In the 2nd year after their exodus from Egypt the Israelites were already at the gateway to the promised holy land. The army was to go out and occupy the land. Yet the people were frightened by this daunting task and intimidated by the sheer size of this calling. They did not obey this godly command, because they did not believe in God’s promises and coming help. They despaired at their lack of strength and did not trust in God’s goodness and faithfulness. This disbelief lead them into grumbling against God and his ways instead. Their own will was both stubborn and desperate. It didn’t dare pick up arms and fight against the Canaanites, but they did not shy away from rebelling against the highest God, who is put off first and foremost by disbelief and distrust. That is why the Lord God made those people turn around and meander through the desert for a further 38 years until all the doubters and naysayers had passed away – making room for a new generation with whom God would venture into the promised land finally.
Among us we find a certain murmuring and grumbling against God’s calling and how he leads and guides our ways. It is not so seldom to find even among us that we think we know better than God, what is good, possible and therefore next on the agenda. Most of the time we don’t even realize how rebellious, stubborn and selfish we are and how this aggravates and provokes God’s wrath and punishment. In this way we are disobedient and follow our own sinful ways. May God prevent this by his faithfulness and forgiving generosity of spirit.
O almighty and merciful God! We poor people come before you to confess unto you not only our miserable faithlessness, blindness and stubborn foolishness of our hearts, but also that we don’t even recognize this sufficiently. Rather too often we deem our faithlessness to be the most obedient faithfulness and esteem our blindness to be the most blessed foresight and insight that we move about as if we are in heaven already – meanwhile we’re still far out in sinful darkness and the very shadows of eternal death. We have no deep sincerity in seeking your presence. On the contrary, we flee your wisdom and look down at your mercy. O dearest Lord and most holy God, have mercy upon us, you fountain of mercy and reservoir of grace and love. Create by the word of your mouth faith in our hearts, heal our eyes to see properly, our ears to hear and our hearts to believe, so that we may understand your will and trust your godly promises to attain eternal life by your gracious forgiveness. Amen. (Dr. Martin Luther)
1. Jesus, lead Thou on Till our rest is won; And although the way be cheerless, We will follow calm and fearless. Guide us by Thy hand To our fatherland.
2. If the way be drear, If the foe be near, Let not faithless fears o’ertake us; Let not faith and hope forsake us; For through many a woe To our home we go.
3. When we seek relief From a long-felt grief; When temptations come alluring, Make us patient and enduring; Show us that bright shore Where we weep no more.
4. Jesus, lead Thou on Till our rest is won. Heavenly Leader, still direct us, Still support, control, protect us, Till we safely stand In our fatherland. (Christian Gregor, 1778 tr Jane Borthwick, 1854)
This is a rather free translation of Wilhelm Löhe’s devotion for Wednesday after the ninth Sunday after the high holiday and festival of the Holy Trinity. It is found on Pg. 281 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.