Martin Luther and the Book of Psalms

“Where does one find finer words of joy than in the psalms of praise and thanksgiving?  There you look into the hearts of all saints, as into fair and pleasant gardens, yes as into heaven itself.  There you see what fine and pleasant flowers of the heart spring up from all sorts of fair and happy thoughts toward God, because of His blessings.”

Martin Luther

The Book of Psalms was the songbook of the Israelites.  Many churches still chant or sing the Psalms today. A multitude of  hymns and Christian songs are based on a particular psalm. Luther called this book “the Bible in miniature” and took particular comfort in reading the Psalms. His most famous hymn, A Mighty Fortress, is a paraphrase of Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble

Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change,

though the mountains shake  in the heart of the sea;

though the waters roar and foam though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

What’s your favorite Psalm?  Is it used in worship or a song that you love?  I’m hoping our authors and readers will weigh in on this.

Don’t Hide the Light

“No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.” Luke 8:16

We were studying this verse in our Bible Study class today.  The lamp, of course, is the word of God as we are told more specifically in Psalm 119:

“Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105

We’re also promised in Isaiah 55:11

“…it (my word) shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

If God has promised that His Word will serve His purposes, why aren’t we shouting it from the rooftops!  Instead, too often, we keep it under wraps.  We’re afraid people will be offended;  afraid it might sound judgmental; concerned about being politically correct.  If we’re honest, we’re also afraid we might be asked to explain something we don’t completely understand.

Now I’m not saying we should beat people over the head with the Bible or browbeat them into conversion. I am saying we shouldn’t mind showing where we stand and why.  If the Bible guides us in our decisions (I’m hoping it does) we shouldn’t mind letting others know that.  If we read our Bible regularly, we shouldn’t care who sees it on our desk at work. We shouldn’t feel uncomfortable saying “have a blessed day” to a cashier in a store.  If a question about Christianity arises, we should be willing to speak up and to the best of our ability explain our beliefs. If we are following Jesus, our lives will be a reflection of His love and others will want to know more about what we believe and why.  I say all this knowing I am also often guilty of “flying under the radar” by avoiding what may be controversial

As my husband would say, that’s the end of my rant.  I’ll try to do better.  Maybe you will, too.  Let the light shine!

Luther’s Beloved Companion

In church this past week the sermon was on Psalm 37 and our pastor mentioned that Martin Luther was very attached to the Book of Psalms and called it “his beloved companion.”  I found this article about Luther and the Psalms on  Visit it if you are interested in learning more about Reformation theology.

On 31 October 1517, Luther posted his historic Ninety-five Theses, launching his defiant protest against the vile perversions and grave abuses of the church in Rome. This decisive act became the hinge upon which history turned. And at the very core of this Protestant movement were the Psalms, which continued to play a defining role throughout Luther’s life and ministry. While being hidden by supporters in Wartburg Castle, the German Reformer translated the Bible into the German language. Included in this work were the Psalms, which Luther referred to as ‘the Bible in miniature’.

In future years, Luther would repeatedly turn to the Psalms for solace and strength. With the continent of Europe in upheaval, he found great comfort in the soul-lifting truths of the Psalms. Specifically, in 1527, Luther faced one of the greatest difficulties of his life as the Black Plague swept across Germany and much of the European continent. During this time, Luther’s son almost died and his own body was fainting under the mounting pressure. In the midst of this personal conflict, Luther found himself contemplating the promises of Psalm 46, an encouraging psalm of trust in the invincibility of the Lord.“…the Bible in miniature.” —Martin Luther on the Psalms

Gaining new strength from this old song, Luther composed what is arguably his most famous hymn, ‘A Mighty Fortress’. Amid such adversity, this embattled stalwart found God to be his ‘bulwark never failing’. Though he had previously taught and even translated the Psalms, Luther now found himself living them as never before. Many times during this dark and tumultuous period, when terribly discouraged, he would turn to his co-worker, Philipp Melanchthon, and say, ‘Come, Philipp, let us sing the forty-sixth Psalm.’ Together, they would sing:

A sure stronghold our God is He,
A timely shield and weapon;
Our helper He will be and set us free
From every ill can happen.

With unshakable confidence in God, Luther reflected upon and drew strength from this choice psalm:

We sing this psalm to the praise of God, because He is with us and powerfully and miraculously preserves and defends His church and His word against all fanatical spirits, against the gates of hell, against the implacable hatred of the devil, and against all the assaults of the world, the flesh, and sin.

Despite Luther’s intense inner turmoil, this valiant Reformer clung to the rock-solid truths of Israel’s ancient hymn book. Four years before he died, he wrote in his Bible the text of Psalm 119:92: ‘If Your Law had not been my delight, then I would have perished in my affliction.’ Such biblical truth empowered this spiritual leader and enabled him to persevere in the midst of his many struggles to reform the church. To the very end, this daring leader of the Reformation tenaciously held to the glorious revelations of the Psalms.

This is an excerpt from Steven Lawson’s Preaching the Psalms.