalem. To the temple. There, bearing the weight of their sorrow, they with heavy hearts prayed this psalm; they weep this psalm. “Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved!”

It’s a cry for mercy. Come, Lord! Act! Do something about this, we beg you, O Lord. We need you to save us. Please, come and restore us. It’s a cry to their King—and not just some earthly king sitting on a throne of gold, but to heaven’s King, the King of all the universe, the creator who sits upon the mercy seat in the temple being worshipped by cherubim.

“Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel.” Hear us. Listen to our cry for mercy. No, we don’t deserve it. We took you for granted. We despised your good gifts. We didn’t listen to you. But hear us O Lord because of who You are. Because You are that kind of King. A merciful King. A sparing King. A forgiving King.

Don’t forget, Lord, you’re the only reason we’re a people. You made us, brought us out of Egypt like a choice vine, and planted us in this land. We are your creation, your vineyard—and yet we failed you. We despised your gracious gifts and wise ways. We treated them lightly, ignored them, were distracted from them. We wanted other things instead of them. Coveted what other people have. And now we have what we deserve … nothing. We’re lost. But You Lord have saved us before, and we beg You to save and restore us again.

God’s people called on their King to act. To save them. But nothing could have prepared them for the way their King would come to save them. They did not realize what it would take for Him to answer their cry for mercy. But he did.

The King came to his vineyard. He came to his own. But his own did not receive him. They prayed, “Restore us,” shouted hosanna to Him, but even in salvation they wanted something different from what God would give. No, not that way. Get rid of our enemies. Where’s our kingdom? Aren’t you a king? “Crucify, Crucify.” The King was cut off. Thrown out of the city. This Root of Jesse, this righteous Branch of David, was cut from the vineyard and finally given his crown of guilt and thorns. He was given his throne. Not a top the ark of the covenant but in the depths of our death, our curse, our cross. “Restore us, O God. Let your face shine. Let your face shine, that we may be saved!”

And the truth we rejoice in and live with is that the Father’s face does shines on you but only because it stopped shining on his Son. The Father’s face shines on you because your King took his throne and crown in the darkness. The Father’s face shines on you because your King comes for you. My friends, Christ’s death in the darkness of Calvary is God’s face shining on you.

We also call on our King to act —to save us—to be with us in our daily struggles. We know God is with us but still it’s hard for us to see this King of righteousness wanting to enter into our sin filled hearts and take his seat upon its dark throne. It’s far too polluted, to selfish for such a holy one.

And yet this very night Jesus says to you: “Beloved, I am not afraid of your guilt. I am the King of your guilt. Crowned with your guilt. Enthroned upon the wood you deserve. Your guilt is mine, and my innocence is yours. What you deserve I take; what I deserve I give. I cried out for you, Father forgive them. Forgive them.”

My brothers and sisters, our Lord Jesus comes not to burden but to relieve. Not to crush but to lift up. Not to condemn you but to take your guilt away. Christ made it his own, paid for it with his blood and left it in the tomb when He rose …. How completely unworthy I am to stand in the pulpit of this King and you are to sit in the house and court of this King. Surely none of us believe we’re worthy, but that is the kind of King we have. A King in control, not by force but by grace; not by might but by forgiveness and mercy and love. He by grace through faith is our righteousness, our innocence, our blessedness, and our eternal holiness.

The truth is, this whole evening, the Holy Spirit has been working on or preparing our hearts and minds for his second coming. And that because there is only one way to prepare for the Lord: give him your guilt and receive his grace. That is the kind of King he is.

You see it’s not just a prayer, it’s your prayer and my prayer because it is a prayer of the guilty whose confidence is our merciful King. “Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved!”

In Jesus’s name. Amen.