Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Luther on God's Wondrous Works

Psalm 29:1 A Psalm of David. Ascribe to the LORD, O sons of the mighty, Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. 2Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in holy array.
3The voice of the LORD is upon the waters; The God of glory thunders, The LORD is over many waters. 4The voice of the LORD is powerful, The voice of the LORD is majestic.
5The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; Yes, the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. 6And He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, And Sirion like a young wild ox. 7The voice of the LORD hews out flames of fire.
8The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; The LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. 9The voice of the LORD makes the deer to calve, And strips the forests bare, And in His temple everything says, "Glory!"
10The LORD sat as King at the flood; Yes, the LORD sits as King forever. 11The LORD will give strength to His people; The LORD will bless His people with peace. (NAS)

. . . Everyone now and at all times understands, has understood, and will understand this text all too well – except for myself alone and a few poor sinners and fools, like Moses, David, Isaiah, and such people (among whom I can only boastfully place myself by saying: Nos poma natamus ["I am floating along with the other apples"] – [that is,] like horse dung among apples). These people consider God to be a man of wonders and say that His creation is nothing but wondrous works. Yet very few see God's wondrous works, though everyone sees His creation and cannot help but grasp and feel it, as St. Paul says in Acts 17 [:26–27]. However, I, too, am one of the coarse fellows who do not yet comprehend His creation, and (as I said) I have just begun to believe this, so that, as an old student and a doctor now almost at the end of my days, I must rightly wonder at how the people in our time know everything that the Holy Spirit knows as soon as they have so much as sniffed at a book. Yet they go off on their way and see nothing of the things God does daily before our eyes, which are both terrifying and comforting. They give it no heed, as if it were all a charlatan’s trick. Through Adam's sin human nature has fallen so far from God and his image – that is, from knowing Him [cf. Col. 3:10] – that we also do not understand our own body and life, how wonderfully these are daily created, granted, and preserved by God. Therefore, is it any wonder if we are obstinate, stubborn, utterly blind, and [insensible] logs toward His other wondrous works, which He reveals to us in all creatures, besides our own body and life?

Martin Luther, “Preface to Ambrosius Moibanus, The Twenty-Ninth Psalm, On the Power of the Voice of God in the Air, 1536.” Page 119 in vol. 60 of Luther’s Works, American Edition. Edited by Christopher Boyd Brown. St. Louis: Concordia, 2011.

Taken from Dr. Martin Luther’s preface to Ambrosius Moibanus’ exposition of the twenty-ninth Psalm of David; the exposition was inspired by a severe storm that ravaged Silesia in the summer and autumn of 1535. It distressed Moibanus when so few recognized God's almighty hand at work in the storm, and instead, interpreted it as a natural phenomenon or the work of the devil.  Moibanus was a leader of the Lutheran Reformation in his native homeland of Breslau (common day Wrocław, Poland), and studied in Wittenberg where he came in contact with Luther, Melanchthon, Bugenhagen, and Johann Heß, among others. It is interesting to note that for Luther this was a subject he struggled with all throughout his life, and only began to accept its full significance toward the end of his days, as he so modestly reflects above. It is a hard pill to swallow indeed, to say that, for example, a tsunami affecting hundreds is somehow connected to an act of God upon unrepentant sinners. Later on Luther seems to say that men are pretentious to accept divine help, while shunning the divine calamity. How true of us today. Let us learn from this Psalm of David that the Lord sends blessings and strength to His people, as well as shaking the ground beneath our feet. 

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