Herrenhuter readings for Thursday, the 3rd March 2106.

The prophet asks rhetorically: „Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength?“ and God answers him: „I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.“ (Isaiah 63,1) The apostle St. Paul writes in his epistle: „… by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.“ (Romans 5:18)

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you +

Dear friends of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ + The prophet Isaiah sees the destruction and mayhem caused amongst the nations. The warlord is great in his strength, but terrible in his wrath. His garments are drenched in blood that they appear crimson even while still displaying his glory. Just as one of the first prophets of God on high – the sycamore farmer Amos – pronounces the glaring truth, that there is not one evil in the city that the Lord doesn’t do, so here one of the latest prophets Isaiah also describes God as the one, who is marching to war and leaving his enemies devastated and in ruin. His description is dramatic and dripping with blood. He continues to write in God’s name: „I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come. And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me. And I will tread down the people in mine anger, and make them drunk in my fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth.“ (Isaiah 63:3-6) Although such war-talk is no longer deemed politically correct, we should not overlook what relief and joy this brings to those suffering innocents, who have been discriminated against, persecuted and hard pressed by the tyrannical enemies and evil warmongers. Their only hope of salvation is that a stronger warrior and more valiant army may appear and come to their rescue even while they are being harrassed and tormented by the bloodthirsty and cruel enemies. Thank God, that he does not desert the lonely, downtrodden and helpless victims. 

God himself is surprised, that there is nobody else to take the side of those, who need it most. Nobody else is standing up against the evil doers. Nobody else is daring to put up a fight against the powers that be. They have quitted, given up, thrown in the towel: „Can’t do anything against these mighty forces. We just have to fit in, accept the status quo, accommodate ourselves and watch out for ourselves.“ Reminds a bit of the cowardly denial around the warming fire: „I don’t know him. I’ve got nothing to do with him. Who is he anyway!“ So it is the living God alone, who comes to the rescue of his people. He doesn’t forget them, but stands up for them in good time. He goes to war for them, to free them from their oppressors and to trampel down their enemies in righteous vengeance and terrible wrath and just punishment and furious retribution. The evil will be avenged, it will be removed and it will all be right, meet and salutary once again. Thus the one living God establishes right, justice and peace by himself and for his own people, who look to him alone for help and refuge, life and salvation. He is truly might to save. There is none, who can stop him. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him. He is the fair legistlator, harsh excecutor of justice and thus the protective King, Judge, Lord and Saviour of all. Although he is alone, that is quite enough. His might suffices. He can save even though he is the only one, doing something about it. For he is God after all and he can help, save, liberate and grant life, righteousness and justice – once and for all. That’s what he does. That is his mission. He is our God alone.

During lent we remember our Lord Jesus Christ, who on his own, willingly and mightily went to war against sin, death and devil. With his bare hands he fought for justice, peace and righteousness again. There on Gabatha before Pilate he suffered much. He too was drenched with precious and most holy blood, not just his garments, but for the whole world.  It was however not the enemy’s blood, but his very own. There on Golgotha the rest of it poured forth – for you and your salvation: “This is my true blood shed for you for the remission of your sins!” He alone bore the punishment, wrath, blows, whips and pangs of death himself – for us and our salvation. Drew all the wrath of God on himself. Bore it all. There was no bitterness or punishment or retribution or revenge that he did not absorb and take on himself. He was pierced and tormented most severly – until the fury of the righteous judgement from on high abatted, the sun lost it’s light and the earth trembled and shook. He bore it all patiently like a lamb brought to the slaughter. He was obedient to the very end and thus he made peace – everlasting. His mission was accomplished. He finished it all successfully. There’s nothing outstanding. He returned justice and peace. It was his very prayer to the Father that gave us this everlasting peace that passes all understanding: „Father, forgive them, for they do not know, what they are doing!“

Thus he turned not just the other cheek, but his entire life as a sponge for our evil rebellion, uprising against God and rejection of his holy and innocent and good ways. He absorbed it all and thus drew the evil poison of death, sin and devil into himself and died as a result. Yet, because of this, the power of sin, death and devil are spent. They have spent it on Christ. He however was not overcome with it. Yes, he died, but he died to free us from death. His death was our victory. He died, punished for us, the innocent one for the sinful. His perfect and efficacious righteousness is but his alone, but he gave it as the free gift to all men and women, old and young, rich and poor and to serve unto justification of life everlasting. This righteouosness remains his and outside of us, but it is ours now and he has given it to us as a free gift, present and most precious treasure and heirloom. 

Thus although he died, he took this very opportunity to harrow hell and clean out the dungeons of Satan and his ilk. He could not be bound or held by them for long. Rather on the third day he rose again to proclaim his victory to all nations and to the very ends of the world. His victory is final. There is no turning back now. Rather he lives and we shall live also – saved by his innocence, righteousness and loving mercy and goodness. He has brought back justice and peace between God and mankind. We are no longer at war with him. Rather he has brought us life and salvation.

All wars and tribulations in our world and time are but signs of the end times. He’s coming again to fulfil his glorious and holy mission. Heaven and earth will pass away, but his word will remain in eternity. We trust in this his promise and therefore lift up our heads and wait for his final deliverance. He’s coming soon. He’s near and therefore we can rejoice and give thanks and look forward with confidence. Do what is right and trust that belonging to him is not vain, but the very essence of life and our true destiny. So even if there is nothing else to do, but to throw oneself into the spokes of the huge and intimidating wheels of power like Bonhoeffer did, it’s not in vain or just an act of desperation, but rather one of hope and trust in the one, who can help and who will help – by much or little, just as it suits him and at the right time. Nobody who trusts in him will be put to shame. For He truly is our Lord and King, our Judge and Saviour, our Redeemer and Liberator. Praise be to him now and always: God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.  The peace of the Lord be with you always + Amen.

“Lord of Our Life and God of Our Salvation
by Matthaeus A. von Loewenstern, 1594-1648
Translated by Philip Pusey, 1799-1855

1. Lord of our life and God of our salvation.
Star of our night and Hope of every nation,
Hear and receive Thy Church’s supplication,
Lord God Almighty.

2. See round Thine ark the hungry billows curling;
See how thy foes their banners are unfurling.
Lord, while their darts envenomed they are hurling,
Thou canst preserve us.

3. Lord, Thou canst help when earthly armor faileth;
Lord, Thou canst save when deadly sin assaileth;
Lord, o’er Thy Church nor death nor hell prevaileth;
Grant us Thy peace, Lord:

4. Peace in our hearts, our evil thoughts assuaging;
Peace in Thy Church where brothers are engaging;
Peace when the world its busy war is waging.
Calm Thy foes’ raging.

5. Grant us Thy help till backward they are driven;
Grant them Thy truth that they may be forgiven;
Grant peace on earth or, after we have striven,
Peace in Thy heaven.

Hymn #258
The Lutheran Hymnal
Text: Ps. 79:9
Author: by Matthaeus A. von Loewenstern, 1644
Translated by: Philip Pusey, 1840, alt.
Titled: “Christe, du Beistand”
Composer: Johann Crueger, 1640
Tune: “Herzliebster Jesu”

About Wilhelm Weber jr

Rector of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tshwane
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