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Psalm 86

 

Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you - you are my God. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day. Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me. There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God. Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol. O God, insolent men have risen up against me; a band of ruthless men seek my life, and they do not set you before them. But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant, and save the son of your maidservant. Show me a sign of your favor, that those who hate me may see and be put to shame because you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me. (ESV)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God and Our Issues

Eve of the Name of Jesus

31 December 2014

"Everyone's got issues," I found myself saying to my wife as we discussed the different ways in which people react to their situation in life. "We've got issues." "I've got issues." No one is immune. In large part, we are an aggregation of our life experiences, especially those of our foundational years as a child. This is why early childhood development is so important. This is why a unified family, with both mother and father guiding and training children, is so crucial to the future of children. It also means that we are deeply affected by the evils that befall us and that we ourselves perpetrate in our lives. These things affect how we live until we draw our last breath. While we may learn to transcend externally the troubles that have befallen us or that we ourselves have done, our consciences still have to deal with our past actions. While we may appear to be functioning fine in everyday life, we may not have peace at heart.

 

While our heavenly Father so graciously sees to our need for forgiveness in His sight by granting us His mercy, this does not necessarily take care of our sense of guilt over our past experiences and wicked acts. We should hear holy absolution, as it is, the very voice of God saying away our sin, but we seldom hear it entirely that way. How difficult it is for the human heart to fully grasp and rejoice in the divine mercy. It just seems so impossible that God should overlook our wickedness for the sake of Christ our Savior. We still feel the burden of the wrath of God in our hearts, even though Christ Himself has fully absorbed that wrath into Himself and has taken away its effects upon those who are in Him. But our hearts tell us something else and we feel that something else to our core. Now that is an issue!

 

Some years ago, when I was a guest on a live radio program a caller accused me of being soft on sin, because I talked so much of God's mercy and His abundant forgiveness for sinners. He even admitted that he struggled to say "I, a poor, miserable sinner..." on Sunday in the confession of sin at the beginning of the divine service. He didn't think he needed to confess so abjectly, nor receive so often the holy absolution. I doubt that you can give too much forgiveness, and even though God looks to be weak on sin and the enforcement of morals, the Bible consistently describes God as merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love (Ps 86:15). God is not primarily the enforcer, but the one who clears our consciences of sin, by proclaiming our sin is taken away in the Lamb of God (Jn 1:29). This is who God is. This is what God does. God's abundant mercy is given because God understands how burdening the sense of sin and His wrath are when they hang on in our consciences. Issues can make a big difference in who we are, how we act, how we relate to others, etc. Only God can take care of those issues, because once the water is over the dam, there is no way to push it back up again. Christ just has to bear it away.

 

Martin Luther

 

"Joseph himself sees [his brother's] distress, the shameful wound. Therefore he took pains to raise them up and heal their disturbances, as he stated above: "God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors, etc." (Gn 45:7). For just as "the cheerful heart has a continual feast," as Solomon says (Pro 15:15), so a soul that is sick and conscious of sin is always a perpetual hell, which will be nothing other than an evil conscience itself. If the devil did not have an evil conscience, he would be in heaven. But an evil conscience sets ablaze the flames of hell and stirs up horrible tortures and Furies in the heart. From the outside the devil would not fear stones, fire, or any other torments. Within, however, he is tortured and tormented in his heart. The wrath of God is the hell of the devil and of all the damned.

 

"On the other hand, what great joy and strength a tranquil soul has can be seen in the holy martyrs, who laughed in the midst of suffering and death and praised God. This the ungodly cannot do; for they have an evil conscience, which leads them to blaspheme, rage against God, and hate Him with their whole hearts.

 

"Let us learn, then, even from fear of punishments and that incurableevil which is a wounded heart, to beware of falling; because it is most difficult to wrestle with the consciousness of sin. It is easy to fall, but to retrace one's step and breathe once again the air of the kindness and mercy of God-this is toil, this is labor."

 

Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, 45.14-15

 

Prayer

O Lord Jesus, You are the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Grant us Your peace. Amen.

 

For Pr. Charles Wokoma, that the Lord would bless his labor and bring the harvest to the church

 

For President Matthew Harrison, of the LCMS, that the Lord would strengthen him in his endeavors

 

For Ted Nelson, that his time of convalescence would be fruitful 

Art: GR´┐ŻNEWALD, Matthias  Nativity c. 1515

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