It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.
Psalm 118:8, 9
The year of our Lord 2020 was quite a year.
It was that politically.
It was that socially.
It was that ecclesiastically.
For many, 2020 was momentous in a very personal way.
Politically—in light of the presidential election, and what the results portend for the foreseeable future.
Socially—in light of the effects of the coronavirus upon life and society, with its resulting edicts of governors and bureaucrats touching every aspect of life from travel, to buying and selling, to the life of the church and worship itself.
Ecclesiastically—in light of the controversy stirring within our own churches and the disruption of unity and oneness of mind on various issues, including doctrine. Issues and charges spilling over into our broader assemblies, issues that must be settled if we are to go forward in unity and at peace internally. And if not…?
And then there was the personal aspect affecting the lives of so many in 2020, the number of deaths of loved ones that touched the lives of many families in our churches this past year. Perhaps not so large an increase over former years, and yet it seems that way. A number of our emeritus clergy and wives taken to glory; in other instances, a number of beloved family members taken before their threescore years and ten; and seemingly, what remained of a generation of aged saints whose beginnings go back to the very birth of our denomination over ninety years ago. As my beloved widowed father-in- law, who marked his 90th birthday this year, stated recently, “All my friends are gone. All those with whom I served in consistory, all those with whom I was close here in the rest home. I am weary. It is time for me to go home too. Lord, give me the patience to wait.”
Quite a year. Momentous. I think we all sense that.
Where shall we start? Politics?
Facing the inauguration of a new administration (which, as time goes on, might better be labeled a ‘regime’), it is little wonder that we are uneasy as Christians— as biblically-committed Christians—a people committed to “We will obey God rather than men (and certain women in high places, as well),” that is, when righteousness requires it of us. Those newly elected into power, now controlling the whole of the U.S. Congress, show no sympathy to any biblical form of Christianity, nothing that magnifies any word of authority or Lordship over theirs.
A spineless, compliant Christianity they will tolerate and even use. We speak of a Christianity that is governed by the mantra, “Can we not all just get along, and be nice to each other? And we, as Christians, will show you how.” As if love for the neighbor is this: No one voices any disapproval of anyone else, but rather expresses approval, no matter what the lifestyle. “Of anyone else,” that is, except those who prick their consciences. Calling something evil or ungodly and unbiblical (displeasing to God) must cease. “We love you too much to express disapproval or warn you of the judgments of God on any behavior or unrighteous deeds and laws. After all, we all recognize that such behavior and desires are the inevitable results of genetics and environment. We are but helpless products of such.”
It is a ‘Christianity’ that knows nothing of a love for the neighbor rooted in a love of righteousness, which is to say, a love for God. Of biblical righteousness, and of warnings against unrighteousness that can only destroy a nation, a family, or an individual, this ‘love’ knows nothing. It is a love rooted in love for self and the approval of men, a being spared their scorn and animosity. The praise of those with status amongst the ungodly is what this self-love lives for and seeks, and that in the name of Christianity.
Such a compliant ‘Christianity’ those of the anti- Christian ‘spirit’ can approve and even use. And they will. It is much like the liberal news media and Democrats and how they behaved this past year. Every time a Republican voiced criticism of certain decisions of his party or with the President’s behavior, it was trumpeted on the headlines. Implying? “See, even these Republicans justify our agenda (basically a lawless one) and our despising of and hatred of this present administration and all that it stands for constitutionally. Anyone with any understanding and worth sees it our way.”
It is clear, a certain brand of Christianity will be tolerated and even publicly ‘eulogized.’ (I use the word purposely, because such a Christianity is ‘dead’ while it speaks.) But the Christianity that dares continue to practice ‘discrimination’ will be publicly shamed and, in time, bullied into silence and more.
The word ‘discrimination’ looms large in our politically volatile society. It has become an evil word, like prejudice, bigotry, or racism—words of last resort to smear another when all other arguments and ability to refute the plain truth fail. For example, the fact that there was widespread ballot stuffing and irregularities in the swing states this past election, backed with video evidence, was dismissed with the charge of ‘racism.’ Because, those who dare challenge the legality of the election tabulations are obviously against the new truth: “minorities rule.” All such challenges are charged with being racially motivated. And then no matter what the evidence, what is ‘truth’ no longer has any bearing. Society has no place for such ‘racists.’
So with the word discrimination. Truth be told, it is a good word, and the simple truth is, we as believers are to discriminate. We are to assess right from wrong, truth from error, good from evil. And like Job of old we are to discriminate against the evil, against that which is unrighteous and those who promote it. As God pointed out to Satan, “Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God and esheweth evil” (Job 1:8). “Esheweth” means to assess something as evil and displeasing to God, and then to shun it or avoid it. Something to be refused and condemned.
We have in mind the homosexual lifestyle, the gay-liberation movement, which, these days, is all the rage. And ‘rage’ is what governs the movement. They have been ‘discriminated’ against long enough. And they are straining at the leash to be loosed on the hunt for all and sundry that condemn their lifestyle. Especially for that brand of Christianity that insists on teaching their children that such behavior is wrong, sinful, falling under the judgment of God as visited upon Sodom and Gomorrah (and Pompeii).
We are called to discriminate against those who engage in or justify such a lifestyle. Not against their civil rights in society (as will be the charge), but in the way of condemning their lifestyle (and persons, if they will not repent) and forbidding them from membership in our churches or teaching in our schools.
In the name of righteousness we discriminate against such behavior and practitioners.
So far, that has been allowed and judicially upheld.
2020 indicates those days are coming to an end, not necessarily in 2021, but in the not-so-distant future. What 2020 made plain is that this rage of the LGBT movement now has the backing of the entertainment and news medias. The media has become the “power behind the throne.” If it refuses to disapprove or condemn something—be it rioters and looters loose in the streets—but rather justifies them, the civil authorities themselves are rendered powerless to exercise authority to so much as protect property or prevent assault.
The news and social media has become the leviathan of evil. The LGBT movement has its full backing. Those who call their lifestyle ‘sin’ discriminate against them.
And we do. We, after all, will not even permit them to rent our sanctuaries for their ‘weddings’ and receptions.
Where does that leave those who would practice biblical Christianity?
As those guilty of discrimination, which today, by definition, is declared to be injustice and evil.
And add to that that this past year Rome’s pontiff, Francis I, went on record as informing his church (with the news media in attendance) it was time to begin approving same-sex “civil unions” and embracing these long-estranged ‘sons and daughters’ of the church. When that church which represents the Great Whore goes on record as officially approving the practice of homosexuality, the news media will trumpet it forth. And all other brands of Christianity will be condemned and denied any religious freedom or right of conscience. If even Rome sides with godless society on this matter, all other brands of Christianity have lost their legitimacy and claims of conscience.
When one reads how the Democrat party and the media have worked hand in glove over this past year, one sees ‘the handwriting upon the wall.’
Only in this instance it is the finger (the mark) of the Evil One, in imitation of the hand of the Holy One, pointing to the inevitable coming of the Antichrist and doom upon the righteous who remain upon the earth.
“Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” (Ozymandias, P. Shelly).
Indeed, when one looks at the anti-Christian forces coming to power these days, one could well despair. Those who are brazenly committed to unrighteousness and calling evil “good,” and good “evil” are having it all their way.
This past year’s election was a ‘watershed’ election. When one considers that the whole academic world, whose universities produce those who teach the next generation, are solidly on board with this anti-Christian, anti-righteous spirit, there does not appear to be any hope of turning this Titanic around. The numbers of that “other” perspective continue to swell.
Politically, even the Southern states of the Bible-belt, are turning “blue.” For religious freedoms, that does not bode well.
What to do?
Well, the best advice I can give is, turn to Scripture and read a text like Psalm 118:8, 9 (above).
It is a most significant text. Simple, fundamental, and central.
Whether you are aware of it or not, by seeming coincidence, Psalm 118 and then verses 8 and 9 lie at the very center of our translated Bible as it is divided into chapters and verses.
There are 1,189 chapters in the King James. Psalm 118 is the 595th chapter. 594 precede it, 594 follow it. And there are 31,174 verses in the Bible. Verses 8 and 9 of Psalm 118 are the 15,587th and 15,588th verses. Which is to say, the middle two. They repeat the same simple, but oh, such fundamental truth for the faithful while living on earth.
Better to trust in the Lord, than any man or prince you care to name.
Luther considered Psalm 118 his favorite Psalm. It was the Psalm he turned to most often in difficult times, when it seemed the whole of Europe with its pope, prelates, and princes was against him, when it seemed that surely the small fire of the Reformation with its faithful remnant was going to be extinguished and stamped out.
I fell in love with this Psalm especially. Therefore, I call it my own. When emperors and kings, the wise and the learned, and even saints could not aid me, this Psalm proved a friend and helped me out of many great troubles. As a result, it is dearer to me that all the wealth, honor, and power of the pope, the Turk, and the emperor. I would be most unwilling to trade this Psalm for all of them.1
Indeed, there are times when, despite our most valiant efforts, the ways of God seem to give wickedness and the unrighteous the upper hand. Why press on and expend all this energy? With all these forces arrayed against righteousness, and growing in power day by day, it seems for naught.
If only Trump had been voted into office again. Or at least, a Republican majority in the Senate. Then, all would be well. Or at least not so hopeless.
Would it? Perhaps it would have meant a few more years of keeping the ascendency of unrighteousness in all its “Hideous Strength” at bay. But does the ultimate victory of righteousness and the defeat of evil and the forces of unrighteousness hinge on a man, on more men? On some “prince” of power and influence?
Think again. Not even if that man were another prince like King David. How often when confronted by Babylon, or Persia, and finally by Rome the remnant must have thought, “If we only had King David once again enthroned. Then Jerusalem could be restored as the seat of power, and the righteous would be protected and peace would once more rule.”
Not so. Do not forget it was exactly the sins of David the warrior and of Solomon the wise that brought about the division of the kingdom and the loss of even its earthly glory.
Put not your trust in man, nor any prince of men, no matter how powerful and influential they may seem. Not even the best of men.
No man can defeat and at last destroy all evil and give the everlasting victory to the Kingdom of eternal righteousness. And that is what we long for.
Put your trust in the Lord, which is to say Jehovah. He is the God of vow and promise, who, in an astonishing grace and in covenantal mercy has bound the glory of His Name to the salvation of His people and the triumph of His cause as it embraces His church, His Son’s beloved bride.
To forget His promises to us His people would be to deny Himself. It cannot be.
Trust Him. He is a God of His word. Take Him at His word, and go forward.
His ways are not our ways, but they are the path and course that will lead both to the ultimate defeat of the unrighteous and all their evil, culminating in the victory of righteousness.
Consider! The Red Sea is before Israel. Canyon walls are on either side. And Pharaoh with all his mighty host with naught but mischief in his heart comes thundering behind.
What was the Lord thinking? What indeed!
The sea opens before His Israel. They pass between the walls of water, trusting God to keep them walled. Which Pharaoh assaying to do was drowned. Egypt’s defeat, Israel’s safety and victory, all in one fell swoop.
Deep are the ways of God. They are like currents in the sea. Unfathomed and unknown (to man). But known to God are His will and works since the foundation of time and history.
Better to trust in Jehovah God than any man, don’t you think?
When has He and His ways ever failed His people and His cause of righteousness and truth?
He is not about to start now.
Righteousness will prevail for the righteous in the end.
The triumph of righteousness has been signed at the Cross. It has been sealed by the earthshaking event of our Lord’s resurrection.
And that no political party, no media, no puny man nor woman can alter, try as they might.
Facing 2021, let us take Psalm 118:8, 9, so central to Scripture and fundamental to the faith, and go forward without fear.
After all, consider who is in control.
1 Luther’s Works, vol. 14, Selected Psalms III, Jaroslav Pelikan, ed. (St. Louis, MO: Concordia, 1968), 45.