In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
4 Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. 2 And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?” 3 Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!” 4 Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. 5 Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders.
6 So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. 7 But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry. 8 And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. 9 And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.
10 In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.” 11 And our enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work.” 12 At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, “You must return to us.” 13 So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. 14 And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”
15 When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work. 16 From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, 17 who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. 18 And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me. 19 And I said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. 20 In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”
21 So we labored at the work, and half of them held the spears from the break of dawn until the stars came out. 22 I also said to the people at that time, “Let every man and his servant pass the night within Jerusalem, that they may be a guard for us by night and may labor by day.” 23 So neither I nor my brothers nor my servants nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us took off our clothes; each kept his weapon at his right hand.
I have shared this in various settings before and I thought it was quite fitting right now. Do we want everything to return to “normal” after the pandemic passes? What do we want our homes, church, and community to look like? What do we want to rebuild in this place where God has set us? We are not called to save the world or culture or whatever term you want to throw in there. But we are called to faithfully work and serve where God has placed us – out of love for our neighbor and to the glory of God.
The following is taken from The Failure of Sex Education in the Church: Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity (pp 61-63) by Linda Bartlett (which is a book every Christian should read).
What is a Christian to do? It’s as if God asks the impossible of us. He wants us to build with one hand and resist evil with the other. But with more cultural decay comes more evil.
Mindful of raising up a new generation of Christians but also keenly aware of our own inadequacies and failures, parents, pastors, and all who love children become discouraged and even fearful. With fear comes the temptation to doubt the sufficiency of God’s Word and more easily accept the help of passionate unbelievers. “Why do you cling to ancient traditions?” they ask. “Can’t you see? We have something new!”
There is a lesson to be learned from God’s people who, in a time before us, were also discouraged, overwhelmed, and taunted by unbelieving neighbors who offered something new.
The remnant of Israel that had survived exile in Persia returned home to find the walls of Jerusalem broken down and city gates destroyed. To this small number of faithful people was given the arduous task of re-building the temple and walls of Jerusalem. God also wanted His people to grow faithful families. He wanted them to be holy and set apart in their worship and practice. When people in the neighboring land saw that Jerusalem was being restored, they offered their help. After all, these people explained, they worshipped God, too. (In reality, they were a people of blended religions.) Fearing that they would commit themselves to false worship, the Israelite fathers refused the offer of resources and help. They knew that God had entrusted the job of rebuilding the temple and walls only to them. So “the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose” (Ezra 4:4-5).
The culture in which God’s people found themselves made the building project very difficult, but the Word of the Lord consistently commanded the people to persevere. God also reminded His people that they were to be holy and set apart for His good purpose. But the people of Israel, following the example of some of their leaders, mixed themselves with the Canaanites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and others through marriage (9:1-2). The people were guilty of breaking faith with God and allowing impurity of worship, teaching, and practice. There was confession and absolution but, because the potential for continued corruption of worship was so great, illegal marriages were identified and ended (10:18-19). The rebuilding of the temple, restoration of the walls, and growing of faithful families began anew.
However, when the neighbors in the land saw that the Israelites were again doing the work of God in rebuilding Jerusalem, they were angry. “[T]hey all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it” (Neh. 4:8). It was easy to cause confusion and discouragement among the Israelites because fathers, mothers, and grandparents were overwhelmed by the task that lay before them. “There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall” (4:10). The enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work” (4:11). Nehemiah encouraged the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes” (4:14). When the walls were rebuilt and the gates restored, the law of God was read to the people who were both joyful and repentant (chapters 8 and 9).
Everything was coming back into order and Israel was prepared to live by the truth of God’s Word. What could go wrong? What went wrong is incredibly significant. Eliashib, the priest appointed over the chambers of God, gave Tobiah the Ammonite a place in the temple (13:4-5). Under the guise of helping God’s people, Tobiah was given a room formerly used to store the offering for God. There, within the temple, sat Tobiah and his possessions. Nehemiah was away when this happened, but when he returned, he “was very angry, and [he] threw all the household furniture of Tobiah out of the chamber. Then [he] gave orders, and they cleansed the chambers, and [he] brought back there the vessels of the house of God” (13:8-9).
God entrusted the rebuilding of His temple and the city walls to His people. He entrusted the growing of holy families to husbands and wives equipped with His Word. He does the same today.
God wants His people to keep their worship, teaching, and practices pure and different from that of the dark and unbelieving world. Certainly, there are resources in the world that can be practical and helpful to the Christian. But we must take care especially when it comes to instructing Jesus’ little ones. “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 18:10). It is a frightening thing indeed to compromise one of the Father’s children.
Compromise happens, however, when God’s people are weary and burdened, or prideful and above reproach. Compromise happens when we let down our guard and grow comfortable with the world. At such times it is easier for an opposing foe to gain access by offering some kind of help or resource. It was for this reason that Nehemiah “stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows … each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built” (Neh. 4:13, 18). The men were on guard at night and labored by day (22).
We are weary and overwhelmed by a multitude of life issues. Sometimes we are prideful after doubting God’s Word and trusting something else. As the culture decays and evil abounds, we may believe that God asks the impossible of us. But, Martin Luther reminds us that the task of rebuilding the temple and shoring up walls was given to a weak people, few in number; a people against whom stood powerful princes and nations, which lived round about and daily threatened imminent destruction.
There will be days when failure distracts us from the building project. There will be those like Tobiah who mock our faithfulness to an ancient faith while tempting us with new practices. In the face of evil, let it be said of us: Look! They remember “the Lord who is great and awesome,” and they “fight for [their] brothers…sons…daughters…wives…and homes” (Neh. 4:14).
Almighty God, grant us faithfulness in our vocations in the places where you have stationed us to serve you – in our homes, in our churches, and in our community. Forgive us as we strive to do what you have called us, and as we struggle and fail. We ask that you would bless the work of our hands; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen.
Rather than focusing on a particular hymn today, I thought it might be helpful to have a devotion focused on the importance of hymns and music in the life of the Christian and the church.
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The LORD has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
“In the darkness something was happening at last. A voice had begun to sing. It was very far away and Digory found it hard to decide which direction it was coming…Its lower notes were deep enough to be the voice of the earth herself….it was the most beautiful noise he had ever heard…” That quote is from The Magician’s Nephew by CS Lewis. Both Lewis and Tolkien in their mythologies picture God singing the world into creation.
I really love this image and it may not be that far off. The Bible does depict God as singing – even singing over us. And in Job 38:7 the Lord speaks to Job about how little he knows concerning creation including the angels singing at it: “…when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
The Lutheran Study Bible has this helpful note on the verse: Chemnitz says: “He adds this regard to the angels” (LTh 1:165). Angels sang festively at creation. They rejoiced again at re-creation, which began at the incarnation of Jesus and culminated in Christ’s resurrection and ascension. There was celestial joy at the beginning of time, and there will be joy at the end of the world (Rv 19:1–3). The preeminent Morning Star is Jesus Himself (Rv 22:16).
It is entirely plausible that the angels joined in the singing of the Father and the Son at creation.
God sings, and He tells us to sing as well. The Bible tells us to sing a new song and we sing a new song about the fullness of what Christ has done for us.
Let’s look briefly at music and why it’s important for us as Christians.
Music is a Divine gift. Luther said this about the gift of music: “Here it must suffice to discuss the benefit of this great art.4 But even that transcends the greatest eloquence of the most eloquent, because of the infinite variety of its forms and benefits. We can mention only one point (which experience confirms), namely, that next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. She is a mistress and governess of those human emotions—to pass over the animals—which as masters govern men or more often overwhelm them. No greater commendation than this can be found—at least not by us. For whether you wish to comfort the sad, to terrify the happy, to encourage the despairing, to humble the proud, to calm the passionate, or to appease those full of hate—and who could number all these masters of the human heart, namely, the emotions, inclinations, and affections that impel men to evil or good?—what more effective means than music could you find? The Holy Ghost himself honors her as an instrument for his proper work when in his Holy Scriptures he asserts that through her his gifts were instilled in the prophets, namely, the inclination to all virtues, as can be seen in Elisha [2 Kings 3:15]. On the other hand, she serves to cast out Satan, the instigator of all sins, as is shown in Saul, the king of Israel [1 Sam. 16:23].”
Music is a gift in which all angels and heavenly hosts join us without ceasing. Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts! (Psalm 148) We confess this every Sunday as we hear, “Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying,” and then we sing with the angels!
Music is ordained for use by the church. We are told over and over again in the Bible to sing in the gathered assembly. For example, Psalm 149, “Sing to the Lord a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints!” Whether it is the Old Testament or New Testament, the Church sings.
Music teaches doctrine to the church. As we hear in Colossians 3: 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Singing teaches – sometimes more powerfully than anything else. People often forget the sermon, but it is much harder to forget a hymn that is stuck in your head.
Music carries the confession of the faithful. One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. (Ps. 145:4) Music helps the memory of the church in rehearsing what God has done. It is an integral, powerful part of the church’s proclamation. I have written before about how powerful hymns were in spreading the teaching of the Lutheran Reformation. That is still the case today.
Music is to be a full-throated response of praise and thanksgiving to God. Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! (Ps. 98:4) And, Let the high praises of God be in their throats (149:6) The object of our praise is always God: for who He is and what He has done for us.
Music heals, soothes, and drives away the devil. We see this most clearly with David and Saul. David would play the harp for Saul and the distressing spirit would depart from Saul. We see this as Paul and Silas sang as they sat in a dark, damp dungeon. Good hymns have always strengthened the saints in times of trial.
There’s a lot more that could be said about music and hymns, but I hope this has laid a sufficient foundation for now.
We must sing. We were dead in trespasses and sins, the wrath of God was upon us, and then we were forgiven all our sins and brought from death to life. Christ Jesus lived, suffered, and died for us and our salvation. How could we not sing? Not just with our mouths but with our hearts. Not timidly, not half-heartedly, or begrudgingly, but with joy over what the Lord has done and is doing for us. In our churches and in our homes, our joy overflows into singing – it cannot help itself. Faith sings. Just like a young person in love who goes around humming and singing over the joy they have found.
It should be clear by now, but what we sing in church matters. Not only should our hymns reflect what we believe and confess, they actually shape what we believe and confess. So, we should sing those hymns that reflect what Scripture and our Confessions teach.
In several places in Scripture it is confessed about our Lord that, “He is my strength, and my song, and He has become my salvation.” (see Ex. 15:2, Psalm 118, Isa 12) Jesus Christ is our strength, our song, and our salvation. So, we sing. And we believe and confess that God Himself rejoices and sings over us out of His great love for us.
Gracious and Merciful God, we thank you for the gift of music and that you have handed down to us so many marvelous hymns. We thank and praise you that Christ Jesus is our strength, our song, and our salvation. Bless, keep, and preserve us in the one true faith; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen.
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:
2 To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
3 to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
4 to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth--
5 Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
6 to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.
8 Hear, my son, your father’s instruction,
and forsake not your mother’s teaching.
We have had several of Paul Gerhardt’s hymns as the basis of our devotions. I thought this letter would be good for us to reflect on – especially as so many of us are reevaluating priorities and what life should look like after this pandemic is over.
Paul Gerhardt’s Testimony to his only surviving son in the Spring of 1676:
Now that I have reached the 70th year of my life and also have the joyful hope that my dear, holy God will soon rescue me out of this world and lead me into a better life than I have had until now on earth, I thank Him especially for all His kindness and faithfulness which, from my mother’s womb until the present hour, He has shown me in body and soul and in all that He has given me. Besides this, I ask Him from the bottom of my heart that when my hour comes He would grant me a happy departure, take my soul into His fatherly hands, and give my body a peaceful rest in the ground until the dear Last Day, when I, with all of my [family] who have been before me and also may remain after me, will reawake and behold my dear Lord Jesus Christ face to face, in whom I have believed but have not yet seen. To my only son whom I am leaving behind I leave few earthly goods, but with them I leave him an honorable name of which he will not have to be ashamed.
My son knows that from his tender childhood I have given him to the Lord my God as His possession, that he is to become a servant and preacher of His holy Word. He is to remain now in this and not turn away from it, even if he has only few good days in it. For the good Lord knows how to handle it and how sufficiently to replace external troubles with internal happiness of the heart and joy of the spirit.
Study holy theology in pure schools and at unfalsified universities and beware of the syncretists [those who mix religions or confessions], for they seek what is temporal and are faithful to neither God nor men. In your common life do not follow evil company but rather the will and command of your God. Especially: (1) Do nothing evil in the hope that it will remain secret, for nothing is spun so small that it is not seen in the light of day. (2) Outside of your office and vocation do not become angry. If you notice that anger has heated you up, remain still and speak not so much as a word until you have first prayed the Ten Commandments and the Apostles’ Creed silently. (3) Be ashamed of the lusts of the flesh, and when you one day come to the years in which you can marry, then marry with God and with the good advice of pious, faithful, and sensible people. (4) Do good to people even if they have nothing with which to repay you, for the Creator of heaven and earth has long since repaid what humans cannot repay: when He created you, when He gave you His beloved Son, and when He accepted you in Holy Baptism as His child and heir. (5) Flee from greed as from hell. Be satisfied with what you have earned with honor and a good conscience, even if it is not all too much. But if the good Lord gives you something more, ask Him to preserve you from the burdensome misuse of temporal goods.
In summary: Pray diligently, study something honorable, live peacefully, serve honestly, and remain unmoved in your faith and confessing. If you do this, you too will one day die and depart from this world willingly, joyfully, and blessedly. Amen.
O Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who has given us Your holy word, and has bountifully provided for all our temporal wants, we confess that we are unworthy of all these mercies, and that we have rather deserved punishment: But we beseech You, forgive us our sins, and prosper and bless us in our several callings, that by Your strength we may be sustained and defended, now and forever, and so praise and glorify You eternally, You who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one true God, world without end. Amen.
In the Name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Luther on The First Commandment (Small and Large Catechism)
The Small Catechism
The First Commandment
You shall have no other gods.
What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.
These are The Holy Ten Commands Stanza 2
"I am alone your God, the Lord;
No other gods shall be adored.
But you shall fully trust in Me
And love Me whole-heartedly."
Have mercy, Lord!
The Large Catechism
That is: Thou shalt have [and worship] Me alone as thy God. What is the force of this, and how is it to be understood? What does it mean to have a god? or, what is God? 2] Answer: A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the [whole] heart; as I have often said that the confidence and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. 3] If your faith and trust be right, then is your god also true; and, on the other hand, if your trust be false and wrong, then you have not the true God; for these two belong together, faith and God. That now, I say, upon which you set your heart and put your trust is properly your god.
4] Therefore it is the intent of this commandment to require true faith and trust of the heart which settles upon the only true God, and clings to Him alone. That is as much as to say: "See to it that you let Me alone be your God, and never seek another," i.e.: Whatever you lack of good things, expect it of Me, and look to Me for it, and whenever you suffer misfortune and distress, creep and cling to Me. I, yes, I, will give you enough and help you out of every need; only let not your heart cleave to or rest in any other.
5] This I must unfold somewhat more plainly, that it may be understood and perceived by ordinary examples of the contrary. Many a one thinks that he has God and everything in abundance when he has money and, possessions; he trusts in them and boasts of them with such firmness and assurance as to care for no one. 6] Lo, such a man also has a god, Mammon by name, i.e., money and possessions, on which he sets all his heart, and which is also the most common idol on earth. 7] He who has money and possessions feels secure, and is joyful and undismayed as though he were sitting in the midst of Paradise. 8] On the other hand, he who has none doubts and is despondent, as though he knew of no God. 9] For very few are to be found who are of good cheer, and who neither mourn nor complain if they have not Mammon. This [care and desire for money] sticks and clings to our nature, even to the grave.
10] So, too, whoever trusts and boasts that he possesses great skill, prudence, power, favor, friendship, and honor has also a god, but not this true and only God. This appears again when you notice how presumptuous, secure, and proud people are because of such possessions, and how despondent when they no longer exist or are withdrawn. Therefore I repeat that the chief explanation of this point is that to have a god is to have something in which the heart entirely trusts.
11] Besides, consider what, in our blindness, we have hitherto been practising and doing under the Papacy. If any one had toothache, he fasted and honored St. Apollonia [macerated his flesh by voluntary fasting to the honor of St. Apollonia]; if he was afraid of fire, he chose St. Lawrence as his helper in need; if he dreaded pestilence, he made a vow to St. Sebastian or Rochio, and a countless number of such abominations, where every one selected his own saint, worshiped him, and called for help to him in distress. 12] Here belong those also, as, e. g., sorcerers and magicians, whose idolatry is most gross, and who make a covenant with the devil, in order that he may give them plenty of money or help them in love-affairs, preserve their cattle, restore to them lost possessions, etc. For all these place their heart and trust elsewhere than in the true God, look for nothing good to Him nor seek it from Him.
13] Thus you can easily understand what and how much this commandment requires, namely, that man's entire heart and all his confidence be placed in God alone, and in no one else. For to have God, you can easily perceive, is not to lay hold of Him with our hands or to put Him in a bag [as money], or to lock Him in a chest [as silver vessels]. 14] But to apprehend Him means when the heart lays hold of Him and clings to Him. 15] But to cling to Him with the heart is nothing else than to trust in Him entirely. For this reason He wishes to turn us away from everything else that exists outside of Him, and to draw us to Himself, namely, because He is the only eternal good. As though He would say; Whatever you have heretofore sought of the saints, or for whatever [things] you have trusted in Mammon or anything else, expect it all of Me, and regard Me as the one who will help you and pour out upon you richly all good things.
16] Lo, here you have the meaning of the true honor and worship of God, which pleases God, and which He commands under penalty of eternal wrath, namely, that the heart know no other comfort or confidence than in Him, and do not suffer itself to be torn from Him, but, for Him, risk and disregard everything upon earth. 17] On the other hand, you can easily see and judge how the world practises only false worship and idolatry. For no people has ever been so reprobate as not to institute and observe some divine worship; every one has set up as his special god whatever he looked to for blessings, help, and comfort.
18] Thus, for example, the heathen who put their trust in power and dominion elevated Jupiter as the supreme god; the others, who were bent upon riches, happiness, or pleasure, and a life of ease, Hercules, Mercury, Venus, or others; women with child, Diana or Lucina, and so on; thus every one made that his god to which his heart was inclined, so that even in the mind of the heathen to have a god means to trust and believe. 19] But their error is this, that their trust is false and wrong; for it is not placed in the only God, besides whom there is truly no God in heaven or upon earth. 20] Therefore the heathen really make their self-invented notions and dreams of God an idol, and put their trust in that which is altogether nothing. 21] Thus it is with all idolatry; for it consists not merely in erecting an image and worshiping it, but rather in the heart, which stands gaping at something else, and seeks help and consolation from creatures, saints, or devils, and neither cares for God, nor looks to Him for so much good as to believe that He is willing to help, neither believes that whatever good it experiences comes from God.
22] Besides, there is also a false worship and extreme idolatry, which we have hitherto practised, and is still prevalent in the world, upon which also all ecclesiastical orders are founded, and which concerns the conscience alone, that seeks in its own works help, consolation, and salvation, presumes to wrest heaven from God, and reckons how many bequests it has made, how often it has fasted, celebrated Mass, etc. Upon such things it depends, and of them boasts, as though unwilling to receive anything from God as a gift, but desires itself to earn or merit it superabundantly, just as though He must serve us and were our debtor, and we His liege lords. 23] What is this but reducing God to an idol, yea, [a fig image or] an apple-god, and elevating and regarding ourselves as God? But this is slightly too subtile, and is not for young pupils.
24] But let this be said to the simple, that they may well note and remember the meaning of this commandment, namely, that we are to trust in God alone, and look to Him and expect from Him naught but good, as from one who gives us body, life, food, drink, nourishment, health, protection, peace, and all necessaries of both temporal and eternal things. He also preserves us from misfortune, and if any evil befall us, delivers and rescues us, so that it is God alone (as has been sufficiently said) from whom we receive all good, and by whom 25] we are delivered from all evil. Hence also, I think, we Germans from ancient times call God (more elegantly and appropriately than any other language) by that name from the word Good, as being an eternal fountain which gushes forth abundantly nothing but what is good, and from which flows forth all that is and is called good.
26] For even though otherwise we experience much good from men, still whatever we receive by His command or arrangement is all received from God. For our parents, and all rulers, and every one besides with respect to his neighbor, have received from God the command that they should do us all manner of good, so that we receive these blessings not from them, but, through them, from God. For creatures are only the hands, channels, and means whereby God gives all things, as He gives to the mother breasts and milk to offer to her child, and corn and all manner of produce from the earth for nourishment, none of which blessings could be produced by any creature of itself.
27] Therefore no man should presume to take or give anything except as God has commanded, in order that it may be acknowledged as God's gift, and thanks may be rendered Him for it, as this commandment requires. On this account also these means of receiving good gifts through creatures are not to be rejected, neither should we in presumption seek other ways and means than God has commanded. For that would not be receiving from God, but seeking of ourselves.
28] Let every one, then, see to it that he esteem this commandment great and high above all things, and do not regard it as a joke. Ask and examine your heart diligently, and you will find whether it cleaves to God alone or not. If you have a heart that can expect of Him nothing but what is good, especially in want and distress, and that, moreover, renounces and forsakes everything that is not God, then you have the only true God. If, on the contrary, it cleaves to anything else, of which it expects more good and help than of God, and does not take refuge in Him, but in adversity flees from Him, then you have an idol, another god.
29] In order that it may be seen that God will not have this commandment thrown to the winds, but will most strictly enforce it, He has attached to it first a terrible threat, and then a beautiful, comforting promise which is also to be urged and impressed upon young people, that they may take it to heart and retain it:
[Exposition of the Appendix to the First Commandment.]
30] For I am the Lord, thy God, strong and jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me and keep My commandments.
31] Although these words relate to all the commandments (as we shall hereafter learn), yet they are joined to this chief commandment because it is of first importance that men have a right head; for where the head is right, the whole life must be right, and vice versa. 32] Learn, therefore, from these words how angry God is with those who trust in anything but Him, and again, how good and gracious He is to those who trust and believe in Him alone with the whole heart; so that His anger does not cease until the fourth generation, while, on the other hand, His blessing and goodness extend to many thousands, 33] lest you live in such security and commit yourself to chance, as men of brutal heart, who think that it makes no great difference [how they live]. 34] He is a God who will not leave it unavenged if men turn from Him, and will not cease to be angry until the fourth generation, even until they are utterly exterminated. Therefore He is to be feared, and not to be despised.
35] He has also demonstrated this in all history, as the Scriptures abundantly show and daily experience still teaches. For from the beginning He has utterly extirpated all idolatry, and, on account of it, both heathen and Jews; even as at the present day He overthrows all false worship, so that all who remain therein must finally perish. 36] Therefore, although proud, powerful, and rich worldlings [Sardanapaluses and Phalarides, who surpass even the Persians in wealth] are now to be found, who boast defiantly of their Mammon, with utter disregard whether God is angry at or smiles on them, and dare to withstand His wrath, yet they shall not succeed, but before they are aware, they shall be wrecked, with all in which they trusted; as all others have perished who have thought themselves more secure or powerful.
37] And just because of such hardened heads who imagine because God connives and allows them to rest in security, that He either is entirely ignorant or cares nothing about such matters, He must deal a smashing blow and punish them, so that He cannot forget it unto children's children; so that every one may take note and see that this is no joke to Him. 38] For they are those whom He means when He says: Who hate Me, i.e., those who persist in their defiance and pride; whatever is preached or said to them, they will not listen; when they are reproved, in order that they may learn to know themselves and amend before the punishment begins, they become mad and foolish so as to fairly merit wrath, as now we see daily in bishops and princes.
39] But terrible as are these threatenings, so much the more powerful is the consolation in the promise, that those who cling to God alone should be sure that He will show them mercy, that is, show them pure goodness and blessing, not only for themselves, but also to their children and children's children, even to the thousandth generation and beyond that. 40] This ought certainly to move and impel us to risk our hearts in all confidence with God, if we wish all temporal and eternal good, since the Supreme Majesty makes such sublime offers and presents such cordial inducements and such rich promises.
41] Therefore let every one seriously take this to heart, lest it be regarded as though a man had spoken it. For to you it is a question either of eternal blessing, happiness, and salvation, or of eternal wrath, misery, and woe. What more would you have or desire than that He so kindly promises to be yours with every blessing, and to protect and help you in all need?
42] But, alas! here is the failure, that the world believes nothing of this, nor regards it as God's Word because it sees that those who trust in God and not in Mammon suffer care and want, and the devil opposes and resists them, that they have neither money, favor, nor honor, and, besides, can scarcely support life; while, on the other hand, those who serve Mammon have power, favor, honor, possessions, and every comfort in the eyes of the world. For this reason, these words must be grasped as being directed against such appearances; and we must consider that they do not lie or deceive, but must come true.
43] Reflect for yourself or make inquiry and tell me: Those who have employed all their care and diligence to accumulate great possessions and wealth, what have they finally attained? You will find that they have wasted their toil and labor, or even though they have amassed great treasures, they have been dispersed and scattered, so that they themselves have never found happiness in their wealth, and afterwards it never reached the third generation.
44] Instances of this you will find a plenty in all histories, also in the memory of aged and experienced people. Only observe and ponder them.
45] Saul was a great king, chosen of God, and a godly man; but when he was established on his throne, and let his heart decline from God, and put his trust in his crown and power, he had to perish with all that he had, so that none even of his children remained.
46] David, on the other hand, was a poor, despised man, hunted down and chased, so that he nowhere felt secure of his life; yet he had to remain in spite of Saul, and become king. For these words had to abide and come true, since God cannot lie or deceive. Only let not the devil and the world deceive you with their show, which indeed remains for a time, but finally is nothing.
47] Let us, then, learn well the First Commandment, that we may see how God will tolerate no presumption nor any trust in any other object, and how He requires nothing higher of us than confidence from the heart for everything good, so that we may proceed right and straightforward and use all the blessings which God gives no farther than as a shoemaker uses his needle, awl, and thread for work, and then lays them aside, or as a traveler uses an inn, and food, and his bed only for temporal necessity, each one in his station, according to God's order, and without allowing any of these things to be our lord or idol. 48] Let this suffice with respect to the First Commandment, which we have had to explain at length, since it is of chief importance, because, as before said, where the heart is rightly disposed toward God and this commandment is observed, all the others follow.
Let us pray:
Lord God, author and source of all that is good, give us wisdom to fear Your wrath, strength to love You above all things, and faith to trust in Your promises alone, that by Your grace we may serve you all our days and finally come to inherit Your heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
In the Name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Psalm 55:22 – Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
“If Thou But Trust in God to Guide Thee” - LSB 750
The video above has a beautiful rendition of this hymn.
There are some who believe that once a person becomes a Christian, all problems disappear. Holy Scripture paints a much different picture. Often, it records that those called by God endured tremendous suffering. Through their trials the patriarchs, prophets, apostles and others clung to the promises of God, knowing that He would deliver them eternally. As we cling to God’s promises in Christ, we too receive strength, protection and comfort. Jesus sanctified our suffering by entering into it when He took on our flesh. Now He uses it to draw us closer to Himself.
The writer of this hymn, Georg Neumark (1621–81), had gone through an extremely difficult time in his life. Not only was the bloody Thirty Years’ War in progress (1618–48), but he had personally lost everything. Nomadically walking the country with an uncertain and bleak future, he was rescued when the Lord brought Pastor Nicholas Becker into his life. Pastor Becker, who learned of his desperation, was able to arrange for Neumark to become a tutor for a local magistrate’s family in Kiel, Germany. This provided Neumark with stability and gainful employment. It was at this time that Neumark composed this hymn.
This hymn is truly a hymn of great hope and encouragement. The first stanza addresses the singer with a pastoral voice, encouraging him to place his hope in the Lord and His will. “He’ll give thee strength, whate’er betide thee, / And bear thee through the evil days.”
If thou but suffer God to guide thee
And hope in Him through all thy ways,
He'll give thee strength, whate'er betide thee,
And bear thee through the evil days.
Who trusts in God's unchanging love
Builds on the Rock that naught can move.
Stanza 2 speaks of the enormity and futility of earthly suffering. Our “never-ceasing moans and sighs” are evidence of the grave struggle that we endure, birthed by sin. Near its end, the stanza speaks of our “cross and trials.” In Christian theology, a “cross” is different from generalized suffering caused by sin.
What can these anxious cares avail thee,
These never-ceasing moans and sighs?
What can it help if thou bewail thee
O'er each dark moment as it flies?
Our cross and trials do but press
The heavier for our bitterness.
Stanza 3 encourages us to be “patient,” for “our inmost wants are known / To Him who chose us for His own.”
Be patient and await His leisure
In cheerful hope, with heart content
To take whate'er thy Father's pleasure
And His discerning love hath sent,
Nor doubt our inmost wants are known
To Him who chose us for His own.
Stanza 4 shows that the Lord brings gladness and allows for sadness in our lives:
God knows full well when times of gladness
Shall be the needful thing for thee.
When He has tried thy soul with sadness
And from all guile has found thee free,
He comes to thee all unaware
And makes thee own His loving care.
Stanza 5 shows us that our suffering can be great, using the words “fiery trial” to describe it. Read 1 Peter 4:12–16:
Nor think amid the fiery trial
That God hath cast thee off unheard,
That he whose hopes meet no denial
Must surely be of God preferred.
Time passes and much change doth bring
And sets a bound to everything.
Ponder the words of stanza 6 and ponder Mary’s words as she sings the Magnificat in the presence of Elizabeth (Luke 1:46–55):
All are alike before the Highest;
'Tis easy to our God, we know,
To raise thee up, though low thou liest,
To make the rich man poor and low.
True wonders still by Him are wrought
Who setteth up and brings to naught.
Sing, pray, and keep His ways unswerving,
Perform thy duties faithfully,
And trust His Word, though undeserving,
Thou yet shalt find it true for thee.
God never yet forsook in need
The soul that trusted Him indeed.
Let us pray.
Almighty and most merciful God, in this earthly life we endure sufferings and death before we enter into eternal glory. Grant us grace at all times to subject ourselves to Your holy will and to continue steadfast in the true faith to the end of our lives that we may know the peace and joy of the blessed hope of the resurrection of the dead and of the glory of the world to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
*John G. Fleischmann
Happy Annunciation Day!
Today is a wonderful day on the church's calendar. Today is the day that we celebrate The Feast of the Annunciation of Our Lord. It is the day that we celebrate the conception and incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ!
From the Treasury of Daily Prayer: The date of the Annunciation falls on March 25, because the Ancient Church believed the crucifixion occurred on that date. In antiquity, people linked the day of a person's conception with the day of his or her death. Thus, in the Annunciation, the Church joined together both the incarnation of Jesus and the atonement He accomplished.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
From Johann Gerhard's Sacred Meditations
THE MYSTERY OF THE INCARNATION
Christ’s Cradle glows with a Heavenly Light.
Let us for a little while withdraw our minds from temporal things, and contemplate the mystery of our Lord’s birth. The Son of God came down from heaven, that we might receive the adoption of sons (Gal. 4:5). God became man, that man might become a partaker of divine grace and of the divine nature (2 Pet 1:4). Christ chose to be born into the world in the evening of the world’s life, to signify that the benefits of His incarnation pertain not to this present life, but to eternal life. He chose to be born in the time of the peaceful Augustus, because He was the blessed peacemaker between man and God. He chose to be born in the time of Israel’s servitude, because He is the true liberator and defender of His people.
He chose to be born under the reign of a foreign prince, seeing that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). He is born of a virgin to signify that He is born in the hearts of spiritual virgins only (2 Cor. 11:2), that is, in those who are not joined to the world or to the devil, but to God by one Spirit. He is born pure and holy, that He might sanctify our impure and defiled birth. He is born of a virgin espoused to a man, that He might set forth the honor of marriage as a divine institution. He was born in the darkness of the night, who came as the true light to illumine the darkness of the world.
He who is the true food of our souls is laid in a manger. He is born among the beasts of the stall, that He might restore to their former dignity and honor sinful men, who through their sins had made themselves little better than the beasts. He is born in Bethlehem, the house of bread, who brought with Himself from heaven the bread of life for our souls. He is the first and only-begotten of His mother here on earth, who according to His divine nature is the first and only-begotten of His Father in heaven.
He is born poor and needy (2 Cor. 8:9), that He might prepare the riches of heaven for us. He is born in a mean stable, that He might lead us back to the royal palace of His Father in heaven. He is sent from heaven as the messenger of redemptive grace, because no one on earth knew its exceeding greatness. It is with good reason that He, a heavenly messenger, should bring us the tidings of those heavenly blessings that are reserved for us at His right hand above. The angelic hosts rejoice at the birth of Christ because, through the incarnation of the Son of God, they can have us poor mortals as the companions of their blessedness.
This great wonder is first announced to shepherds, because as the true Shepherd of souls He had come at that time to bring back His lost sheep into His fold. The glad tidings of great joy are proclaimed to the despised and lowly, because no one can become a sharer of that joy, who is not lightly esteemed in his own eyes. The nativity is announced to those watching their flocks by night, because only those can become partakers of this great gift to man whose hearts are watchful toward God, and not those who are fast asleep in sin.
And now the multitude of the heavenly host, who had so sorely grieved over the sin of our first parent, shout aloud for joy. The splendor of our Lord and King appears in the heavens, whose lowliness upon the earth looked so mean in the eyes of men. The angel bids the shepherds “Fear not,” because of the birth of Him who should remove from us every cause of fear.
Good tidings of great joy are announced, because the author and giver of all joy was born into the world. They are bidden rejoice, because the enmity between God and man, the real cause of all our sorrow, was removed. “Glory to God in the highest,” they sang, because by the wilful transgression of His command our first parent sought to rob God of His glory. The birth of Christ brought true peace to men, who before this were the enemies of God, were at war with their own consciences, and at variance among themselves. True peace was thus restored to earth, because he was overcome who had led us captive at his will.
Let us now go with the shepherds to the manger of Christ, that is, His church, and as He lay in that manger in swaddling clothes, so in the sacred scriptures, we shall find our Savior. Let us also with a lively recollection of the words of this mystery, like Mary, the blessed mother of our Lord, keep pondering them continually in our hearts (Luke 2:19). Let us with glad voices join in the angels’ song, and render unto the Lord the thanks due unto His name for His marvelous benefits to us. Let us rejoice and shout for joy with the whole multitude of the heavenly host.
For if the angels rejoiced so greatly on our account, how much more ought we rejoice, to whom this Child is born, to whom this Son is given (Is. 9:6). If the Israelites lifted up their voices in jubilant shouts when the Ark of the Covenant was brought back to them (2 Sam. 6:16), which was a type and a shadow of the incarnation of our dear Lord, how much more ought we rejoice, since our Lord Himself hath come down to us, in the assumption of our human nature.
If Abraham rejoiced to see the day of the Lord (John 8:56), when the Lord assuming at that time bodily shape, appeared to him, what ought we to do, seeing that our Lord hath taken our nature into a perpetual and indissoluble union with Himself? O let us admire the marvelous goodness of our God, who, when we could not ascend to Him, hesitated not to descend to us. Let us stand in wonder at the marvelous power of our God, who was able to unite in one two natures so diverse as the divine and human, so that one and the same Person is now both God and man.
Let us admire the marvelous wisdom of our God, who could devise a scheme for our redemption, which neither angels nor men could have devised. Infinite good was offended; an infinite satisfaction was required. Man had offended God, from man the satisfaction for sin must be required. But finite man could not possibly render an infinite satisfaction, nor could divine justice be satisfied but on the payment of an infinite ransom. For this reason God became man that, for man who had sinned, He might render a perfect satisfaction for sin, and as God who was infinite He might pay an infinite price for our redemption.
Well may we wonder at this stupendous reconciliation of divine justice and mercy, which no one, before God was manifest in the flesh, could have devised, nor after He was so manifested, could fully comprehend. Let us stand in wonder at this mystery, but let us not too curiously pry into it. Let us desire reverently to study it, although we cannot fully understand it. Rather let us confess our ignorance than deny the power of God.
Gerhard, J. (1896). Gerhard’s Sacred Meditations. (C. W. Heisler, Trans.) (pp. 76–81). Philadelphia, PA: Lutheran Publication Society.
O Lord, as we have known the incarnation of Your Son, Jesus Christ, by the message of the angel to the virgin Mary, so by the message of His cross and passion bring us to the glory of His resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
Reading from Luther
Luther on the Fifth Commandment
The Fifth Commandment
You shall not murder.
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.
From LSB 581
6 "You shall not murder, hurt, nor hate;
Your anger dare not dominate.
Be kind and patient; help, defend,
And treat your foe as your friend."
Have mercy, Lord!
We have now completed both the spiritual and the temporal government, that is, the divine and the paternal authority and obedience. But here now we go forth from our house among our neighbors to learn how we should live with one another, every one himself toward his neighbor. 181] Therefore God and government are not included in this commandment, nor is the power to kill, which they have, taken away. For God has delegated His authority to punish evil-doers to the government instead of parents, who aforetime (as we read in Moses) were required to bring their own children to judgment and sentence them to death. Therefore, what is here forbidden is forbidden to the individual in his relation to any one else, and not to the government.
182] Now this commandment is easy enough, and has been often treated, because we hear it annually in the Gospel of St. Matthew 5:21ff, where Christ Himself explains and sums it up, namely, that we must not kill, neither with hand, heart, mouth, signs, gestures, help, nor counsel. Therefore it is here forbidden to every one to be angry, except those (as we said) who are in the place of God, that is, parents and the government. For it is proper for God and for every one who is in a divine estate to be angry, to reprove and punish, namely, on account of those very persons who transgress this and the other commandments.
183] But the cause and need of this commandment is that God well knows that the world is evil, and that this life has much unhappiness; therefore He has placed this and the other commandments between the good and the evil. Now, as there are many assaults upon all commandments, so it happens also in this commandment that we must live among many people who do us harm, so that we have cause to be hostile to them.
184] As when your neighbor sees that you have a better house and home [a larger family and more fertile fields], greater possessions and fortune from God than he, he is sulky, envies you, and speaks no good of you.
Thus by the devil's incitement you will get many enemies who cannot bear to see you have any good, either bodily or spiritual. When we see such people, our hearts, in turn, would rage and bleed and take vengeance. Then there arise cursing and blows, from which follow finally misery and murder. Here, now, God like a kind father steps in ahead of us, interposes and wishes to have the quarrel settled, that no misfortune come of it, nor one destroy another. And briefly, He would hereby protect, set free, and keep in peace every one against the crime and violence of every one else; and would have this commandment placed as a wall, fortress, and refuge about our neighbor, that we do him no hurt nor harm in his body.
186] Thus this commandment aims at this, that no one offend his neighbor on account of any evil deed, even though he have fully deserved it. For where murder is forbidden, all cause also is forbidden whence murder may originate. For many a one, although he does not kill, yet curses and utters a wish, which would stop a person from running far if it were to strike him in the neck [makes imprecations, which if fulfilled with respect to any one, he would not live long]. 187] Now, since this inheres in every one by nature and it is a common practice that no one is willing to suffer at the hands of another, God wishes to remove the root and source by which the heart is embittered against our neighbor, and to accustom us ever to keep in view this commandment, always to contemplate ourselves in it as in a mirror, to regard the will of God, and with hearty confidence and invocation of His name to commit to Him the wrong which we suffer. Thus we shall suffer our enemies to rage and be angry, doing what they can, and we learn to calm our wrath, and to have a patient, gentle heart, especially toward those who give us cause to be angry, that is, our enemies.
188] Therefore the entire sum of what it means not to kill is to be impressed most explicitly upon the simple-minded. In the first place, that we harm no one, first, with our hand or by deed. Then, that we do not employ our tongue to instigate or counsel thereto. Further, that we neither use nor assent to any kind of means or methods whereby any one may be injured. And finally, that the heart be not ill disposed toward any one, nor from anger and hatred wish him ill, so that body and soul may be innocent in regard to every one, but especially those who wish you evil or inflict such upon you. For to do evil to one who wishes and does you good is not human, but diabolical.
189] Secondly, under this commandment not only he is guilty who does evil to his neighbor, but he also who can do him good, prevent, resist evil, defend and save him, so that no bodily harm or hurt happen to him, and yet does not do it. 190] If, therefore, you send away one that is naked when you could clothe him, you have caused him to freeze to death; if you see one suffer hunger and do not give him food, you have caused him to starve. So also, if you see any one innocently sentenced to death or in like distress, and do not save him, although you know ways and means to do so, you have killed him. And it will not avail you to make the pretext that you did not afford any help, counsel, or aid thereto, for you have withheld your love from him and deprived him of the benefit whereby his life would have been saved.
191] Therefore God also rightly calls all those murderers who do not afford counsel and help in distress and danger of body and life, and will pass a most terrible sentence upon them in the last day, as Christ Himself has announced when He shall say, Matt. 25:42f : I was an hungred, and ye gave Me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took Me not in; naked, and ye clothed Me not; sick and in prison, and ye visited Me not. That is: You would have suffered Me and Mine to die of hunger, thirst, and cold, would have suffered the wild beasts to tear us to pieces, or left us to rot in prison or perish in distress. What else is that but to reproach them 192] as murderers and bloodhounds? For although you have not actually done all this, you have nevertheless, so far as you were concerned, suffered him to pine and perish in misfortune.
It is just as if I saw some one navigating and laboring in deep water [and struggling against adverse winds] or one fallen into fire, and could extend to him the hand to pull him out and save him, and yet refused to do it. What else would I appear, even in the eyes of the world, than as a murderer and a criminal?
193] Therefore it is God's ultimate purpose that we suffer harm to befall no man, but show him all good and love; 194] and, as we have said, it is specially directed toward those who are our enemies. For to do good to our friends is but an ordinary heathen virtue, as Christ says Matt. 5:46.
195] Here we have again the Word of God whereby He would encourage and urge us to true noble and sublime works, as gentleness, patience, and, in short, love and kindness to our enemies, and would ever remind us to reflect upon the First Commandment, that He is our God, that is, that He will help, assist, and protect us, in order that He may thus quench the desire of revenge in us.
196] This we ought to practise and inculcate, and we would have our hands full doing good works. 197] But this would not be preaching for monks; it would greatly detract from the religious estate, and infringe upon the sanctity of Carthusians, and would even be regarded as forbidding good works and clearing the convents. For in this wise the ordinary state of Christians would be considered just as worthy, and even worthier, and everybody would see how they mock and delude the world with a false, hypocritical show of holiness, because they have given this and other commandments to the winds, and have esteemed them unnecessary, as though they were not commandments, but mere counsels; and have at the same time shamelessly proclaimed and boasted their hypocritical estate and works as the most perfect life, in order that they might lead a pleasant, easy life, without the cross and without patience, for which reason, too, they have resorted to the cloisters, so that they might not be obliged to suffer any wrong from any one or to do him any good. 198] But know now that these are the true, holy, and godly works, in which, with all the angels, He rejoices, in comparison with which all human holiness is but stench and filth, and, besides, deserves nothing but wrath and damnation.
Lord God, by Your Law You guard and defend every human life from violence and destruction. Give us wisdom never to hurt or harm our neighbors in their bodily life and give us hearts of mercy to help and support them in every physical need; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
A place for Pastor Packer to post articles, links, and his own thoughts.