According to this word many people are in slavery and live in slavish fear. Whenever the voice of the living God of Sinai is heard, wherever the trumpets and trombones of the final judgment sound and the earth with all its mountains starts to tremble, when God punishes his people in the course of history and goes some distance to prove his almighty power and divine magnificence – then obviously this deep feeling of utter dependency arises, there we feel our own insignificance overwhelmingly and we realize our failures, shortcomings and iniquities and that we owe him not only justification, but all and everything. We are utterly and entirely his. This is the situation created by God’s will and eternal law. It’s the situation the Jews of Israel found themselves in. It’s our situation as Christians too. If God opens up our eyes by the workings of his Holy Spirit, then there’s this primordial dread and horror of guilt and debt incurred, which we can’t address or pay off ever. It’s the condition of self-incurred indebtedness, serfdom and slavery that we find ourselves in before God. The God, who finally will prove himself righteous and will gather in his own – against all odds. It’s dreadful. Reason enough to be afraid – deadly afraid, because the living God is out to get his own and not loose out. He will not let us get away with lawlessness or any kind of sin against his will – and there is nowhere to hide except under the cross and in the gracious care and sanctuary of the crucified Christ.
Only if the Holy Spirit grants faith in the vicarious satisfaction and justification obtained by our Lord Jesus Christ – only if we trust that his righteousness is ours in the eyes and judgment of God – that he has done enough for us, that he has paid the debt for us and on account of us – that we are free, no longer slaves, no longer doomed, but pardoned – then do we realize and believe that we don’t have to be afraid anymore. That’s the treasure of the Church – the sermon of the liberty and peace granted by our Lord Jesus Christ and deposited into our hearts by the instrumentation and workings of the Holy Spirit through his means of grace. That’s how he teaches us to pray faithfully: “My dearest Jesus Christ – you are my God and my Lord!”
1 Drawn to the Cross, which Thou hast blessed With healing gifts for souls distressed, To find in Thee my life, my rest, Christ crucified, I come.
2 Thou knowest all my griefs and fears, Thy grace abused, my misspent years; Yet now to Thee with contrite tears, Christ crucified, I come.
3 Wash me and take away each stain; Let nothing of my sin remain. For cleansing, though it be through pain, Christ crucified, I come.
4 And then for work to do for Thee, Which shall so sweet a service be That angels well might envy me, Christ crucified, I come. (Genevieve M. Irons, 1855-1928)
This is a rather free translation of Wilhelm Löhe’s devotion for Thursday after the eighth Sunday after the high holiday and festival of the Holy Trinity. It is found on Pg. 275 in Lob sei Dir ewig, o Jesu! (Eternal Praise to you o Jesus!) edited by A. Schuster and published in the Freimund Verlag, Neuendettelsau 1949.