Leviathan

“On earth there is not his like, a creature without fear.”
Job 41:33

Knight George had been there the entire summer. And he was getting extremely frustrated.

He wanted desperately to return home and get back to work. But he couldn’t. Not yet, anyway.

He tried to spend his days wisely. He studied Greek and Hebrew and set out to translate the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament into the language of his people.

He had made good headway towards the end of the summer and was nearly done translating the New Testament by the time the snow was flying.

His days were occupied with studying, writing, and translating.

But nights were something else entirely.

He would try to sleep. But his foul mood and his deep depression at being away from his home and work weighed on him like an oppressive millstone.

He also felt oppressed and attacked by Satan himself. He knew he was doing the work of God. He knew that he was called by the Holy Spirit to be who he was. He knew that he had been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection.

But still Satan attacked! Breathing the flames of doubt and accusation like a fire-breathing dragon!

Night was Satan’s favorite time to attack. Knight George was tired, hungry, cold, bitter, and depressed. And Satan would use this time to press his attacks.

On one such night, Junker Jörg was feeling attacked by Satan. So much so he was provoked to violence. He picked up the nearest thing to him – an inkwell – and hurled it at Satan.

It smashed against the wall, staining it.

Within a few months, Junker Jörg, Knight George, would leave the Castle Wartburg, return to his post at Wittenberg, and resume his true name – Martin Luther.

The story of the inkwell is a legend, most likely based on his own statement about his stay in the Castle Wartburg where he had “driven the devil away with ink” (quoted from Redeemer Lutheran, Huntington Beach’s website here: http://www.redeemer-lutheran.net/Articles/1000039345/Redeemer_Lutheran_Church/Media_Center/Pastors_Articles/Throwing_Ink_at.aspx).

But what is not legend is that Luther fought against Satan, as do we all! Satan is real. He is a fallen angel – and thus a creation of God and under his authority. He hates God and also hates us!

In Job 40, God describes Satan – so it is thought – as Behemoth. This is likening Satan to a wild and ferocious land beast.

In Job 41, God describes Satan – again, so it is thought – as Leviathan. This is a sea monster of some type. A giant sea serpent or squid. But one that has scales like armor and breaths fire.

This brings to mind a dragon. And this fits in with how Satan is described in the Book of Revelation.

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him (Revelation 12:7-9).

At the end of Job 41, God says that there is nothing like Satan on the earth.

Martin Luther – who fought the devil all his life – would describe Satan this way: auf Erd ist nicht seinsgleichen. This is commonly translated “on Earth is not his equal” (from stanza one of A Mighty Fortress is Our God, composite translation from the Pennsylvania Lutheran CHURCH BOOK of 1868).

God’s point in Job 41 – and Luther’s in stanza 1 of A Mighty Fortress is Our God – is that left to our own resources, we are powerless in fighting Satan.

Only God can defeat Satan.

And he did through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for us!

That one little word – Jesus – defeats Satan every time. And that one little word is ours through our baptism into Christ!

Satan may be able to take away all that we have. He took away Job’s wealth, children, and health. Luther poetic states that Satan could take away “our life, goods, fame, child and wife.”

But because of Christ, we will live forever and Christ’s Kingdom will be ours!

©2017 True Men Ministries

______________________________________

Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

Contribute to True Men Ministries to help keep this devotional going here.

Listen to the True Man Podcast here.

Subscribe to In My Father’s Footsteps here.

The Countenance of Job

“He delivers the afflicted by their affliction and opens their ear by adversity.”
Job 36:15

It was a cold Wednesday. The harvest had been good that year and it was now stored for the winter.

Everyone was content and waiting for the first snows of the long winter.

Everyone, that is, except Martin Luther.

He had finished an extensive writing project and now walked over to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg and posted his project – the 95 Theses.

Six months later, Luther would defend his position at a meeting of the leaders of his monastic order, the Augustinians.

Formally called The Heidelberg Disputation of 1518, Luther would expand on his 95 Theses and, in doing so, set the path of the Protestant Reformation in Germany and elsewhere – a Reformation that would change the world.

At The Heidelberg Disputation Martin Luther would refer to the Book of Job and make the connection of Job’s suffering to that of Jesus Christ.

It would become known as the “Theology of the Cross.” Martin Luther echoed Elihu’s words extoling the greatness of God, especially as God works through a person’s suffering, in Job 36.

Luther said, in part:

The person who believes that he can obtain grace by doing what is in him adds sin to sin so that he becomes doubly guilty.

Nor does speaking in this manner give cause for despair, but for arousing the desire to humble oneself and seek the grace of Christ.

It is certain that man must utterly despair of his own ability before he is prepared to receive the grace of Christ. [“1518 Heidelberg Disputation.” 1518 Heidelberg Disputation. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2017. http://bookofconcord.org/heidelberg.php]

Luther would go on to argue that if preachers and teachers led people to seek God’s grace through good works, they completely misunderstood (either ignorantly or intentionally) how God works through suffering!

He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.

A theology of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theology of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.

That wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in works as perceived by man is completely puffed up, blinded, and hardened.

The law brings the wrath of God, kills, reviles, accuses, judges, and condemns everything that is not in Christ (Rom. 4:15).

Yet that wisdom is not of itself evil, nor is the law to be evaded; but without the theology of the cross man misuses the best in the worst manner.” [1518 Heidelberg Disputation.” 1518 Heidelberg Disputation. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2017. http://bookofconcord.org/heidelberg.php]

As Luther would go on to explain these points, he would describe the righteousness of Christ as “‘the countenance of Job’ (AE 31:64). God called wounded and suffering Job to intercede for his friends and avert God’s wrath (Job 42:8). In a similar way, the wounded and suffering Christ interceded for all sinners, averts God’s wrath from us, and grants us His righteousness. The Lord looked upon the diseased and battered countenance of Job and heard Job’s plea for his friends. In a similar way, when the Lord looks upon the battered face of His Son, He hears Christ’s pleas on our behalf” (taken from the article The Countenance of Job, in The Lutheran Study Bible, © 2009 Concordia Publishing House, p 837).

3,300 years earlier, Elihu expresses much the same thought (obviously not referencing Christ, who wouldn’t be born for another 1800 years).

This tells me that this is something that is most certainly true. And since Elihu’s expressed thought is actually part of the inspired and inerrant Word of God, I think I’m on safe ground making this assertion of truthfulness!

This I need to remember when I go through bad times. When I’m suffering pain or sorrow, I must remember – or be reminded – that God is good and that he will use this suffering for my own good and for his glory.

©2017 True Men Ministries

______________________________________

Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

Contribute to True Men Ministries to help keep this devotional going here.

Listen to the True Man Podcast here.

Subscribe to In My Father’s Footsteps here.

Repentance

“I have born punishment; I will not offend any more; teach me what I do not see; if I have done iniquity, I will do it no more….”
Job 34:31-32

He approached the river from the wilderness. He looked like he had been living out there for quite some time, possibly years.

Wild, tangled hair. A cloak made of some rough and itchy-looking material tied with a belt around his waist.

His first words were, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2)

At first, the toads and crickets, and whatever animals lived along the river bank, seemed to be his only audience. But that quickly changed!

People from the capitol and surrounding villages and towns flocked to see this strange man with the powerful message.

For it was a powerful message. “Repent!” Why did that resonate with so many people?

Soon after, this man’s cousin – his younger cousin by six months – also began to draw crowds. This time, up in Galilee. His message? The same!

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 4:17)

This message was short and to the point. “Repent” means to turn from your ways to a new way of living. And this is a message that touched people’s hearts. They were yearning for a new way of living, a new way of life. They lived in an oppressed society, ruled over by an authoritarian and ruthless empire. Who wouldn’t want a new life?

This message resonates no less today. Are you looking for a new life? A new way of living? Do you need a change? Are you ready for your life to take off, to become the adventure you always dreamed it could or should be?

I have good news for you! This is exactly what Jesus came to give you!

And it all starts with repentance.

In chapter 34 of the Book of Job, Elihu shows – by the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit – the way of repentance.

While it looks like a 3-Step Plan, I don’t mean to imply that it is a step-by-step process. Not at all! In fact, it is a way of life – a life that Jesus came to give you!

Repentance starts, and maybe this surprises you, with the Holy Spirit and not with you!

You are a sinner (and so am I!) and cannot get to this new life on your own. We are all conceived and born in sin. That is, “by nature [we are] spiritually blind, dead, and an enemy of God, as the Scriptures teach (1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 2:1; Romans 8:7; Ephesians 2:8-9; and 1 Corinthians 12:3); therefore, ‘I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him’” (Explanation of Luther’s Small Catechism, ©1986 Concordia Publishing House, p 150).

The Holy Spirit uses the Law of God (the Ten Commandments) to prompt repentance in us.

And this life of repentance looks like this according to the Book of Job: Stop offending people, be taught, and strive to not sin anymore.

It starts with verse 31: “I will not offend anymore….”

This is a recognition, a realization, that our sins are an offense. They are an offense to other people, especially when we sin against them.

But they are truly an offense to God. God is perfect. God is holy. And God created us to be perfect and holy. But because of our sinful human nature, we offend God’s perfection and holiness. Repentance is realizing this and wanting to stop.

Verse 32 says, “Teach me….”

This is a willingness to learn from God. Who better to learn how to stop sinning and how to live a life free of sin than God? Repentance is putting yourself under God’s tutelage. We learn from God how to live because he is the Author of life itself!

Verse 32 also says, “I will do it no more….”

This is a resolve to live a life of not sinning. I know, I know! Nothing is easier said than done! And while I don’t think we can actually get to this point in this lifetime, the Scriptures do tell us to try!

And I think we can get better at this. It is like getting to the point of being able to lift 300 pounds worth of weights.

When I started lifting weights in earnest a little over a year ago, I could barely lift a 45-pound bar. Now, a year and a month later, I’m lifting over 100 pounds 8 times (repetitions) 3 days a week!

When Jesus said that he came that we may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10), he meant a life lived in repentance to the glory of God.

I pray you and I can do this and will do this by the power of the Holy Spirit!

©2017 True Men Ministries

______________________________________

Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

Contribute to True Men Ministries to help keep this devotional going here.

Listen to the True Man Podcast here.

Subscribe to In My Father’s Footsteps here.

Peace and a Bag of Worms

“Dominion and fear are with God; he makes peace in his high heaven.”
Job 25:2

Sally finally got her note to Tommy after mistakenly giving it to Billy (see devotion “Almost” here about this story), Tom and Billy became close friends.

One day, Alan challenged Billy to eat a worm a day for 15 days. If he did, Alan would give Billy $50! Tom – being the good friend he was – helped Billy to win the bet. (This is the plot of the Thomas Rockwell book, How to Eat Fried Worms).

This is the first thing I thought of reading Job 25:6 – “how much less man, who is a maggot, and the son of man, who is a worm!

Bildad concludes the speeches of Jobs “friends” with one, last short speech that ends with these words about maggots and worms.

Satan – or, as he’s called in Job, the Satan (the accuser) – first shows up in the Bible in Genesis 3 as a serpent. He also shows up in Matthew 4 as the tempter of Jesus. He finally shows up in the Book of Revelation as a dragon (type of serpent).

This creature was once an angel who rebelled against God sometime during creation week and was kicked out of heaven, along with one-third of all the angels who chose to follow him.

Since his exile, he has – according to Job 1 – been roaming “to and fro” on the earth, meaning that he’s been on the prowl for humans. To tempt them away from God and to suffer eternity in hell along with him when the final judgment comes.

In Job 25, Bildad speaks one last time. He says that God “makes peace in his high heaven,” possibly referring to the failed coup attempt on the part of Satan and his subsequent exile.

That’s the “now” part of what Bildad says. It has happened. It is done. But there is also a “not yet” part to this. The final judgment.

God will make final peace in heaven through his Son, Jesus Christ. The Redeemer that Job believes he will see.

It is Jesus, the Redeemer, through whom God makes peace in his high heaven and on earth!

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:19-20).

This is our hope and peace as well as Job’s. For Job, it was faith in a Redeemer who was to come. For us it is faith in a Redeemer who has come and is with us now through the Means of Grace (God’s Word and Sacraments).

Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary to be our substitute under God’s Law is the one who brings peace by suffering the wrath of God on our behalf.

Bildad says that man is “a maggot … a worm!” Compared to the majesty of God, this is true.

Martin Luther – the 16th Century Reformer – would colorfully expand on this:

“We have no right to indulge in much bragging and boasting when we step before God. Even if we were members of the highest aristocracy on earth … before God we would still be nothing but bags of worms or bags of manure, infested with lice, maggots, stinking and foul” (Luther’s Works, American Edition, Vo. 22, p 133, quoted in the Lutheran Study Bible notes, page 814 © 2009 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO).

As only Luther can, he lays out in no uncertain terms the difference between mankind and God.

And if that’s all that there is – this difference – there would be no hope for us.

But Jesus Christ came to reconcile us to God, making peace between God and man by his shed blood on the cross.

Centuries after Job, King David would prophesy that Jesus would become “a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people.” (Psalm 22:6).

This is a prophesy of Jesus’ suffering and death. This is the ultimate act of sacrifice and salvation by the Redeemer that Job had faith he would see one day!

Jesus did this for us so that we would live in the dominion (power) of God and fear (believe in) God forever in heaven.

Again, the Book of Job is pleading with us to never give up on God even when we go through the darkest times. These dark times, when we truly feel as if we are nothing more than maggots and worms, will be used by God to strengthen our faith and point us toward heaven that even now, Jesus is preparing for us!

©2017 True Men Ministries

______________________________________

Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

Contribute to True Men Ministries to help keep this devotional going here.

Listen to the True Man Podcast here.

Subscribe to In My Father’s Footsteps here.

The Rock, Part 1

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. – Psalm 40:2

In my mind it is a picture without words. It is a powerful picture.

In the movie “Anna and the King”, the king of Siam arrives and everybody bows low to the ground. Everybody except the Englishwoman Anna. She continues to stand in his presence.

In the movie “Monsignor” Christopher Reeves’ character is ushered into the office of a Cardinal. The Cardinal holds out his ring for Reeves to bow down and kiss. Instead, Reeves remains standing and shakes his hand.

Fictional events from Hollywood, to be sure. But they make a powerful statement about pride and confidence in belief.

Fact often proves more powerful than fiction.

In the city of Worms, a professor of religion stands before the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. He is asked to bow down to the teachings and authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

martin-lutherWhat brought this professor to this point was an event that happened on October 31, 1517. He invited a debate on the teaching of the sale of indulgences, the idea that a person could buy forgiveness and time off in purgatory.

By 1521, Luther was convinced he was right and the Church was wrong. When asked to bow down, to recant, he replied:

“Since your majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right not safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me. Amen.”

I am writing this devotion today because Luther took a stand. He stood firm on the Word of God. The Word of God lifted Luther out of hopeless despair and placed him on a rock. Good thing, too, because Luther set in motion a maelstrom of events that toppled anyone not standing firm on the truth of God’s Word.

God opened the door once again for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to enter the world. The mud and mire that was the Middle Ages for so many now had a rescue plan. People wallowing in despair of war, plague and cruel hardship from the Church were saved by the pure, sweet Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What Luther did almost five hundred years ago was not a one-time event. The Reformation he sparked continues today. Or at least it should. The Gospel is the only answer for a dying world beset by war, terror and despair.

Luther’s stand is our stand, too. Standing on the promises of a loving God keeps us firm and “rock steady.” Because we are, others can know the sweet Good News of a God that loves them.

Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me. Amen.

©2016 True Men Ministries

______________________________________

Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

Contribute to True Men Ministries to help keep this devotional going here.

Listen to the True Man Podcast here.

Subscribe to In My Father’s Footsteps here.

The Purpose of Trouble

Martin Luther said,

God has given men this trouble or affliction not in order to destroy them but in order to call them back from their foolish wisdom and schemes and to teach us that our wisdom amounts to nothing….

Notes on Ecclesiastes (Luther’s Works 15:25)

This is interesting to me. I certainly do not have a trouble-free life. Luther reminds me why I have trouble in my life – it is God’s way of calling me back to His path!

Matt Papa in his book Look and Live (quoted in the devotion for January 4 in Men of Integrity) said,

God’s wrath is not some kind of counterbalance to his grace. It is the platform for it. God designed all of salvation to culminate in a rapturous awe-filled celebration of the glory of his goodness. Why does Jesus, after rising from the dead, still bear his scars? It has to be because God wanted every eternal sight of him to be filled with the memory of his love.

In times of trouble, what should I do? How do I find God when it seems like He’s hiding from me?

C.F.W. Walther reminds me,

When we no longer feel Christ in our hearts, we must still seek Him in the Word. Whoever firmly holds to [the Word’s] teaching will soon be rescued from his affliction.

God Grant It Daily Devotions from C.F.W. Walter, January 4

God never promised that a Christian would have a problem-free life. Quite the contrary, actually. But God does promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us!

Experiencing Death

I was in high school when I first “experienced” death. A young man in my school was hit by a car and killed. I had known him, but not well. We went to a Who concert once and shared musical tastes. I was sad that he had died. But I didn’t know what to do with that sadness.

That would be only the first of many experiences with death. My maternal grandfather died while I was in high school, my paternal grandfather died during my first year of seminary. My cousin (also hit by a car) also died when I was a seminary student. And my maternal grandmother died after I had been a parish pastor for two years.

Being a parish pastor now for 17 years, I’ve experienced death quite a lot. I’ve presided or assisted at well over 200 funerals. I’ve prayed and cried with families and watched as a son, daughter, mother, father, or grandparent closed their eyes for the last time. I’ve held the hand of a brother pastor as he drew his last, labored breath. The hardest death was that of a four year old who died in a farming accident. He wasn’t a member of my parish, but his pastor was overseas on a mission trip. What made it hard was that he was the same age as my youngest son at the time and looked a lot like him.

Death is hard on the living. It seems to be easier for some who are dying. Recently I was making regular visits with a woman who was dying of a brain tumor. She constantly told me that she was ready to die. She would miss her family and husband – very much! But was more than ready to go to heaven and be with her Lord and Savior Jesus. She even exhibited a little impatience toward the end, she was that ready.

But the death of someone we love is hard on us. I’ve counseled parents, trying to comfort them in their grief, that while a parent is not built to bury their own children, we have a God who knows exactly what they are going through. And God not only knows how they feel, He actually does something about it!

God doesn’t abolish death, but rather transforms it by defeating it!

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became of human being in order to defeat death. He defeated death by dying Himself for the sins of all the world for all time. Sure and certain defeat came through the supreme victory of His glorious resurrection from the dead. Jesus died once and for all and He will never die again.

And neither will those who have faith in Jesus! Holy Baptism is when a person is baptized in the death and resurrection of Jesus. If we have been united with Jesus in a death like His (through baptism) we can be absolutely assured that we will be united with Jesus in a resurrection like His!

So how should we look at death today? This is very much at the forefront of my thinking most mornings because I wake up to this view: 

Is this a field of dead people? Well, that’s one way of looking at it. But I prefer to look at this view as Martin Luther did.

“When we die, this does not really mean death but seed sown for the coming summer. And the cemetery does not indicate a heap of the dead, but a field full of kernels, known as God’s kernels, which will verdantly blossom forth again and grow more beautifully than can be imagined.” [Martin Luther, Lectures on 1 Timothy, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther’s Works 28, (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 28:178.]

A field awaiting the final harvest. Death is not the end. It is a sowing of a crop that will be harvested by angels on the last day, at the last trumpet sound!

Yes, death is a sad thing. But for me and for many, many Christians it is not a devastating thing. It is a transformation from this life of tears, fears and sorrows to the eternal life with Jesus where there will be no more tears, no more sorrow, and no more death.