The Psalmist declares: “I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart; I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation; I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth From the great assembly.” (Psalm 40:10) and St. Paul writes to St.Timothy: “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord” (2.Timothy 1:8)
One of the great pastoral privileges is that we are under obligation to declare God’s faithfulness and salvation, his lovingkindness and truth in the congregation and beyond.If we don’t do it voluntarily, we still have to do it because of our calling and the mandate of this high office into which we have been ordained.
The Psalmist declares that he has not hidden God’s righteousness within his heart. Rather he has preached, taught and confessed this openly in the Church and beyond. This righteousness of God is firstly that God himself is righteous. There is no injustice, falsehood or malice on his part. He is perfect, good and salutary. All his words are just, his dealings are correct and true. There is nothing we can hold against him. After all, he is God and Lord alone in the highest. Secondly however and that is perhaps the even greater and more wonderful aspect of this is that God as creator, saviour and sanctifier grants, gives and makes righteous all those he deals with in his fatherly goodness and mercy.
Even a sinful Peter, who recognises Jesus for who and what he is after the wonderful fishing episode and therefore realises that he himself is so different and even opposite in his own setup and unfaithful & distrustful being and therefore by law excluded from his holy presence, is not cast away from Jesus sight, is not disqualified or punished, but rather forgiven, justified, declared righteous in the sight of God and hence allowed to stand up in peace and fearlessness by the grace and goodness of his Lord alone.
The same holds true for Saul, who actually persecutes God’s people, delights in their gruesome execution and tries to discredit and put down the crucified Christ at every opportunity being under the impression that he’s serving the living God with this crazy doing. This very persecutor of the Christian Church – this enemy of Christ – comes face to face with the risen Lord. Jesus Christ appears to him on the way to Damascus and reveals his true nature and the godly righteousness to this great sinner. Thus Saul is converted into Paul by the Lord’s doing. The persecutor becomes the greatest missionary of all times. He’s the emissary of the Lord before Kings and princes – starting off in Jerusalem and landing up finally in Rome before Cesar. Always proclaiming the righteousness of God to all people. For he is not ashamed of this gospel of Jesus Christ, rather he is convinced that it is the power to save everybody, who believes in it – for by it the righteousness of God is revealed. The righteousness, which overcomes all our unrighteousness – be it of the Jewish or Greek kind. For God saves sinners by forgiveness, by being gracious and merciful to us and not dealing with us as we deserve it, but rather according to his great faithfulness. That’s his wonderful salvation, with which he works forgiveness, life and eternal salvation for all, who believe – Jews first, but also the gentiles like us. This is God’s lovingkindess and the very truth for all mankind.
St. Paul proclaims that and many are converted from the vain and idle ways of the forebears – like St. Timothy, who is instructed in the wholesome truth from a tender age by his mother and grandmother. When St. Paul is thrown into prison this becomes a hard test for their faith. How can God’s own missionary, the apostle of Jesus Christ, the emissary of the highest Lord and king land up in such dire straits? Well, you might just ask, how does the God of gods land up in Bethlehem in a manger or in exile in Egypt or without a place to put down his head worse off than a fox or bird of the sky and finally up on the cross at Golgotha? It’s all God’s will and way – so much higher and more profound than our thoughts and ideas for sure. Yet it is true, faithful and full of lovingkindness no doubt. He does everything very well, perfect and absolutely best for all of us. St. Paul believes this. He trust this and does not falter because of the tribulation, suffering and hardship he has to endure in his life as apostle. He admonishes and encourages St.Timothy to not loose faith either. He’s to look up and hope for the coming salvation and the coming Lord himself. In the meantime he is not to be ashamed of the wonderful and hidden ways of the Lord. Not disdain the cross, but uplift it high – for Jews may find it an abomination and the Greeks foolishness, yet we, who are saved, trust that it is only way to salvation. Therefore St.Timothy is not to despair, but rather trust wholeheartedly and joyfully, that the Lord does everything to the best of his people – even discrimination, persecution, incarceration and eventually martyrdom. Amen.
Let us pray with words of Psalm 28:
To You I will cry, O Lord my Rock:
Do not be silent to me,
Lest, if You are silent to me,
I become like those who go down to the pit.
2 Hear the voice of my supplications
When I cry to You,
When I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary.
3 Do not take me away with the wicked
And with the workers of iniquity,
Who speak peace to their neighbors,
But evil is in their hearts.
4 Give them according to their deeds,
And according to the wickedness of their endeavors;
Give them according to the work of their hands;
Render to them what they deserve.
5 Because they do not regard the works of the Lord,
Nor the operation of His hands,
He shall destroy them
And not build them up.
6 Blessed be the Lord,
Because He has heard the voice of my supplications!
7 The Lord is my strength and my shield;
My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,
And with my song I will praise Him.
8 The Lord is their strength,[a]
And He is the saving refuge of His anointed.
9 Save Your people,
And bless Your inheritance;
Shepherd them also,
And bear them up forever.
And sing with the words of “Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart” by Martin Schalling, 1532-1608 Translated by Catherine Winkworth, 1829-1878:
1. Lord, Thee I love with all my heart;
I pray Thee ne’er from me depart,
With tender mercies cheer me.
Earth has no pleasure I would share,
Yea, heaven itself were void and bare
If Thou, Lord, wert not near me.
And should my heart for sorrow break,
My trust in Thee no one could shake.
Thou art the Portion I have sought;
Thy precious blood my soul has bought.
Lord Jesus Christ,
My God and Lord, my God and Lord,
Forsake me not! I trust Thy Word.
2. Yea, Lord, ’twas Thy rich bounty gave
My body, soul, and all I have
In this poor life of labor.
Lord, grant that I in every place
May glorify Thy lavish grace
And serve and help my neighbor.
Let no false doctrine me beguile
And Satan not my soul defile.
Give strength and patience unto me
To bear my cross and follow Thee.
Lord Jesus Christ,
My God and Lord, my God and Lord,
In death Thy comfort still afford.
3. Lord, let at last Thine angels come,
To Abram’s bosom bear me home,
That I may die unfearing;
And in its narrow chamber keep
My body safe in peaceful sleep
Until Thy reappearing.
And then from death awaken me
That these mine eyes with joy may see,
O Son of God, Thy glorious face,
My Savior and my Fount of grace,
Lord Jesus Christ,
My prayer attend, my prayer attend,
And I will praise Thee without end.
Hymn #429 from The Lutheran Hymnal
Text: Psalm 18
Author: Martin Schalling, c. 1567
Translated by: Catherine Winkworth, 1863, alt.
Titled: “Herzlich lieb hab’ ich dich, o Herr”
Tune: “Herzlich lieb hab’ ich dir, o Herr”
1st Published in: Berhnard Schmid’s Orgelbuch
Town: Strassburg, 1577