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Psalm 51:1-12

 

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (ESV)

 

 

Not By Sight, But By Hearing

Thursday of Advent 2

11 December 2014

God promises to take good out of evil for us. That is a great comfort to us when we are suffering trials in our lives. We can hope for God to draw good out of what people meant for ill. God promises this in His divine Word. We must believe it no matter what we see or feel or think. However, we must never conduct our lives in such a way as to presume that good will come of our evil. No, we should do what is right in our daily lives, and let God protect and defend us from the persecution of the world, the devil, and even our own sinful flesh. Often we cannot see the outcome of our acts, but we can measure them by the standard of the divine law in the Ten Commandments. We might think we are doing something hurtful to another when we are doing the right thing. For instance, a child will complain when being made to do his homework, yet the encouraging pressure that a teacher applies so that the child learns his lessons is good and right. If we failed to do good acts because we feared the outcome, we would find our moral lives paralyzed, incapable not only of any good acts, but of any acts whatsoever.

 

Perhaps this could be illustrated by the surgeon with his scalpel. If he does not cut out the tumor beneath the skin, by cutting through skin, muscle, and other tissues, causing a terrible trauma to the patient, he will die because the tumor will consume his life. There is danger and suffering for the patient when he undergoes surgery, but it is certainly the right course of action in many cases. A surgeon who would not do proximate harm by cutting open the patient would not long practice surgery. Sometimes that suffering clarifies our thinking when the right things are said and done, even though these things might cause us or others pain. Of such things God promises bring good.

 

When we are asking the classic question of those who suffer, "why me?" the answer can never be an explanation based on what we see or experience. This must be known by those who find themselves in a hospital bed, having suffered some tragic injury or illness. The answer to the question is never immanent in the world. The answer can only come from the divine Word, which interprets our experience, if we did not have those signs of the divine mercy in His Word we could never conclude that God is good and gracious. Neither a good look at the entrails of an animal as the ancient Romans did, nor our own will tell us what God is thinking and doing. Only God Himself, in Christ His incarnate Son, can tell us what His attitude is toward us. Ultimately we must make the pilgrimage of the holy church to Calvary's hill where we see God's attitude to sinners for whom He was ready to die. If He died for me, why shouldn't I believe that He will take care of everything, even if I don't see it and only hear about it? We live not by sight, but by hearing.

 

Martin Luther

 

"Let all men beware, and let them turn over diligently in their minds what Sirach says: 'Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart. Do not say: "Who will have power over me?" For the Lord will surely punish you. Do not say: "I sinned, and what happened to me?" For the Lord is slow to anger. Do not be so confident of atonement that you add sin to sin. Do not say: "His mercy is great, He will forgive the multitude of my sins." For both mercy and wrath are with Him, and His anger rests on sinners' (Ecclesiasticus 5:2-6).

 

"Wrath and judgment are shown by the law so that we do not sin. But when we have fallen, we have the Word of promise by which we are taught not to despair but to bear in mind that the goodness and mercy of God are boundless. He gave His Son for us that He should be our satisfaction and that by His blood our sin should be devoured and destroyed.

 

"God should not be tried. Nor should one be presumptuous concerning His mercy. One must ask and hope for the remission of sins in faith and in the humility of repentance. Thus when Joseph praises the wonderful governance of God, he does not bring forward merits or crimes and the impudence of the brothers, but the mercy of God, who does not want sinners to perish but wants all to be saved (1Ti 2:4)."

Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, 45.8
 
Prayer
Lord Jesus, send Your holy law that we might not become presumptuous of Your mercy. Help us to confess our sinfulness and weakness in true repentance. Send Your Spirit that we might turn only to You in Your perfect Word for support in our trials. Amen.

 

For those who are suffering illness, that the Lord would grant them a full recovery from illness

 

For Tanner Harvey, who was in a car wreck, in thanksgiving to God that the holy angels watched over him and rescued him from tragic harm

 

For the family of Rachel Hunt, that the Lord Jesus the good Shepherd would be with them in their grief

For missionaries in Papua New Guinea, who are being threatened with deportation, that the Lord Jesus would watch over them and the people they serve
Art: Annunciation Schnorr Von Carolsfeld, Julius (1818)

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