N.A. Madson, D.D.
1956 Synod Convention Essay
“By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.” Heb. 11,24–26.
The Bible is the most practical book ever written. And why is it that? Not only because it has a most unique author (the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of aU grace and truth), but also because it answers life’s most vital question. It has been written for such as are in sore need of it, yea, who could not get along without it — poor sinners, telling them how they can be saved, nay, have been saved. Ever so often we hear men who ought to know better say (when matters of doctrine have for some time claimed their attention): “We shall now turn to something more practical.” But tell me, how can anything be more practical than that word which tells mortals, “who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2,15), that there is life and immortality in store for them, and that it may be had without money and without price?
In spite of all that has been said about this Book (for few books have had so much said against them by men who after all knew so little about them as have the Holy Scriptures), let it be said at once to all who would find fault with this matchless revelation: It has not been written to teach us how we are to find heaven here upon earth. On the contrary, it tells us that we are neither to love the world, nor the things that are in it. “If any man love the world,” says John, “the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.” 1 John 2,15–17. The Bible has the seriousness of eternity about all which it says. And while it be true that “all things are ours” as true believers (1 Cor. 3,21), let us not employ that apostolic word to make our fellowmen enamored of the world, for then we are but misusing it.
If we find nothing more in the Bible than a set of rules which tell us how we are to live a clean moral life, enjoying the good will and respect of our fellowmen, we shall have missed the very heart and center of its saving message. For rightly does Luther say: “Die ganze Schrift treibt Christum,” i.e., “All of Scriptures concern themselves about Christ.” And says the evangelist John toward the close of his precious gospel (John’s Gospel centers about the miracles of the Saviour): “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” John 20,30.31.
The Bible plainly teaches, then, that this world is not our abiding home. Says Paul: “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things. (There were “social-gospelers” also in Paul’s day.) For our conversation is in heaven (“vort borgerskab er i himlene,” is the Norwegian rendering of it, while Luther has translated it: “Unser Wandel ist in Himmel”) from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” Phil. 3,18–21. Or, as the same apostle tells the congregation at Colosse: “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” Col. 3,3. There is sound Scriptural reason for the spiritual song:
“I’m but a stranger here,
Heaven is my home;
Earth is a desert drear,
Heaven is my home.
Danger and sorrow stand
Round me on every hand;
Heaven is my fatherland,
Heaven is my home.”
But since natural man is what he is: Not only earth-bound in all his inclinations, with mind darkened and will perverted, God, who knoweth our frame and remembereth that we are dust, deals with us accordingly. (Right here I would exemplify the natural man’s none too high aspirations by calling attention to Millet’s well-known painting: “The Man With the Hoe,” And as for natural man’s disinclination to suffer anything for any cause whatsoever, we have Ibsen’s caricature of a man, Peer Gynt, who did not want to go back into the melting pot and be refashioned — for it hurt!) In man’s struggle not only with the devil and the wicked world about him, but also with his own deceitful heart, he needs to have the new man in him constantly encouraged to do that which is right. That is why God speaks so oft by way of encouragement “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” Isa. 40,1.2. It is by way of encouragement to every repentant sinner that the words of our text have been written. In fact, the entire 11th chapter of Hebrews has listed for us names of those who should serve to encourage us on our journey to the promised land. It is in order that we may lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, that we may make straight paths for our feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way, and that it rather be healed (Heb. 12,12.13) that these words concerning one of God’s elect have been recorded. Moses was given grace to become “the man of God” (Deut. 33,1), which Scripture calls him, and from the days of his youth was taught to look even unto the end of the road. This, then, shall be the theme around which our thoughts shall be centered in this discussion:
Looking to the End of the Road.
We have divided the theme into four parts for the sake of making the discussion of it a bit easier:
1. It is a road which only faith can travel.
2. It is a road as rugged as it is beset with dangers.
3. It is a road which has but one objective — that we may win Christ.
4. It is a road which invariably leads to an eternal reward in heaven.
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1. When the apostle Paul writes to his fellow believers in the Corinthian congregation: “For we walk by faith, not by sight,” 2 Cor. 5,7, he is setting up a road marker not only for himself and his fellow believers in Corinth of that day, but for all believers to the end of time. When we no longer heed that divine directive (to walk by faith, not by sight) we are no longer the children of God. It is not at all strange, therefore, that our text should be phrased as it is: “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.”
But when the question arises as to what that faith is, we must be ready to answer any soul that asks us. And it must be a true answer. We had a most important question on this score in our Explanation of Luther’s Small Catechism (No. 191) reading thus: “How may we know that weak faith is a true faith?” And the answer? “Weak faith is a true faith, when it carries with it hatred of sin and longing for grace in Christ, and, especially, love to the brethren.” And then followed the proof passage (which in this instance covers but the last statement of the answer): “1 John 3,14: ‘We know that we have passed from death unto life (i.e., from spiritual death to spiritual life), because we love the brethren.’” But who are those brethren? Those who boast of their faith, and are ever reminding you of all the good they have done for the kingdom? Never! The person who boasts of his faith and its accomplishments will go down to his house as unblessed today as did the Pharisee of Christ’s day, who thanked God that he was not like other men. Most strikingly has the English poet Richard Crashaw pen-pictured the Pharisee and the publican for us in these words:
“Two went to pray? Or rather say:
One went to brag, th’ other to pray;
One stands up close and treads on high
Where th’ other dare not send his eye;
One nearer to God’s altar trod,
The other to the altar’s God.”
And the important thing in all true worship is not nearness to the altar, but nearness to the altar’s God, the God who told us: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit.” Isa. 57,15. When Augustine says:
“Our hearts for Thee, O God, were made,
And will not rest until they rest in Thee,”
he is giving expression to a universal truth. Man must lay hold of something outside of himself, if he is not ultimately to sink into abysmal despair. There must be what we in Norwegian call “livsanskuelse.” It is only he who has died many a time before he dies who will be prepared to die when he dies. And Moses was prepared to die. He is one of the few souls of whom we definitely know that he is in heaven today, even as an Elijah.
“By faith Moses, when he was come to years.” What does that mean? It simply means that he had grown up, had come to manhood, had reached that stage when it was not due to some immature and hastily-arrived-at decision of thoughtless youth. No, it was based on mature judgment. We are not told anything further in Scripture as to the length of the stay in his parental home or the manner of his instruction during those impressionable years, beyond this: “And Pharaoh’s daughter said unto her (his mother, who had been summoned), Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. And the woman took the child, and nursed it. And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son.” Ex. 2,8.9. But in Stephen’s masterly defense before the sanhedrin the day they stoned him to death as the first Christian martyr, we are told that when Moses “was forty years old it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.” Acts 7,23. Which again does not necessarily mean that he had had no knowledge of them as his kinsmen until then. That he had learned, no doubt, from the days when he was being trained in the home of his parents. And what a tribute to the effectiveness of child training is not the whole future life of this man of God. There is no reason to doubt that Moses (even as a Daniel, almost a thousand years later, in the Babylonian court) led a life in strict accord with the rules governing a true Israelite, even when he was taken to the royal court of the Pharaohs, to make his home there.
But the time did come when he had to make a decision as to where he would cast his lot: With the aristocratic and proud Egyptian rulers, or with the despised and persecuted shepherd folk, whose lot might well be compared with that of the most miserable D.P.’s of our day. And Moses, fully aware of what it would mean, chose the latter. We rather like the way Scripture puts it: “Refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” Faith has also its negative side, which we do well in pondering in these days when a Norman Vincent Peale’s “Power of Positive Thinking” seems to have misled so many. The person who hasn’t learned to know and respect the negatives of the Decalog will never learn to appreciate the glorious positives of the un-conditioned Gospel. The Boy Scouts’ twelve laws with no “don’ts” in them may be boasted of (as has been done in certain quarters) as an improvement on the Commandments (Cf. Th. Graebner’s “Y Religion and Boy Scout Morality,” p. 11), but we need have no fear that the Decalog will have been changed an iota when the final judgment shall be rendered, in view of our Saviour’s definite declaration: “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Matt. 5,18. Rightly has Dr. Walther said: “Without the Law the Gospel is not understood: without the Gospel the Law benefits us nothing,” (Law & Gospel, p. 6), Moses, with all the world about him crying in his ears not to play the part of a fool and cast his lot with a disenfranchised people in bondage, was given grace from on high to stand up and say “no” such that even a Pharaoh had to take note of it.
It was by faith, then, that Moses was enabled to do what otherwise would have been impossible. It is by faith, and by faith alone, that you and I shall be able to enter our coveted Canaan above. There may be times when you are tempted to ask: “Since it is by faith alone that we are saved, without the deeds of the law, why is it that Holy Writ has so little to say by way of defining faith?” One of the few passages defining faith is the first verse of the chapter from which our text is taken: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” But while Scripture does not enter upon many and exhaustive definitions of faith, it does give us an abundance of examples of faith. And one clean-cut example is worth more than a score of definitions. And the source of faith as well as the nature of faith remain the same now as in years agone. It’s source? What else than the Word of God? “Faith cometh by hearing,” says Paul, “and hearing by the word of God.” Rom. 10,17. And when he defines the nature of faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” Heb. 11,1, that also remains the same throughout all ages.
When men no longer speak of faith as being the same in essence as it was in the days of an Abel, we reply with the words of our beloved Luther: “Die Glaube ist einerlei von Anfang des Welt bis an das Ende,” i.e., “Faith remains the same from the beginning of the world even unto the end.” St. L. Walch III, 85. Or, we might make use of the words which our own Dr. V. Koren employed back in 1908, delivering what he called his last will and testament to the synod he so long and faithfully had served. Speaking on “Den Hellige Skrifts Inspiration,” i.e., “The Inspiration of Holy Scriptures,” he directed these pointed words to those who were always stressing the great progress which had been made down through the centuries, and consequently had their scruples regarding verbal inspiration, which he was stressing: “There has, to be sure, been progress in what we call the auxiliary sciences, the knowledge of languages, archaeology and the like; but when it comes to the knowledge of God and true Christianity, it lies in the very nature of the case that the individual humans of the 20th century are not come any farther than had they of the 16th or 2nd century. — When it is said that we stand on the shoulders of our fathers, and have therefore a wider horizon than had they, then this is nothing more than phrases and empty talk. We are not closer to the truth than were they, and we have the same road to travel as had they, in order that we may come to Christ and believe on Him. God’s Word is eternal and unchangeable as is God Himself; for it is the revelation of God’s eternal counsel and eternal will.” Samlede Skrifter II, pages 216.217.
A road which only faith can travel, to be sure, but let us make certain that we do not so picture faith that it will seem beyond the reach of the weak and trembling. “Kristendommens väsen er fattigdom,” says Bishop Heuch in one of his overpowering sermons, i.e., “The essence of Christianity is poverty.” And what is he doing when he utters that rather striking statement? He is simply reechoing what had been sounded forth on the mountainside over in Galilee long centuries ago: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for their’s is the kingdom of heaven. — Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Matt. 5,3&6. Or, as the sainted Dr. Walther has put in in his Law & Gospel: “One who desires to believe is already a believer. For how could a person possibly desire to believe something which he regards untrue.” p. 202.
And why is it quite necessary to sound a warning against that pseudo-piety of our day which parades under the name of “Existentialism”? Because we are again face to face with a veritable Søren Kierkegaard cult with its existentialism fever. And what is that? Well, it amounts to this in brief: “If you have the choice of being certain of a thing for which you long, and that of being uncertain of it, but with a desperate longing for it, choose the latter.” That is the sum total of Søren Kierkegaard’s ungodly philosophy — let us not adorn it with the name of theology. And we have church periodicals peddling this poison in the name of the Christian religion.
Had that been the livsanskuelse of a Moses, there would have been no story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. But Moses knew whom he believed, and was not in doubt about the final outcome, so long as God’s boundless grace prevailed. He shared in common with Paul not only a burning zeal for the salvation of his people, but also an unwavering trust in the efficacy of the word of grace through which salvation is brought us from on high. What Paul wrote to the Romans centuries later, might well have been penned by the intrepid leader from the house of bondage: “Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring Christ up again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Rom. 10,6–9.
Saving faith, then, is a very personal thing. Well may the question be asked: Can there be anything more personal? But that does not mean that it has to become sickeningly sentimental, nor will it become revoltingly boastful. True faith will realize that faith itself is just as much a gift of God as is the unmerited grace of God upon which it builds its every hope. It is as Scripturally true as it is personally subjective when the true believer makes Count Nicolai Zinzendorf’s well-known words his own:
“Lord, I believe Thy precious blood,
Which at the mercy seat of God
For ever doth for sinners plead,
For me, e’en for my soul was shed.”
But faith is at the same time singularly non-subjective, when testifying concerning the all-embracing universality of God’s redemptive work. And so the same Zinzendorf who could write the words just quoted, could immediately add:
“Lord, I believe, were sinners more
Than sands upon the ocean shore,
Thou hast for all a ransom paid,
For all a full atonement made.”
Only that person will dare look even unto the end of the road who, like a Moses, walks by faith. Faith is as courageous as it is patient. It will ever confess with the prophet: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isa. 40,31.
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2. But while Moses is a living example of one who walks by faith, not by sight, he is also an example of one of those whose mad of faith is beset with dangers from beginning to end. It is not an overstatement, but a sober truth, when the inspired writer tells us: “Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” Heb. 12,6. And again: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” 2 Tim. 3,12. We are now not referring to the dangers involved in his being hid as a newborn infant from the governmental authorities — that was a risk which his believing parents had to take, and for which God prepared also them. No, we are referring to the dangers which beset him from the day he made his choice to share with his enslaved people their crushing burdens. For what does our text say? “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” v. 25. Again Scripture has a rather striking way of putting it: Moses deliberately chose affliction, but it was with God’s people; he was willing to forego all worldly pleasures which he could have indulged at the royal court, but it was because he had been given grace to see the brevity of the illicit as compared with the true when one is to speak of pleasures.
A road as rugged as it is beset with dangers. In the life of this remarkable leader we have an exemplification of what Brorson has in mind when he sings in his inimitable hymn, “I walk in Danger All the Way”:
“I pass through trials all the way,
With sin and ills contending;
In patience I must bear each day
The cross of God’s own sending;
Oft in adversity
I know not where to flee;
When stroms of woe my soul
I pass through trials all the way.”
Just think of the contrast between the luxuries of the royal court and that of the lone shepherd out in the wide stretches of the Midian wilderness! When you are disowned and dispossessed after having been surrounded by the comfort and conveniences of a luxurious and cultured court, as was Pharaoh’s in that day, and are reduced to the status of a sheepherder, it requires more than the natural eye to see the wisdom of such a choice. But Moses had more than the optic nerve of the physical eye to direct him. You may be certain that his father and mother, whatever years they were permitted to devote to his training, were not remiss about training him up in the way he should go. In that training was no doubt the thought which an Isaiah as well as a Paul have spoken of in the well-known words: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (Isa. 64,4; 1 Cor. 2,9.) When Paul quotes Isaiah to the Corinthian congregation, he has just referred to the princes of this world. There were certain things which they did not know, even in what Scripture itself refers to as “all the wisdom of the Egyptians.” Acts 7,22. Had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. What was it, then, which Moses was given to know which they did not know? In the verse immediately following our text we aTe told that “he endured as seeing him who is invisible.” v. 27. And it is this basic truth, that though the outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day, which we need to hold before the eyes of our children and those who are committed to our care, telling them in the words of Holy Writ itself: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Cor. 4,17.18.
But the grace to endure as seeing him who is invisible did not come to Moses without his going to school where the Holy Spirit was the instructor, and where he learned through anything but pleasant experience. We do not get rid of the old Adam over night. And also Moses had his share of that disreputable character. He had not learned to be patient and meek when he slew the Egyptian whom he caught mistreating a fellow Israelite. And let us not call him a saint when he does that which is wrong, any more than we call David a saint when he becomes guilty of adultery and murder, or Abraham a saint when he tells a lie. What we must learn from these instances is to see how God makes use of the sins committed by His elect to bless them in after life, as Luther rightly interprets Rom. 8,28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his his purpose.” After forty years in Midian, Moses had so progressed in the matter of controlling his temper under the most trying circumstances that we must marvel at his unperturbed poise and cool judgment. Behold him at Migdol, when the ten-or-stricken Israelites, at the sight of the pursuing Egyptian hosts with horsemen and war chariots were closing in on them, accused their leader of having basely betrayed them and led them to die in the wilderness! Calmly he faced them with words as reassuring as they were majestic: “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day ye shall see them again no more for ever.” Ex. 14,13.
Again and again in their long trek, God’s chosen people showed that they did not realize how blessed they were after all under the leadings of Jehovah, the covenant God — “slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.” And it was only at the earnest interposition of their leader that they were not stricken down in their tracks, when they had made unto themselves a golden calf around which they were dancing when Moses returned from Mount Sinai. The scene which follows is one of the most touching in all of Old Testament history, when the faithful leader at the sight of the idol dashes the God-given tablets against the rock at his feet, but immediately offers himself as a sacrifice, if but his people can be spared. Listen to his earnest prayer on their behalf: “And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin —; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.” Ex. 32,31.32. Think of it: Willing to be eternally damned, if it would save his people from their sins! There is indeed the “mother heart,” as Luther puts it, which will sacrifice, if need be, all for its child. He had learned not only to be patient, but also to rely upon God’s mercy. Before his record is to be closed it is to have this inscription: “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all men that were upon the face of the earth.” Num. 12,3. And so absolutely dependent was this leader upon God’s mercy that when God asked him to go on without any assurance of His grace, Moses refused, saying: “If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence. — And the Lord said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou shalt find grace in my sight, and I know thee by name.” Ex. 33,15&17.
When the question arises: “Why was not Moses permitted to enter the promised land of Canaan?” we are again face to face with a matter which takes on the appearance of a paradox. But let us listen to Luther’s exposition of Dent. 3,20, where Moses confesses: “But the Lord was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the Lord said unto me, “Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter,” Says Luther: “This has been written for our example and comfort. For even though the Lord did not hear him (i.e., in his request that he might he permitted to enter), from which Moses concluded that the Lord was wroth with him, as he here states, still God does not forsake him, but commands him to ascend the mountain (Pisgah) and to behold the land, and to give the command to Joshua. Thus we also must not wonder, when we are not heard, since we do not know how we ought to pray, but we should by no means doubt, that we are acceptable to God and are dear to Him, and should under wrath grasp His goodness, that we may not despair.” St. L. Walch III, 1404. This is of course, in keeping with what Paul writes the Romans (8,26): “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Peter was a believer when he asked the Saviour to depart from him out in the fishing smack, filled to the sinking point by that miraculous draft of fishes, saying in his fright: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Luke 5,8. But when the Spirit of God brought that request to the throne of grace the Spirit had so fashioned it that it pleaded for the very opposite. Peter was in greater need of the Saviour’s help now than ever before, and as a result he was given the comforting assurance: “Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.” Luke 5,10.
But while Moses was not permitted to lead his people into Canaan, he had so schooled himself in the ways of God, which are not our ways any more than His thought are our thoughts, that he did not become disgruntled and despondent because such hopes were not realized. The millennialists, the “impact on the world” church leaders, the social-gospelers of our day have much to learn from this man of God. When we in a mistaken enthusiasm for the spreading of the Gospel forget what Scripture has foretold us regarding the nature of Christ’s kingdom here on earth, and would make of the Gospel a message which is no longer unpalatable to the worldling, then we are become millennialists, whether we realize it or no. Wishful thinking is not going to make facts out of fables. You may have caught yourself joining in the singing of that bit of millennialistic emotion:
“The morning light is breaking;
The darkness disappears;
The sons of earth are waking
To penitential tears;
Each breeze that the ocean
Brings tidings from afar
Of nations in commotion,
Prepared for Zion’s war.”
But is it Scriptural? Is it in accord with facts? There may have been a time when the mission societies had reason to believe that a golden era for the Gospel was dawning, but are the tidings from afar in our super-charged, nervous, jittery, fearful generation, those of nations prepared for Zion’s war? The sooner we realize that we as true believers shall to the end of time remain but an insignificant minority, the better for us. In the clear words of the Brief Statement we confess: “Scripture clearly teaches, and we teach accordingly, that the kingdom of Christ on earth will remain under the cross until the end of time.” It is as true to day as it was on the day when Paul confirmed the souls of the believers in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia, not promising them any marked outward success, but reminding them of the sober truth that “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God,” Acts 14,22.
And that Moses clearly understood the meaning of chastisements which come from God, is plainly taught us in that prayer of his which has been preserved to us in the 90th Psalm. What a prayer for an age when men want to be crucified with Christ, but do not want any of the pain connected with the ordeal (and that 90th Psalm is deserving of a more honored place among the must Psalms alongside the 1st, the 23rd, the 46th etc. than is often accorded it in many of our homes): “Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, the years wherein we have seen evil.” v. 15. A path as rugged as it is beset with dangers. It is as though sung out from the eventful life of this singular man that we have these classic words of Olearius:
“Learn to mark God’s wondrous dealing
With the people that He loves;
When His chastening hand they’re feeling,
Then their faith the strongest proves:
God is nigh, and notes their tears,
Though He answers not, He hears;
Pray with faith, for though He try you,
No good thing can God deny you.”
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3. It is a road which has but one objective — that we may win Christ. When the question is being asked today, as it has been asked down through the centuries, “Are there few that be saved?” what is its answer? Well, our Saviour has given the true answer in that 13th chapter of Luke: “Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence you are: Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets (Yes, they had that outward connection with church all right, which is so important to many, without being in dead earnest about their Christianity). But he shall say, I tell you, I know ye not whence ye are; depart from me all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.” v. 23–28.
There are countless numbers who say they want to be saved, and many may even make themselves believe that they mean it. But at the same time that they want to get to heaven, there are so many other things they also want, that the one thing becomes blurred in the variety of things their eyes want to behold. What does Christ mean when He says: “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil (the Greeks used that word “evil” to designate a diseased eye — PONEROS), thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness?” Matt. 6,22.23. He means of course that you either seek Him first, or you do not seek Him at all. Scripture uses all manner of expressions to teach this singleness of purpose in the matter of your soul’s salvation. There we have the sickened eye which sees double, the backward gaze, the trusting in uncertain riches, the cares and riches and pleasures of this life — all of them meant to teach us this lesson, there must be one thing we really want above all others, or we will not attain to it at all. Your attitude toward life here must be such that you can honestly say that you hate this present life that the life eternal may be yours. For says Christ: “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” John 12,25.
“Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.” Moses had that healthy “livsanskuelse” which was to take possession also of the regenerated Saul of Tarsus: “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” Phil. 3,7–9.
But you may ask: “Did Moses really have the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus?” Had he not had that knowledge, how could he then have written, as he does in Deut. 18,15: “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken?” Moses a prototype of Christ? That’s exactly what the Bible passage just cited implies. Yes, to be sure, it fell to his lot to tell his people to their face what God demanded of them in his holy law. But that does not mean that Moses had no regard for Israel’s condemnation under that all-perfect law. He realized that unless God would show mercy, his people would be lost. If we question whether or no Moses had knowledge of the coming Christ, then we question the word of the Christ Himself, who tells the unbelieving Jews of His day: “Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.” John 5,45.46. And what are His words to the downcast Emmaus-bound disciples yon first Easter eve? “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24,25–27.
By the “reproach of Christ” is meant that his choice was like unto that of God’s own Son. Christ did not think it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, as Paul tells us in Philippians 2: His lowly birth, the gainsaying of the people He came to redeem (“his own received him not”), His suffering and most cruel death! But also Christ had the end of the road in mind, as the apostle reminds us, in Heb. 12,2: “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith: who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” To have a share in the reproach of Christ makes one exceedingly rich even in this world, and one has still greater riches in store for him at the end of the road. To win the world’s approval at the expense of faithfulness to the cross of Christ, leaves one wretchedly poor.
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4. It is a road which invariably leads to an eternal reward in heaven. “For he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.” Did Moses, then, rely on work righteousness? By no means. His walk would then not have been one of faith. We are not saved because of what we have done in obedience to God’s commandment. No, it is alone God’s mercy which saves us. But the remarkable thing about God’s gracious mercy is this, that while it is all of Him (“It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure,” Phil. 2,13), yet He permits His faithful children to call it their own. As His children we are not only permitted, but taught to pray: “Give us this day our daily bread.” In the very last book of Holy Scripture we are told: “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth, Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.” Rev. 14,13.
vVe cannot close this paper without a word from our dear Luther. He tells us in his exposition of Galatians that the world hath no grace to appreciate and reward the good works of Christians, e.g., their preaching of the Gospel in the world, their prayers, their intercessions. And so, when he comes to those passages in Christ’s sermon on the mount where we are told that great shall be our reward in heaven, Luther puts it this way: “If now God would let us remain without a word of consolation, we would despair because of this persecution and say: Who wants to be a Christian, preach, and do good works? Is this to last eternally? Is it never going to change? Here He steps up to us, consoles, and strengthens us, and says: You are now in grace and God’s children; although you must on that account suffer in the world, be not terrified, but be firm, do not permit these things to tire and weaken you, but let every man perform his duty; he may fare badly, but it shall not be his loss; let him know that the kingdom of heaven is his and that he shall richly be repaid for it. What? Repaid? Has it not been given us already, through Christ, without and before all good works? God will repay in this manner that, as St. Paul says, “He will make a great, bright star of you and give you particular gifts, already in this life. — Not that the works deserve it because of their worthiness, but because He has promised it for our strengthening and consolation.” St. L. Walch VII, 666ff.
And in our looking to the end of the road, let us remember to sing occasionally also those hymns in our family devotions which stress what Luther here holds forth, namely consolation, for that is Scriptural. Let Brorson’s stirring words sound forth from our tabernacles now and then for our needed encouragement:
“Despised and scorned they sojourned here,
But now, how glorious they appear!
Those martyrs stand, a priestly band,
God’s throne forever near.
So oft in troubled days gone by,
In anguish they would weep and sigh;
At home above the God of love
For aye their tears shall dry.
They now enjoy their sabbath rest,
The paschal banquet of the blest;
The Lamb, their lord, at festal board
Himself is host and guest.”