Date: January 4, 1942
When Joseph arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night, and departed into Egypt: and was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called My Son. – Matthew 2:14-15
Beloved Lord Jesus:
Fortify us with the courage to face bravely all the sorrows Thy wisdom may permit to burden us, and so deepen our reliance on Thee that in every trial we, as Thy redeemed, discern only Thy compassion for us! Keep us from doubt and despair whenever grief assails us! Constantly remind us that Thou didst suffer the punishment of our sins! In Thy mercy restore us to Thy Father and thus remove forever the penalty incurred by our many transgressions of the divine Law! Bless the millions of our nation with faith and trust in their hearts, love and truth in their lives! If it be Thy will, grant us a speedy victory with honor and justice! Comfort all who mourn in consequence of war’s horror; feed the hungry; provide for the shelterless; mercifully relieve the wounded; cheer the suffering; sustain the poor; lighten every burden of those who seek refuge in Thee! Grant patience to the convalescent, healing to the wounded, Thy presence to the dying! We ask this confidently because Thou hast invited us, “Come unto Me!” and now, Lord Jesus, in these days of worldwide sorrow we come! Receive us, by Thine eternal mercy! Amen.
A blessed New Year to every one of you! Come what will, may these twelve months bring you closer to the Lord Jesus Christ—eternal praise to Him, our only Savior!
This is also an appropriate time for me to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the support you have given this mission of the air. We are now in our ninth season; but in all these years your help has never been as generous nor the visible blessings of God as astonishing as in these past weeks. Some of you must have been praying very hard, for the mail following the last broadcast brought 13,000 letters in four days. Continue, I ask you, in Christ’s name, with your intercessions, gifts, and testimony in behalf of the only and glorious Savior whom alone these messages exalt!
Difficulties have presented themselves, of course. Our Far East broadcasting has suffered severely. Advices from Manila tell us that the powerful station there, which carried our message throughout the Philippine Islands, East Indies, south into Australia and New Zealand, and north into China, was dismantled shortly before our enemies took the city. The work in Shanghai, China, has been interrupted. Similarly, the stress of official transmissions has stopped our Asiatic shortwave transmissions from San Francisco. Pray God that in our Father’s best time and by His perfect will the evangel of the crucified Christ may not only be returned to these stations, but may find scores of new outlets in the Far East, in the Near East—over this entire sin-cursed world!
There have been compensations for these war losses. Since I last spoke to you, a station in Nova Scotia has asked for our message. More stations have been added in our own country. You will be thrilled to hear that finally, after much difficulty, our Portuguese broadcasts will soon begin over the powerful Quito, Ecuador, station, and the 45,000,000 people of Brazil, a country as large as ours, will have the opportunity of receiving by radio the promises of Christ, Son of God, Son of man, Comforter of all the disconsolate, Savior of the world.
You can see, then, why we need your continued, increasing help. This broadcast in twenty-five countries outside the United States has become, under God—and only to Him be glory!—a mighty missionary factor, which, with your aid, may be destined to serve as the greatest single agency—I say it with reverence and awe—for the spread of our Redeemer’s eternal Gospel and the comfort of His love.
It is this sustaining power, which Jesus alone can give, that offers you for this darkened day
STRENGTH IN SORROW
We find our text in the words of Saint Matthew, chapter two, verses fourteen and fifteen: “When” Joseph “arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night, and departed into Egypt: and was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called My Son.”
WE MUST BE PREPARED FOR SUFFERING
Herod, cruel and crafty, had commanded the Wise Men to bring him exact information as to who the newborn King, the Infant Jesus, was and where He could be found. But whoever the Magi were and whatever their previous religious training may have been, they showed the sincerity of their faith by returning from Bethlehem without satisfying Herod’s murderous curiosity. By the same loyalty to the Lord we, too, must reject always and unconditionally any command that would injure His cause. The divine decree that today, after nineteen centuries, stands above civil law and governmental authority, wherever and whenever these rise up against the Almighty, is the apostle’s resolution, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”
Herod’s rage at the secret departure of the Magi was terrifying; and with the mania for massacre often found in the lives of fiends, he proposed to destroy the Child whom his warped mind feared as a rival, but who in truth had come to be his Savior. So Herod planned a bloody persecution—the first instance of governmental interference with the Christian cause. From that time on until now the same spirit of official control over conscience, State tyranny in matters of faith, has wrought unspeakable horror, more misery than can be told. During the sixteenth century alone the number of martyrs whose lives were demanded by such interference in religion was, it has been estimated, no fewer than 900,000. Today the spirit of governmental intrusion into the realms of religion is growing. In Spain a woman was recently thrown into prison because she expressed the belief that the Virgin Mary had other children besides our Lord. In Quebec those who distribute Protestant tracts are arrested. In Italy nonCatholic churches and preachers suffer severe discrimination. In Germany, as a Lutheran leader recently protested, the Gestapo terrorizes many church members, and the Nazi philosophy works particularly disastrously among the young people. In Russia atheistic tyranny has forever stained its hands with the blood of Christian martyrs. God keep all this far from America! One hundred and fifty years ago the far-visioned founders of our nation were so concerned about the separation of Church and State that the first provision in the American Bill of Rights and the First Amendment to the Constitution required that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” These provisions, made at a time when our country was recovering from the Revolution, must be kept, now that we are engaged in our latest struggle, when fundamental principles may easily be forgotten while hysteria takes the place of sound judgment. To counteract this may we do our full duty as Americans by working, giving, and praying as God requires and the interests of our nation demand! And in return may we continue to employ and protect with ceaseless diligence our heritage of religious freedom! It is said that when American troops first entered Manila during the Spanish War, they found many imprisoned for what was called “political offense.” This, somehow, included reading Holy Scripture. Hardly had the American flag been raised over the Philippines when the cell doors were unlocked. Then it was that a native approached an American missionary with this whispered question “Is it true? Can I now read the Bible without fear of imprisonment?” Pointing to the Stars and Stripes, the clergyman assured him, “As long as you see that flag floating over your country, you can sit on the ridgepole of your house, if you want to, and read your Bible; no one can molest you.” We thank God for that freedom! Pray for those who have been robbed of that liberty! Beseech the Lord of the nations to preserve inviolate this blessed possession for us and our posterity!
To escape Herod’s hatred, the Christ Child had to flee. God could have struck the royal wretch with quick death and removed the necessity of that flight, just as He could, if it were His will, take every difficulty from our pathways. Yet if peril confronts us, we, too, must use the means God gives us to escape. In the early Christian centuries some believers held the mistaken idea that instead of fleeing from the Roman authorities they should surrender to them, earn a martyr’s death, or have God miraculously intervene. Today, too, many regard medical care as unnecessary even for serious sickness or accident, and still others maintain that they could fondle cobras, rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths, and suffer no harm. All this, however, is against good common sense, against the requirements of Scripture, and, so our text clearly instructs us, against the example of Christ Himself.
It was no easy journey from Bethlehem into Egypt. True, ancient tradition, which often speaks when the Bible is silent, says roses sprang into blossom wherever the Holy Family went, lions and leopards rushed out of the wilderness to bow in adoration before the Christ Child, and date palms bent low to provide the necessary food. Now, you mothers know how difficult travel with a small child may be, even with the conveniences of modern transportation. How much more arduous that slow, dangerous flight, and what mercy we must find in each moment of its pain and peril! It was not enough, according to the divine plan of our redemption, for Christ to leave His radiant heaven and live with us in this world; from His early years He was also to endure suffering. The loneliness, the weariness, the repeated perils of this exile, were to be only the introduction to a life of love, a career of heavenly compassion, in which He would live and die for the redemption of mankind.
No wonder reverent artists have repeatedly portrayed the sojourn in Egypt, often in connection with the mighty monuments of that country! What contrasts those canvases represent! Here the mysterious Sphinx, the riddle of the ages; and there the Christ of God, with Heaven’s own answer for every question concerning soul and body, time and eternity! Here the massive pyramids, supposedly to protect the bodies of the pharaohs, and there the Christ Child, through whom even the lowliest outcast can be assured of an eternity these Nile rulers never knew. Here pyramids built by the brawn and blood, the life and death of 200,000 slaves over a period of thirty years, and there, resting in their shadow, the Christ Child, who was come to redeem the downtrodden masses and save their souls for eternity! The very land where His own countrymen had groaned under centuries of bondage now sheltering Him who was to be the Liberator of all human souls!
This flight into a strange land was a severe test to His mother’s faith. The angel had promised Mary marvelous blessings; yet now she experienced exile and persecution at the hands of a cruel king. And how much this banishment cost the Savior’s foster father! A celestial messenger had promised Joseph that the Babe should be called Jesus because “He shall save His people from their sins,” and now Joseph had to flee to save the Child’s life, leave his home in the dark of night, part from his acquaintances without a word of farewell, give up his trade, sacrifice his income—in short, lose almost everything for the Infant Jesus.
Yet in God’s plan that loss was necessary. The Christ Child had to be removed from the reach of murderous men; and often those who love the Lord Jesus must similarly seclude themselves from the world. The warning of His Word, “Come out from among them and be ye separate!” is often pushed aside when the line separating the Church and the unbelieving world is steadily being erased. The trouble with too many who call themselves “Christians” is that they do not want to be separated people, except on Sunday morning. Otherwise they crowd the same night clubs, lounge around in the same taverns, regularly visit the same public dance halls, read the same risqué magazines, tell the same suggestive jokes, sing the same sophisticated songs, follow the same practices of sin which mark unbelievers—just as though they had never been “bought with a price,” the Savior’s holy, precious blood. The trouble with too many churches which have lost their power comes from conformity to the world. Instead of acclaiming Christ the one and only Hope of humanity for earth and heaven, they disclaim Him. In place of exalting His name in Law-and-Gospel sermons, they exclude His name in man-pleasing talks. Rather than emphasize Bible texts, they use devious pretexts to foretell the course of war and the principles of peace from their pulpits. They go the way of the unbelieving world by conducting raffles, bingo games, questionable theatricals, minstrel shows. The call in this crisis is for reborn, separated Christians; reborn, separated churches; reborn, separated preachers. The clergy should remember that they are exempted from the draft and military danger, not because they are heads of organizations which give sauerkraut suppers, socials, and Saturday night dances—you do not need a theological education for that!—but because prudent American policy holds that during war this nation must have men at home as with our armed forces who will build up a spiritual defense. For that reason I ask you who are ministers of our Lord to preach the glorious Gospel of the crucified Christ with greater power and persistence than ever before!
It will be hard to break away from the world. Sometimes this separation means suffering and loss, as in the case of Joseph and Mary. Indeed, often the closer people are to Christ, the more they must suffer. If some of you have not known reverses and afflictions; if your life’s course has been smooth and unruffled progress from prosperity to prosperity; if the world does not assail you, then God is either exceptionally merciful in having spared you the pain many others have endured for years, or your Christianity is so weak and unrecognizable that even the devil does not bother to oppose you. Especially in years when cults spring up overnight to lure dissatisfied, disillusioned men and women with the hope of an easier, softer existence, we ought to be clear on this: Christ tells us that if we are to receive the crown of glory, we must bear the cross of affliction. How else can we understand His clear-cut requirement of everyone who would be a true member of His Church, “Let him take up his cross and follow Me!”? Scientific theories may be revolutionized; political philosophies discarded; national boundaries altered and realtered; but in all the upheaval from the first century to the twentieth, the divine ultimatum remains unmoved, “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”
We are in war, and it should not be difficult to convince this audience that hardships hitherto unknown will soon confront us. We hear grumblings now because automobile tires are almost unobtainable. But such inconvenience; the taxes we must pay as the nation girds itself to spend half of its income for victory; the ration cards; the unemployment many of you must endure; the restrictions which necessarily fall on small business—put them all together, multiply them as you will—are not to be compared with the sorrow, suffering, and death awaiting multitudes who will be called upon to face danger on distant lands, on the deep seas, in the uncharted air. Unless God in His mercy intervenes—and let us constantly pray He will!—the casualty lists will be longer, the number of bereavements greater.
Inevitably, it seems, we must face new afflictions. The history of past struggles has shown us that the forces of hell will work in day and night shifts to lower morale and morals. More homes will be broken than in peacetime. The lure of lust will be stronger and more relentless. Especially must we be prepared for the fact that when this war is over, the influence of atheism will sweep over large sections of the globe, notably the defeated areas of Europe, as well as over groups in our country who with a hatred like Herod’s will try to destroy Christianity.
WE CAN FIND STRENGTH IN THE SCRIPTURES
How did Joseph and Mary find courage to bear up under the exile in Egypt, its loneliness, hardship, and dangers? How can you and I receive strength for the sorrows that may surround us? Studying our text, we understand that these parents did not simply rely on their own ability to endure difficulty. They did not face their trials with the bravado noticeable today when people who boast that they can “take” anything life may bring often collapse under the first impact of affliction. Nor were Joseph and Mary fatalists who resigned themselves to whatever might come with the declaration of defeat: “Everything in life is prearranged and predetermined. All we can do is accept our fate with a protest.” Some might have charged God with unfairness and cruelty. Had He not promised Mary that she should be “blessed among women”? And now she was a refugee! Some would have sought solace in fortune tellers or tried to find courage in the counsel of superstition. Not Joseph and Mary! As they were strengthened for their ordeal, so you and I can discover sustaining grace for our trials—in one unfailing, unchanging source, God’s own Word. Not only did the Almighty send His instruction through an angel; as our text explains, this exile also “fulfilled” that “which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, Out of Egypt have I called My Son.” In this passage from the prophet Hosea the flight into Egypt was foretold more than seven centuries before it occurred, in accordance with God’s plan. Similarly, divine revelation can show you, once you are Christ’s, how sorrow is a helpful, remedial part of His program for your life.
The Old Testament passage in Hosea concerning Christ, at first glance, seems to be anything but a prophecy. Yet the Holy Spirit assures us and the early testimony even of Jewish authorities agrees that these words “Out of Egypt have I called My Son” foretell the coming Deliverer’s sojourn in Egypt. What marvelous assurance in this truth! The Bible is a source of inestimable hidden wealth. The words which read like an ordinary verse are actually a marvelous, golden prediction. No one can plumb the depths or measure the heights of Scripture.
Many plans and programs are devised today for the purpose of helping people solve their complex difficulties. If they leave Scripture out, disregard its principles, reject its help, all their proposals are doomed. In this crisis, patriotism is not enough. Courage is not enough. Military, naval, and air forces are not enough. Without God, the strongest defense can crumble, and our present emergencies demand that we resolutely heed this warning “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man and maketh flesh his arm and whose heart departeth from the Lord!” Even prayer is not enough, for there are a dozen different kinds of false pleading, and the Scripture declares, “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the Law, even his prayer shall be abomination.” The Book we need today above all other books, the Word more vital than the pronouncements of statesmen and diplomats, the Truth with priority over every other claim, the Direction which alone can show faltering, groping men the way to light and hope—that Book, Word, Truth, Guidance, is found solely, but—Thank God!—assuredly in the Holy Scriptures. Only the Bible explains the cause of sorrow and suffering, national or individual; offers the way out of our difficulties, collective or personal; builds up the inner spiritual power required to face bravely and confidently deep-rooted perplexities surrounding us.
Never before—and I measure well this sweeping statement—has the urgency been as great to plead with the masses in our country: Read the Bible! Investigate its assertions! Examine its truth! Memorize its promises! Apply its remedies! “Search the Scriptures” in personal study, in Bible classes, especially at the family altar! Within the covers of Holy Writ are God’s own solutions to the troubles now upon us. We are engaged in a bloody, destructive conflict, and we ask, “Why must we endure the hardship and heartache this struggle will impose?” If you think that World War II was forced on us only through the attack of crafty enemies, you understand merely part of the answer. Read the twenty-sixth chapter of Leviticus, the twenty-eighth of Deuteronomy, the first of Isaiah, the fifth of Jeremiah, and a score of other passages which, as clearly as language can express it, reveal that the horrors of war, even if it is necessary, justified or in self-defense, may come to a people because it forgets God and spurns His love!
This, therefore, is no hour for boasting or the preening of our American virtues. We ought rather to admit in this God-blessed nation that we have too frequently built schools without spiritual training, homes without Christ, churches without the Scriptures. We have often striven for wealth without work, sought to build industry without equity, encouraged politics without principle, condoned marriages without lifelong faithfulness, science without service to humanity, carnal pleasures without the restraint of conscience. We have seen capital and labor organized without the support of mutual sacrifice, promises made without fulfillment, culture developed without character. For many folks Sunday is a time for recreation without spiritual rededication, religion a creed without the Bible. They have a Christianity without the real Christ, a Christ without the true cross, a cross without the saving blood, the blood without the atonement. For this reason God now speaks to America in actions that the Bible clearly outlines, just as it pointedly describes the one and only means of help and hope. God can permit this nation to crash and smash its way to victory through a long struggle by the sheer weight of its industrial strength, manpower, natural resources, and unparalleled wealth. But that way will demand an appalling cost in the lives of our youth and the loss of other blessings. The Almighty can help us to a quicker, surer, more lasting peace. We read in the Book of Judges that when Israel returned to God, “the land had rest.” We, too, can have rest, by His will, if the watchword of millions from coast to coast becomes “Repentance!” “Return to God in Christ!” “Reconciliation with our heavenly Father through the Lord Jesus!”
There, in Christ and His Word, we can find individual answers to the disconsolate “Why?” of our personal sufferings. We should read the Bible, as the flight into Egypt reveals, to find Christ in the Old Testament and the New, in the Psalms and the Prophets, in the Gospels and in the Epistles, from Genesis to Revelation. When we thus know the real Jesus, who pervades the entire Scriptures, we understand the secret of our own suffering; the mystery of our many afflictions is solved; we know that through the divine, redeeming Christ the adversities Heaven permits us to encounter are but the evidences of the Father’s love.
No other religion teaches this sublime truth that the sorrows we endure can be manifestations of mercy instead of the punishments of wrath; but no other religion has the assured hope of a Savior like the Lord Jesus. Until you know what Christ has done for you and then accept Him as your Savior, you are under divine wrath and must pay the penalty for your transgressions. I owe it to you who are living without Jesus to warn you that because of your rejecting the Redeemer, all the bitter griefs you endure come from God’s retributive justice as an unmistakable punishment pointing to the eternal penalty which inescapably awaits you if you continually deny your Savior.—Thank God, the Bible also explains that when a man, encumbered with the heavy weight of his sins, burdened with crushing sorrows, comes to Christ, he finds undeserved grace, unmerited compassion, unearned pardon, such as he can never measure nor describe! May the Spirit help you believe this eternal, supreme, and saving truth that here in Christ there is love, divine, all-embracing love, unconditioned, assured love for every trial of this life! See how Jesus suffered, beginning with the flight to Egypt; follow Him through the persecution, slander, ridicule He endured at the hands of those whom He had come to save; through the unspeakable agony of body but the far greater torture of His soul in Gethsemane, in the repeated trials of corrupted justice! Behold Him on the cross atoning for your sins! And then believe that the Savior who is proved to be the Son of God by His own words and miracles, by the infallible truth of His almighty Father, by the divine names and honors accorded Him in the unbreakable Scriptures, by the homage of men and angels; who promises you through mercy, not through merit, “Thy sins be forgiven thee!” also pledges you, “If ye continue in My Word, then are ye My disciples indeed, and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”—free from sin, free from its punishment, its curse, its hell and death, free forever for heaven and its blessings! Know that you, too, were released from the punishment of God’s anger, since your heavenly Father, who loved your soul enough to send Christ to the cross, will extend His mercies also into your everyday affairs and by the marvels of His grace turn each affliction into a blessed advantage!
Cherish this blessed truth for the dark days ahead: In Christ “God is Love,” and everything which happens to you comes from His compassion and His tender kindness toward you. Only at the cross, where you know you have been washed by the cleansing blood; only when you look to Jesus and say, “‘Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,’ and particularly my sins,” can you grasp this truth and the comfort of such remarkable passages as “Whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth.” It will take a deep and heroic faith like that of Mary and Joseph for you to accept tribulations as tokens of God’s deeper love. Our constant prayer, therefore, should repeat this ancient petition, “Lord, increase our faith!” so that we may submit to His perfect will, not grudgingly, but gratefully, and with Job trust Him though He slay us. We must cheerfully accept God’s direction even if we cannot understand His plans.—During the gold rush to California, ships leaving New England for the Pacific Coast would often carry in their holds the framework and structure of entire houses made in Massachusetts and knocked down to be shipped in sections. If a casual visitor had examined the cargoes on those Yankee Clippers at Boston, he would have seen only huge piles of variously shaped lumber and panels. But at the end of the voyage, in some West Coast town, he could have observed that these curiously shaped piles had become reassembled dwelling places.—At the end of life’s journey the Spirit will help us assemble the loose and disconnected parts of the structure we call life into a “building fitly framed together.” Then we will understand that sometimes God permits visitations to come upon us to weaken our reliance on ourselves and deepen our trust in Him; to subdue our desire for the tinsel and tarnish of human pleasure and increase our longing for heavenly joy. We will realize that we had to be humbled so that we could be exalted; that we had to know what it means to suffer so that we could sympathize with others; that we had to lose our earthly home in order to gain the heavenly mansions; that we had to see one near and dear to us in this life taken by death, so that we could meet him in the next. For the Christian even the graves at Pearl Harbor which cover the remains of soldiers who fought “the good fight of faith” under Jesus, the Captain of their salvation, finally become evidence of the Savior’s love.
So dry your tears, you, crushed to earth by the impact of suffering; you, the bereaved, to whom dark and destructive forces whisper, “There can never be any more hope or happiness for you!” No matter how far you have been exiled from happiness, in God’s perfect schedule and by His heavenly guidance you can return to everything good and profitable for your soul. The cross of Christ is a pledge that God will take care of you. His mercies, as His miracles, will be renewed every morning in carrying out His gracious purposes. Have you ever wondered how Joseph and Mary supported themselves in a foreign country? The Bible does not tell us, but it seems to me God timed the arrival of the Magi so that, laying their gold, frankincense and myrrh at the Savior’s feet, they could give Him the means of providing the necessities for the stay in Egypt. God will likewise help you in Christ. Our text concludes with the statement that the Holy Family remained in Egypt until Herod’s death and then returned; and you, too, can be assured that every enemy of your soul will be defeated while you cling to Christ. When God’s clock strikes the last hour for you, He will lead you out of a world of tumult and strife which to the Christian seems strange and foreign—as Egypt must have appeared to Joseph and Mary—and bring you to the glorious homeland of the redeemed, where, because you are Christ’s, you shall endure no more suffering and pain.
My fellow redeemed, receive this blessed Christ now as your Savior and Strength in suffering! If one of the mighty world figures called out in speaking of the defense of an empire, “There is not a week, not a day, not an hour to be lost,” I beg you in Christ’s name, for the sake of your soul, worth all the empires in the world, “Is there a moment to be lost in the assurance of your salvation?” Write me now that you, your family, your community—if it is without a church—want this Christ! Because He is the Son of God and the Savior of the world, His benediction “My peace I give unto you!” the promise of His Word “All things work together for good to them that love God,” the exultation of His mighty apostle “I glory in mine infirmities,” will give you “the peace which passeth all understanding,” courage in a world of international conflict, heavenly wisdom in a bewildered, disconcerted age, a hymn of praise in your heart and on your lips even during the deepest adversity. As He now calls, tenderly, pleadingly, “Come unto Me!” promising, “I will give you rest!” approach Him, penitently, trustingly, completely, and His strength, His joy, His heaven are yours! God grant you this, for the Savior’s sake! Amen!
Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.