Luther on Psalm 118

Psalm 118:5 Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. … You must never doubt that God is aware of your distress and hears your prayer. You must not pray haphazardly or simply shout into the wind. Then you would mock and tempt God. It would be better not to pray at all, than to pray like the priests and monks. It is important that you learn to praise also this point in this verse: “The Lord answered me and set me free.” The psalmist declares that he prayed and cried out, and that he was certainly heard. If the devil puts it into your head that you lack the holiness, piety, and worthiness of David and for this reason cannot be sure that God will hear you, make the sign of the cross, and say to yourself: “Let those be pious and worthy who will! I know for a certainty that I am a creature of the same God who made David. And David, regardless of his holiness, has no better or greater God than I have.” There is only one God, of saint and sinner, worthy and unworthy, great and small. Regardless of the inequalities among us, He is the one and equal God of us all, who wants to be honored, called on, and prayed to by all. (“Psalm 118,” Luther’s Works, Vol. 14 [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1958], pp. 58,61)


Take Heed How You Hear

I haven’t had time to post an update in a while as school has been really busy. I’m currently working on an exegesis of Jeremiah 34, essentially I’m looking at each word, clause, phrase and even sounds in order to fully analyze the text. It’s a long process and will take most of the semester to complete.

I’m also working on two papers, one dealing with the Belgic Confession, and the second will be somewhere in the realm of Christian philosophy. I haven’t chosen a topic for either one yet, though I think I will compare the confession of Beza with Article 37 of the BC.

Yesterday I participated in my second public speaking class. It was a good learning experience for me. Our assignment was to write and present a 3-5 minute introduction for a speech, sermon, bible study, etc., using what we had learned in class the week before.

The first attempt I had my laptop open to my speech as I presented, it didn’t go so well. The instructor had me try a second time without notes and it was way better. It felt much more natural and I had better eye contact and gestures.
Here’s my speech:

You’re the engineer of a train. There are 36 people on board. At the first stop, 10 get off and 2 get on. At the next stop, no one gets off, but 5 get on. At the third stop, 4 get off and 2 get on. Now for the question: What is the name of the engineer?

You might be thinking, ‘Well that’s not a fair question!’ But you do know the name of the engineer, it’s you.

“Take Heed How You Listen” (Luke 8:18)
yes, you, take heed how you Listen

What does this mean? How does someone take heed how they listen? It would make sense to say pay attention to what you hear, or examine what you hear.

Instead he said pay attention to how you Listen.

This means we aren’t simply to listen. We have to examine and pay attention to the way we are listening! When it comes to sitting in church we need to make sure our first thought isn’t “Oh, no, this guy again.”
Or, “Sigh I’ve heard this a thousand times.”

Here we are told not only to consider carefully what sermons or speakers we listen to, but how we listen to them. The challenge we all face is not to sit in the pew judging the messenger, but to instead focus on what is being said.

As one preacher said, “Take heed how you hear! Hear with spiritual ears, not just the ears on your head. And hear with an honest and good heart, not a deceptive and evil heart.” (Piper, p. 12).

Help us, O Lord, Behold we Enter

Help us, O Lord, for now we enter
Upon another year today.
In you our hopes and thoughts now center;
Renew our courage for the way.
New life, new strength, new happiness
We ask of you — oh, hear and bless.

May ev’ry plan and undertaking
Begin this year, O Lord, with you;
When I am sleeping or am waking,
Help me, dear Lord, your will to do.
In you alone, my God, I live;
You only can my sins forgive.

And may this year to me be holy;
Your grace so fill my ev’ry thought
That all my life be pure and lowly
And truthful, as a Christian’s ought.
So make me while I’m living here
Your faithful servant through the year.

Jesus, be with me and direct me;
Jesus, my plans and hopes inspire;
Jesus, from tempting thoughts protect me;
Jesus, be all my heart’s desire;
Jesus, be in my thoughts all day
And never let me fall away.

And grant, Lord, when the year is over,
That it for me in peace may close.
In all things care for me and cover
My head in time of fear and woes.
So may I, when my life is done,
Appear with joy before your throne.

– Johann Rist


Another Update

I really have to think of better titles for these. It’s been a busy and fruitful number of weeks since I last posted an update. My studies continue to prove challenging and beneficial, and I’m daily reminded of how much more I have to learn. I’m also reminded of the great salvation we have in Christ as our Lord and Saviour.

I submitted two papers last week, one was a text critical assignment on 2 Corinthians 14, and the other a personality reflection paper. Both did not involve too much research, basically just the notes which I had on hand.

I’ve also helped restart a program called Moses’ Clinic. It’s basically a workshop for seminary students where we work on our public speaking skills, reading abilities, and similar things. It’s been fruitful so far and I’m hoping it will continue to help me grow in my abilities. Thankfully it doesn’t take much planning or organizing. Basically I send out an email once a week with what we’ll be covering in the workshop and then hope people show up 🙂

Yesterday, Friday November 3, I had an oral exam on the Heidelberg Catechism. In preparation I had to memorize the first 31 Lord’s Days and the major themes of the catechism. This was easily the greatest challenge for the freshman so far. I stumbled a fair bit, mainly due to the stress of the situation, but am happy with the B grade I received. Aside from reciting a number of questions and answers, one of the interesting things I was asked about was the use of Faith in the Catechism. It’s remarkable that Faith is referred to in three different ways in the catechism.

First we are told that faith is necessary for salvation and the only means by which we can be saved. It is defined in LD 7 as “a firm confidence that not only to others, but also to me, God has granted forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation, out of mere grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits. This faith the Holy Spirit works in my heart by the gospel.”

Second, it appears in Lord’s Day 23 where we confess that this faith is our righteousness before God, yet we are not righteous because of the worthiness of our faith, “for only the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ is my righteousness before God. I can receive this righteousness and make it my own by faith only.”

Third, it is mentioned in Lord’s Day 25 where we confess how this faith is worked in us by the Spirit, “who works it in our hearts by the preaching of the gospel, and strengthens it by the use of the sacraments.”

So faith is spoken of in three ways, it’s defined as a firm confidence, confessed as our only grounds of salvation, and spoken of as the result of the Spirit’s work.

Looking ahead, I have that paper on the Descent into Hell to write over the next seven days. I think I may have bit off a bit more than I can chew with this one… It’s an incredibly interesting subject but I’m having trouble narrowing down my topic which has made things quite difficult.

I also have the last Hebrew test of the semester on Wednesday. We’ll be tested on the rest of the catechism in February, so I have a nice chunk of time to work on that yet 🙂

Lord’s Day 10

What do you understand by the providence of God?
God’s providence is
his almighty and ever present power,
whereby, as with his hand, he still upholds
heaven and earth and all creatures,
and so governs them that
leaf and blade,
rain and drought,
fruitful and barren years,
food and drink,
health and sickness,
riches and poverty,
indeed, all things,
come to us not by chance
but by his fatherly hand.

What does it benefit us to know
that God has created all things
and still upholds them by his providence?
We can be patient in adversity,
thankful in prosperity,
and with a view to the future
we can have a firm confidence
in our faithful God and Father
that no creature shall separate us
from his love;
for all creatures are so completely in his hand
that without his will
they cannot so much as move.

Rufinus on the Crucifixion

The Apostle Paul teaches us that we ought to have “the eyes of our understanding enlightened” “that we may understand what is the height and breadth and depth.” “The height and breadth and depth” is a description of the Cross, of which that part which is fixed in the earth he calls the depth, the height that which is erected upon the earth and reaches upward, the breadth that which is spread out to the right hand and to the left. Since, therefore, there are so many kinds of death by which it is given to men to depart this life, why does the Apostle wish us to have our understanding enlightened so as to know the reason why, of all of them, the Cross was chosen in preference for the death of the Savior.

We must know, then, that Cross was a triumph. It was a signal trophy. A triumph is a token of victory over an enemy. Since then Christ, when He came, brought three kingdoms at once into subjection under His sway (for this He signifies when he says, “That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth”), and conquered all of these by His death, a death was sought answerable to the mystery, so that being lifted up in the air, and subduing the powers of the air, He might make a display of His victory over these supernatural and celestial powers.

Moreover the holy Prophet says that “all the day long He stretched out His hands” to the people on the earth, that He might both make protestation to unbelievers and invite believers: finally, by that part which is sunk under the earth, He signified His bringing into subjection to Himself the kingdoms of the nether world.

– Rufinus, A Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed, Sage Library, ECF 3.3. pp. 1127-1128

Week 2

I’ve finished my last classes of the week and thought I would post another update. Probably wont be doing this every week, but I’d like to post when I can. As I told a friend, it’s a good way for me to go over what I’ve been taught and keep it fresh. It was a good week, with most of the time spent progressing in my language studies. It is still review for the most part, although we have now translated 1 John 1-2 from Greek to English. Vocab and grammar rules are slowly starting to come back to me. We had a Hebrew test today which focused on transliterating from Hebrew to English and English to Hebrew. It went well and I’m looking forward to getting my mark back.

In Intro to Theology(Systematic Theology/Dogmatics) we reviewed the basic concept of Theology. Looked at what makes it a science, rather than an art, and discussed what relationship Theology has with the other sciences. It was an interesting discussion, with the only thing we could really agree on was that when we as humans work within any area of science, we ought not to and are not generating our own thing. Rather we’re studying what already exists.

One thing that was fascinating to look at was just how well preserved the Old Testament text has been. After comparing the Dead Sea Isaiah b scroll, with the Leningrad Codex of Isaiah, scholars have found that there are less than 200 discrepancies. These discrepancies are incredibly minor. 107 different spellings of words, were the meaning is still obvious; 29 discrepencies over a waw (a Hebrew conjunction), 4 definite articles, 10 consonants, 5 misspellings, 24 different grammatical forms are used, 9 times different prepositions are used. It’s quite remarkable to see just how faithful the scribes were in copying the scriptures, and also assuring to know that Critical Text theory is a useful field and it’s not all in vain. We do text criticism because we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and by comparing the various manuscripts we can gain more knowledge about what the original autographs looked like.

In Ecclesiology we looked at the importance of Creeds and Confessions of faith, and how they have been used by the Church to summarize the Word of God. They steer the church away from works righteousness and legalism by emphasizing the fact that deeds are an important part of our thankfulness. Our Reformed confessions summarize and compare scripture and put it in logical form. Of course there are times when people use creeds erroneously, for instance often logic is applied back onto scripture – that’s a mistake as it forces one to read scripture in light of the confession instead of vice versa.

In Ministry and Mission (Practical Theology/Diaconiology) we had a brief explanation of what to expect in the course. Basically we’ll be looking at the work that occurs within the church, especially the office bearers. Essentially all the things that are studied in the other courses, ecclesiology, exegesis, etc., are applied here.

The other courses were uneventful, at least according to my notes 🙂 I’m still working on my speech for the public speaking workshop. Haven’t made much progress but I’m confident it will come together. I also settled on the topic for my research paper and am going to be working on the introduction this weekend already. Start early finish early right?

As for my schedule, a friend of mine asked what my days are like so I figured I’d post that here too: Basically each morning is spent in class and then in the afternoons I study. I’m memorizing a Lord’s Day every day and got the Nicene Creed down pat. I spend a fair bit of time preparing for my language courses. With all that I still do have some free time – most is spent studying while doing something else. I’ll also be joining a Young People’s Bible study with my church. We’ll be studying Growing in the Gospel by Jason Van Vliet. It’s a great book and there’s a free preview available here: