Have Mercy on Me
Psalm 84:1-7; Luke 18:9-14
October 24, 2010
by Duane Maust
Well, here we are again. We are at church. We have so many interests that we could be doing today. We have football, car races, just going out in the woods for a walk, motorcycle rides, just a day in the garden, or just sitting on the porch and letting the world go by. All of those things are fun and okay to do. But why are we all here?
Here we are at church to worship. We come together to worship a God that we love and want to learn more about. We want to learn more about ourselves and how we relate to God.
“How lovely it is to be in your dwelling place.” We all choose to be here to meet God. I love the words of Psalm 84 that Marcus just read.
“My soul yearns and faints to be in the courts of the Lord.” If some of you fall out this morning, maybe you are fainting out of your desire to be with God. That is a term that we may not use today. We know what it is to long or desire something. There are many ways we show our desire to be with God. We study his Word. We talk to Him in prayer. We want to be in church – singing, praying together with our friends, and just focusing on his word together. Here we are today, yearning to be with God.
I hope we can all say with the Psalmist like he did in verse 3. “Oh Lord Almighty, My King and my God.”
This is what church is about. It is a place to come together and declare God’s greatness.
It is also a place to declare how sinful we are. Matt showed us this in the children’s story. Church is not a place to come to tell God how great we are. This parable shows us what church is about. It is a place to come to expose our weakness.
The Pharisee in this story was the religious leader that the people all respected that day. They were the ones that had all the church rules down pat, and then some more just to be sure.
He wanted God to know just how good he was. Look at all this good stuff I do every day. After Jesus gets done trying to put the Pharisees in place, our minds today don’t paint a nice picture for them. But they were the church leaders of that day. Their position was like our elders today. Except I hope our elders are not bragging on themselves like he did in the story.
The Pharisee knew the words “I” and “me” very well.
The tax collector was at the other end of the spectrum. The tax collector was viewed about the same way we do today. Except it was probably worse then than it is now. The tax collector then was collecting taxes for another country that ruled them. So here you have another Jew collecting taxes for the Roman government and collecting some more on the side for himself. He was stuck in the middle. When people saw him coming, that was not good in their minds.
The tax collector didn’t have much to say when he went to the temple. He went over in the corner and God heard him from there.
He beat his breast and told God, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
In the Message it says the tax collector is slumped in the shadows, way at the back of the temple, out of sight. He wouldn’t even lift his eyes as was common among those that prayed. But he was pounding his chest and crying.
Look at who was the winner in the end. Whose prayer connected to God?
Did the Pharisee even pray to God? Or did he only pray to himself? The Pharisee went just to tell God how good he was.
Read Luke 18:14
The tax collector knew what David was talking about in Psalm 32:1, 2, 11, and 12.
The Believer’s Commentary put it this way: “Only one of the 2 men emerged from the Temple in right relationship to God. Only one had sought forgiveness and right standing with God. The Pharisee probably had not committed the same kinds of sins as the tax collector, but ironically his ‘goodness’ becomes his own worst sin. It made him pompous and judgmental, and it separated him from God.”
C. S Lewis wrote: “How is it that people who are quite obviously eaten up with pride can say they believe in God and appear to themselves very religious? They theoretically admit themselves to be nothing in the presence of God, but are all the time imagining how he thinks them far better than ‘ordinary’ people. They pay a penny-worth of imaginary humility to Him and get out of it a pound’s worth of pride toward their fellow men or women. The real test of being in the presence of God is, you either forget yourself altogether or see yourself as a small dirty object, it is better to forget about yourself altogether.”