Know Yourself
Thursday of Pentecost 23
27 October 2016
Self-knowledge is thought to be a good thing. The ancient Greeks exhorted: "Know yourself." However, what we know about ourselves may not always be good. The eminent American psychiatrist, Karl Menninger warned that "To 'know thyself' must mean to know the malignancy of one's own instincts and to know, as well, one's power to deflect it" (Vogue, June 1961).
If our self-knowledge is not deluded we will still hear the powerful accusing voice of God's law telling us that our malignancy is unto death, a death that we cannot avoid by deflecting its malignancy. Menninger's optimism about the possibility of such a deflection diminished significantly as he grew older. If we know both ourselves and our God's law, we will know our hopeless standing before the law. We will lament that what God has created good, we have taken for ill. We will be burdened by that which was meant to lift burdens and has now become a crushing load to true self-knowledge. There is nothing but, and always, a mea culpa arising from true self-knowledge.
Our world is full of people running at careening and reckless speed away from this self knowledge, often numbed by drugs, alcohol, entertainment, work, pursuit of fame, innumerable indulgences of every kind and self degrading works. They are running away because they do not know the Blessed Offspring who knows us better than we know ourselves and who chose to bear the unbearable burden of the law and its penalties. Therefore, we are not left to sue for peace from our implacable and invincible enemy, the law. We are given the full peace treaty at the hands of the specially sent Mediator between God and us. The holy gospel signed in the blood of our Mediator, the Blessed Offspring, is that proclamation and seal of our peace. Even though the law multiplies transgression by showing the enormity of our sin, it holds not ultimate sway in the world. This is why we should pity and pray for those who are trapped in the rat race to avoid their sin and the law, because they know not the Blessed Offspring who knows them so well that He died for them.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
"Let anyone who can understand, therefore, understand that in Christian theology and according to its proper description the law does not justify but has exactly the opposite effect: It discloses us to ourselves; it shows us a wrathful God; it manifests wrath; it terrifies us. It not only reveals sin but causes it to abound, so that where there was a small sin at first, it becomes large through the illumination of the law; then a man begins to hate the law, to run away from it, and with a perfect hatred to hate God, the Originator of the law. As reason itself is forced to admit, this is surely not being righteous through the law. No, it is sinning against the law in two ways: first, having a will that is not only so averse to the law that it cannot listen to it but acts contrary to it; secondly, hating the law so much that you wish it were abolished, along with God, its Author, who is supremely good.
"What greater blasphemy can there be, what more horrible sin, than to hate God, to turn away from His law and not to be able to listen to it, although it is supremely good and holy? For the record clearly states that the people of Israel refused to listen to the best law, the holiest and by their nature the most joyful sounds, namely: 'I am the Lord your God, who brought you out. You shall have no other gods. Showing steadfast love to thousands. Honor your father, that you may live long on the earth' (Ex 20:2-12). It shows, too, that they needed an intermediary. They could not endure this supreme, perfect, and divine wisdom, this beautiful, wonderful, and sweet teaching. 'Let not God speak to us,' they say, 'lest we die. You speak to us' (Ex 20:19). This is really an amazing thing, not to be able to listen to your highest and sweetest good, namely, that you have a God who is merciful, who wants to 'show steadfast love to thousands' for you. You are not able to listen to that which defends you: 'You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal.' For with these words God surrounds your life, your wife, and your possessions as though with a wall and protects them against all the power and reviling of evil men.
"Therefore the law cannot do anything except that with its light it illumines the conscience for sin, death, judgment, and the hate and wrath of God. Before the law comes, I am smug and do not worry about sin; when the law comes, it shows me sin, death, and hell. Surely this is not being justified; it is being sentenced, being made an enemy of God, being condemned to death and hell. Therefore, the principal purpose of the law in theology is to make men not better but worse; that is, it shows them their sin, so that by the recognition of sin they may be humbled, frightened, and worn down, and so may long for grace and for the blessed Offspring."

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 3.20
Psalm 25

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD! Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies. For your name's sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great. Who is the man who fears the LORD? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land. The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for he will pluck my feet out of the net. Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses. Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins. Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me. Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you. Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles. (ESV)
Lord Christ, Blessed Offspring, You have come to rescue the world from the law's crushing power. Help me tell today someone trapped by their fear of the law, sin, and death that their warfare is accomplished and that their sin is covered, doubly paid for by You. Amen.
For those who fear to speak of the Blessed Offspring that strengthened by the Holy Spirit they might free someone they love from fear
For the people living on the coast who are concerned about hurricanes, that they would not despair but cast all of their cares on Him who cares for them
For Michael Golchert, that the Lord would be with him and grant him healing
Art: Durer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2016
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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