Of all the Psalms, the ninety-first Psalm is the most comforting. It promises divine protection and deliverance no matter what befalls us. No matter how or when Satan tries to attack and destroy, God is our Refuge and our Fortress who keeps us safe. We can trust in Him completely because He is always watchful and always guarding us from sin and the devil.
In his Large Catechism, when discussing the Lord’s Supper, Martin Luther made this keen observation: “If you could see how many daggers, spears, and arrows are aimed at you every moment, you would be glad to come to the Sacrament as often as you can. The only reason we go about so securely and heedlessly is that we neither imagine nor believe that we are in the flesh, in the wicked world, or under the kingdom of the devil” (LC V 82).
Satan has it out for us. He’s working to make evil sound good, and good sound evil. Both Adam and Jesus are told by God to fast. Adam’s was a minor fast—you cannot eat from this one tree, but everything else is fair game. Jesus’ fast was a much greater fast—forty days with absolutely nothing to eat or drink. This fast, which God knew was good for both, was made out by the devil as something evil. To Adam Satan said God is holding out on you. This is the epitome of unfairness! You won’t die from one bite. To Jesus Satan said God is holding out on you. This is the epitome of unfairness—You have the power to create and yet you’re being told you can’t do it as your body wastes away in starvation and dehydration. You won’t die from one bite. So, do not be surprised that the devil says all the same things to you today. They may not be the same words, but the concept is the same. Satan tris to convince you that sin is okay, that it’s not a big deal, that you can mess around with it and come out just fine. Do not be deceived. In this season where we focus on spiritual warfare, remember that the one trying to convince you that sin is okay is the Father of Lies.
We can all relate to Elijah. We know what it’s like to have had enough. Enough of the tensions that exist in this life. You know everything that’s bothering you right now, everything that’s weighing you down—anxiety over the next chapter in life, wondering how to manage everyone’s hectic schedule, how this month’s bills will be paid, when the doctor will finally call with the test results. And the list goes on. All of these stresses weigh on you. You wonder just how much more you can bear.
Today the Church reminds us that we are at war against our ancient enemy, the devil. There is no complacency. This spiritual warfare is serious. It’s been going on for thousands of years, since the very first days after Creation. But there is no dodging the draft. Everyone who is Baptized has been enlisted and is fighting. If the devil fought against our first parents, if he fought against Our Lord, what makes you think he’ll leave you alone? And if you think he is leaving you alone, then he’s already winning.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.