Pariahs of Prayer: Pharisee, David, Jonah

Introduction: Last week we talked about Psalm 88, a prayer from the viewpoint of one of the sons of Korah. The person in this prayer was helpless, hopeless and utterly condemned by the judgement of God. 

Today, I’d like to continue that discussion and explore a few more Pariahs of Prayer. We know from the discussion last week a pariah is something to be avoided. As we look at these examples let’s look, not only at what is said, but what the situation of the person giving the prayer.

  1. Our first pariah today can be found in Luke 18:9-14. We are speaking of the prayer of the Pharisee verses the prayer of the tax collector.
    • (Luke 18:9-14) He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
    • DISCUSSION: Why did Jesus make such a comparison?
      • On one hand we see a Pharisee, who was a scholar and interpreter of the law of Moses.
        • The Pharisees were admired by the people of his day for knowing the law so well that he be consulted on its interpretation of a given situation.
        • Unfortunately, according to Jesus in Luke 11:37–54, Matthew 23:1–39. Mark 12:35–40 and Luke 20:45–47, the power went to their head and they began to abuse it. 
        • Jesus described them this way in Luke 11:39, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.”
        • It is obvious that this was one of those, boastful, conceited Pharisees.
          • He wanted to make sure everyone around him knew how pious he was.
          • The way he pointed out the tax collector to make himself look more religious reminds me of children who cut down someone who is different. It is a sad thing to tear down someone just to make yourself look better. 
        • But who is a Pharisee today? Who can we point to and find a model of Christianity on the outside but corrupted on the inside.
          • We might refer to them as “Sunday Christians” or a better description would be “hypocrite.”
          • Social media is one way to spot a Pharisee. 
          • People tend to let their true feelings be heard, and that’s fine. But when their opinions run in contrast with their religious beliefs, they are leading a double-life. We know that not everyone who claims to be religious is. (Matthew 7:21) Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
          • We listen to Rick and Bubba in the mornings and they have a phrase. “You live what you believe.”
      • On the other hand we have the tax collector.
        • Tax collectors, also known as publicans (not Republicans), are mentioned many times in the Bible (mainly in the New Testament). They were reviled by the Jews of Jesus’ day because of their perceived greed and collaboration with the Roman occupiers.
        • Their job was to take money from fellow Jews and give it to the government of the day. I believe they call them Democrats today. Just kidding!
        • Tax collectors were also Jews and under the same law of Moses. 
          • On the surface, we would think this tax collector is the bad guy. But, like several of Jesus’ parables, he flips the script on what we might think
        • I’ll admit, I had a hard time trying to find the perfect example for today of a tax collector. The one who follows the will of God but is hated by those around him or her. Then it hit me. We should all strive to have the attitude of the tax collector.
        • When our lives are compared with those of the world, we are often looked down on. We abstain from worldly vices and are hated for it. When someone, who feels secret guilt about the life choices they make, and those come in contact with a true Christiananity, they seem to try and tear the Christians down. 
          • When I was in the youth group here at Dalraida, Al Millergreen had us stand around in a circle. He put a chair in the middle and had one of us stand on it. He chose someone else to stand next to the person on the chair. Al said to the person on the chair, “Try and pull up the person on the ground.” It was about impossible. Then he said to the person on the ground, “Try and pull the person off the chair.” It was relatively easy. He told us it was easy to pull someone down with our words and actions but much harder to pull someone up with encouragement.
        • The tax collector was humble, contrite, and knew he was a sinner. Let us always strive to be like the tax collector.
  1. Our second Pariah is David after Nathan’s visit.
    • We are all familiar with the story of David and Bathsheba in 2 Samual 11. David sees Bathsheba, they sleep together, she is with child, Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband returns home but out of honor for the troops doesn’t sleep with his wife, David then has Uriah sent to the worst part of the battle where Uriah is killed, then David makes Bathsheba his wife and she bears a son.
    • And we gauge the Lord’s reaction in 1 Samual 11:27. “And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.
    • In 2 Samual 12 we see the Lord sends Nathan to rebuke David. The famous, “thou are the man” speech.
      • David knew he was found out. Once again, man tries to sin in private but nothing is private from God.
      • The 51st Psalm, according the title of the Psalm like we looked at last week, this is a Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
    • In this Psalm, which I encourage you to read and meditate on, I’d like to focus on two passages.
      • The first is David’s plea to God and admission of guilt.
        • (Psalm 51:1-3) Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
        • In today’s world, when no one seems to admit their own guilt, it seems perfectly acceptable to not take responsibility for one’s own actions. It was society’s fault, I was in the wrong place at the right time, the devil made me do it, Epstein didn’t kill himself. (Sorry. had to through that in)
          • Everyone want someone to blame so that they can still redeem the moral high ground. We must own our mistakes. How can God forgive us if we use excuses to cover our own guilt?
      • The second passage is a request. It is also the inspiration to a song we sing.
        • (Psalm 51:10-12) Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
        • This is such an interesting passage to me. We pray for forgiveness almost daily, but how often do we pray for restoration?
        • We might ask God to cleanse us of the sin in our lives, but what then?
        • Let’s take a queue from David and ask to be made whole again, to be made pure again. 
        • With forgiveness God wipes the slate clean. Now let’s renew our spirit and make our minds as if we never committed the sin.
        • If I could wave a magic wand, I would remove the memory of the sin after gaining forgiveness. Sometimes it’s harder to forgive yourself than it is for God to forgive you.
    • But why is David a pariah of prayer?
      • Look at the choices he made to sin and then to cover his sin with more sin. He had so convinced himself that he was doing right, that when Nathan was telling the story, David had no idea Nathan was talking about him?
      • He only repented after he was directly shown his sin.
  1. Our final pariah is the prophet Jonah.
    • One of the best examples, in the Bible, of a person who prays in the midst of strife is the prophet Jonah.
    • The book of Jonah is story of rebellion and redemption that is housed in four chapters.
      • In chapter one, Jonah is called by God to preach to Nineveh or the city would fall. He tries to run away and God causes a storm to overtake the ship.
      • Skipping ahead to chapter three, Jonah fulfills the request of God and Nineveh repents.
      • Chapter four is where Jonah, because of his reluctance, is rebuked by God.
    • But in chapter two, while in the belly of the big fish, Jonah prayed.
      • Unlike David’s prayer, Jonah did not really admit his faults. He still seems bitter about his task.
        • He was in distress and wants the Lord to save him in verse two.
        • He was retelling how he almost drowned in verse three.
        • He knew he was away from God and longed to be close to Him in verse four.
        • He again prayed about almost drowning and nearly dying in verses five and six.
        • In verse seven, when he was almost dead, Jonah remembered the Lord and that the Lord would hear his prayer.
        • Verse nine seems out of place as Jonah chastises those who worship idols. OK? This sounds like someone who might be praying as they are going through a car accident and then saying, “…now about those jay walkers.”
        • Finally, in verse nine, Jonah relents. (Jonah 2:9) But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord! Perhaps it was what Nineveh was doing at the time.
      • But as we know, we was spit out of the fish and saved Nineveh, but Jonah still wasn’t happy about it.
    • Are we reluctant instruments of God? Does God open a door of opportunity for us that we do not want to go through? I hope not. 
      • Be sure to pray for a positive attitude as we do God’s will.
    • Just like Jonah, who was almost dead and at his weakest, do we turn to God when we are at our weakest? 
      • When we do, we might normally pray to get through the event or situation, but we need to make sure we leave it in God’s hands. When we end a prayer with, “Your will be done,” we are accepting that God is in control. We accept His will.
      • We can and should lean on God and trust that the outcome is for our ultimate good.
      • The worst part about trust is letting go. There’s only one driver in the car of our lives. It’s either us or God.

Today’s Takeaways:

  • Unlike the Pharisee, when we pray we should be humble like the tax collector.
  • Like David, we must own our sins and not blame others for our transgressions, but try to stay out those situations in first place.
  • In contrast to Jonah, we should have a positive and depend on God’s will for us.

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