0. Introduction to “Re-reading Moses with Luther”
Jogging in Kullavik – just south of Göteborg – a local encouraged me to press on during my holidays: “The universal principle will guide You.” Well, I didn´t get lost. Not immediately. Not there and then. At least not physically. Yet, I would not bet on such clueless meandering. Not in those never-ending forests up north. When we get into the car, we switch on the GPS and follow the guidelines even as we start singing: “Führe mich, o Herr und leite, meinen Gang nach Deinem Wort...”. That´s the 5th stanza of our old favorite since early days. We continue with another standard: “All Morgen ist ganz frisch und neu…“. We are confident that His grace will safely lead us to walk as in the light of day all the way to our ultimate destination, the promised land, that He has ready and all prepared for us.
Where do we find guidance? Daily and on those routes, that matter? Together with the true Church we believe in the triune God and that He keeps drawing us to himself. That´s where we´re going. He communicates with us in many ways, but most clearly and definitely in the written witness of Holy Scripture. In the Words of the Old and New Testament. He inspired apostles and prophets of old to record His faithful Words for us and our salvation. And at the brink of time, He spoke to us through His only Son: Jesus Christ. He, in whom all divine promises and commitments are fulfilled once and for all. For good, perfectly. Those words keep our heart, mind and soul focused and all in perspective from the very source of light, which illuminates even the darkest night, revealing life and salvation, pointing us to the very source of life Jesus Christ, the only way to the Father, who is one with the Father – God of God, light of light, very God of very God. And He is the one, who speaks to us in the Bible. He the author, actor, director, perfector, editor, publisher, and main character of all of Holy Scripture in its entirety – from the first book of the holy prophet Moses – Genesis – right through to the Apocalypse penned down by the holy apostle and evangelist St. John – just as He is the author, director, and perfector of all of history too even if we don´t see it all that clearly now still. It is the Holy Spirit as true comforter and advocate, who speaks clearly, effectively, efficaciously, understandably, and authoritatively through them, His holy, inspired witnesses, who recorded all He wanted them to write down for us in those ancient languages, which are even translatable and communicable into different times, places, languages, and people – yes, to the very ends of the world and last Mohicans in the most distant hidaways. Revealing all, we need to know about the Lord and God Jesus Christ and His vicarious justification and redemption for us and all mankind. Not just to the Jews, but also to the gentiles, who too are saved only by grace through faith alone in just this one Lord God Jesus Christ, begotten of the Father before all worlds and from the virgin Mary at the peak of time. He, who lives and reigns at the right of God the Father together with the Holy Spirit – one God – from the very beginning, now and always. Amen. Hallelujah.
The words of the living God written way back and by His prophet Moses:
Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.Deuteronomy 30,11-20
It is this Holy Bible, which is a collection of divine writ throughout many centuries, which is the ultimate source, measure, and guideline (norming norm!) of all saving truth for us poor sinners here on earth as we travail between paradise lost and the same regained. There is no other.
In this way the distinction between the Holy Scriptures of the Old and of the New Testament and all other writings is preserved, and the Holy Scriptures alone remain the only judge, rule, and standard, according to which, as the only test-stone, all dogmas shall and must be discerned and judged, as to whether they are good or evil, right or wrong.Epitome, FC: Summary, rule and norm, 7.
The Lutheran confessions, which were penned down in less than a century, brought the center piece and most bright and shining star of this truth of divine wisdom, truth and saving grace back to light. They are the faithful and binding exposition of the revealed divine truth, justly called the measured measure and normed norm.
But the other symbols and writings cited are not judges, as are the Holy Scriptures, but only a testimony and declaration of the faith, as to how at any time the Holy Scriptures have been understood and explained in the articles in controversy in the Church of God by those then living, and how the opposite dogma was rejected and condemned [by what arguments the dogmas conflicting with the Holy Scripture were rejected and condemned].Epitome, FC: Summary, rule and norm, 8.
This holds true especially but is not limited to the explication and promulgation of the first and chief article of our Christian faith, the Justification of sinners by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, which like the mathematical point fixates the bulk of the Gospel as does that one point bearing Foucault’s pendulum. Luther describes that decisively in the first article of the second part of the Smalcald Articles:
That Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, died for our sins, and was raised again for our justification, Rom. 4:25. And He alone is the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world, John 1:29; and God has laid upon Him the iniquities of us all, Is. 53:6. Likewise: All have sinned and are justified without merit [freely, and without their own works or merits] by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, in His blood, Rom. 3:23f Now, since it is necessary to believe this, and it cannot be otherwise acquired or apprehended by any work, law, or merit, it is clear and certain that this faith alone justifies us as St. Paul says, Rom. 3:28: For we conclude that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the Law. Likewise 3:26: That He might be just, and the Justifier of him which believeth in Christ. Of this article nothing can be yielded or surrendered [nor can anything be granted or permitted contrary to the same], even though heaven and earth, and whatever will not abide, should sink to ruin. For there is none other name under heaven, given among men whereby we must be saved, says Peter, Acts 4:12. And with His stripes we are healed, Is. 53:5. And upon this article all things depend which we teach and practice in opposition to the Pope, the devil, and the [whole] world. Therefore, we must be sure concerning this doctrine, and not doubt; for otherwise all is lost, and the Pope and devil and all things gain the victory and suit over us.Smalcald Articles II,1,1-5
This week from the 16th to the 19th September, we were supposed to meet with Scandanavian Lutherans in the Old Latin School of Lutherstadt Wittenberg to deliberate on divine guidance in our lives and that of the church. Well, that meeting did not happen. Worldly powers dictated a temporary moratorium on this meeting. Perhaps it´s just a postponement. Was that according to the “universal principle” referred to above? Was it a wise decree from on high and designated from the throne of the triune God? Or was it just another decision by some struggling board to come to grips with an unprecedented game changer in our global village? We Lutherans don´t believe that the status quo is a conclusive reflection of God´s most holy and gracious will. The loudest voice is not necessarily the one of truth nor is the vox populi the vox Dei. It is more complicated than that. In the little time assigned to me (40 minutes) I was to introduce “Guidance in the Pentateuch“. Well, God in His divine wisdom interfered on my part. He has granted more time and space to address this topic at more leisure. So, I have responded with a re-reading of the Pentateuch with help from the good Doctor Martin Luther (1483-1546) and laying out, what according to him and his writings, we Christians should look for in the Old Testament – specifically in Moses – as we live our short lives as beggars here on earth. That´s what the following posts are about.
Read more here: Guidance in our daily life. First part of “Guidance in the Pentateuch. Re-reading Moses with Luther”