DESPAIR TO HOPE
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1 I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, and he will hear me.
2 In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
3 When I remember God, I moan;
when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah
4 You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
5 I consider the days of old,
the years long ago.
6 I said, “Let me remember my song in the night;
let me meditate in my heart.”
Then my spirit made a diligent search:
7 “Will the Lord spurn forever,
and never again be favorable?
8 Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah
10 Then I said, “I will appeal to this,
to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
12 I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
13 Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
14 You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
15 You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah
16 When the waters saw you, O God,
when the waters saw you, they were afraid;
indeed, the deep trembled.
17 The clouds poured out water;
the skies gave forth thunder;
your arrows flashed on every side.
18 The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
your lightnings lighted up the world;
the earth trembled and shook.
19 Your way was through the sea,
your path through the great waters;
yet your footprints were unseen.
20 You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
This Psalm has a lot to teach us about what it looks like to wrestle with God in prayer and what it looks like when faith in God’s promises grips us.
In the first half of the Psalm, the psalmist is overwhelmed and tormented by despair. Luther believed it was from the psalmists struggles with his own sin. Whatever the source of Asaph’s struggles, it is clear that he sought help in the Lord by going to him at night in prayer. It is not that the psalmist couldn’t sleep, rather he chooses to stay up so that he might take the things that are weighing him down and afflicting him to the Lord. This is what our Lord Jesus Christ did as well, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death…” (Hebrews 5:7)
In verses 6-9, we see the psalmist wrestling with his doubts and fears. Had God forgotten him? Had the Lord removed His grace? Would he never again fulfill his promises? Notice that it is faith that drives him to talk to the Lord like this. In expressing his doubts out loud to the Lord, he would also come to see how his doubts are contradictory to the promises and power of God.
It is extremely important to notice the shift that takes place in the Psalm. The first half of the psalm is dominated by the psalmist talking about himself and his affliction. The second half of the psalm is dominated by his focus on who the Lord is and what the Lord is capable of doing – based on what God had done and the promises He had already kept. Asaph gains courage and strength by recounting all the mighty and wonderful things that God had done for His people in the past. People who had suffered and were afflicted like he was! He knew that the same God who had done those things for His people was his God and that he would not be abandoned by the Lord amidst his own afflictions. Notice he meditates on the works of the Lord. He meditates on how powerful and truly awesome God is. He realizes that the One True God is the Almighty One who is strong to save.
Luther says this about meditating: “Meditating is an exclusive trait of human beings, for even beasts appear to fancy and to think. Therefore, the ability to meditate belongs to reason. There is a difference between meditating and thinking. To meditate is to think carefully, deeply, and diligently, and properly it means to muse in the heart. Hence to meditate is, as it were, to stir up in the inside, or to be moved in the innermost self. Therefore, one who thinks inwardly and diligently asks, discusses, etc. Such a person meditates.”
When we are afflicted and despairing and meditate on God’s Holy Word, we are strengthened by seeing God fulfill His promises for His people. Most importantly we see that He fulfilled His promise in sending His Son to suffer and die for us. When we realize this, our eyes are taken off or ourselves and our problems, and they are directed to how great our God is and what He is capable and willing to do for us.
The imagery at the end seems almost anticlimactic. We are led like a flock. But for the Christian, could there be a more comforting image? It calls to mind Psalm 23 and our Good Shepherd who even leads us through the valley of the shadow of death. We shall not lack anything, and we have nothing and no one to fear. The psalmist ends the psalm fully confident that his afflictions have met their match in his Lord, his faithful Good Shepherd.
God of all comfort, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, grant the consolation of Your Holy Spirit to all comfortless and afflicted souls. Make us to be rooted and grounded in faith, armed with the breastplate of Christ’s righteousness, furnished with the helmet of an unwavering hope, and provided with the sword of the Spirit, the word of Truth, by which we shall triumph over all enemies. Amen. (This prayer is taken from Reading Psalms with Luther.)
CHRIST'S SERMON OF COMFORT
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.
25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.
Devotion by the Blessed Dr. Martin Luther
I. CHRIST'S SERMON OF COMFORT.
7. That we may, under no circumstances, despair, Christ says, I will send you a Comforter, even one who is almighty. And he calls the Holy Spirit here a Comforter; for although both my sins and the fear of death make me weak and timid, he comes and stirs up the courage in my heart, and says: Cheer up! Thus he trumpets courage into us; he encourages us in a friendly and comforting manner not to despair before death but to cheerfully go forward, even though we had ten necks for the executioner, and say: Aye, although I have sinned, yet I am rid of my sins; and if I had still more, so that they overwhelmed me, I would hope, that they should do me no harm. Not that one should not feel his sins, for the flesh must experience them; but the Spirit overcomes and suppresses diffidence and timidity, and conducts us through them. He is powerful enough to do that. Therefore, Christ says further:
"Whom I will send unto you from the Father."
8. For he, the Father, is the person that takes the initiative: I am the Son; and from us the Holy Spirit proceeds. And the three persons are one, and one essence, with equal power and authority, as he better expresses it when he says:
"The Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father."
9. That is as much as to say: He who will comfort you is almighty and Lord over all things. How can the creatures now harm us, if the Creator stands by us? Notice how great the comfort of the Holy Spirit is. Now let all the Turks attack us. As long as he is our guard and rearguard, there is no danger. John also says in his first Epistle, 3, 19-20: "Hereby shall we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before him; because if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things." Likewise, in the following chapter, verse 4, he says: "Ye are of God, my little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world." So the Lord now says, Him will I send unto you, so that nothing can harm you. Is not that liberal comfort? Who would not be fearless and cheerful in view of this? And Christ calls him "The Spirit of truth;" that is, where he is and comes there is a rock foundation through and through, the real truth. Neither falsehood nor hypocrisy is there, for the Spirit is not hypocritical. But wherever he is not, there is nothing but hypocrisy and falsehood. Therefore, we fall when the test comes, because the Spirit of truth is not present. Christ now further says:
"He shall bear witness of me."
10. That is, if he is in the heart he speaks through you, and assures and confirms you in the belief that the Gospel is true. Then, as a result, the confession of the Gospel springs forth. What, then, is the Gospel? It is a witness concerning Christ, that he is God's Son, the Savior, and beside him there is none other. This is what Peter means when he says: "Ye are a royal priesthood, that we are elected thereto, that we preach and show forth the excellencies of Christ." 1 Pet 2, 9. Hence, there must always be witnessing. Witnessing loads upon itself the wrath of the whole world. Then the cross follows, then rebellions rise, then the lords and princes and all who are great become angry; for the world cannot hear, nor will it tolerate, this kind of preaching. Therefore, the Gospel is hated and spoken against.
11. Reason thinks: Aye, one can, nevertheless, easily preach the Gospel in a beautifully simple and plain way, without a revolution in the world, and then it will be heartily welcomed. This is the utterance of Satan; for if I believe and say that faith in Christ alone does and accomplishes all, I overthrow the monkey play of the whole world; and that they cannot allow. Therefore, Christ's teachings and man's teachings cannot stand together; one must fall. Priests and monks, as they are at present, are dependent in name, character and works upon human institutions, which the Gospel thrusts to the ground. Hence, they dare not accept the Gospel, and they continue as they are.
12. Thus, I say that the Christian faith is founded upon Christ alone, without anything additional. The priests will not permit their affairs and institutions to fall; in consequence, seditions and rebellions follow. Therefore, there must be dissension where the Gospel and the confession of Christ are; for the Gospel opposes everything that is not of its own spirit. If the teachings of Christ and the priests were not antagonistic, they could easily stand together. They are now pitted against one another. As impossible as it is for Christ not to be Christ, so impossible is it for a monk or priest to be a Christian. Therefore, a fire must be kindled. The Lord himself, in Mt 10, 34 and Lk 12, 51 says: "I came not to send peace, but a sword." Then follows in our text:
"And ye also bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning."
13. Yes; then, first, when you become certain of your faith through the Holy Spirit, who is your witness, you must also bear witness of me, for to that end I chose you to be apostles. You have heard my words and teachings and have seen my works and life and all things that you are to preach. But the Holy Spirit must first be present; otherwise you can do nothing, for the conscience is too weak. Yes, there is no sin so small that the conscience could vanquish it, even if it were so trifling a one as laughing in church. Again, in the presence of death the conscience is far too weak to offer resistance. Therefore another must come and give to the timid, despairing conscience, courage to go through everything, although all sins be upon it. And it must, at the same time, be an almighty courage, like he alone can give who ministers strength in such a way that the courage, which before a rustling leaf could cause to fear, is now not afraid of all the devils, and the conscience that before could not restrain laughing, now restrains all sins.
14. The benefit and fruit of the Holy Spirit is, that sin will be changed to the highest and best use. Thus Paul boasts to Timothy, when he was converted, that whereas he had lived such a wicked life before, he now held his sin to be so contemptible that he composed a hymn and sang about it thus, in 1 Tim 1, 12-17: "I thank him that enabled me, even Christ Jesus our Lord, for that he counted me faithful, appointing me to his service; though I was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: howbeit I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord abounded exceedingly with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief: howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me as chief might Jesus Christ show forth all his longsuffering, for an example of them that should thereafter believe on him unto eternal life. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen."
Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you that you have and continue to send us the Holy Spirit, our Comforter through Word and Sacrament. Amen.
THE TOWER OF BABEL UNDONE
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
Remember, the Tower of Babel is after the flood. They make a tower because they want to make a name for themselves (as sinful man always wants to do in his pride). They were supposed to go out into the world but they ignore God’s command and build a tower. The Lord says there would now be no limits to their rebellion against God.
Sinful mankind always likes to think that God can’t see or hear their sin - or that God doesn’t care about their sin. But God does see, He does hear, He does care. God came to them in judgment – confused their language and that confusion resulted in division.
Think of how much war and bloodshed there have been because of the divisions that began on this day! Like the story of the fall – rebellion against God leads to divisions among people. People are driven from paradise (the presence of God) and from one another. Sin always has a ripple effect creating division and confusion.
Our sin has the same ripple effects. We are all in need of reconciliation – we are by nature enemies of God, and we need to be made friends. We are in need of peace – with God and with man.
Sin always brings division. Think of how much strife is caused by sin within families, at your jobs, among nations, etc. All of the problems you have with others are caused by one thing – sin, whether it is their sin, your sin, or both parties are at fault.
At Pentecost, the Lord undoes the confusion and division caused by Babel and gives us that which brings clarity (right thinking) and unites us.
“At this sound [mighty rushing wind and of them preaching in tongues] the multitude came together” (Acts 2:6), this draws them in because the preaching of Christ is the primary work of the Holy Spirit, whereby He gathers people from all nations into one Church.
What is it that unites us with one another? It is the preaching of Christ – His life, death, and resurrection for you. That is the only thing that can truly unite us and destroy the divisions among people.
So, at Pentecost we see the gift of speaking in tongues. It was given as a sign that the Gospel was for all sinners of every tribe and nation under heaven. And so, Babel is reversed on Pentecost. Instead of language dividing the people, at Pentecost the people are united as the Gospel is preached in their own language.
God’s judgment on man’s self-centered pride had manifested itself not only in the multiplication of human languages but also in the division and strife between peoples.
We see all of this being undone at Pentecost. The only thing that can cure this confusion and division is the gospel!
Only the Holy Spirit, working through the gracious Word of Christ, can unite and cut through the confusion bringing clarity and peace. The Holy Spirit teaches us to repent of our sins so that we would find our true name not in ourselves, making ourselves great, but in Christ.
There is no other name given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)
So, on Pentecost the Holy Spirit united his people into one language – the Gospel. The same Holy Spirit is still bringing clarity and peace to you.
How does this come about? The Holy Spirit gives clarity and peace through our Lord’s appointed means – not through some mystical experience of the Holy Spirit.
Through the Word, the Holy Spirit teaches and brings to our remembrance the words of Jesus (whole Bible!), which are the words of the Father who sent Him. These words bestow clarity – right thinking about Law and Gospel!
If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. 24 He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me. (John 14:23-24)
So too: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (14:27).
This peace is given through the Sacraments as well. The Gospel calls us into communion and fellowship of faith in which all sinners share in common the forgiveness of sins by grace alone.
Peace comes only through the forgiveness of sins – both with God and one another. The forgiveness of sins reestablishes our relationship with God and one another. Because we have peace with God we are free to live at peace with one another – free to serve our neighbor in love – we no longer have to be in conflict with them.
Peace only comes through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us Christ and Christ indeed is our peace. And the Holy Spirit keeps coming to us through Word and Sacrament to give us Christ.
We are in need of clarity and peace. Because of what Christ accomplished for us in His death and resurrection and because He ascended to the right hand of the Father, He sent us the Holy Spirit, just as He promised. And the Holy Spirit keeps giving us clarity and peace through Word and Sacrament.
Almighty and ever-living God, You fulfilled Your promise by sending the gift of the Holy Spirit to unite disciples of all nations in the cross and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ. By the preaching of the Gospel spread this gift to the ends of the earth; through the same Jesus Christ, 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.
13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.
Devotion on the Third Article of the Creed: Sanctification from the Blessed Dr. Martin Luther
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
What does this mean? I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.
This is most certainly true.
This article (as I have said) I cannot relate better than to Sanctification, that through the same the Holy Ghost, with His office, is declared and depicted, namely, that He makes holy. Therefore we must take our stand upon the word Holy Ghost, because it is so precise and comprehensive that we cannot find another. 36] For there are, besides, many kinds of spirits mentioned in the Holy Scriptures, as, the spirit of man, heavenly spirits, and evil spirits. But the Spirit of God alone is called Holy Ghost, that is, He who has sanctified and still sanctifies us. For as the Father is called Creator, the Son Redeemer, so the Holy Ghost, from His work, must be called Sanctifier, or One that makes holy. 37] But how is such sanctifying done? Answer: Just as the Son obtains dominion, whereby He wins us, through His birth, death, resurrection, etc., so also the Holy Ghost effects our sanctification by the following parts, namely, by the communion of saints or the Christian Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting; that is, He first leads us into His holy congregation, and places us in the bosom of the Church, whereby He preaches to us and brings us to Christ.
38] For neither you nor I could ever know anything of Christ, or believe on Him, and obtain Him for our Lord, unless it were offered to us and granted to our hearts by the Holy Ghost through the preaching of the Gospel. The work is done and accomplished; for Christ has acquired and gained the treasure for us by His suffering, death, resurrection, etc. But if the work remained concealed so that no one knew of it, then it would be in vain and lost. That this treasure, therefore, might not lie buried, but be appropriated and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to go forth and be proclaimed, in which He gives the Holy Ghost to bring this treasure home and appropriate it to us. 39] Therefore sanctifying is nothing else than bringing us to Christ to receive this good, to which we could not attain of ourselves.
40] Learn, then, to understand this article most clearly. If you are asked: What do you mean by the words: I believe in the Holy Ghost? you can answer: I believe that the Holy Ghost makes me holy, as His name implies. 41] But whereby does He accomplish this, or what are His method and means to this end? Answer: By the Christian Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. 42] For, in the first place, He has a peculiar congregation in the world, which is the mother that begets and bears every Christian through the Word of God, which He reveals and preaches, [and through which] He illumines and enkindles hearts, that they understand, accept it, cling to it, and persevere in it.
43] For where He does not cause it to be preached and made alive in the heart, so that it is understood, it is lost, as was the case under the Papacy, where faith was entirely put under the bench, and no one recognized Christ as his Lord or the Holy Ghost as his Sanctifier, that is, no one believed that Christ is our Lord in the sense that He has acquired this treasure for us, without our works and merit, and made us acceptable to the Father. What, then, was lacking? 44] This, that the Holy Ghost was not there to reveal it and cause it to be preached; but men and evil spirits were there, who taught us to obtain grace and be saved by our works. 45] Therefore it is not a Christian Church either; for where Christ is not preached, there is no Holy Ghost who creates, calls, and gathers the Christian Church, without which no one can come to Christ the Lord. 46] Let this suffice concerning the sum of this article. But because the parts which are here enumerated are not quite clear to the simple, we shall run over them also.
47] The Creed denominates the holy Christian Church, communionem sanctorum, a communion of saints; for both expressions, taken together, are identical. But formerly the one [the second] expression was not there, and it has been poorly and unintelligibly translated into German a communion of saints (eine Gemeinschaft der Heiligen). If it is to be rendered plainly, it must be expressed quite differently in the German idiom; for the word ecclesia properly means in German , an assembly (eine Versammlung). 48] But we are accustomed to the word church, by which the simple do not understand an assembled multitude, but the consecrated house or building, although the house ought not to be called a church, except only for the reason that the multitude assembles there. For we who assemble there make and choose for ourselves a particular place, and give a name to the house according to the assembly.
Thus the word Kirche (church) means really nothing else than a common assembly, and is not German by idiom, but Greek (as is also the word ecclesia); for in their own language they call it kyria, as in Latin it is called curia. Therefore in genuine German, in our mother-tongue, it ought to be called a Christian congregation or assembly (eine christliche Gemeinde oder Sammlung), or, best of all and most clearly, holy Christendom (eine heilige Christenheit).
49] So also the word communio, which is added, ought not to be rendered communion (Gemeinschaft), but congregation (Gemeinde). And it is nothing else than an interpretation or explanation by which some one meant to explain what the Christian Church is. This our people, who understood neither Latin nor German, have rendered communion of saints (Gemeinschaft der Heiligen), although no German language speaks thus, nor understands it thus. But to speak correct German, it ought to be a congregation of saints (eine Gemeinde der Heiligen), that is, a congregation made up purely of saints, or, to speak yet more plainly, a holy congregation(eine heilige Gemeinde). 50] I say this in order that the words communion of saints (Gemeinschaft der Heiligen) may be understood, because the expression has become so established by custom that it cannot well be eradicated, and it is treated almost as heresy if one should attempt to change a word.
51] But this is the meaning and substance of this addition: I believe that there is upon earth a little holy group and congregation of pure saints, under one head, even Christ, called together by the Holy Ghost in one faith, one mind, and understanding, with manifold gifts, yet agreeing in love, without sects or schisms. 52] I am also a part and member of the same, a sharer and joint owner of all the goods it possesses, brought to it and incorporated into it by the Holy Ghost by having heard and continuing to hear the Word of God, which is the beginning of entering it. For formerly, before we had attained to this, we were altogether of the devil, knowing nothing of God and of Christ. 53] Thus, until the last day, the Holy Ghost abides with the holy congregation or Christendom, by means of which He fetches us to Christ and which He employs to teach and preach to us the Word, whereby He works and promotes sanctification, causing it [this community] daily to grow and become strong in the faith and its fruits which He produces.
54] We further believe that in this Christian Church we have forgiveness of sin, which is wrought through the holy Sacraments and Absolution, moreover, through all manner of consolatory promises of the entire Gospel. Therefore, whatever is to be preached concerning the Sacraments belongs here, and, in short, the whole Gospel and all the offices of Christianity, which also must be preached and taught without ceasing. For although the grace of God is secured through Christ, and sanctification is wrought by the Holy Ghost through the Word of God in the unity of the Christian Church, yet on account of our flesh which we bear about with us we are never without sin.
55] Everything, therefore, in the Christian Church is ordered to the end that we shall daily obtain there nothing but the forgiveness of sin through the Word and signs, to comfort and encourage our consciences as long as we live here. Thus, although we have sins, the [grace of the] Holy Ghost does not allow them to injure us, because we are in the Christian Church, where there is nothing but [continuous, uninterrupted] forgiveness of sin, both in that God forgives us, and in that we forgive, bear with, and help each other.
56] But outside of this Christian Church, where the Gospel is not, there is no forgiveness, as also there can be no holiness [sanctification]. Therefore all who seek and wish to merit holiness [sanctification], not through the Gospel and forgiveness of sin, but by their works, have expelled and severed themselves [from this Church].
57] Meanwhile, however, while sanctification has begun and is growing daily, we expect that our flesh will be destroyed and buried with all its uncleanness, and will come forth gloriously, and arise to entire and perfect holiness in a new eternal life. 58] For now we are only half pure and holy, so that the Holy Ghost has ever [some reason why] to continue His work in us through the Word, and daily to dispense forgiveness, until we attain to that life where there will be no more forgiveness, but only perfectly pure and holy people, full of godliness and righteousness, removed and free from sin, death, and all evil, in a new, immortal, and glorified body.
59] Behold, all this is to be the office and work of the Holy Ghost, that He begin and daily increase holiness upon earth by means of these two things, the Christian Church and the forgiveness of sin. But in our dissolution He will accomplish it altogether in an instant, and will forever preserve us therein by the last two parts.
60] But the term resurrection (Auferstehung des Fleisches) of the flesh here employed is not according to good German idiom. For when we Germans hear the word flesh (Fleisch), we think no farther than of the shambles. But in good German idiom we would say resurrection of the body (Auferstehung des Leibes, or Leichnams). However, it is not a matter of much moment, if we only understand the words aright.
61] This, now, is the article which must ever be and remain in operation. For creation we have received; redemption, too, is finished But the Holy Ghost carries on His work without ceasing to the last day. And for that purpose He has appointed a congregation upon earth by which He speaks and does everything. 62] For He has not yet brought together all His Christian Church nor dispensed forgiveness. Therefore we believe in Him who through the Word daily brings us into the fellowship of this Christian Church, and through the same Word and the forgiveness of sins bestows, increases, and strengthens faith, in order that when He has accomplished it all, and we abide therein, and die to the world and to all evil, He may finally make us perfectly and forever holy; which now we expect in faith through the Word.
63] Behold, here you have the entire divine essence, will, and work depicted most exquisitely in quite short and yet rich words, wherein consists all our wisdom, which surpasses and exceeds the wisdom, mind, and reason of all men. For although the whole world with all diligence has endeavored to ascertain what God is, what He has in mind and does, yet has she never been able to attain to [the knowledge and understanding of] any of these things. 64] But here we have everything in richest measure; for here in all three articles He has Himself revealed and opened the deepest abyss of his paternal heart and of His pure unutterable love. For He has created us for this very object, that He might redeem and sanctify us; and in addition to giving and imparting to us everything in heaven and upon earth, He has given to us even His Son and the Holy Ghost, by whom to bring us to Himself. 65] For (as explained above) we could never attain to the knowledge of the grace and favor of the Father except through the Lord Christ, who is a mirror of the paternal heart, outside of whom we see nothing but an angry and terrible Judge. But of Christ we could know nothing either, unless it had been revealed by the Holy Ghost.
66] These articles of the Creed, therefore, divide and separate us Christians from all other people upon earth. For all outside of Christianity, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, although they believe in, and worship, only one true God, yet know not what His mind towards them is, and cannot expect any love or blessing from Him; therefore they abide in eternal wrath and damnation. For they have not the Lord Christ, and, besides, are not illumined and favored by any gifts of the Holy Ghost.
67] From this you perceive that the Creed is a doctrine quite different from the Ten Commandments; for the latter teaches indeed what we ought to do, but the former tells what God does for us and gives to us. Moreover, apart from this, the Ten Commandments are written in the hearts of all men; the Creed, however, no human wisdom can comprehend, but it must be taught by the Holy Ghost alone. 68] The latter doctrine [of the Law], therefore, makes no Christian, for the wrath and displeasure of God abide upon us still, because we cannot keep what God demands of us; but this [namely, the doctrine of faith] brings pure grace, and makes us godly and acceptable to God. 69] For by this knowledge we obtain love and delight in all the commandments of God, because here we see that God gives Himself entire to us, with all that He has and is able to do, to aid and direct us in keeping the Ten Commandments-the Father, all creatures; the Son, His entire work; and the Holy Ghost, all His gifts.
70] Let this suffice concerning the Creed to lay a foundation for the simple, that they may not be burdened, so that, if they understand the substance of it, they themselves may afterwards strive to acquire more, and to refer to these parts whatever they learn in the Scriptures, and may ever grow and increase in richer understanding. For as long as we live here, we shall daily have enough to do to preach and to learn this.
O Lord Jesus Christ, almighty Son of God: We beseech You, send Your Holy Spirit into our hearts, through Your word, that He may rule and govern us according to Your will, comfort us in every temptation and misfortune, and defend us by Your truth against every error, so that we may continue steadfast in the faith, increase in love and all good works, and firmly trusting in Your grace, which through death You have purchased for us, obtain eternal salvation, You who reigns, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.
ENTRUST YOUR DAYS AND BURDENS
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1 Peter 5:6-7
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Devotion based on Entrust Your Days and Burdens (LSB 754)
1. Entrust your days and burdens
To God's most loving hand;
He cares for you while ruling
The sky, the sea, the land.
For He who guides the tempests
Along their thund'rous ways
Will find for you a pathway
And guide you all your days.
2. Rely on God your Savior
And find your life secure.
Make His work your foundation
That your work may endure.
No anxious thought, no worry,
No self-tormenting care
Can win your Father's favor;
His heart is moved by prayer.
3. Take heart, have hope, my spirit,
And do not be dismayed;
God helps in ev'ry trial
And makes you unafraid.
Await His time with patience
Through darkest hours of night
Until the sun you hoped for
Delights your eager sight.
4. Leave all to His direction;
His wisdom rules for you
In ways to rouse your wonder
At all His love can do.
Soon He, His promise keeping,
With wonder-working pow'rs
Will banish from your spirit
What gave you troubled hours.
5. O bless-ed heir of heaven,
You'll hear the song resound
Of endless jubilation
When you with life are crowned.
In your right hand your maker
Will place the victor's palm,
And you will thank Him gladly
With heaven's joyful psalm.
6. Our hands and feet, Lord, strengthen
With joy our spirits bless
Until we see the ending
Of all our life's distress.
And so throughout our lifetime
Keep us within Your care
And at our end then bring us
To heav'n to praise You there.
You can listen to the hymn here.
The hymn commentary for today comes from Pastor Jacob Sutton as found in the Lutheran Service Book Companion to the Hymns Volume 1 (edited and modified by me).
Paul Gerhardt wrote many hymns that deal with the comfort, hope, and joy found in relying on God’s providential and saving care of His creation, and this is probably his best known.
Gerhardt faced much distress during his lifetime, and shows that the faith-testing troubles and temptations that fight against the sure and certain promises of God in Jesus Christ for the hearts and souls of believers also affected Gerhardt and shaped the writing of his hymns. By the time he was fourteen, both his parents had died. When he was thirty, his hometown was destroyed by the Swedish army during the Thirty Years’ War…, and in the fall of the same year, his older brother Christian died there of the plague. After writing this hymn, Gerhard would experience the death of his wife and four of his five children.
There is some evidence that the hymn may have been influenced by Psalm 37:5, “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act” and a poem that Luther wrote on this verse. As well as influences from Johann Arndt, Leonhard Hutter, and Johann Gerhard.
The hymn is used in Johann Sebastian Bach’s monumental St. Matthew Passion (172; BWV 244). Bach also uses the best of Gerhardt’s passion hymns, “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” (LSB 449) and “Upon the Cross Extended” (LSB 453), for six different movements. But “Entrust Your Days and Burdens” is the only non-Lenten hymn by Gerhardt used in the work. A recitative from Matthew 27:7-14 concludes when Pilate asks Jesus if He hears how grave the charges being brough against Him are. But the evangelist sings, “But He gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.” Immediately thereafter, the chorus sings the first stanza of “Entrust Your Days and Burdens”.
During His trial and Passion, Jesus underwent the ultimate in “tempests” and “thunderous ways” (stanza 1), fully and perfectly committing or entrusting His pathway to His Father in heaven. His silence before Pilate tells us this, Bach seems to say. Jesus does not argue or try to avoid the charges, even though He is innocent, because His Father’s will is that He should bear the burden of the whole world’s sin (1 Peter 5:6-7, 10). Bach uses Gerhardt’s hymn to say, in light of what our Lord has done for us, that we can now entrust our days and burdens to Him who is God, who is ruling, and who guides all things with His most loving hand, including the sky, the sea, and the land, and who has carried out His plan for the salvation of the world from sin, death, and the devil.
Since Jesus Christ, the Lord, has acted in the office of “your Savior,” the second stanza invites each singer to rely on Him. We find our lives secure on the foundation of Him and His work, and thereupon our work is able to endure (Proverbs 16:3, 9). Looking to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, for Gerhardt there is “no anxious life” (Matthew 6:27). Instead, we can look to our Father in heaven (Matthew 6:9), who knows how to give good things to those who ask Him” (Matthew 7:11), for “His heart is moved by prayer” (stanza 2; Luke 18:7).
As the Lord Jesus in His trail endured all things, and as God encouraged the prophet Elijah, who was pursued by His opponents (1 Kings 19), the third stanza exhorts us to “take heart, have hope…and be not dismayed.” When the dark night of sin is over, the sun for which all Christians have hoped will delight their “eager sight”(Matthew 24:44; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; Revelation 22:5; Malachi 4:1-2).
Stanza 4 implores the singer to leave all things to Him – to God the Savior. With His “wonder-working powers,” He banishes all that “gave you troubled hours.” For we know that the answers to the question “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14) can be only “With God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
“Blessed is the heir of heaven,” promises stanza 5, who has been crowned with the crown of eternal life (Revelation 2:10; 3:11; James 1:12; 2 Timothy 4:7-8). God Himself “will place the victor’s palm” (see Revelation 7:9) into the right hands of those who have endured and trusted in Christ. Then a new song will be sung, for “heaven’s joyful psalm” will replace one that merely calls on singers to hope and trust, because the singers will see the Lamb face to face on His throne (Revelation 7:9-12).
In Gerhardt’s original last stanza, the singer cries out, “Make an end, O Lord, make an end to all our distress.” Until we reach the endless jubilation of heaven, which is the “ending of all our life’s distress”, we pray for the Lord to strengthen our hands and feet and to keep us within His care. Gerhardt’s original stanza brings back the idea of the road or way from Psalm 37:5 and the beginning of the hymn so as we go our way to heaven to praise Him there, we ask Him whose “heart is moved by prayer” (stanza 2) to keep the faithful secure in and entrusted to Him who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6; Luke 18:7-8).
Lord Jesus Christ, help us to entrust our days, our burdens, all our anxieties and cares into Your most loving hands. Amen.
WHAT IS BAPTISM?
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. 24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
Devotion from the Blessed Doctor Martin Chemnitz
224 What is Baptism?
Luther answers: It is not simple water only, but that which is included in the divine command and connected with the Word of God.
Philipp Melanchthon: Immersion in water was instituted by the Son of God with the declaration of the words: I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, testifying that since this testimony was divinely instituted, he who is immersed with the declaration of these words is reconciled to God for Christ’s sake and is sanctified by the Holy Spirit to life eternal.
225 What are the Essential Parts of Baptism?
I. The element of water (Jn 3:5; Eph 5:25–26; Acts 10:47).
II. The Word of God (Eph 5:26: Cleansing with the washing of water by the Word—namely the command of Christ regarding the conferring of Baptism, Mt 28:19, and the very promise of grace, Mk 16:16). For that word of the command and promise of God is a true consecration or sanctification by which Baptism becomes a clean water (Eze 36:25), in fact a water of life (Eze 47:9; Zch 14:8) and a washing of regeneration (Tts 3:5).
226 Is It Also Baptism When the Words of Institution are Spoken Over the Element of Water, and Yet There is No One Who is Baptized?
By no means. For when Christ says, Baptize them, He surely wants and commands that Baptism be an act in which someone is baptized with the water that is connected with the Word of God. And therefore Paul also calls Baptism a washing (Eph 5:26; Tts 3:5). But Baptism was not instituted that either bells or other creatures but that nations (Mt 28:19), that is, those who have been born of flesh (Jn 3:6), be baptized for remission of sins (Acts 2:38).
227 In the Administration of Baptism, Why is Not the General Statement (Baptize All Nations) Used, But: I Baptize Thee?
For this reason, namely, that this is distinctive of the Sacraments, that by them everyone is dealt with personally and specifically (Acts 2:38), so that in this way everyone of the believers might have in his heart as a sure testimony, pledge, and seal that the promise of grace is specifically offered and applied to him (Gl 3:27; 1 Ptr 3:21; Acts 2:38).
228 What is the Meaning of These Words: I Baptize Thee in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit?
First, [this] is signified, that Baptism is administered in the name, that is, on command, of God the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Second, [this] is indicated, that we are baptized in the name, that is, in, or with, invocation, of the true God, or as the Greek words say, into the name, that is, into the knowledge and invocation, of the true God, who is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Third, this above all is the thrust of those words, that in the administration of Baptism a minister does not function in his own name, but that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Himself present, deals through the outward ministry with the one to be baptized, so that God the Father, because of the merit of the Son, receives him into grace and sanctifies [him] by the Holy Spirit unto righteousness and life eternal, so that in the name is the same as in the stead and place of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as Paul says in that same passage regarding the preaching of the Gospel and absolution (2 Co 2:10; 5:20).
229 Is God the Father Present in Baptism?
He certainly is present. And that not only in the mode of presence by which He is present everywhere and fills all things, but in such a way that through this washing, He saved us according to His mercy, that, being justified by His grace for Christ’s sake, we might be made heirs of eternal life through the Holy Spirit (Tts 3:5; 7). Likewise, God the Father is present in Baptism in such a way that in it He establishes a covenant of a good conscience between Himself and us through Christ (1 Ptr 3:21).
230 Is the Son of God Present in Baptism?
Paul clearly affirms that, saying in very beautiful words, Eph 5:25–26: Christ gave Himself for the church, that He might sanctify it, cleansing it with the washing of water by the Word. Likewise, he says that we are baptized into the death of Christ (Ro 6:3) and into the resurrection of Christ (1 Ptr 3:21). In fact, in Baptism we put on Christ (Gl 3:27). And this is what is said in Acts: to be baptized in the name of Christ.
231 Is the Holy Spirit Also Present in Baptism?
We are born again of water and the Spirit, that we might enter into the kingdom of God (Jn 3:5; Tts 3:5–7).
And on this basis people are to be instructed and taught, so that they do not consider and regard Baptism as only a human work, but as the work of God, namely that in it the entire holy Trinity is present and deals with the poor sinner through that outward ministry, so that He cleanses him from sins, delivers [him] from death, Satan, and eternal damnation, and instead gives [him] righteousness and eternal salvation.
232 What is the Benefit, Power, or Efficacy of Baptism?
The words of institution of Baptism and many other passages of Scripture show us this, e.g., Mk 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Eph 5:25–26; Tts 3:5, 7; Jn 3:5; 1 Ptr 3:21. Hence Luther rightly says in his Catechism: Baptism works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words of divine promise declare.
233 But These Benefits Certainly Depend on the Merit of the Obedience and Passion of Christ. Are Men, Then, to Be Diverted from Christ and Brought to Baptism Instead of to Him?
If Christ is separated from Baptism, or Baptism from Christ (as the Sacramentarians do), then indeed the washing of water can of itself work or confer none of these things, but it is and remains only a simple sign. But since Christ is in and with the act of Baptism, so that we are baptized into His death and resurrection (Ro 6:3; 1 Ptr 3:21), in fact, in Baptism we put on Christ (Gl 3:27), and He Himself cleanses us by this washing (Eph 5:25–26), likewise, since God the Father imparts, presents, and seals to believers the merit of Christ through His Holy Spirit in Baptism and through Baptism (Tts 3:5–6), therefore neither water nor the act of the minister performs and works the things that are predicated of Baptism, but God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Himself, through Baptism, as through the ordinary means ordained and instituted by God Himself for this purpose. Therefore, far from being diverted from Christ by Baptism, we by it, as by the ordinary means, are led to Christ and grafted in [Him] (Ro 6:4–5; Mk 10:14). For salvation has indeed been procured and accomplished by Christ on the cross, but in Baptism and through Baptism it is distributed, applied, and sealed to believers (Mk 16:16).
234 How Long Does that Salutary Effect of Baptism and Fruit of Comfort Last?
Through a man’s whole life on this earth, in fact unto life eternal (Mk 16:16). Likewise, we are born again in Baptism, that we might be made heirs of eternal life according to hope (Tts 3:7); cf. Eph 5:26–27; this is indeed begun in this life, but finally completed in the life to come. And it is indeed a very sweet comfort that through all of this life Baptism becomes for us the figure of a very firm pact and public testimony that we have been made partakers of the merit of Christ in such a way that we can at all times seek and draw continual comfort from it, as Paul comforts the Galatians on the basis of Baptism once received, when they repented after falling (Gl 3:27).
235 But What If One Who is Baptized Rejects Repentance and Loses Faith?
The salutary fruits of Baptism, of which we have spoken, are apprehended, retained, and preserved by faith. Mk 16:16. Therefore, where there is no repentance, and no good but only evil fruits follow, there certainly is no true and saving faith, as was pointed out above. Likewise, he that either does not seek or does not retain the grace of God in Christ, but spurns and rejects it, he does not have true faith. And though such have been baptized, yet they are under this sentence of divine judgment: He that does not believe shall be condemned.
236 If, Then, Someone Fails Away from the Covenant of Baptism and Later is Converted Anew, is There No Longer Any Comfort Left for Him on the Basis of Baptism?
The papist teach that the ark of Baptism is so dashed to pieces and completely destroyed by sin against conscience that it cannot be repaired, and therefore those who repent are not to return to the covenant of Baptism, but are to seize a second plank, namely of repentance and our works, by which we might escape the depth of perdition. But God forbid that our unbelief make the faith of God of no effect (Ro 3:3–4; 2 Ti 2:13). And God does not want the basis of grace, entered with us by Baptism, to consist in this, that if we break faith He also will not keep faith, even if we repent and return to it. But, as the ancients have well said, Baptism is rather the door by which we are admitted and received to fellowship and participation in the merits of Christ, so that we might continue therein, or if we fall therefrom, that we might have access and a way back to that covenant of grace, in true repentance, through faith, continually, while it is still today. And Jeremiah describes in very comforting words in all of Jer 3 how much God commends His grace to us in this very thing.
237 Is Baptism, Then, to Be Repeated as Often as We Fall?
By no means. For the covenant that God made with us in Baptism is an everlasting covenant (Is 55:3). And Baptism is a seal that testifies that God will continually keep the covenant of grace once made with us whenever and as often as we return to it. It is therefore not necessary to repeat Baptism as often as we are converted after a fall, as also in the Old Testament those who fell did not repeat circumcision at conversion but returned in earnest repentance through true faith to the covenant of grace that God had made with them in circumcision. Thus Paul did not rebaptize the Corinthians and Galatians who were again converted to God after a fall, but directed them to the covenant and comfort of Baptism once received. 1 Co 6:11; 12:13; Gl 3:27. It is indeed written regarding the Lord’s Supper: As often as ye do this, etc. But no commandment like this is connected with Baptism: As often as ye are baptized, etc.
238 Does Baptism, Because of the Comfort Regarding Forgiveness of Sins and Salvation, Also Have More Effects and Benefits?
The chief benefit and comfort of Baptism is that of which we have spoken so far. But Paul mentions in addition also another effect of Baptism. For he says, Tts 3:5: Baptism is a washing, first, of regeneration, namely that we, who by nature were children of wrath, are reborn of water and the Spirit, so that, for Christ’s sake, we might be children of God. Second, he says that it is a washing of renewing of the Holy Spirit.
239 In What, Then, Does This Renewal Consist?
Paul indeed briefly but thoroughly covers and describes this whole process of renewal Ro 6:4 ff., where he says, first, that we, being planted by Baptism in the death of Christ, are also buried with Him into death, namely that the power and efficacy of the death of Christ not only forgives us sins, but also begins to crucify, mortify, and bury sin in the flesh, in the baptized, by the Holy Spirit, that it should not reign in our body, and we should not obey its lusts, but that the body of sin might be destroyed. Second, he says that through Baptism we are also made partakers of the resurrection of Christ, namely that through it the Holy Spirit renews the mind, that we put on the new man, who is created according to God in righteousness and holiness of truth (Eph 4:24).
240 How are Exhortations to Newness of Life to Be Drawn from Baptism?
By the example of Paul, Ro 6:3–4, 6, 11–12. For just as God made with us a covenant of grace and a good conscience in Baptism, so we also, on the other hand, promised Him that we would die to sin and live to righteousness, for this reason the renunciation in the act of Baptism was given this form of question and answer: Do you renounce the devil? Answer: I renounce, etc. It is therefore a horrible sin impudently to violate that covenant. For thus we hinder and destroy the work of the Holy Spirit, who works renewal in us. But all believers can, in fact should, confidently implore and entreat the Holy Spirit by a certain right of Baptism, as it were, to mortify the works of the flesh in them and cleanse and renew their hearts more and more.
241 Are the Effects and Benefits of Baptism Immediately Complete and Finished in the Baptized?
Regeneration indeed, that is, adoption and the forgiveness of sins is complete and finished in believers immediately after Baptism, and yet it nevertheless extends through the whole life of a man. But renewal is indeed begun in Baptism and grows daily, but is finally completed in the life to come. For in this [present] life renewal is still imperfect and should grow and increase from day to day. 2 Co 4:16; Eph 4:22–23; Cl 3:10; 1 Ptr 2:1–2.
242 Are Infants to Be Baptized?
Yes. For baptism of infants was always observed in the Christian church from the time of the apostles and was defended and approved against heretics on the basis of the Word of God, as the very ancient writers Irenaeus, Cyprian, Origen, Ambrose, Augustine, and Chrysostom testify.
Chemnitz, M., & Poellot, L. (1999). Ministry, word, and sacraments: an enchiridion (electronic ed., pp. 112–120). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
Lord God, heavenly Father, it is meet and right that we should give thanks unto You, that You have given us a more glorious baptism than that of John the Baptist, and have therein promised us the remission of sins, the Holy Spirit, and everlasting life through Your Son, Jesus Christ: Preserve us, we beseech You, in such faith in Your grace and mercy, that we may never doubt Your promise, but be comforted by the same in all temptations: and grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may renounce sin, and ever continue in the righteousness bestowed upon us in baptism, until by Your grace we obtain eternal salvation, through the same, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, world without end. Amen.
A DEVOTION ON PSALM 27
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.
3 Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.
4 One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.
5 For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.
6 And now my head shall be lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
8 You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
9 Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
O God of my salvation!
10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
but the Lord will take me in.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.
13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!
Devotion by Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann
If you experience the harsh and vehement attacks of the enemy, and they crowd against you, despising you as one who is not anointed, and on this very account they fight against you, do not succumb to these attacks but sing Psalm 27. – Athanasius
A psalm of David, written probably about the same time as the preceding one, picturing the state of mind of one who is persecuted ‘Without cause and longs for the blessings of the worship in the midst of the congregation. V. 1. The Lord is my Light, the only Source of all spiritual light, and my Salvation, He who saves him from the darkness of oppression and persecution; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Strength of my life, his Stronghold, his Bulwark, his sure Defense, keeping his life from destruction; of whom shall I be afraid? The entire song has the ring of Paul’s mighty hymn of triumph, Rom. 8, 31-39. V. 2. When the wicked, the doers of evil and mischief, even mine enemies and my foes, those who oppose and oppress him on all sides, came upon me, approaching him with marked hostility, to eat up my flesh, as wild beasts eager to tear and devour their prey, they stumbled and fell, unable to carry out their object because of the protection afforded David by Jehovah.
V. 3. Though an host, a whole army or camp of adversaries, should encamp against me, besieging him on all sides, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise against me, in this, even in such a great extremity, will I be confldent, in spite of all that he would calmly trust in Jehovah, his Stronghold. Both the words and the tone of the psalm denote the holy and calm defiance with which all believers may await the attack of the enemies.
V. 4. One thing have I desired of the Lord, in the midst of all these threatening dangers, that will I seek after, with a great desire: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord, the Tabernacle of His presence, all the days of my life, in the delight of intimate fellowship with Jehovah, to behold the beauty of the Lord, His favor and kindness as revealed in the Word of His grace, and to inquire in His Temple, meditating upon the wonderful blessings of His mercy in the message of the Gospel. V. 5. For, because of the believer’s close communion with God, in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion, in the Tabernacle, where His almighty hand protects; in the secret of His Tabernacle shall He hide me, sheltering the believer in the safety of His tent; He shall set me upon a rock, the house of Jehovah being a refuge and stronghold beyond the reach of puny men.
V. 6. And now shall mine head be lifted up, in the triumph of a certain victory, above mine enemies round about me, the fact of whose defeat places the believer beyond their reach; therefore will I offer in His Tabernacle sacrifices of joy, thank-offerings always being occasions of great rejoicing. I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord, which the faithful Israelites were wont to do at the festival meal connected with their thank-offerings. At the same time David does not, even in the remotest way, rely upon his own strength, and for this reason the triumphant strain of confidence now gives way to an earnest appeal. V. 7. Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice, calling loudly and emphatically; have mercy also upon me, that being the one safe reliance of the believer, and answer me, with a favorable reply.
V. 8. When Thou saidst, Seek ye My face, at Jehovah’s call to seek His face, my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek; the heart of the believer being attuned to the fellowship with Jehovah, it gladly answers His call, assenting thereto as an echo of it, happy in the knowledge that it pleases Jehovah if His children enter into the presence of God, in order to gain comfort, assistance, and blessings of every kind.
V. 9. Hide not thy face (far) from me, veiling it from the prayer of the believer; put not Thy servant away in anger, thrusting him aside as unworthy; Thou hast been my Help, and the former mercy and love emboldens David to plead against rejection. Leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation. It is the cry of Jacob: “I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me,” Gen. 32, 26, a call which holds the Lord to the promise of His salvation.
V. 10. When my father and my mother forsake me, the very nearest earthly relatives abandoning him who seems doomed to destruction, Matt. 10, 35. 36, then the Lord will take me up, receiving the believer into His care and protection, adopting him as His own child. V. 11. Teach me Thy way, the road according with Jehovah’s will, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, even, level, without pitfalls, because of mine enemies, since they dog his every footstep and are trying to lead him into sin, his fall at the same time heaping dishonor upon God.
V. 12. Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies, to the destruction which they had planned against him; for false witnesses are risen up against me, such being the methods employed by the enemies in their persecution of the believer, and such as breathe out cruelty, their every breath being charged with violence.
V. 13. I had fainted unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, literally, “If I did not trust to behold the excellence of Jehovah -!” He leaves the sentence unfinished. for it is too hard to picture and imagine life without the sustaining mercy of Jehovah. And so David encourages himself and all believers in conclusion, v. 14. Wait on the Lord, firmly trusting in the revelation of His mercy; be of good courage, strong of heart, and He shall strengthen thine heart, rather, let thy heart show itself mighty. Wait, I say, on the Lord. With this confident expectation the prayer of every believer must be concluded; for the Lord will, at His own time, bring salvation in rich measure upon His children, here in time and hereafter in eternity.
O almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all dangers and necessities stretch forth Your mighty hand, to defend us against our enemies; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, world without end. Amen
THE END OF ALL THINGS IS AT HAND
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1 Peter 4:7-11
7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Devotion by Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann
The apostle here guards against the danger of a false security which may follow his comforting assurances in the case of such as misunderstand the meaning of Christian liberty: But the end of all things has come near; be sensible, then, and vigilant toward prayer. As sure as redemption has been earned and salvation is ready for all men, as sure as the Judge of the living and the dead is prepared for the final Judgment and the apparent delay is only another gracious measure on His part to call men to repentance, so sure it is that the end of all things, of that which we commonly designate as heaven and earth, the visible world, is near.
This consideration of the nearness of the end is a strong motive for the Christians to exert all diligence in using the time allotted them in the proper way. Their entire conduct should be one that agrees with sound Christian common sense, with that sober-mindedness which should be the strongest characteristic of the children of God. They must put aside all spiritual drowsiness and be wide awake, vigilant, with regard to prayer. In view of the nearness of the end they will be particularly diligent in their intercourse with their heavenly Father, lest the dangers and tribulations of the latter days overcome them. All the cares, joys, and sorrows of life must not be permitted to interfere with their relation toward God.
The conduct of the Christians toward their neighbors must likewise be in line with these considerations: Above all, have the love toward one another fervent, for love covers a mass of sins. That the apostle stresses this point with such emphasis may easily be understood, especially in view of the conditions as they now obtain in the world. Such is the power of selfishness in these last days that the idea of unselfish altruism, of true love, has practically been lost. It is talked about very extensively, even in the relation of states and nations toward one another, but is practiced very little.
Therefore, all true Christians should distinguish themselves by making the love which they profess to feel an intense, an assiduous, a fervent, a real love, without a trace of selfishness, having only the welfare of their brother in mind. It is this love which is ready to cover and forget even a mass of sins, a feat which would not be possible if their love were of a kind that does not stand tests. Thus love preserves brotherly harmony and unity. It is not a question of magnanimously overlooking one or two little faults, but of forgiving even a multitude of sins, and in forgiving to forget them.
Another proof of this love is indicated in the words: Be hospitable toward each other without murmuring. This was necessary even more in those days of oppression and persecution than it is today, at least in our country. But as recent events abroad show, the time may well come also in this country when oppression will come upon us, making it necessary for us to open our homes to such as have been driven from their homes by persecution. But in any event Christians will be ready to show true hospitality, to receive their brethren and sisters with open arms whenever there is need of it. They will do this, moreover, not with an unwilling murmuring, but with a cordiality flowing out of true love.
A third admonition concerns the work in the congregation: Everyone as he has received a gift of grace, - serve one another therewith, as good stewards of the various graces of God. Mark that the apostle expressly states that every Christian has received some gift of grace, some talent which he should employ in the service of the congregation, of the Church of the Lord. Whether this gift is one of preaching, or of teaching, or of praying, or of exhorting, or of organizing, it should be exercised by the Christian. No talent may be hidden away in the ground for specious reasons. But these gifts are not our own to use as we choose, especially not for selfish purposes, for the advancement of various ambitious schemes. In receiving gifts from God, we have become stewards of God, we are responsible to Him; our gifts, according to His will, should be exercised in serving one another, in proving ourselves useful in the work which we are carrying on at God’s command, to the praise and honor of God and to the benefit and salvation of our neighbor.
Two of such special gifts of grace, of the Holy Spirit, the apostle names: if any one speaks, let him do so as he who utters the words of God; if any one ministers, let him do so as out of the strength which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and power forever and ever, Amen. If anyone has received the gift of speaking, if he holds an office in which he is to declare the oracles of God, Rom. 12, 6; Num. 24, 4, he should adhere strictly to these revelations of God as they are contained in His inspired Word. For any man to proclaim himself a Christian teacher and then to preach his own human speculations, or only that which he chooses to consider true in the Bible, is an insult to the Lord. All frivolous handling of the Word also, as when a Christian teacher forgets the dignity of the subject which he is laying before the congregation, cannot be excused on any grounds. In a similar way those that are engaged in ministering, in almsgiving, in taking care of the poor and needy, in assisting in the work of Christian hospitals and hospices, in short, all Christians, as they take part in the work of charity carried on in their midst, should remember that it is, in the last analysis, the work of the Lord which they are doing as His stewards.
They will, then, certainly not depend upon their own strength nor seek to further any private schemes in their work, nor will they permit their hands to be idle while there is so much work to do. That gift, that power which God has granted them, and which He wants to continue to supply, they are to use energetically, consistently. It is, in other words, the faithful, conscientious employment of the gifts which God has given to a Christian which he desires from every one of them. And the final aim and purpose will always be that God's name may be glorified among men more and more. For it is from Him, as the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that we have received faith and the fruit of faith, and thus also the power to praise and magnify His holy name through the works which we perform in the building and maintaining of His kingdom. The power of God becomes operative through Jesus Christ, to whom we give all praise and power in all eternity. 6)
O Lord, so rule and govern our hearts and minds by Your Holy Spirit that, ever mindful of the end of all things and the day of Your just judgment, we may be stirred up to holiness of living here and dwell with You forever hereafter; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
WITH THE LORD BEGIN YOUR TASK
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 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. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Devotion based on With the Lord Begin Your Task (LSB 869)
1 With the Lord begin your task;
Jesus will direct it.
For His aid and counsel ask;
Jesus will perfect it.
Ev’ry morn with Jesus rise,
And when day is ended,
In His name then close your eyes;
Be to Him commended.
2 Let each day begin with prayer,
Praise, and adoration.
On the Lord cast ev’ry care;
He is your salvation.
Morning, evening, and at night
Jesus will be near you,
Save you from the tempter’s might,
With His presence cheer you.
3 With your Savior at your side,
Foes need not alarm you;
In His promises confide,
And no ill can harm you.
All your trust and hope repose
In the mighty Master,
Who in wisdom truly knows
How to stem disaster.
4 If your task be thus begun
With the Savior’s blessing,
Safely then your course will run,
Toward the promise pressing.
Good will follow ev’rywhere
While you here must wander;
You at last the joy will share
In the mansions yonder.
5 Thus, Lord Jesus, ev’ry task
Be to You commended;
May Your will be done, I ask,
Until life is ended.
Jesus, in Your name begun
Be the day’s endeavor;
Grant that it may well be done
To Your praise forever.
You can listen to the hymn here.
I just became familiar with this hymn recently and I thought it was a perfect hymn to begin our week with. The passage from Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” is perfectly reflected in this hymn. It is good hymn to come back to as you get ready for a work week or workday.
The hymn commentary for today comes from Pastor Robert Mayes as found in the Lutheran Service Book Companion to the Hymns Volume 1.
This hymn was written in Waldenburg, Germany around 1732. Unlike many older hymns in common use today, this one did not enjoy wide circulation during the nineteenth century. Waldenburg, though, has a special connection to Missouri Synod, for it was in a small village near there where both father and the grandfather of C.F.W. Walther, the synod’s first president, served as pastor. Though evidence is lacking, it is not inconceivable that this connection caused Walther to include the hymn in the synod’s first hymnal.
“With the Lord Begin Your Work” invokes the Lord’s blessing on the Christian’s vocation at the start of each day. In the Synod’s nineteenth-century German hymnal, this hymn was placed in the category of “Estate and Vocation Hymns.”
In the first stanza, Christians are encouraged to begin their day with Jesus. This is a routine to be followed every day, like the morning devotion in the Small Catechism, after which Luther instructs, “go joyfully to your work, singing a hymn, like that of the Ten Commandments, or whatever your devotion may suggest.” Stanza 1 says, “Every morn with Jesus rise, and when day is ended, in His name then close your eyes.” Scripture often connects death and sleep (see Matthew 9:24; 27:52; 1 Corinthians 15:20), and the Christian’s daily going to sleep at night and rising again in the morning has a parallel in one’s daily remembrance of Baptism, in which Christians die to sin and rise with Christ to newness of life.
Daily prayer is emphasized in stanza 2 (see 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Psalm 5:3). We can cast every care on the Lord, for we are directed to do so in 1 Peter 5:6-7: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” Prayer is effective not in a therapeutic sense, simply because it is done, but because it is directed to a God who hears and answers it. As Bernhard Albrecht, a pastor in Augsburg wrote in 1618, prayer should be “the most precious and best treasure of the love of Christianity, the highest comfort in all needs, the strongest defense in all danger, the certain medicine in sickness.”
Stanzas 3 and 4 speak of the Christian’s daily protection with Jesus. Neither enemies, sickness, disaster, nor daily events can undo the Savior’s blessing: “Good will follow everywhere while you here must wander” (stanza 4). The last stanza summarizes the hymn and directs that every task be subject to Jesus’ blessing as we pray that His will be done this day and for the rest of our lives.
I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.
THE SON OF MAN MUST BE LIFTED UP
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Devotion from St. John Chrysostom
Ver. 14. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.”
This again seems to depend upon what has gone before, and this too has a very close connection with it. For after having spoken of the very great benefaction that had come to man by Baptism, He proceeds to mention another benefaction, which was the cause of this, and not inferior to it; namely, that by the Cross. As also Paul arguing with the Corinthians sets down these benefits together, when he says, “Was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized into the name of Paul?” for these two things most of all declare His unspeakable love, that He both suffered for His enemies, and that having died for His enemies, He freely gave to them by Baptism entire remission of their sins.
[2.] But wherefore did He not say plainly, “I am about to be crucified,” instead of referring His hearers to the ancient type? First, that you may learn that old things are akin to new, and that the one are not alien to the other; next, that you may know that He came not unwillingly to His Passion; and again, besides these reasons, that you may learn that no harm arises to Him from the Fact, and that to many there springs from it salvation. For, that none may say, “And how is it possible that they who believe on one crucified should be saved, when he himself is holden of death?” He leads us to the ancient story. Now if the Jews, by looking to the brazen image of a serpent, escaped death, much rather will they who believe on the Crucified, with good reason enjoy a far greater benefit. For this takes place, not through the weakness of the Crucified, or because the Jews are stronger than He, but because “God loved the world,” therefore is His living Temple fastened to the Cross.
Ver. 15. “That whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
Do you see the cause of the Crucifixion, and the salvation which is by it? Do you see the relationship of the type to the reality? there the Jews escaped death, but the temporal, here believers the eternal; there the hanging serpent healed the bites of serpents, here the Crucified Jesus cured the wounds inflicted by the spiritual dragon; there he who looked with his bodily eyes was healed, here he who beholds with the eyes of his understanding put off all his sins; there that which hung was brass fashioned into the likeness of a serpent, here it was the Lord’s Body, built by the Spirit; there a serpent bit and a serpent healed, here death destroyed and a Death saved. But the snake which destroyed had venom, that which saved was free from venom; and so again was it here, for the death which slew us had sin with it, as the serpent had venom; but the Lord’s Death was free from all sin, as the brazen serpent from venom. For, saith Peter, “He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.” (1 Pet. 2:22.) And this is what Paul also declares, “And having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” (Col. 2:16.) For as some noble champion by lifting on high and dashing down his antagonist, renders his victory more glorious, so Christ, in the sight of all the world, cast down the adverse powers, and having healed those who were smitten in the wilderness, delivered them from all venomous beasts that vexed them, by being hung upon the Cross. Yet He did not say, “must hang,” but, “must be lifted up” (Acts 28:4); for He used this which seemed the milder term, on account of His hearer, and because it was proper to the type.
Ver. 16. “God,” He saith, “so loved the world that He gave His Only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
What He said, is of this kind: Marvel not that I am to be lifted up that ye may be saved, for this seems good to the Father, and He hath so loved you as to give His Son for slaves, and ungrateful slaves. Yet a man would not do this even for a friend, nor readily even for a righteous man; as Paul has declared when he said, “Scarcely for a righteous man will one die.” (Rom. 5:7.) Now he spoke at greater length, as speaking to believers, but here Christ speaks concisely, because His discourse was directed to Nicodemus, but still in a more significant manner, for each word had much significance. For by the expression, “so loved,” and that other, “God the world,” He shows the great strength of His love. Large and infinite was the interval between the two. He, the immortal, who is without beginning, the Infinite Majesty, they but dust and ashes, full of ten thousand sins, who, ungrateful, have at all times offended Him; and these He “loved.” Again, the words which He added after these are alike significant, when He saith, that “He gave His Only-begotten Son,” not a servant, not an Angel, not an Archangel. And yet no one would show such anxiety for his own child, as God did for His ungrateful servants.
His Passion then He sets before him not very openly, but rather darkly; but the advantage of the Passion He adds in a clearer manner, saying, “That everyone that believes in Him. should not perish, but have everlasting life.” For when He had said, “must be lifted up,” and alluded to death, test the hearer should be made downcast by these words, forming some mere human opinions concerning Him, and supposing that His death was a ceasing to be, observe how He sets this right, by saying, that He that was given was “The Son of God,” and the cause of life, of everlasting life. He who procured life for others by death, would not Himself be continually in death; for if they who believed on the Crucified perish not, much less doth He perish who is crucified. He who takes away the destitution of others much more is He free from it; He who gives life to others, much more to Himself doth He well forth life. Do you see that everywhere there is need of faith? For He calls the Cross the fountain of life; which reason cannot easily allow, as the heathens now by their mocking testify. But faith which goes beyond the weakness of reasoning, may easily receive and retain it. And whence did God “so love the world”? From no other source but only from his goodness.
John Chrysostom. (1889). Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the Gospel of St. John. In P. Schaff (Ed.), G. T. Stupart (Trans.), Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Gospel of St. John and Epistle to the Hebrews (Vol. 14, pp. 94–96). New York: Christian Literature Company.
Almighty and everlasting God, who hast caused Your beloved Son to take our nature upon Himself, that He might give all mankind the example of humility and suffer death upon the cross for our sins: Mercifully grant us a believing knowledge of this, and that, following the example of His patience, we may be made partakers of the benefits of His sacred passion and death, through the same, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, world without end. Amen.
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