Martin Luther dedicated his translation of Psalm 118 to Abbott Frederick of Nuremberg. In the dedication, he wrote:
“This is my Psalm, my chosen Psalm. I love them all; I love all holy Scripture, which is my consolation and my life. But this Psalm is nearest my heart, and I have a peculiar right to call it mine. It has saved me from many a pressing danger, from which nor emperor, nor kings, nor sages, nor saints, could have saved me. It is my friend; dearer to me than all the honors and power of the earth.”
Take a moment to reflect on the first chunk of Psalm 118:
Psalm 118:1-18 (ESV)
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! 2 Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” 3 Let the house of Aaron say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” 4 Let those who fear the Lord say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
5 Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. 6 The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? 7 The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. 8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. 9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. 10 All nations surrounded me; in the name of the Lord I cut them off! 11 They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side; in the name of the Lord I cut them off! 12 They surrounded me like bees; they went out like a fire among thorns; in the name of the Lord I cut them off!
13 I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me. 14 The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. 15 Glad songs of salvation are in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the Lord does valiantly, 16 the right hand of the Lord exalts, the right hand of the Lord does valiantly!” 17 I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord. 18 The Lord has disciplined me severely, but he has not given me over to death.
It’s not hard to think why these words would be powerful for Luther. For much of his life there was a price on his head. He had grave enemies in the church, who had excommunicated him, threatened him, slandered his reputation, and wanted to crush his writings and his very ideas. It’s little wonder that he would appreciate words like “What can man do to me? The Lord is on my side…It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.”
Now, I know that Jesus is more powerful than any political leader here on earth. I know he’s stronger than this strain of coronavirus. I know that God took care of the psalmist when he was in a tight spot. But somehow it’s still hard to trust that God will take care of things right now. Maybe you’ve felt that way before, maybe you feel that way now. We’ve been calling on the Lord, praying that he’d remove the scourge of this pandemic from us, but unlike the psalmist says, there are still people dying from the coronavirus. The world is telling us a different story than what the promises of God teach.
There’s an old fable where the sun and the wind make a bet with each other to see who can get a pedestrian to take off his coat. The wind tries to get the coat off the man by blowing it off—he gusts with a fury until he’s almost a cyclone, but instead of losing his coat, the man wraps it around himself all the tighter.
As the gale force winds of this world’s tyrant and all his forces armed with sin and death rage and gust, jostling you and your loved ones, cling that much tighter to the robe of righteousness that you have in Jesus. Don’t let it be wrested from your grip, but hang on with all your might to the salvation you have in him. Whether because of the virus or economic downturn, or just because your life is drawing to a close, one day that robe will be all you have left. But you’ll find on that day that it’s all that ever really mattered.
Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness (Lutheran Service Book 563:1, 5)
Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness My beauty are, my glorious dress;
Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed, With joy shall I lift up my head.
When from the dust of death I rise To claim my mansion in the skies,
This then shall be my only plea: Jesus hath lived and died for me.
Prayer: Dear Savior, in the changes and chances that confront us in the coming days, remind us that salvation in you is the only thing that matters in the end. Don’t let ignorance of what’s ahead make us afraid, but remind us of your constant presence. Quiet our hearts, and hold us in the hope of everlasting life. Amen.
For Further Reflection:
What are some ways you find yourself tempted when times are relatively good and easy?
How do those temptations change when life goes sour?
When was a time that you forgot about the Lord's steadfast love? How were you reminded of it?
Why is it important to trust in God's love even when you can't feel it?
Consider as a family or on your own how you might help sustain others in the hope of Jesus' faithful, never-ending love?