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.”

I

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.

II

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.

Date: December 28, 1941

Thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins. . . . And he called His name Jesus.Matthew 1:21, 25

O Jesus, Our Christ, the Same Yesterday and Today and Forever:

As the close of another year approaches, we humble ourselves before Thee to confess all our transgressions against Thy holy will and to admit, reviewing the past twelve months, that often, by word and action, we have denied Thee who didst come into this world for us and whose very name means “Salvation.” Forgive us, we beseech Thee, by the repeated pledges of Thy full, free grace! O Jesus, through Thine enlightening Spirit touch many hearts in this mission of the air! Show all the distressed and disillusioned that knowing Thee as their God and Redeemer, they are prepared to start the new year with hope because they begin in Thy name! Bless our nation during this crisis with deep repentance and sincere dedication to Thee! Protect the young men who are defending our cause! Guide all Government officials according to Thy truth, and, O Savior, grant us soon a true peace! We ask this according to Thy will, by Thy promise and for Thy name’s sake. Amen.

THERE is a name—and only one name—that can bring peace to bewildered minds in the madness we call modern civilization. It does not designate a military leader, because even titled strategists can fail in an emergency and be deposed under the pressure of heavy charges, as the past days have shown. This marvelous name does not denote a diplomatic genius; for the plans of statecraft can bog down completely, as the present conflict reveals. Again, this most notable of names does not mark a scientific inventor or a famous scholar, since almost every discovery has been misused in the destructive service of sin; with the cultured nations at each other’s throats, we must realize that far more is needed than brain power, high intelligence quotients.

At first glance the Name which alone holds hope—and I believe the last hope—seems completely out of joint with our modern ideals and ambitions. It represents earthly poverty, while we crave riches; emphasizes purity and chastity, though the world pursues lust and licentiousness; urges humility, and our age applauds pride; pleads for blessed peace, but this generation wallows in war. Yet it is eternal, unchanging in a day when mighty world figures have altered their names. In more than a thousand languages it is adored by men who differ in race and color. It is the holy, peerless name given the Babe of Bethlehem soon after His birth. It is—thank God that we with our sinful lips can speak it!—the name of names: Jesus!

Historians tell us that often when ancient Greek orators found their audiences inattentive or sleeping, they used one word by which interest could be reawakened and enthusiasm sustained. In the midst of important orations they would stop suddenly to cry out, “Marathon!” and the people, recalling their glorious national victory at Marathon, would listen with renewed attention. How much more do we need the name Jesus for our sleepy, self-indulgent world! Cry out Jesus! in the midst of heathen darkness, and idols, with their vile worship and hideous superstitions, crumble. Proclaim Jesus! throughout America, let that Savior be accepted by the masses, and this nation will become morally mighty, spiritually unconquerable! Preach Jesus! in decadent churches, and they revive with fresh zeal and power. Exalt Jesus! throughout the world in the perils of the postwar period, when atheistic Communism, I firmly believe, will be more securely entrenched than ever before, and the Christian masses can be strengthened for loyalty and ceaseless testimony. Put Jesus! Into the hearts of sin-stricken humanity, the homes of the suffering and sorrowful, the lives of those embattled against God, their fellow-men, their own better selves, and amazing peace will reign supreme!

Because Christmas is too radiant to be dismissed with a single day, we linger one Sunday longer at Bethlehem to hear more of this name at which, according to Holy Scripture, “every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth and things under the earth”—the password through the sentries of death to the gates of heaven,

JESUS—THE NAME ABOVE ALL OTHER NAMES!

which our text (Saint Matthew, chapter one, verses twenty­one and twenty-five) explains in the words: “Thou shalt call His name JESUS; for He shall save His people from their sins. . . . And he called His name Jesus.”

I

HOW THIS NAME WAS GIVEN

There is a glorious history behind this glorious name. It was sent from heaven. A holy angel came to declare, “Thou shalt call His name Jesus!” Because of its celestial origin, no human title ascribed to Christ can ever be as blessed and powerful. Designations used by the world today—the Carpenter’s Son, the Great Galilean, the Judean Teacher, are earthly; the real and most appropriate name, Jesus, was given by God Himself and transmitted by a heavenly messenger.

Significantly the angel brought this announcement to Joseph. We know little about the Savior’s foster father, but the few facts the Bible supplies lead us to understand that Joseph was indeed well chosen for this distinction. He was a devout, God-fearing man. Almost every time he is mentioned in connection with our Lord’s infancy, angels address him as the responsible head of the Holy Family, one deeply concerned about the divine Child whom Christmas day had put under his charge.—American fathers should similarly realize that the Lord has ordained them as the heads of their households, not merely the breadwinners, but as spiritual leaders who are to bring up their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” If outside activities take them away too much from their home and the guidance of their sons and daughters, fathers should drop these external interests to provide sound training and assure Christian example for their boys and girls.

Note well Joseph’s implicit obedience to the angel’s “Thou shalt call His name Jesus”! In fulfillment, as in obedient echo, we read, “He called His name Jesus.” The New Testament records that whenever the Savior’s foster father received divine direction, he followed unquestioningly. An angel explains the mystery of the Virgin Birth, and Joseph accepts it. An angel warns him to flee from Herod’s murderous vengeance, and unhesitatingly he arises at night, starts the perilous journey into Egypt. God give us fathers today who will courageously follow His guidance! By contrast, our age sees many men who think themselves too virile and masculine to attend church, but regard drinking, cursing, carousing, as evidence of manhood. What destructive examples they give their own children! Young minds are molded much more by parental influence and home habits than by schools and even some churches. “My father does this!” “My father says that!” “My father told me!”—These eager, frequent exclamations by growing children show what a force for good or evil the father can be. —Men of America, at a time when our country’s tomorrow is overclouded as never before in the 165 years of our national existence, the Lord expects you to show the spirit of Joseph in your home. It is terrifying enough when you yourself without Christ are lost, but how appalling to drag your own flesh and blood down to spiritual destruction! Ask God for the strength required to put Jesus in your heart and keep Him in your home!

According to Saint Luke the Virgin Mary had also been told that the Christ Child’s name was to be Jesus. Perhaps this is to show us, even if incidentally, that husband and wife are to share the family plans. In any event, Mary likewise accepted this name from heaven and here, too, gave a high example of Christian womanhood. Today our country needs mothers who will follow the divine will for American home life. Figures compiled in New Jersey already point to the increase in divorces which the State authorities specifically ascribe to higher pay and the more luxurious life resultant from the increase of war prosperity and creature comforts. As money continues to grow more plentiful under wartime emergency the family ties will correspondingly become weaker.

How directly children are influenced by their parents’ spiritual strength or weakness! Some time ago an automobile mechanic came into my office accompanied by his little girl. She was dressed as neatly as though she had stepped out of a bandbox, while the father still wore his garage overalls, black with grease and grime. But his eyes sparkled with love as he spoke of his child. Before they left, I gave the lassie one of our golden crosses, the emblem of this broadcast, and I asked her, “Do you know what this is?” Immediately she replied, “That’s where my Jesus died!” The father was a hardworking man with only a grammar-school education, but he knew a father’s responsibility to his household. By contrast I thought of another home, comfortably situated and fashionably furnished, in which a son asked his father, “Daddy, is it better to kill a man with a gun, a dagger, a blackjack, or a big dose of poison?” He had been reading so called comic strips and cheap magazines, while his father had lost the necessary contact with him.

Now, “the child is father of the man,” and if parents fail to heed God’s Word in their home life, whom but themselves have they to blame if their children become scoffers, sneering sophisticates, or lawbreakers? A few years ago an unbeliever in Finland left a will bequeathing his farm to the devil. After his death the court decided to carry out his wishes by permitting the land to remain completely untouched by human labor, so that it would be overrun with weeds and wilderness growth. Any prison warden will tell you that when youthful souls are left alone without parental direction, they likewise revert to an untamed, wild, passion-filled existence. Yet the most some young people can say of their mother is something like this: “She taught me how to use makeup, how to hold a cigarette, how to attract attention.” The most some young men can say of their father is: “He showed me how to play cards, how to make a shrewd bargain, how to smoke.”

We are witnessing the tragic consequences of such parental neglect. During the last year almost 1,500,000 serious crimes—murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, burglary, criminal assault—were committed in our country, not to count the 13,000,000 smaller cases of fraud, forgery, embezzlement, vice. This distressing picture recalls the world before Noah’s flood, Nineveh before its bloody destruction, Rome on the eve of its fall, France on the brink of the ruthless revolution.—But do you know that one fifth of these major crimes was perpetrated by youths under twenty-one? As J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, warns, because fathers and mothers often evade their responsibilities, the life-pathway of too many boys runs from the high chair to the electric chair. We cannot correct these startling conditions only by bemoaning them, passing laws against them, or instituting educational campaigns to offset them. We need Christ in the family with His purifying, strengthening power. The 30,000,000 homes in the United States require the constant contact with God which the Holy Family enjoyed, the obedience to the divine will which Joseph and Mary showed in following the divine direction, “Thou shalt call His name Jesus.”

II

WHY THIS NAME WAS GIVEN

I need hardly explain, even if you are not a Christian, that this name is of the utmost importance. All intelligent persons, whether they accept or reject Christ, should understand that He is the most important Figure in history. Jesus occurs more than six hundred times in the New Testament; and while some two hundred titles are otherwise given Christ, Jesus is the real name of our Lord, His name when earthly existence began for Him at Bethlehem and when it ended on Calvary where Pilate wrote as the superscription on the cross, “Jesus of Nazareth!” It is His first and last designation in the New Testament, and, whether spoken in English or in any other language of our Babellike world, it should be the first and last on every believer’s lips.

He is not, however, the only person to be called by this name. The Hebrew form for Jesus was also given to Moses’ successor, Joshua, and to many others in Jewish history. There is a lesson in this, too. So completely did Jesus become man that He took a name common among men. He was as one of us in everything except sin; and in His complete humanity He knew our weaknesses and sorrows. He understands our temptations, for He was tried as we are. He sympathizes with us in every need, for we are never forced to tread any pathway, however hard and apparently cruel, where Jesus has not gone before us.

Yet it is remarkable that after our Lord became known as Jesus, the name fell into disuse among His countrymen, as though it were a title to be reserved for Him. In truth, He alone could fully live up to its meaning. Our English word Jesus is taken from a Hebrew term which really means “the Lord is Salvation.” And assuredly He, as no one else can ever be, is both our God and the Redeemer of our race. Every time you hear His name, you should also perceive the promise of divine redemption in this glorious word. David Strauss, German rationalist, paid imposing tribute to Jesus when he described Him as the “highest model of religion”; but that is not enough. Benjamin Disraeli, Jewish prime minister of England, acclaimed Christ when he wrote that “He has made Jewish history the most important history in the world.” Neither is that enough. Thomas Carlyle, British man of letters, once exclaimed, “Jesus of Nazareth, our divinest symbol!” But Jesus must be more than a symbol. Benjamin Franklin conceded, “His system of morals and His religion . . . are the best the world ever saw.” But the devils in hell will sign their name to that. Robert Ingersoll, Number 1 American atheist, was forced to admit that Jesus was “a great and serene man, kind and perfectly innocent”; yet nineteen centuries before Ingersoll, Pontius Pilate said practically the same thing. All such praise is empty because, like most of the modem biographies of Christ, it deliberately omits the true meaning of Jesus and refuses to confess that He is, as His name implies, “the Lord is Salvation.” So, call Christ, occasionally if you must, Master, Teacher, Leader. But let His real name, the one you repeat and love, ever be and remain for you Jesus. There are other masters, teachers, leaders; but there can be only one Jesus, one Lord and Redeemer.

When the angel announced the name to Joseph, he explained its meaning in this promise, “He shall save His people from their sins.” In other words, Jesus is called Salvation because He is our salvation. There is no misrepresentation or exaggeration here. When the grandson of Italy’s king was born a few years ago, he was called Victor and given eleven other names. There is grave doubt, however, that he will be a victor. But Christ is called Salvation because He is in absolute truth heaven’s only Redemption.

Now, Jesus is a name above all others because the deliverance which it signifies is the highest, deepest, widest love the great God Himself could show. May you never lose sight of this all-vital truth: Our heavenly Father was not—and in His holiness could not be—satisfied with smiling at our violations of His Law, as an indulgent parent amuses himself at a baby’s mistakes! He could not overlook our transgressions, as a kindly teacher closes his eyes to a pupil’s hasty error. He could not forget our iniquities, as a Christian wife might overlook a husband’s unfaithfulness. God is so holy, just, and perfect that every transgression must be punished; yet while He hates sin and demands the full penalty for His broken Law, He loves His fallen children with such devotion that He sent His Son to become the sinner’s Substitute, the universal Ransom.

Have you ever taken time to measure, as far as the mortal mind can, the matchless mercy God showed in sending Christ? Last week a distracted mother wrote me that her son who had just been discharged from the Army would doubtless be recalled almost any day. Shuddering over that prospect—as many mothers do who are without Christ—she confessed: “How can I let him go? I don’t want him to kill, and I don’t want him to be killed.” But how indescribably much more it cost God to send His Son into certain death, not in behalf of friends or of country, but for the benefit of His enemies! What love beyond measure we can find in that name Jesus when we see the Savior, unresisting and uncomplaining, go unswervingly to Calvary for us!

Jesus also means completed salvation. When our Lord, nailed to the cross, bowed His head in death with the cry “It is finished!” He left nothing undone for our redemption. We “are complete in Him.” Our deliverance has been definitely accomplished, now and forever. You cannot add anything to what Christ has already achieved. Those, I care not who they may be, who teach that His divine love must be supplemented by human endeavor, either do not know the true Jesus or deliberately reject Him.

Therefore, Jesus means free salvation. If you had all the money stored in the world’s great treasuries, the hundreds of millions daily spent for war’s destruction, you would not have enough to purchase forgiveness for a single sin. But what all financial resources can never buy, the cleansing of your soul, is offered freely through Christ’s heavenly mercy. “By grace are ye saved,” the New Testament summarizes, “and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” I have constantly tried to emphasize the sacred truth that you, my fellow-redeemed, can come to Christ just as you are, trusting only in His compassion, which is strongest when you are weakest. You may be deprived of much in life, even of some necessities, because you have no money to pay for them. You may be prevented from cashing a check because you have no credentials or endorsement to present at the bank. You may stand far away from the world’s high and mighty since you have no one to introduce you. But may God’s Spirit help you realize today that, simply by faith, you can have pardon without money, blessing without payment, access to the throne of Christ’s mercy, without any human intermediary!

Jesus means universal salvation, redemption offered everyone. When a child is born in a royal family, especially when a successor to the throne has been long and eagerly awaited, a selected list of prisoners receives a reprieve or pardon; but when Jesus was born “in the fullness of time,” after long centuries of expectation, liberty was promised not to a chosen few, but to the whole race. “God so loved the WORLD, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that WHOSOEVER believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” You have not fallen too low, sinned too frequently, transgressed God’s holy Law too brazenly to be received, forgiven, and restored by Christ’s universal, all-embracing, non-excluding grace.

Jesus means our only salvation. Call that narrow and bigoted if you will, but God’s Word declares with Heaven’s authority, “There is none other Name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Jesus is the one Way from earth to a blessed eternity, and every other road is the devil’s detour leading to hell. Our Lord is the one Truth, and everyone who contradicts Him teaches damnable falsehoods. He is the one Life, and everything that rejects Him paves the way to death.

Jesus means comforting salvation. John Newton (on whose grave this inscription has been carved: “John Newton, clerk, once an infidel and a libertine, a servant of slavers in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy”), who saw life at its lowest and ugliest as he lived in unspeakable misery and vile sins, looked to Jesus and found the comfort that made him write among a score of his hymns:

How sweet the name of Jesus sounds

In a believer’s ear!

It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds

And drives away his fear!

May God grant that some of you who have been fighting Christ will now, by the same grace, hear the sweet name of Jesus appealing to you, “Come unto Me, . . . I will give you rest,” and accept that invitation!

Jesus means unchanging salvation. The names of men, even the greatest, are often forgotten. When Longfellow died, Ralph Waldo Emerson was among the notable mourners at his bier. Weakened by advancing age, his memory had left him. After looking down into the dead face of the man who had been his friend, he turned away, puzzled. Those near the casket heard him say, “The gentleman we are burying was a sweet and beautiful soul, but I forgot his name.” As long as you look to the Savior, you will never forget His name or His mercies. They will be renewed to you every morning in such an impressive way that you will daily grow in grace.

Jesus means sure salvation. There is no guesswork about His Gospel. His mercies have been proved in too many millions of hearts; His power, as century is heaped on century, too constantly changes the lives of men, too repeatedly gives them calm in the chaos of world strife, to be denied or even questioned. The longer and more intently you behold the Son of God, work with Him and for Him, the more deeply you immerse yourself in His Word, the more clear your conviction grows that He is what His name, Jesus, implies: Salvation, Deliverance, Atonement, Redemption, Pardon for all the world, especially for you.

III

WHAT MUST WE DO WITH THIS NAME?

What, then, does the Name of names mean to us? Appropriately this message comes on the last Sunday of a year that will be remembered for its sorrow, a year that points, unless God is overgracious, to a future with even graver difficulties. Unless He intervenes “who breaketh the bow and cutteth the spear in sunder,” this will be a long, disastrous war before victory is ours. While many issues of this struggle are problematical, we fear that because of atheism’s growth and its blatant revolt against the Almighty, Christian churches over large areas of the world’s surface may be attacked and closed. But whatever happens, Jesus should always loom before us with Heaven’s own pledge for our eternal salvation.

In taking a spiritual inventory, we remember our grievous weaknesses, our smallness of trust, our misuse of the Savior’s name, our refusal to spread abroad the marvels of His mercy; in short, our many, frequent, daily, repeated sins. In deep humility we approach the Lord to plead for mercy instead of justice and, blessed Savior that He is, He assures us that no matter how marred and spotted each of the 365 daily entries are, the handwriting against us is blotted out. His precious name proves the truth that “He shall save His people”—and through faith you, too, are His inseparably, His eternally—“from their sins.”

With your pardon sealed by the Redeemer’s blood, I ask you to show your heartfelt regard for His redemptive love by keeping the name “at which every knee should bow” in holy reverence. It should not require a public admonition of this kind to urge a God-blessed America to avoid blaspheming the Savior; but as a consequence of the moral letdown caused by the war, we are beginning to witness an increasing abuse of the divine names. The stage has become notorious in this respect, and the plays that run the longest usually are the worst. Seldom do God’s forbearance and patience seem greater than when a filthy-minded, foul­mouthed scoffer lets loose a string of curses or unmentionable profanity; and we, expecting a flash of lightning to strike him dead on the spot, find instead that our merciful Father has granted time for repentance. But every unforgiven misuse of this Name will ultimately bring eternal punishment.

We should accept the name Jesus as the pledge of our own salvation, defend it whenever attacked, and make it the center of our prayers, believing His promise “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, that will I do.” New Year’s Day, in response to presidential proclamation, is to be marked with special prayer for our nation—and I hope you will not be kept away by New Year’s Eve’s revelry, particularly inappropriate now when American young men are dying in the Philippines. As you bow before God and plead with Him to bless our country, speak your petitions in Jesus’ name! Pray contritely! Acknowledge your own sins and our country’s shortcomings! Before God confess that these United States, with more light, blessings, privileges, opportunities than almost the rest of the world together, have transgressed grievously, repeatedly, ungratefully; that despite our many, deep-rooted iniquities, we look to Jesus and His atoning love for the assurance of pardon, for the courage to meet the hardships before us and overcome our enemies. If in America there are thus truly repentant millions who love the Savior, who live for Him, who testify to Him, we will have divine, invincible power. But if we neglect and reject the Son of God and lean on the arm of flesh instead of trusting Him who can do all things, no one can tell to what depths of suffering we may be brought.

Therefore let His name ring throughout the land! Let church leaders go all the way in acclaiming Christ both God and Savior! Let the churches return to a full acceptance of Jesus as the Redeemer who “shall save His people from their sins”! Since the present emergency calls particularly for the comfort and strength that our Lord alone can offer, our pulpits should echo and reecho with Jesus’ name, which to the believer is balm and healing for his soul.

On the last Sunday of a dying year we think also of our last moments and find courage in Christ’s promise that we shall “live through His name.” During these Christmas days the music probably most featured on the radio, in churches, by oratorio societies, has been the marvelous creation of Handel, The Messiah, in which that eminent composer pays his spiritual and artistic tribute to Jesus. Handel, however, should be known not only for this musical masterpiece but also for his trusting faith. When he felt his last hour approaching, he summoned his servant and asked to hear the Ninety-first Psalm. “That was beautiful,” Handel whispered when the reading was finished. Then he continued, “Oh, that is food that nourishes! That is refreshment! . . . What a splendid thing it is to be sure of one’s faith! How glorious to be a member of the Church which preaches the free grace of God through Christ as the only hope of the sinner! If we were to depend on our good works . . . what would become of us? Truly, Dr. Martin Luther discovered the sound Gospel—that only faith in Christ receives salvation! Grace is a gift.” His dying words were: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit! Oh, let me die with Thee and rise with Thee!” And as Jesus answered Handel’s prayer, so, whether this be the last year of temporal life or the first year of spiritual life in Christ, you, too, have the assurance that through our Savior, in God’s good time, you shall go from this earth of sin and suffering to the heaven of hallowed bliss and glory, there to sing your praise in strains far grander than even Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” Until then, with Jesus in our hearts and on our lips, let us sing:

Dear name! the Rock on which I build,

My Shield and Hiding-place;

My never-failing Treasury, filled

With boundless stores of grace!

Weak is the effort of my heart

And cold my warmest thought;

But when I see Thee as Thou art,

I’ll praise Thee as I ought.

Till then I would Thy love proclaim

With every fleeting breath;

And may the music of Thy name

Refresh my soul in death! Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: December 25, 1941

His name shall be called Wonderful.Isaiah 9:6

Blessed Christ Child:

On this day which recalls Thy birth at Bethlehem, we give Thee glory across this continent for the marvel of Thy mercy. Humbly we bow at Thy manger to pray for peace on earth, but first for Thy peace in our hearts, and to ask Thee that by Thy power men of good will, all over the world, may help bring a constructive end to this destructive conflict. We open our hearts to Thee, Lord Jesus. Enter with the assurance that by the compassion of the first Christmas, by Thy living and dying for our salvation, our sins have been removed, the strangle hold of hell broken, and death’s dominion shattered for those who accept Thee as their God, their Redeemer, the Sovereign of their souls! Give us true Christmas faith, so that in a penitent nation we can be confident of Thy guidance, in afflicted home, know the real Christmas comfort, in sin-marked or burden­weighted souls, have the joy in spirit only Thou canst give! Hear us, O holy Babe of Bethlehem, and despite the outward sorrows of this day, make it a radiant Christmas, particularly for every darkened life in this audience! We ask it by the eternal promise of Thine Incarnation. Amen.

A BLESSED, Christ-centered Christmas to all of you across the continent! A blessed Christmas, I say, for no matter how heavy our individual and national prospects may seem; regardless of the increasing burdens to be heaped on us; despite the black clouds forming on the uncharted horizons of the future, the anniversary of the Savior’s birth can always bring comfort, strength, and a joyful heart.

We may well recall that this day, to us the most radiant of the entire year, was often a time of testing and anguish in the early Christian Church. Ancient records testify that Telesphorus, valiant witness to the Lord Jesus in Rome, was put to a martyr’s death, among other reasons, for insisting on the observance of Christ’s birthday. Though his loyalty cost him his life, the assurance that Jesus had been born for him was so convincing that in his dying hours he could sing hymns of exalted praise. Similarly, when Diocletian, Roman emperor, blood-mad archfiend, found a vast congregation of believers celebrating Christmas, he had the doors and windows in their assembly place barred to prevent their escape and then ordered torches applied to the overcrowded building. Even the roar of angry flames was not loud enough to silence the hymns which those martyrs sang to the Christ Child.—Ask God for such triumphant trust, you whose faith is ridiculed, or who are persecuted because of your devotion to the Lord Jesus! As Telesphorus and that loyal congregation found unspeakable joy in the newborn Savior and through Him the power to conquer agony and torture, so real reliance on the Christ Child can help you repel every opposition.

On another Christmas, in 496, twenty years after the Roman Empire had collapsed, Clovis, King of the Franks, together with 3,000 warriors, confessed Christ and was baptized. A hundred and one years later, likewise on Christmas, Ethelbert, King of Kent, together with 10,000 subjects, pledged allegiance to the Savior and likewise received baptism. For these soldiers the day of the Savior’s birth became the day of their own rebirth, just as I pray God that this message may touch the hearts of many, particularly of you, the nation’s military men, and bring you contritely but confidently to the manger.

Again, we think of that Christmas Day in the life of the Reformer, Martin Luther, when he brought into the parsonage a fir tree which, so the records indicate, was destined to become the first Christmas tree. Perhaps it was at this time also, while rocking one of his babies to sleep, that Luther composed the melody and the words of the carol which has since sung its way into the hearts of millions in many Christian creeds and lands, “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come.” Those were trying times for that man of God. He was overworked, underpaid, misunderstood, and opposed, but at Christmas he found rest from his ceaseless toil; he wanted joy to reign in his whole household. Similarly, if some of you have been hard pressed and overtaxed; if, instead of appreciation, your efforts have met only rebuff and sarcastic challenge, let each decorated tree recall the radiance of Him who is the Light of the World, and its evergreen branches symbolize your ever­growing hope in Jesus! Let the carols help banish worries and strengthen you to face courageously each day’s new tasks!

Thus the record of one Christmas after the other can prove that no problem is too hard for solution, no suffering too intense for relief, no pain (including overwhelming grief sustained by parents who lost their sons in enemy attacks) too crushing for healing—provided you know the true meaning of this blessed day. To that end kneel reverently at the manger and ask the Spirit’s help in acclaiming

THE CHRIST CHILD—MIGHTIEST OF MARVELS!

We take our Christmas text from the prophecy which Isaiah recorded seven centuries before Bethlehem, when, beholding the Christ Child even at that distance, he exulted (chapter nine, verse six), “His name shall be called Wonderful.”

I

HIS MARVELOUS PERSON

The English word wonderful hardly does justice to the prophet’s original term. We find the deep, divine meaning of Isaiah’s Christmas forecast when we translate “His name shall be called Miracle!” And assuredly Bethlehem’s Babe is in every sense of the word the Miracle of the ages, the most amazing Wonder men and angels have ever beheld.

Think of His miraculous birth! You and I are born of earthly parents. Yet while Mary of Nazareth is His mother, the Lord of hosts is His Father, and His coming into the world we call the Virgin Birth because of all who have ever lived on earth only the Christ Child came into existence without a human father. Now, since the Virgin Birth has been fiercely attacked outside the Church and because from within religious leaders have sweepingly denied it, we emphasize that our “Bringing-Christ-to-the­Nations” mission unhesitatingly accepts and proclaims the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ. Why? First, the Old Testament foresees this truth. Isaiah, chapter seven, verse fourteen, definitely declares, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and shall call His name Immanuel.” Second, the New Testament teaches this truth. Read the opening chapters of Saint Matthew and Saint Luke! Third, the whole Christian Church from the first Christmas until today—Protestants and Catholics, Lutherans and Reformed—has clung to the fact which the Apostolic Creed frames in the words “born of the Virgin Mary.” Not one Christian denomination in the United States officially refuses to accept this clear-cut Biblical truth, although too many tolerate and even applaud leaders who point-blank reject this revealed miracle. Fourth, we believe in the Virgin Birth because Jesus had to be born in a superhuman manner if He was to be without inherited sin and guilt. The unbroken rule for the whole race is, “That which is burn of the flesh is flesh.” If Jesus had been conceived and born as men are, He would have been conceived and born in sin. Then, burdened with the same corrupted nature you and I have, He could not be the sinless, spotless, stainless Savior of mankind. Then there could be no essential difference between Jesus and any human being!

But, praise God today! Jesus, the Miracle of the ages, is Virgin-born; and He is more than man, more than superior men, more than the supreme men of our day. He is (and now we are to see even more clearly why “His name shall be called Wonderful”) God in the real, full sense of that word, our all-glorious, almighty, all-merciful God. Isaiah, to take only one Old Testament prophet, called Him divine, for he says not only that “His name shall be called Wonderful,” but the words following our text also acclaim Him as firmly and sharply as language permits “the mighty God.” When the fulfillment of this prophecy came to Bethlehem, the herald angels announced that He would be “the Lord,” the Sovereign of the universe. Saint Paul, reviewing Christ’s nativity, exclaims, “God was manifest in the flesh,” and again, beholding the Mightiest of miracles, he acclaims Jesus “over all, God blessed forever.” Our Lord, as the Babe in the manger, the Lad in the Temple, as the unparalleled Preacher on the highways and byways of Palestine, Jesus as the Sufferer in the Garden, the Sin-bearer on the cross, death’s Victor before the tomb, our Intercessor at the Father’s throne, is, in the Nicene Creed’s summary of Bible verity, “God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God.”

Can you not see at this wartime Christmas that we need a divine Christ? When war broke out I stated that the motto of American Christians should be, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Are we ready to substitute anyone else or anything else for God in that assurance? Are we willing to say: “If our military strength, air power, naval might be for us, who can be against us? If our scientists, financiers, laboring forces be for us, who can be against us”? No, we want God for us, and it is the Christmas miracle, the amazing wonder of heaven and earth, that Christ is our God, an almighty Helper for all who truly love Him.

Do not repeat the old, threadbare objection that you cannot understand Christmas or account scientifically for the Savior’s being both God and man! Of course you cannot!  “His name” would not be called “wonderful” if He were not so far beyond our human comprehension that we shall never even begin to understand what the sacred Scripture calls a complete “mystery.” Take Bethlehem’s miracle on faith! You constantly accept a score of unexplainable facts in the physical realm of everyday life. Why balk at the heavenly wonder of Jesus’ life? While men with third- and fourth-rate minds scoff at the Christmas story and object that it contradicts science, first-rate minds do not usually share this protest. Dr. Arthur Compton, Nobel Prize winner and discoverer of the cosmic ray, a scholar in the forefront of American research, pays his tribute to the Savior’s birth in this remarkable statement: “Christmas is totally in keeping with science. . . . One of the very first laws of science is that of cause and effect. When we see the finest cultures and civilization ever known to the world . . . dating back to Christmas Day, when we see art and music reaching their most exultant heights under the resistless drive of Christmas faith, we can but say, ‘The deeper spirit of Christmas and the real spirit of science are one.’” Some distance down a Grand Canyon trail a reverent tourist inscribed on a perpendicular rock wall these challenging words in large letters: “In this place doubt is impossible.  Else why all these wonders, this surpassing beauty, this silence of deep peace, this confident repose?  Here is the Spirit of God. Here one must believe.” Similarly at Christmas, when the Holy Spirit takes full possession of our hearts on faith’s pilgrimage to Bethlehem’s manger, we, too, can say: “In this place doubt is impossible! Here one must believe!” Whatever may have been given you, the richly remembered, on this blessed day, or whatever may have been withheld from you, the poor and the suffering, oh, pray with me that the Giver of “every good” and “perfect gift” may grant you a firm faith in the divine Christ Child, the Son of God as the Son of Man! Before this day passes into history and brings you a step closer to eternity, yield yourself to Him! Kneel in spirit before Him to banish all indifference and doubt with this unreserved acclaim, “My Lord and my God!”

II

HIS MARVELOUS GRACE

Even the glory of the Holy Infant’s deity does not exhaust the Advent miracle; it is only the start of the ageless mystery. Isaiah foretold, “His name shall be called Wonderful,” also because of His miraculous grace. Many things are uncertain about that first Christmas. If we ask, “When exactly was Jesus born?” historians will start a lengthy debate and answer with various conflicting dates. Should we inquire, “Where precisely in Bethlehem was Jesus born?” we likewise receive contradictory replies. Yet, if we raise the most important question, “Why was Jesus born?” we have positive, heavenly certainty. An angelic messenger told Joseph, “He shall save His people from their sins.” Another celestial herald assured the shepherds, “Unto you is born this day in the city of David A SAVIOR, which is Christ the Lord.” The very name given the Child, “Jesus,” implies “salvation,” and from these infant days through His entire career, from the earliest passages in the Gospels to the latest in the epistles, in Old Testament prophecy and New Testament fulfillment, the one purpose of His coming stands out clearly: He was born—let the Christmas bells ring out these “tidings of great joy,” the Christmas lights reflect this radiance, and the gifts recall this matchless grace!—to save sinners! The heart and climax of the Christmas message promises: “Jesus came to save you and me!”

No wonder He is called the Miracle, when He offers such marvelous mercy! He loved us, when we hated Him. He, Lord of lords, forsook His glorious heaven to come into the world of woe that rejected Him. Yet, even more marvelous, He “who knew no sin” became “sin for us . . . that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him,” when He suffered for the very men who persecuted Him and who still rebel against Him. And it is the absolute height of miraculous compassion that Jesus died for all sinners, including His enemies who nailed His hands and feet to the cross, so that through faith in Him as “the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” we could be freed forever from the terror of eternal death.

Never has the world witnessed any grace as sweeping as our Lord’s on Christmas. On that day, in 1868, President Andrew Johnson issued a remarkable amnesty proclamation in which full and unconditional pardon was extended as the document reveals, to “all who directly or indirectly participated in the late rebellion,” not excluding even Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy. That pardon was certainly pledged in the spirit of the Christ Child’s mercy; but how much greater is the peace Jesus offers! President Johnson’s amnesty embraced one group of people involved in a single rebellion, while the Savior’s grace is offered to all groups of people in every uprising against God and His holy will. “He shall save HIS PEOPLE from their sins,” and “His people” are those who trust in Him as their Savior, especially the poor in spirit, the downtrodden, those who think that they are beyond help and hope.

It was during the darkness of night, when such heaven­sent news would least be expected, that the angel chorus intoned its promise, “Unto you is born . . . a Savior”; and it is midnight for many of you, when the light of hope flickers and fails. You do not know whether you want to see the beginning of another day. You are like a distressed listener who, his self-respect gone and courage completely vanished, writes: “I shouldn’t waste your time. . . . I’m not worth it. . . . I have lost faith in everyone. . . . I cannot get hold of myself. . . . I wish I would die and get out of this awful world. I’m only twenty-six years old but feel like a hundred. . . . Life holds nothing for me. . . . I wish I could meet my death very soon. . . . I won’t blame you if you don’t write me, because I am not good for anything. I never was and never will be.” Oh, take heart! It is not too late to find peace in Christ! Clinging with personal, trusting faith to Him, you can know that no matter how hard and hopeless your life’s course may seem, at Bethlehem you learn that this Child is Heaven’s Light for dispelling darkness, brightening your pathway, and finally leading you to celestial glory, where gloom shall be no more. What marvelous grace to know that Jesus will grant us His pardon and peace always, especially when we need it most!

III

HIS MARVELOUS POWER

Combined with the Savior’s miraculous mercy is His marvelous power. If we read the section of Isaiah from which our text has been taken, we see that He “shall be called Wonderful” also because “the government shall be upon His shoulder.” Contradicting human reason, but concordant with Heaven’s truth, is the assurance that He who was born in Bethlehem as a helpless Babe is in truth the Ruler of the universe to whom has been given “all power . . . in heaven and in earth.”

What comfort this promise offers! We need divine help for the increasing burdens of our perplexed day. Anyone who thinks that the postwar world will be one of tranquility and plenty is simply practicing wishful dreaming. But you, the skeptics, who deny that, however great the difficulties may be, the Lord God is greater, are guilty of a far more serious error. Can you not see, therefore, why the whole world needs the Christmas power; why in our beloved country the seventy million who have never acknowledged Jesus as their Savior should bow before Him? Christ, who, as the apostle reminds us, “though He was rich, yet far your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich,” has the resources of heaven at His command required to supply all your personal needs, whether they be of soul, mind, or body. Whatever your individual difficulty may be today, questions of food, shelter, warmth, clothing, money, business, health, Christmas emphasizes this divine pledge, sealed in the Savior’s birth at Bethlehem: through trusting faith “God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

His bounty offers far more, however, than the necessities for our daily existence. His divine guidance includes the entire direction of life for those who acclaim Him their only Redeemer. Many of you write for the assurance that your sons in the armed forces will be spared injuries and death; that even now, though you have received no word, they may be safe on our Pacific islands. While no one can promise that your boys will escape injury or even death, the Christ of Christmas who says of His faithful, “neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand,” can shield your Christian son in the midst of raking gunfire or on the deck of a sinking ship. If, however He calls home a beloved one who persevered in the faith, then remember also how marvelous is His mercy when He transports a soul immediately, without delay or further trial, from this sin-crushed earth of suffering to the radiant realms of heaven!

The blessed Lord Jesus not only provides and protects, He also improves, rebuilds, restores. How mightily He has changed human affairs since that first Christmas! Everything noble, elevating, constructive the pages of history record since His appearance must be traced ultimately to His manger in Bethlehem. If only in the conflict of this disquieted day men would fully turn to Christ who can restrict the battle’s terrors and rebuke those who delight in war or profit from its prosecution! Missionary Nott, who worked in the South Seas, once came to the Island of Tubooi to find the whole population in a state of siege. With a remarkable bravery he and his fellow workers offered themselves as mediators, brought the leaders of the contending armies together, and under the prayerful invocation of Christ removed their difficulties. Peace was declared. The armies threw down their weapons. Soldiers cordially embraced each other, and together, friend and foe alike, attended divine services to hear the Savior’s Gospel of brotherly love. Missionary records are full of similar instances in which Christ the “Wonderful,” Heaven’s Prince of Peace, has helped to avoid bloodshed. Pray for His presence in the hearts and lives of those responsible for this war! Pray for His presence in the repentant souls of our people, so that this conflict may soon end and peace, blessed, righteous, constructive, cooperative peace, may reign!

The marvelous Savior who can change the course of nations can also alter the lives of men. It is the promise of His sacred Word that “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature,” and if you are dissatisfied with your life; if you see too much of sin and selfishness, failure and fraud, dishonesty and distrust, approach Jesus in His Gospel and experience His purifying, ennobling grace! The Bible Society Record tells of a criminal called “Santa Claus” because he had stolen a Christmas tree and had also taken a handbag containing a New Testament. Back in his room, when he examined the loot, he started to read God’s Word, and by divine direction he was led to ponder particularly the study of the Prodigal. He began to realize that he was the ungrateful son who had wasted his life in sin. Led by the Holy Spirit, he fell on his knees, confessed his guilt, sought forgiveness from Jesus and promised to make restitution. None of us needs steal a Bible to learn of the Spirit’s wondrous power in remaking our lives. On this day of the Savior’s birth—and what occasion could be more appropriate as the birthday of your new life in Christ?—let us approach Him with His blessed assurance to strengthen us, “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out”!

Whatever Christmas brings, may it mightily help us to adore the Holy Child whose name was called “Wonderful,” the mightiest Miracle of the ages; and having bowed contritely and with the inner conviction of His divine mercy, may we—every one of us—follow the shepherds, who returned “glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen”! God grant every one of us the Miracle of this Christmas mercy! Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: December 21, 1941

On earth peace!Luke 2:14

Blessed Babe of Bethlehem:

Raise our hearts above all the sorrows, hatreds, lusts of this grief­filled hour and grant us that true, inner joy of salvation which is ours when we kneel in faith before Thy manger to worship Thee as our God and Savior! By Thy Spirit help every sin-laden soul to approach Thee for cleansing, every burdened heart to find comfort in the glorious Christmas Gospel! Be with our beloved nation during this time of testing! Protect the military and naval forces that would protect us! Bless those called to guide the United States with wisdom and the determination to do Thy will! At Thy birth the angels caroled, “On earth peace!” and we beseech Thee to enrich us with the rejoicing and calm of soul which that celestial hymn promised. Yet, O Lord of all power and mercy, if it be Thy will, give us also a just and honorable peace between nations! Defeat all proud men who rise against Thee! Help us worthily to receive Thee and make this a blessed Christmas for many, especially the poor, the forsaken, the distressed! We ask this by the promise of Thy manifold mercies. Amen.

TWO weeks ago, when sudden death treacherously rained down on American troops near Honolulu, many of us began to wonder whether for the coming birthday of Christ anyone could honestly speak the customary greeting “Merry Christmas!” Today, when we are told that not 300, as first reported, but close to 3,000 of our military youth, physically the best specimens of American manhood, were killed and wounded in that outrageous attack; when all but the stupid must foresee that we are in the first battles of a conflict which, week after week, month after month, and it may well be year after year, will destroy more youthful lives; it will be hard, often unspeakably hard, to greet friends with the usual “Merry Christmas!”

There will be plenty of hilarity during these next days, to be sure, overplenty of drunkenness and debauch. National magazine advertisements feature a glass of whisky enshrined in a halo, the circle of light which reverent artists place about Christ’s head. And how true to modern life that blasphemy is! Millions, instead of kneeling before Bethlehem’s Babe, are serving sin, crying out in dull fatalism, “Let us ‘eat, drink and be merry,’ for who knows what tomorrow’s war will bring? But that kind of merriment is never acceptable Americanism, especially not this year, and it always contradicts Christian faith.

Can I be merry when I think of the shallow graves at Pearl Harbor? Be merry when a recent graduate of Concordia Seminary, whom I helped prepare for the ministry, a young pastor appointed naval chaplain, lies wounded in an Hawaiian hospital? Let children enjoy the season to the fullest! Let their laughter ring unrestrained, for who knows what the future will bring them? But the rest of us ought to be mature and intelligent enough to realize that not since 1777 and the piercing, desperate winter at Valley Forge has there been a more perilous Christmas in the United States than the festival which comes this week or those in succeeding years until God makes us a repentant nation and grants victory with righteous, equitable peace.

What shall we do, then, with Christmas? Was Clarence Darrow right when, shortly before his death, he called it “a humbug, a public nuisance,” declaring, “People would be better off if they paid no attention to it”? Was George Bernard Shaw right when he labeled the festival of the Nativity an “unbearable nuisance that ought to be abolished”? God forbid! This year many of us feel the need of the Christ Child, perhaps more than ever before. Through Him ours can still be a blessed, though saddened Christmas. Despite the inferno which may surround us with blood and disaster, famine and disease, murder and torture, bomb and blasting, the first carol, particularly the promise, “On earth peace!” (Saint Luke, chapter two, verse fourteen) can reecho in our hearts, whether the future may bring prosperity or adversity, joy or sorrow, health or sickness, life or death.

Come, then, throw off dark, morbid thoughts! Cast fear away! And as you prepare to adore the newborn Savior, let the angelic announcement “On earth peace!” bring this prayer from your heart:

GOD, GRANT US TRUE CHRISTMAS PEACE

—peace in our souls, peace throughout the world!

I

HOW GLORIOUS THE GRACE OF THIS CHRISTMAS PEACE!

For a message as glorious, radiant, heavenly as this, “On earth peace!” God chose glorious, radiant, heavenly messengers. No high priest from the nearby Temple; no prophet—and were he gifted as Isaiah, compassionate as Jeremiah, loyal as Amos—was worthy of bringing that marvelous promise. Celestial voices were required, “the multitude of the heavenly host,” and in a vast, unnumbered chorus of angels and archangels such as the world had never heard before and will never hear again their sanctified voices proclaim, “On earth peace!”

For this Christmas no immortal messenger will appear to you with the glad tidings of peace in Christ, but the Nativity news is imprinted in your Bible with the same divine force and unbreakable truth as though cherubim and seraphim had sung their carols directly to you. If your Christmas is to be a day of peace, then first of all resolve to take God at His word, and with a faith that hurdles every doubt declare, “Because my heavenly Father sent His holy servants to announce the birth at Bethlehem; because my Bible, God’s inspired, infallible Word, records the Christmas glory, with my whole heart and soul I accept this double assurance that the Babe in the Judean manger is my Prince of Peace.” Do not let anyone discourage you by asserting that this faith is puerile, unacceptable to thinking people! A few days ago death came to the great Russian author Dmitri Merejowski in Vichy. Exiled from the Soviet country because of his religion and political persuasion, that scholar, a man according even to newspaper reports, “whose equal in knowledge and diligence has rarely appeared,” found unusual strength in the Bible. Referring to his own New Testament which had been in his possession for thirty years, he wrote in one of his books: “I read it daily and shall continue to read it as long as my eyes can see and by every kind of light, by rays coming from the sun or from the earth, on brightest days and in blackest nights, happy or unhappy, sick or well, full of faith or of doubt, full of feeling or devoid of feeling. And it seems to me there is always something new in what I read, something unfathomed, and that I shall never plumb its depths or reach its end. The gilt edges of the leaves are tarnished, the paper is yellow, the leather binding is coming to pieces and the back has come unstuck. Some of the pages are loose; it ought to be rebound; but I cannot find it in my heart to send it away. Indeed, the thought of being separated from it even for a few days frightens me. What shall be buried with me in my coffin? The Book. With what shall I rise from the grave? With the Book. What did I do on earth? I read the Book.”—Marvelous words! If the mighty intellect of Dmitri Merejowski paid the Scriptures such unstinted tribute, has anyone in this audience the right to put a question mark behind the peace promise chanted by the angels? What grace to have this immovable assurance for our faith!

Noteworthy, too, is the place where the announcement of this peace was made! The angels spurned the seven hills of proud Rome, the market places of learned Athens, the pyramids and the sphinxes of Egypt; they passed by the imposing Temple at Jerusalem and came not even to the heart and center of Bethlehem, insignificant as it was, but to an empty pasture outside the village, to show all later ages that God, almighty and all-gracious as He has shown Himself in Christ, will come to any place, no matter how remote and unimportant it may be. Ten thousand communities in the United States are too small or too distant to have a church of their own. Many of you now tuned to our broadcast feel yourselves out of touch with the world and sometimes begin to think you are beyond God’s reach; but recall how that bare shepherds’ field was exalted by celestial messengers, and believe that the Father, through Jesus, is indeed a “God at hand and not a God afar off”! What grace that Christ’s peace will come to every place!

Again, it is not accidental that the first to hear these heaven-sent tidings were shepherds. Christmas art has glorified these men, depicting them as clothed with colorful, costly raiment; yet in truth their calling was ill-paid and hard. They represented the working classes. Nevertheless, God chose these sons of toil as the first to hear of peace in the newborn Christ Child. Learn the lesson the Father would teach you through this! In His endless compassion His merciful heart loves all men, particularly the poor. He has grace and mercy for the whole race, especially for those who must gather the crumbs, while others feast in luxury. However severe life has been for you, however downtrodden you may feel, when, like the shepherds, you are given only the lowly tasks of life, listen closely as the divine anthem sung by angels over Bethlehem’s star-lit fields rings through the centuries to tell all—you in hospitals, public and private institutions, in prison; you far from home in a cold, cynical world—that the Savior, whose birth was first announced to these herdsmen, today seeks entrance into your heart with the promise of peace that only He can give! What grace that Jesus came for all, even the humblest!

Now just what is the Christmas assurance? Not a genial, jovial holiday spirit; not the satisfied feeling that the year’s Yuletide business has been the best ever, with profits proportionately greater; not the indifference to a world of suffering or the unconcern about personal needs which comes with drunkenness and carousal; not a treaty made at diplomatic tables, dictated by the victor, a truce during which the nations can gird themselves for heavier conflict! When Jesus promises, “My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you,” He reminds us that only He can enrich us with this blessing, which is serenity of soul, peace of heart, mind, and conscience—all because He, God’s Son, was born at Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary to save us from our sins, banish fear from our lives, reconcile us with His Father, and end the conflict between the holy God and His unholy children.

“Being justified by faith,” the apostle exults, “we have peace with God.” Because Christ came from heaven, assumed our flesh, lived among us, and, though rejected by those whom He would help, died for every one of us, the transgressions which destroy our calm have been removed forever. God becomes our loving Father, not our stern Judge. Heaven becomes our promise instead of hell our penalty. If your conscience seeks to accuse you, you can point to the Child cradled at Bethlehem and declare triumphantly: “He came for me, to take my place in suffering the punishment for all my wrongdoing—and His Word has promised me, ‘There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.’” If dark doubt whispers that you have transgressed God’s holy Law so carelessly, with such destruction to yourself or suffering to others that there can be no pardon, then as you kneel before the Christ Child, this questioning of God’s grace will stop. You will know that because Jesus was born at Bethlehem, crucified on Calvary, and resurrected from the garden grave, He has plenteous grace for every transgression, mercy in overabundance for all sin. Perhaps modern unbelief has made you uncertain whether the whole Christmas story is true or false. You may be one of those people who insist that every article of faith has to be proved before you accept it, who protest that you cannot understand how Christ as God could be born of a virgin mother or how His suffering and death can give assurance of heaven. If so, give the Holy Spirit free reign in your soul! Let these days bring you to Jesus in trusting humility, and by faith you will understand why the Scripture records, “His name shall be called Wonderful”! God’s Spirit will testify that Jesus in all truth is the Miracle of the ages. Doubts will vanish, questions will be answered, and with the fullness of victorious faith you will say, “I know whom I have believed!”

Of course, you will never be able to understand Jesus completely, nor measure His magnificent mercy. Men have penetrated fourteen miles up into the stratosphere, but what about the myriads of miles above that? We bore small holes into the ground, but we know nothing of the mysteries buried far below in the core of this sphere. Amundsen discovered the South Pole, and air flights have taken explorers over great sections of the Antarctic wastes; yet who can say what actually lies concealed in the frozen grasp of that silent vastness? How much less, as the approach of Christmas reminds us, can we measure the height, the depth, the contents of this marvelous mercy by which Christ loved us “while we were yet sinners”? All we can do—and this we must do if the Nativity blessings are to be ours—is bow down in spirit before Bethlehem’s Babe and with repentant, yet grateful hearts exclaim, “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable Gift!”

Because Christ was born as our Peace-bringer, the appeal of the Christmas season asks you to accept Him. Since He purchased you with His blood, you belong to Him and ought to serve Him. In the heart of darkest Africa, Amelia Buchanan translated the New Testament into a native dialect, but she had difficulty in finding words meaning “Savior” or “to save.” One day, however, when a woman slipped from a tree-trunk bridge into a swollen stream, a bystander jumped in and rescued her. Intense excitement gripped the natives, and they cried in frenzied chant: “She belongs to him! She must be his slave forever, for he saved her!” “And then,” writes Amelia Buchanan, “I found the word that unlocked the New Testament translation. . . . We belong to the Savior, for He has saved us.” You, too, can make the angels in heaven rejoice once more this Christmastide if you, especially the unbelieving, the preoccupied, the unfaithful, will realize that you belong to the Prince of Peace, since He saved you. Make this a blessed festival by accepting Him fully and unconditionally as your personal Redeemer, believing that He came into this world, lived, died, shed His blood for you!

The time is short, and amid all the uncertainty of life as we now live it delay is dangerous. On Christmas Day about five hundred of our countrymen will be killed in household, highway, or other accidents. About fifteen will be suicides, about thirty cut down in coldblooded murder. Yet these losses, as shocking as they are, can hardly be compared with the spiritual destruction resulting from the neglect and misunderstanding of the real Christmas message. Now, while God gives you life and breath; while the Spirit urges you, crown Him the Prince of your peace! Without Him you are without hope. There is no other pathway to the soul’s peace besides Jesus since He says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” You have no other Redeemer by whom you can be saved, for His Word states clearly, “There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved,” no other basis on which your hope and assurance may be built, for Saint Paul writes emphatically, “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ”! No other message of salvation because the apostle warned, “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel unto you, . . . let him be accursed!” No other peace for you except in Jesus since the Scriptures recognize Him alone as the Mediator who “made peace through the blood of His cross”!

Come to Him, then, for harmony with your heavenly Father instead of discord! Come contritely but joyfully, for the greatest Gift that God Himself could offer, a blessing so precious that in contrast all the Christmas presents exchanged in this year of unparalleled war prosperity are only glittering baubles and tarnished tinsel! Come to the Savior for assurance, since the testimony of His truth declares, “He is our Peace!”

II

HOW GLORIOUS THE BLESSINGS OF CHRISTMAS PEACE!

This inner peace seeks outward expression, and it is the glory of our Christmas Gospel that with the Christ Child to guide, strengthen, and uphold us, we can find contentment in a discontented world, comfort in a cruel day, companionship in loneliness, sustaining power in weakness, soul happiness amid bodily pain, a serene faith though surrounded by chaos: peace, blessed peace, amid the agony of a world aflame with war.

Is not this the spiritual security, the soul quiet everyone of us needs for the testing time ahead when everything for which we strive and save, all that we hold high and precious: our homes, American liberties, Christian faith, the happiness of our youth, will be assailed with a force of destruction hitherto unknown in our country? But come what will, may God imprint on your heart with letters of living faith the heavenly assurance that if you have Christ, you can face even the hardest, cruelest, most powerful of enemies, death—the end of human hope, the finis to our lives and ambitions, the cutting off forever of earthly happiness—and still have the divine peace which the angels caroled over Bethlehem’s shepherd fields!

Courageous Christians have proved this. Dr. Georges Regard of Geneva, Switzerland, who died five years ago, was a surgeon of outstanding skill and ability, and for his valiant service to the wounded during World War I the French government made him a member of the Legion of Honor. When that conflict ended, he began to publish scientific books, one of which brought him the coveted prize from the Academy of Surgery in Paris. Honors were showered on him, yet he remained a staunch Christian and wrote two books on the defense of our faith. He died at the early age of forty-six, and his last words were: “Jesus Christ is coming. There is nothing except Jesus Christ. There is only Christ.” This remarkable statement he asked to be read at his own funeral: “Being a physician, I knew from the beginning of my sickness what it was. Now in the face of the grave, open at my feet, and before the sight of death which is tracking me—a sight given to physicians alone, I must state that I have not even seen the king of terrors. I have seen only the Savior.” In the Christ Child’s name I promise that if you likewise will see only Jesus, you will also have the peace which can change human defeats into divine victory, the agony of death into the joy of eternal life.

Another blessing of this Christmas calm with our God is the happy harmony it produces with our fellow men. Because you who are Christ’s know what it cost Jesus to leave the heaven of matchless magnificence to descend into this sin-cursed world of vice, greed, hatred, poisoned passions, and on the cross to shed His holy lifeblood for your redemption, you want everyone, including the worst enemies, to be saved. Because Jesus forgave us the ten thousand talents, the immeasurable debt our sins incurred, should we not readily cancel the few pennies others may owe us? Should we not strive to maintain peace, first of all, in our own family circle? If we cannot find a refuge and haven of rest in our homes, where can we find quiet? However, it is a strange proof of human perversity that just as soon as American families enjoy larger incomes, as now, domestic trouble increases. Are you living in a house where discord reigns instead of love? Believe me when I tell you that Christmas comes with the offer of special blessing for you! If you truly accept Christ and invite Him into your dwelling, His presence will bring love. Christmas, more than any other Church festival, emphasizes the home. It glorifies motherhood, exalts childhood, depicts the Holy Family; it should bring love and understanding to the whole household. Therefore, take time in these overbusy hours, despite the competition of giving and receiving, the planning and fulfilling, the strain of sleeplessness and the stress of haste, to make your home a sanctuary for the newborn Savior! When the “holy night” comes, may none in your family be too tired or irritated to thank God for the Christ Child! If even the world takes time to feature sacred seasonal music, how much more should each Christian household carol its praises to the Babe of Bethlehem!

The Nativity peace and good will should extend far beyond our homes, even—and I say this deliberately, in the Savior’s name—even to our enemies. Dr. Schneller, pastor of the Lutheran Church at Bethlehem, told of a remarkable Christmas Eve there. After his simple Arabic services were concluded, an English missionary who had attended stood with him on the balcony overlooking the little town, which during these days becomes the center of Christian thought. The missionary, Bishop Hannington, on his way to Uganda in the heart of Africa, was a man of wealth and learning, who had given up a brilliant career to dedicate his life to Christ. The hour of worship in Bethlehem mightily strengthened him. But that Christmas was his last on earth. Before another year passed, this brave witness, only thirty-six years old, was captured, tortured, and sentenced to death. With a prayer for the spiritual deliverance of Uganda he knelt down and bared his breast to the spears of the savages.

Oh, that in this world of hatred there were more of that Christlike love and self-sacrifice! Let me remind you that this is the Savior’s plain, repeated instruction: “Love your enemies!” “Pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you!” You cannot argue this out of the Bible. The trouble with too many of us is that we willfully disobey Jesus and substitute hatred for compassion. While we despise tyranny, dictatorships, oppression, militarism, aggression, totalitarianism in every form; while we must be ready to defend our nation with all our possessions and, if need be, with life itself, we cannot, would we be true to Christ, hate our fellow men, even though we must battle against them. May the American Christian pulpit never forget this truth! Headline preachers who during these days have been discoursing on subjects like “To Hell with America’s Enemies!” are rendering no service either to the country or the Church. The Christian cry must be, “To Christ with Our Enemies!” in the hope that He, acclaimed their Savior, will change their hearts.

Ten years ago the Christmas issue of the London Star printed a feature article entitled, “The Man Who Nearly Stopped the War.” The story described the Christmas Eve of 1914 in the Ypres salient where the British and Germans lay in trenches separated by only a narrow strip of contested territory. Toward midnight, strains of Christmas carols rose from the German trenches, to be answered immediately by English Christmas hymns. That sacred music softened the soldiers’ hatred, and when Christmas morning broke, greetings were shouted from one trench to the other. Soon a venturesome German lad raised his head over the parapet, declaring that he was going to visit the British trench, and to show his sincerity, he threw down his rifle. Soon others followed; and in a few minutes, as the newspaper had it, “the two opposing armies rushed forward to meet with handshakes and Christmas greetings, in No Man’s Land.” Gifts were exchanged. Photographs of wives, sweethearts, children were shown and politely admired. For days everything remained peaceful, until an inspecting officer came along, saw two soldiers outside their trenches, and, learning that they were enemies, commanded sharply, “Corporal, shoot those two men!” The corporal had to obey; war began again.

People throughout the world want peace; yet sometimes war is a protective necessity. When, with the Scriptures, we ask God to rebuke those who delight in war, we plead that the power of faith in the Christ Child may mightily spread among men and nations, so that after the present conflict—and, O Father, may it end soon and with the complete overthrow of those who seek our harm!—men in the opposing trenches of class warfare, race conflict, religious hatred, and international struggle, may be drawn more closely to Thy Son, the only and last Hope of the human race. Then, indeed, can the Christmas carol, “On earth peace!” exert new blessing throughout the world. Therefore, with hearts again directed to Bethlehem, with a faith that finds in the Prince of Peace, despite the lowliness of the manger, our Lord, our Savior, our King, let our prayer, long after the Christmas greens have faded and the lights darkened, constantly ask, “O God, grant us perpetual Christmas peace by the promise of the Christ Child, our only Redeemer!” Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: December 14, 1941

When ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, be ye not troubled; for such things must needs be.Mark 13:7

Heavenly Father, Lord of the Nations:

A crucial moment has come for our country, with the reports of enemy bombardment; and we flee to Thee for refuge, strength, and the hope of victory. Humbly we bow before Thee, in Jesus’ name, to beseech Thy guidance during the heavy days before us. Direct the President, the Congress, and all responsible for the nation’s future course along paths pleasing to Thee! Teach us individually to understand that we may be called to sacrifice life’s moat precious possessions for the defense of America and for the defeat of those who threaten to bring destruction within our borders! O God, who canst still break the bow and cut the enemies’ spear asunder, we commit our cause to Thee, as we humble ourselves to confess our sins and for Jesus’ sake beseech the pardon sealed in His blood. Help us in tbis crisis hour to love Thy truth! We know from Thy blessed Word which never makes a mistake that Thou canst deliver us and, clinging more resolutely to our Savior, we declare, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Therefore, O Lord of hosts, be with us now as Thou wast with our fathers! We ask it contritely because we pray in Jesus’ blessed name. Amen.

“If God be for us, who can be against us?” May this divine truth strengthen the souls of millions throughout America as our beloved nation finds itself treacherously attacked in the first week of a destructive war. We dare not make the fatal mistake of assuming that we can succeed without God or be victorious against Him! Our enemies are numerous, powerful, prepared; they will wage a long-drawn, hard-fought contest. Those who only a few days ago predicted that the Japanese Empire would be smashed within six weeks will be forced to revise their opinion. This struggle may last six years or more. Before us, my countrymen, is a heavily weighted future, the end of which can be foreseen by no scientist, however learned, no statesman, however experienced, no economic expert, however renowned. Earnest appeals are made to patriotism; and may the love for America now ring clear and true in every heart! But patriotism will not be enough. We will be called upon to practice self-denial, and because of the rich blessings the United States has granted each one of us, we should be eager to forego luxuries and non­essentials; but self-denial will not be enough. As the struggle continues, we will be asked to sacrifice time, energies, money, perhaps even our lives; and who, reflecting on the privileges, the opportunities, the freedoms which are ours, will shrink from doing whatever is humanly possible to transmit the heritage of liberty, received from our fathers, to our children? But even sacrifice will not be enough. We need the Almighty. Spiritual defense is as vital as military defense. We must turn to the Lord and exult, “A mighty Fortress is our God, a trusty Shield and Weapon!” Millions from coast to coast will require redoubled soul comfort and guidance during the heavy sieges of this conflict. As the Old Testament prophets during periods of national visitation were commanded, “Comfort ye, comfort ye My people,” so the consolation and strengthening which comes from faith in the redemption purchased by Jesus Christ, not the message of any counterfeit gospel, must be the keynote of wartime preaching.

Today, then, on National Bible Sunday and the first Lord’s day in radio history on which a vast coast-to-coast broadcasting system can be employed in bringing the Savior’s promise to the people of the United States at war, may God’s Spirit mightily bless this appeal:

AMERICA, EMBATTLED, TURN TO CHRIST!

Accept His divine instruction and comfort given in our Scripture for today (Saint Mark, chapter thirteen, verse seven), which with heavenly understanding of our problems, individual and national, says, “When ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, be ye not troubled; for such things must needs be.”

I

JESUS INSTRUCTS US IN THE REASON FOR WAR

Reviewing the events of the past several days we are startled by the suddenness with which war began. A weekly confidential bulletin issued by financial advisers in Washington, dated December 6, expressed the opinion that conflict with Japan might be avoided; at worst, it was some distance away. Yet, on December 7 Japanese planes attacked our island outposts. A magazine dated December 12 and purporting, to give the last word in national affairs likewise predicted that hostilities, if they were declared, would be postponed for some time. Before that magazine reached its readers enemy bombs had taken their toll of American lives. On the very morning, just a week ago, when the struggle broke, a feature writer for New York’s largest newspaper voiced this opinion, “Japan does not want war.” But, even as people were reading these wishful thoughts, American youth was being killed on our Pacific islands. While human predictions—and there were many other similar mistakes—have collapsed notoriously, God’s prophecies have never failed. Every one among the hundreds of Scriptural predictions referring to history, past or present, has been literally, exactly fulfilled. With all the mockery evil-minded men heap on Holy Writ, they have failed to produce a single volume from the millions written since the earliest days which has foretold future events with only a fraction of the accuracy and detail found in Bible prophecies. It has always seemed to me that if men would use good, common, unbiased sense, they would come to the conclusion, on this basis of prophecy and fulfillment, that the Old and New Testaments must be, as no other book ever written or read, divine revelation. The basic trouble, however, is this: Usually the enemies of the Bible do not take time to read the writings they condemn. If they did and thus gave the Spirit a chance to work in their hearts, they could come to the conclusion reached by the famous British poet Cowper when he wrote, “If the prophecies have been fulfilled (of which there is abundant demonstration), the Scriptures must be the Word of God; and if the Scripture is the Word of God, Christianity must be true.”

Thus when Jesus tells us in our text, “Ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars,” that prediction, now 1900 years old, has never been realized as forcefully as now in the most widespread of all wars. For years unbelieving men, with their little prides and puny prejudices, sought to discount this forecast of “wars and rumors of wars.” In opposition they taught that the race was constantly on the upgrade, steadily elevating itself by its own bootstraps. As the “human animals”—for so are men called by this delusion—steadfastly lifted themselves from the lower beast level, crime would be checked, lusts restricted, greed controlled, hatreds removed, and, this is the repeated promise, bloodshed completely banished. I submit to you that no other generation in American history should be more ready than ours to cast aside completely these rosy promises, dangerous and destructive, every one of them, because they contradict divine truth. At a time when culture, education, science, and invention have reached their height, international morals are at their lowest, international strife at its widest. Twenty-three years ago the first world conflict was concluded, the war that was to end all wars; but while that struggle involved sixteen nations, the present list of belligerents already numbers thirty-six, and many more may still be added before the victory is ours. Thus, while men, wise in their own conceit, have prophesied, “Peace, peace!” Christ has predicted, “Wars and rumors of wars.” His Word alone is the immovable, unalterable, unbreakable Truth of all truths. Therefore, believe with all your hearts that the thunderous denunciations of God’s Law: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” “The wages of sin is death.” “Ye shall die in your sins,” are not theory, guesswork, speculation. “Heaven and earth shall pass away” before “one jot or one tittle” of these utterances is proved false. By the same heavenly power every promise of grace, every pledge of mercy that Jesus, God’s Son and the world’s Savior, offers you—assurances like these beloved passages: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “If a man keep My saying, he shall never see death.” “I am the Resurrection and the Life”—these pledges are the sure, eternal, triumphant truth of “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and forever.” My countrymen, turn to Him for His changeless grace, for everlasting verity!

The Savior also declares in our text that wars “must needs be.” In explanation, the Bible, honored throughout America today, asks pointedly, “From whence come wars and fightings among you?” and answers, “Come they not hence, even of your lusts?” In other words, Scripture teaches that bloodshed is provoked by sin. Examine every conflict since the cradle days of humanity, and behind each struggle you will find overreaching greed, the desire for more territory, more trade, more natural resources, more profit, more power, and with it, envy, jealousy, race prejudice, hatred, oppression, conquest.

Besides, God often uses war as a chastening and a visitation of His outraged justice. If people live in the unbroken peace and the carnal security that forgets the Almighty; if atheism flourishes in universities, unbelief in high schools, disregard of the Creator even in grammar schools; if pulpits are polluted with the denial of God and His Christ; if the Scriptures fall into neglect within buildings once dedicated to their teaching; if even homes are marked by irreligion, families forsake the faith, live in legalized lust with utter disregard of the divine standards for domestic honesty—then He whose justice and righteousness prevent the sins of an individual, as of a nation, from remaining unrebuked often intervenes and the horror of war begins its devastation.

“Such things must needs be,” the Scriptures echo, also in the United States. This is not the hour, with American shore-cities darkened by blackout, American defense seriously threatened and American lives at stake, to speak in boastful, boisterous tones as though this nation did not need the Almighty. But it is the time, high time, for masses in America to approach God, to fall on their knees before Him in full confession of their sins, to find pardon and power through Christ. Over the clamor of this disturbed hour, at the beginning of a war that will cost us more in men and money, toil and tears, than we now can measure, the momentous call, from heaven itself, resounds across the land, “America, get right with God!” We must understand that this conflict did not break on us simply through our enemies’ planning and treachery. All the sweat and sorrow, the blighted hopes and bitter bereavements this struggle can produce, are to remind us as individuals, families, church groups, as a nation, how repeatedly we have disregarded God’s Word, rebelled against His instruction, rejected the precious Gospel, ridiculed the message of Christ’s cross and His blood. Instead of shouting, whistling, screaming as many did last Monday when war was declared, Christians in this country know that for them the cry of this crisis is: “On your knees, America!” “Pray, America, pray!” With their reconciliation assured through faith in Christ’s atoning love they can rise, ready to battle courageously for the defeat of our enemies. For God Himself promises, “If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

In another sense this conflict “must needs be,” for in the chapter from which our text has been chosen Jesus reveals that “wars and rumors of wars” are to foreshadow the beginning of the end for mankind. It is Bible truth that this old, sin-encrusted world will not, yes, cannot endure forever. Since the days of Cain, the earth on which men walk is too soaked with the blood of the legions murdered by their brothers, of the myriads killed on battlefields or cut down in brutal massacres; the clean air God gave us has been breathed by too many who are moved by hatred, lust, covetousness, degenerate passions; the skies above have looked down on the vileness and depravity of the whole race too long to permit a world like ours to last eternally. It must end. Indeed, the Scriptures foretell in scores of clear passages that this entire globe, with everything on and in it, will be destroyed when Christ at His second coming appears to judge the quick and the dead.

In order that believers, instead of being caught unawares when Jesus comes, may be fully prepared to meet Him, the Scriptures present a long list of signs, describing in detail church and world conditions which are to precede Christ’s return in glory. Particularly prominent is Jesus’ warning of “wars and rumors of wars” with His explanation that “nation shall rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom”—a prophecy now more clearly fulfilled than ever in past ages. We witness other evidences of this approaching end. Famines are predicted, and impoverished people by the millions in the small occupied countries of Europe, not to mention multitudes more in China, will not have enough to eat during the coming winter. Pestilences are foretold; physicians are forecasting epidemics which will sweep across nations after this conflict just as the dread influenza scourge accompanied World War I. Earthquakes are to come; and it is on record that recent years have witnessed the most disastrous of such upheavals. In these last times, we are warned, “false prophets shall rise.” Have they ever been as numerous before? “Iniquity shall abound.”—Our crime records are at their highest figure. “The love of many shall wax cold”—How true, when we see the worldliness in many churches or survey the number of those who have turned from Christ! Listen to Saint Paul’s description of conditions before judgment breaks upon us: “This know also that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof, . . . ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” A score of sermons can be based on these twenty charges. How readily we should conclude that if the primitive Christian Church proclaimed, “The Lord is at hand,” then assuredly today, after 1900 years, His Second Advent is upon us. He will come at any time.

May He not find us unprepared! The lessons of last week’s attack at Pearl Harbor showed us how destructive it is to imagine danger far off. Therefore, as God’s Word calls out: “America, turn to Jesus! He is coming soon!” let us keep ourselves in constant readiness for that hour which will bring terrifying rejection to those who have spurned Jesus, but a homecoming in joy and unspeakable glory, a day of release from worry and war, an eternity of bliss beyond compare for all who humbly, sincerely, trustingly acclaim Christ their Savior! If we could only realize what indescribably radiant blessings Christ’s return will bring those who are His, every heart throughout this broad land would constantly repeat the prayer of the early Church, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

II

JESUS GIVES US COMFORT IN TIME OF WAR

Until this glorious Advent we must work and hope, watch and pray amid life’s sorrows and its joys. If this conflict continues to rage, year after year, we must be ready—and the Government has issued this warning—to give up many comforts and luxuries, to adopt a lower standard of living. Who knows whether that will be the end? Grave questions of inflation, serious problems of postwar reconstruction, the whole readjustment of our American life—all this puts everyone before the most deep-rooted difficulties we, as a nation, have ever faced. More penetrating will be the personal grief, when war demands the limb or the life of a son, a father, a brother. The first days of fighting have made many gold-star mothers and brought bereavement into hundreds of American homes. While we pay tribute to the devotion and heroism of those who have died fighting our battles and resolve that, God helping us, their sacrifice will not have been made in vain, we must expect that as the war progresses casualty lists will be far longer and more of the sons to whom you parents waved a brave farewell will never return.

Now, where can we find unfailing solace, unchanging consolation, unfaltering assurance? Where, if not in Him who is the Hope of the ages, the Help in every need, the Comforter for every distressed soul—Jesus, our Christ, who today tells us, “When ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, be ye not troubled”?

Had anyone else written this, “Be ye not troubled!”; were this the claim of a mortal leader, the wishful thinking of a social expert, we would shake our heads and turn away, unconvinced. Too often have men been tortured by the glib promises and false predictions which abound in our age. But take heart! Remember who spoke these words! No dreamer, no enthusiast, no mistaken optimist, no irresponsible fanatic! This is the pledge of Jesus Christ, who is more than all men, saints, or angels; He is the very God together with the Father and the Spirit, the ever-blessed Trinity in ever-holy Unity. The modern denial which makes our Lord only an exalted teacher can help us nothing. The suffering world cries out for divine comfort and direction. And here it is in the words of One who never spoke an empty promise nor raised an unfulfilled hope, Jesus, who declares, “When ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, be ye not troubled!” America, turn to that Christ, the King of kings, Sovereign of sovereigns, Lord of lords, the very God of very God!

The truth of this “Be ye not troubled,” is also assured us because Jesus, as approaching Christmas reminds us, is our Savior. He grants real assurance, unfailing strength, true courage, even for the worst that may confront us, because He, blessed Redeemer of our souls, has removed completely the evil responsible for fear, doubt, and dismay. It is the unspeakable glory of His love for us that while we were yet in our sins, shaking our puny fists against the Almighty, speaking words of blasphemy against His holy name, thinking thoughts of lustful desire and covetous greed against His divine law; while we were sending our souls to hell, swinging the doors of heaven dosed by our repeated transgression, condemning ourselves utterly, hopelessly, and eternally, Jesus took from us all our sins, including especially those which seemed too vile to be forgiven, made each of those transgressions His own, and suffered their guilt, their curse, their punishment, their death, when He “died for all” on Golgotha’s gory cross, “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” No matter what others tell you, no matter how vehemently the church you attend may deny this claim, no matter whether high authorities protest against your repeating this Bible truth, believe Jesus when He assures you that the pardon purchased by His blood, the life restored by His death and resurrection are yours, not as a reward for your good works or anyone else’s; not as a compensation for your self-denial or sacrifice; not in answer to your parents’ pleadings or your pastor’s prayers, but simply as God’s marvelous gift, granted by Christ’s unearnable, unpurchasable grace and His pure, unconditioned mercy. America, turn to that Christ of all compassion!

Particularly let every soldier or sailor who may be summoned to fight the life-and-death struggles of this war accept Jesus now, before facing the brunt of battle, so that in the midst of tumult and strife faith in His constant companionship will bestow this assurance, “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God”—the inner peace “which passeth all understanding”!

“When ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, be ye not troubled!” because a Christian never need be troubled. If everything else crashes about him, with increasing power he feels the Savior’s closeness. We who acclaim Jesus our only Redeemer know that the Lord, without whose will not a sparrow falls to the ground, has numbered the very hairs on our head. From the moment our lives are “hid with Christ,” heaven’s angels in their legions are ready to protect us. Therefore I said at the beginning, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” When Jesus rules your heart in a personal, pulsating faith, you can stand confidently in stormed trenches as the din of hell itself appears to loose its fury around you. You can crouch securely in blacked-out cities, while bombs seem to blast away the earth beneath you. You can face hidden perils above and below the murky ocean with a bravery that is highest when true Christian faith is strongest. This is not fatalism nor irresponsible recklessness. It is rather the blessing which comes from the assurance that the Redeemer who died for us, now lives for us and with us, constantly ready to protect us.

Sometimes, of course, it may be God’s inscrutable will that we fall in life’s battle. Rather than accuse our Father of cruelty, question His ways, drop into unbelief or snarling blasphemy, we need the faith which guarantees us that “whether we live . . . or die, we are the Lord’s” and which assures us that “all things,” even the most terrifying disasters the war may produce, “work together for good to them that love God.” In our shortsighted vision we may not be able to grasp why God took this promising young man or that exemplary young woman from our midst. Deep-rooted reliance is required to believe that the losses this war may bring will become spiritual gain for those who are Christ’s. But the Almighty has compassion on us in this respect, too. He assures us, “What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.” In heaven’s hallowed bliss when we come to claim our prepared place in the many mansions—and all that we need for a title to our portion in the Father’s house is this personal trust in the Lord Jesus—we will be able to survey God’s marvelous dealings with us. The mists will clear, and as we see the harmony in the design of life He has helped us weave, there will be no more tears nor sorrows. We will exult, “He hath done all things well!”

It is to this faith in the crucified, redeeming, comforting, sustaining Christ that we pledge these broadcasts anew in an hour of crisis for the American nation. With God’s help we will continue to preach nothing but His Word and to apply it to our multiplied needs. We are planning to bring these Gospel messages to the military youth in ever-widening range, since in times of stress like ours young people bear the brunt of the struggle and often find themselves confronted with redoubled temptation. Our transcriptions are being heard on certain battleships and at land stations.

I plead with all you who love the Lord—who know that this broadcast, though it is called and in truth is “The Lutheran Hour—Bringing Christ to the Nations,” is fighting the battle for conservative, Scriptural, fundamental Christianity throughout the land.—Stand by us during the coming months with frequent, fervent prayers, with generous financial assistance! It costs us $8,000 each week to glorify Christ over this vast radio system. If we are to answer fully the challenge of this hour, we need a larger network, more outlets. Before “the night cometh when no man can work,” we must send out the message of salvation, life, hope, and a blessed eternity in the Lord Jesus Christ with greater force and penetration. Stand beside us, then, as we begin our wartime broadcasting with the plea “America, turn to Christ!” and the prayer “Christ, turn Thy mercies to America!” For in Jesus, our God and Redeemer, there is pardon, peace, and power—for the nation, for the Church, for every believing heart.—God grant you this saving faith, for the Savior’s sake. Amen!

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: December 7, 1941

Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord. . . . And the king went up into the house of the Lord, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him and the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great; and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord.

2 Kings 22:8 and 23:2

Blessed Lord Jesus, Our Advent Glory:

Long years ago Thou didst come into this world of woe to save us from our sins; and Thou wilt soon return in the majesty of Thy Second Coming to judge unbelievers, but to take Thy children home to Thee in heaven. Until that final triumph, daily enter our hearts by Thy holy Word! O Jesus, we thank Thee for Thy Gospel with its promise of full, free, final forgiveness of our sins; and we praise Thee for all the Bible translations, the printing and distribution of the Scriptures, notably the freedom that is ours in reading Thy Word. Repeatedly have hatred and unbelief sought to destroy Holy Scripture; but wicked plans have not succeeded in removing the precious Book from the face of the earth. Thine almighty power has prevailed. More than ever before, men are able to read in their own language Thy heavenly assurance of eternal pardon, unfailing guidance through all the suffering and problems of life’s pilgrimage to the prepared places in Thy Father’s many mansions. Forgive us our neglect of Thy truth and bring the Bible to millions in this nation, to churches, homes, souls, that have turned from its comfort! Revive us, O Christ, and we shall indeed be redeemed from death! Amen.

AMERICA’S most destructive danger is the growing indifference to God’s Word, the sullen sneering at the Bible. In a critical moment like the present, when our country gropes on the jagged edge of long, protracted warfare, we ought to realize that neglect of divine instruction and opposition to sacred Scripture can pull down in one swift generation all the noble achievements which the founding fathers and their successors laboriously produced through a dozen generations.

It was, therefore, with deep regret and alarm that I read the brazen assault on the Bible recently published in the CIO News, the Congress of Industrial Organization’s official weekly organ. Prominently displayed on its first page was a large-type item headlined “The New Twenty­ third Psalm,” a current version of that old shepherd-poem which many call their favorite Scripture passage. As a parody on the beloved lines of “The Lord is My Shepherd,” this publication suggested that we now read: “The CIO is my shepherd. . . . They prepare a raise of my salary in the presence of my foreman. They anoint my check with raises; my expense goeth down. Surely the union and my wages shall follow me the rest of my days, and I shall dwell in a house of my own forever.” Now, I am not indicting the whole CIO for such blasphemy nor singling it out for particular attack. I also know that the same ridicule of the Bible is widespread in other organizations. I do feel, however, that when an official paper prominently endorses the sarcastic, Communistic delusion that a labor group takes God’s place as the “Good Shepherd”; when the union and the salary check push divine “goodness and mercy” completely aside, Christians affiliated with such movements should protest, call a halt to abominations like these and remove from positions of leadership all atheists and Communists—and there are 2,000 of the latter class alone, according to a recent Washington report.

In contrast to this rejection of God’s Word let us on this Sunday, which ushers in National Bible Week, study an outstanding instance when workers, carpenters, masons, with fervent faith and untiring zeal helped restore the Scriptures! I point to a startling Old Testament incident recorded in Second Kings, the twenty-second chapter, verse eight and the twenty-third chapter, verse two, from which these words have been chosen as our text: “Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord. And the king went up into the house of the Lord, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him and the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great; and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord.” As we learn modern lessons from this ancient rediscovery of the Scriptures, let this be our cry:

BRING BACK THE BIBLE!

—back to American churches, back to American homes, back to more of our American schools, back to our whole American life!

I

WE HAVE NEGLECTED THE BIBLE

When Josiah, of whom our text speaks, was crowned King of Judah as an eight-year-old child, the religion and morals of his people were at their lowest ebb. The Temple at Jerusalem had been hideously desecrated; ugly altars to heathen idols were erected in the place where only God was to be worshiped. The sanctuary had become a center of moneymaking. Throughout the land pagan altars were built on high places. Astrologers, fortune tellers, spiritist mediums flourished. Yet Jehovah, the Lord of hosts, who had mercifully chosen Israel for His own people and Zion, the mount for His Temple, that great and glorious Creator and Sustainer, was forgotten by the leaders and the masses.

Unbelief always goes hand in hand with impurity, and the more brazenly Judah rebelled against the Lord, the more bestial the people’s conduct became. Unmentionable sex sins were practiced within the very Temple bounds; commercialized vice for priestly profit was the least of these immoralities. With religious leaders catering to lust, what could be expected of the people? Outside the city walls, in the notorious Valley of Hinnom, they offered their own flesh and blood, helpless children, as burning, shrieking sacrifices to the hideous idol Moloch.

Added to degeneracy and desertion of God were the national burdens under which the country and its capital, Jerusalem, staggered. These were hard, crushing times, bordering on destitution for many, since the Assyrians with whom, overriding divine protest, Israelite kings signed an unholy alliance, had made Judah a vassal state, robbed it of its liberties, and forced it to pay enormous tribute. A royal, cuneiform inscription, uncovered near Nineveh, still bears emphatic testimony to the folly of leaning on man rather than trusting God. This monument states plainly but ominously, “I, Esarhaddon . . . overthrew Manasseh, King of Judah.”

How, we pause to ask, can we account for these desperate days of national suffering, moral decline, and religious collapse, when Judah could have been the happiest, most prosperous and blessed place on earth? There is one answer for the whole debacle: Israel forgot Jehovah, pushed His revealed will aside. Even the priests, pledged to execute their sacred duties according to Old Testament specification; the prophets, who were to preach, teach, explain, and apply God’s Word; the scribes, whose privilege it was to copy and publish Holy Writ—these high servants of the Almighty traitorously discarded His Scripture. No longer did the Temple resound with the singing of David’s psalms; no longer did Aaron’s blessing reecho through the sacred place; no longer did the high priest, with promises concerning the coming Christ in his heart and on his lips, enter the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the people’s sins. If even the sanctuary had removed the divine oracles, certainly the common people, who only too readily follow the bad examples of their leaders, had long accustomed themselves to neglect divine instruction completely.

Do not accuse me of pessimism or exaggeration when I now tell you that the same destructive, anti-Biblical tendency confronts the United States today. We are in the midst of an unmistakable religious decline. A deplorable number of churches as well as entire denominations within our borders are constantly losing members. Those who had hoped that this era of two world wars would purify the nation’s spiritual life ought now in all honesty confess their mistake and admit that this country witnesses more unbelief, brazen challenging of the Almighty, organized assaults on Christianity, worldliness in religious circles now than before World War I. Many church buildings have become centers of illegal money making. If their members raffle automobiles, conduct lotteries, feature games of chance, against God’s Law and man’s, are they any better than the grasping, greedy Temple officials at Jerusalem? Above all, when they reject Christ as the only and complete Savior; when they teach a fatherhood of God and a brotherhood of man which, despite these high-sounding words, simply means that all religions must finally be regarded as the same, that Jews, Mohammedans, Confucianists, Christians, Animists, Buddhists, Taoists are traveling toward the same goal, only along different roads, although Jesus sharply protests, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father but by Me,” and His Word uncompromisingly teaches, “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved”—when masses today put the God of the Bible on the same low level with the gods of the heathen, are they any better than the ancient Israelites who bowed before the Baals and the Astartes, idols of their heathen neighbors?

Whenever worship of God declines, morality sinks with it. True, American infants are not offered to Moloch, but pagan practices prevent multitudes of children from being born or, after they have come into the world, help poison their souls with unbelief. Sins of the flesh increase in number and boldness as young people give way to passion, their elders deliberately plan secret affairs, and the Christian ideal of keeping clean and chaste before marriage, true and faithful after, is laughed away.

Besides, we find ourselves in the midst of accumulating problems and growing burdens. How sadly the best efforts for improvement have failed! Through tireless medical research and the self-sacrifice of the nation’s physicians, the death rate of infants has been cut drastically; yet the suicide figure for adults—more than 20,000 each year—has steadily increased. We have a better knowledge of the brain than any previous generation; yet we have greater worries, more nervous breakdowns, larger insane asylums. We build the best schools, yet produce formidable armies of juvenile criminals.  We have the most attractive and commodious homes men have ever known; but America has more broken families and disrupted marriages than any other comparable nation. We institute far-reaching welfare efforts, like the Red Cross, designed to save men’s lives; but at the same time we record higher murder ratios than any other country, 12,000 plus every year. We have more churches than any other nation, but, excepting Russia, more unchurched. We boast of impressive financial reserves; yet we list the heaviest national debt. We exalt our democracy; however, unquestionably we have sustained a serious loss in representative government.

Why these glaring contradictions? Write this down as America’s number one transgression: We, too, are despising God’s Word. In this divinely enriched nation, where President John Quincy Adams declared, “I say to you, ‘Search the Scriptures’!”; where Andrew Jackson proclaimed, “The Bible is the rock on which our Republic rests”; where President Ulysses S. Grant appealed, “Hold fast to the Bible as the sheet anchor of your liberties!” God’s Word is as completely rejected by millions as in the days of Israel’s deep decline. Skeptical ministers in modern congregations belittle, attack, and even ridicule God’s Word. It used to be the work of loud-mouthed infidels—this discrediting of the Scriptures; but today many a theological professor opposes the Bible as persistently as did Bob Ingersoll—at the same time accepting his salary from Christian contributors or a Christian endowment. Your letters likewise reveal that in some churches Scripture is practically a closed and sealed book. Sermon texts, if any, are chosen from recent best sellers, four-starred motion pictures, or current events. Baffled men and bewildered women who attend services to hear a promise starting with this assurance “Thus saith the Lord,” must listen instead to discourses which feature statements by men, at a time when merely human utterances must be regarded with suspicion and distrust.

If the Bible is banned from the pulpit, we must not be surprised that it has given way to nature stories and “pep” talks in the Sunday school; that private Bible reading in the home has suffered serious setbacks. How many families are there in this vast mission of the air, from the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific Coast, in which the family finds time to “search the Scriptures”? I have before me a Bible printed in 1541, just 400 years old. Prepared only fifty years after Columbus’ first voyage, it contains a map of the world, grotesque in many respects and significant because it omits North and South America entirely. Despite the changes that have intervened in these four centuries, neither the basic needs of humanity nor the power of the Scriptures to meet these needs has fundamentally changed. Originally, this ancient Bible, large and cumbersome, cost at least twenty dollars; today a Testament—with accurate maps—can be bought for a fraction of a dollar. Nevertheless, stolid indifference to the divine Word reigns in many hearts and homes. Movements are organized to destroy the Bible. Our youth is being coaxed from its truth, many churches directed away from its power. At a time when America sorely needs divine, unfailing direction, we are forced to admit that millions are perpetuating the same traitorous and fatal mistake which helped to cast Israel prostrate in its darkest day.

II

WE MUST RESTORE THE BIBLE!

In this crisis we must follow Josiah, a God-fearing young man. As he increased in years, his devotion to Jehovah was likewise strengthened. When he was twenty­six years old, in the prime of his young manhood, he started to repair and rebuild the Temple. There were no strikes or labor troubles in that reconstruction, because the builders, doubtless chosen from the faithful, were earnest and sincere workers, adequately paid and so thoroughly trusted by the king that he demanded no accounting of them. There would be no strikes today and no labor legislation required by Congress if this same mutual esteem existed between employer and employee and both regarded their duties as a divine trust.

In the course of Josiah’s operations a startling discovery was made. Accidentally, it seems, the workmen uncovered an ancient manuscript, a scroll that had perhaps been deposited in a wall when the Temple was built 350 years before or that had been contemptuously cast aside when Jehovah was no longer worshiped as the true God. At any rate, Hilkiah, the high priest, immediately recognized the remarkable document. He cried to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord!” The scroll was read to the king. When Josiah heard what the holy God demands of His people and then contrasted their repeated, protracted sins, he tore his garments in distress and ordered that the rediscovered Word of God be read to all the people. In one of the most remarkable public demonstrations in history, so we are told, “the king went up into the house of the Lord and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him and all the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord.” That reading of the Scriptures had a startling effect. The people made a solemn pledge to God, promising faithfully to obey His Word. A passover festival was held—greater than any since the early days of Israel—and a cleansing instituted in which the Temple was purged of false worship, the idolatrous priests removed, all immorality banned from the sanctuary grounds, every false priest throughout the land thrown out of office, and the cruel sacrifices of children in the Valley of Hinnom stopped. In short, one of history’s great reformations began, and it started when the Bible was brought back to the rulers, the priests, and the people.

Today, if America is to have a thorough, effective reformation—and God knows we need it!—we must start where Moses started, where Josiah, Saint Paul, Luther began—at the Word of God and in the churches. Say what you will about our country’s various needs, the supreme necessity for this perilous hour pleads, America, bring back the Bible! Banish the enemies of God’s Word from Christian pulpits! Exclude the opponents of the Scriptures from Christian theological seminaries and colleges! Stop the printing and dissemination, under Christian auspices, of books and periodicals that put question marks behind the clear, sure statements concerning our Savior’s death and atonement! Do what Josiah did, and that means, have the great masses of the 70,000,000 Americans who bear Christ’s name turn completely from the denial of Scripture and rededicate themselves to the task and privilege of restoring the Bible to their hearts, their homes, their churches—and we will witness a sweeping reformation!

However, Scripture must be brought back, not merely as “The Good Book,” a collection of pious, helpful thoughts, a volume that contains God’s Word, but as the Book that is God’s Word, in at Genesis and out at Revelation, the divinely inspired and errorless Record which has never made a mistake and which will never be rightfully charged with error, the only decisive Source of Christian doctrine, the one infallible Guide for Christian life. Because most Americans are not willing to declare the Bible, as originally given by God, without error; because even some Lutheran groups (not united with us) will not accept its full, literal inspiration, let me repeat the reasons which should lead us to rely unquestioningly on Scripture as divine Truth. First of all, the Bible, unlike all other writings, repeatedly claims to come from the Almighty. More than 3,100 times writers in the Old and New Testaments assert that their utterances are God’s utterances. Have you ever heard of another volume which makes like claims?

The Bible proves itself God’s own Word particularly by the power of prophecy. Read the predictions concerning Babylon, Nineveh, Syria, Egypt, Palestine; study the verdict of history which shows how clearly these have been fulfilled; and then ask yourself again whether this unique volume must not come from the Almighty and All-knowing, since only He can foretell the future with such startling faithfulness!

The Bible must come from Heaven because only a divine volume could victoriously conquer the unparalleled, vicious opposition it has suffered. Copies of it have been burned, thrown into the ocean, ground to pieces; yet the Bible is sold in greater numbers today than any other book; translated into a thousand different languages and widely distributed over the face of the earth. Bob Ingersoll once stated in Denver that within fifty years the Bible would not have fifty believers left in that city. A half century has elapsed. Last week I wired the secretary of the American Bible Society in Denver to see whether Ingersoll was right and Scripture was an unknown book in that metropolis of the Rockies. He replied that in the last year almost 38,000 Bibles and Testament parts had been distributed in this city, one for every ten Denver citizens. Recent newspaper reports tell us that in Fascist Spain a shipment of 110,000 Bibles has been confiscated by General Franco’s totalitarian government and that they have been ground to pulp. But God’s Word cannot be destroyed in this way nor by the persecution and imprisonment of its readers. One nation rejects it, only to have another accept it. From war-torn China come unprecedented demands for Holy Writ.

We believe that the Bible is God’s Word because of its divine power exerted on every page of history. A hundred years ago, after the first missionaries had brought the Word to Africa, a Hottentot delegate to a London missionary society reported: “When the Bible came to us, we were naked, we lived in caves and on the tops of mountains, we painted our bodies with red paint. The Bible charmed us out of our caves and from the tops of the mountains. Now we know there is a God.” The Maharajah of Travancore, India, paid Scripture this pointed tribute: “Take it and read it, examine it and see whether it is good! Of one thing I am convinced, do what we will, oppose it as we may, it is the Christian Bible which will sooner or later work out the regeneration of our land.” Survey the blessed influence of Scripture on womanhood, childhood, labor, education, government, charity, the arts, on nations as a whole, and you ought to be fair enough to realize that these startling improvements have come, not from politics, Christless religions, atheism, Communism, legislation, conquest, evolution, but from the Book of all books. If only the Bible completely controlled the hearts and minds of the world’s leaders and all its peoples, we could have Bibles instead of bullets; Scriptures, not submachine guns; the Gospel, not gunfire; Testaments, rather than tanks!

Particularly, however, do we believe that Scripture is God’s Word because of its miraculous influence on human souls. It has done what no college degree, no code of law can accomplish. It has changed, ennobled, and uplifted the human heart. When Stanley lay on his sickbed in Africa during his first attack of jungle fever, he wrote: “Then verses of Scripture rang iteratingly through my mind as applicable to my own being, sometimes full of flowing promise, often of solemn warning. Alone in my tent, unseen of men, . . . I flung myself on my knees and poured out my soul utterly in secret prayer to Him who had led me here mysteriously into Africa, there to reveal Himself and His will.” The Bible changed Stanley into a believer. Rabbi Slostowski, a professor of the Talmud in the rabbinical seminary at Tel Aviv, Palestine, as an orthodox Jew hated the Lord Jesus Christ. Riding in a railway train from Haifa to Jerusalem, he noticed a young man on the seat opposite him who was reading a New Testament in Hebrew. So great was the learned Israelite’s resentment against Christ that he took it upon himself sharply to criticize the young Jewish convert. The young man replied by giving Slostowski his copy of the New Testament. That very night the rabbi, alone in his room, read on in the Gospels until three o’clock in the morning, with every passing page, he reports, increasing the deep conviction that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah. For the first time in his life he fell on his knees and prayed in the name of Christ. And today he writes: “I have already found more than 200 passages of the New Testament which prove beyond a doubt that truly Jesus is the Messiah.”

The Scriptures have this remarkable power since they testify of Him to whom each of our broadcasts is dedicated, the Lord and Savior. Because the Bible in the marvelous provisions of the Old Testament and through its system of sacrifice pointed to “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”; because the New Testament portrays Jesus as true God and true man, the Son of the Almighty and the Son of the Virgin Mary, the crucified Savior and the resurrected Redeemer, the Servant of servants, yet the Sovereign of sovereigns, the Christ who on the cross pleaded for all men and who still makes intercession with the Father for us, the glorious Lord of grace and mercy once born in the lowliness of Bethlehem but who will soon return in His glorious Second Coming—and a score of evident signs foretell this—as King of kings and Judge of the quick and the dead; because this Savior calls the Scripture God’s Truth, we should accept the Bible, trust it, cherish it, defend it, and ceaselessly spread its message of grace and truth.

When we cry out, “Bring back the Bible!” we also add, “Bring back the Bible’s Savior!” As Christmas approaches and the Advent cry resounds, “Behold, thy King cometh!” may we be given the grace to prepare our hearts worthily to receive the coming King of grace! However disheartening the burden of your sin, bring it all to Christ! He has never spurned anyone who has come with a broken, contrite heart. When you are the weakest and smallest, His mercy is the strongest and greatest. However pressing your personal problems may be—and I know they weigh you down with unusual heaviness during these otherwise happy weeks of Christmas preparation—may the promise of His grace make you realize “what a Friend” you “have in Jesus, all” your “sins and griefs to bear”! His glorious Gospel, penned for all men, yet written by divine inspiration especially for you, contains this climax of divine truth: God not only loved the whole world with such heavenly devotion “that He gave His only-begotten Son” as the Ransom for every sinner, but this mercy is offered you freely, without any condition or credentials, without any payment or prerequisite, without any thought of reward or recompense—for what have we, with all our transgressions, for which we could expect recognition in the sight of a holy God?—solely by the Savior’s limitless love. By His pledge “Behold, all things are become new” I promise you that if you come face to face with Jesus on the pages of Scripture, you can have incomparable joy. Listeners from New York State write us that after hearing our broadcast they bought two Bibles—one in English for the daughter and one in French for the parents, who preferred that language. They explain, “We never read the Bible before we heard your message; but now we read it regularly and attend a true Christian church. Today we feel like a new family.” Every home in this radio assembly can likewise experience in Christ renewing power. Take time to bring Jesus into your household through daily Scripture reading! Fathers and mothers of America, during these pre-Christmas weeks find at least five or ten minutes in each twenty-four hour day to explain to your children the real significance of Christ’s compassion! As you make ready to adorn your dwellings for these holidays, first of all prepare your hearts with the cleansing of His purifying Word!

Jesus is calling you, asking for faith in Him and His Word, for loyalty to His promises and His Scriptures, for faithfulness to the cross and the Bible. Because there can be no more important appeal, either for the nation as a whole, for the churches, for our homes, or for our own souls, in His blessed name and for the spread of His truth, I beseech you: Bring back the Bible! Restore it in Christless churches; in unhappy, strife-torn homes; in benighted, sin-clouded hearts; in our own souls, so that in these desperate days God’s truth may continue to march from victory to victory, the only hope for inner peace in a war-wracked world, our one assurance of pardon and blessing for earth and heaven! The mightiest movement for the spread of the Scriptures was started 137 years ago in London, at a time when England appeared to totter on the brink of ruin as Napoleon’s army, across the channel, threatened invasion. Amid wars and the proud boastings of atheists, the British and Foreign Bible Society began its work. If only during these years of mass slaughter and devastating destruction that can engulf our country there were a nationwide determination to teach, publish, spread, read, cherish, and obey the Scripture truth as never before! O God, we ask in Jesus’ name, bring back the Bible to us, and bring us back to the Bible! Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: November 30, 1941

How . . . can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?Genesis 39:9

God of All Grace and Truth, Father of Our Lord Jesus:

We come before Thee to thank Thee for the manifold outpourings of Thy bounty upon our country, especially for the saving knowledge of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, our Redeemer from sin and death. Send us Thy Holy Spirit now so that throughout this broad nation many hearts may be turned from sin to grace by receiving Jesus, the Advent King of glory! We entreat Thee to guide our youth and lead them to follow Him who lived and died for all mankind. As we are met in one of the nation’s military camps, we implore Thee with redoubled petition, heavenly Father, to watch over the young men and women in our military and naval service. Show them that if they keep Christ in their contrite and trusting hearts, they have forgiveness, power, and the pledge of their redemption! Guard them against sin; preserve them against temptation! May they always be true to their parents, their Church, their country, and their Savior! Help us all “fight the good fight of faith”; assure us of the eternal victory in heaven won by Christ for those who are His! We plead for this in Jesus’ blessed name. Amen.

TODAY for the first time in radio history a religious coast-to-coast broadcast originates in a United States Army post, at the headquarters’ chapel, Fort Leonard Wood, in the heart of Missouri’s Ozark Mountains. We dedicate this message to our American youth, especially the several million young men in our Army, Navy, Marine, and Air service, the volunteers and selectees who have left farms, factories, schools, business offices, in many instances sacrificing high positions and professional careers, to give themselves for our country’s protection. We want all our young people to know that the Church is deeply, prayerfully concerned about their souls’ welfare, and we are eager to offer them the divine strength and guidance of the Lord Jesus Christ. To the slogans now displayed throughout the land: “Keep Them Flying!” “Keep Them Rolling!” we add: “Keep Them Clean!” “Keep Them Safe!” “Keep Them True to Christ!” Side by side with allegiance to the United States and the flag, we want our young men and women to show loyalty to Christ and His Cross. Besides training for national defense, we want to extend help for spiritual struggles far harder than the conflict on any battlefield.

Only the great God and our young people themselves, particularly these military men, know how much they need counsel and courage to repel the forces of impurity and lust which assail them from within and without. If you think it strange that I speak so plainly and pointedly on this question of youth’s chastity, let me tell you that an authority no less than the Surgeon General of the United States, Thomas Parran, has helped write a startling book which reveals a shocking increase in diseases caused by impurity. If even medical experts issue such undisguised warnings, can the Savior’s Church remain silent and indifferent, when not only the bodies but also the souls of the nation’s youth are in danger? Must we not plead, with all the power Heaven gives us, for purity, and at the same time outline constructive help from God’s own Word? Today, then, as I appeal:

TRIUMPH OVER TEMPTATION!

remember, young men and women of America, I voice this plea not only in behalf of your parents who are constantly praying that you be kept clean in Christ, not only for the young person with whom you will share your life and who likewise wants you to guard your chastity; I address all of you, young and old, also in the name of our sinless Lord Himself, and on the basis of the words in Genesis, chapter thirty-nine, verse nine, “How . . . can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”

I

YOUTH MUST EXPECT SEVERE TEMPTATIONS

Many of you know the remarkable story from which this exclamation has been chosen. A Hebrew slave, Joseph, is tempted by the wife of his master, Potiphar, to commit adultery with her, but he repels her advances and, triumphing over temptation, speaks these words of protest, “How . . . can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” Here, then, is an ancient record, more than thirty-three hundred years old, yet with a modern, up-to-the-minute plot. Manners, customs, styles may change, but not human nature. The scene is far-off Egypt, but lust knows no geographical limits. Immorality is America’s besetting sin; and because this allurement is in principle similar to the enticement confronting every one of you, stop to picture the tremendous moral difficulty Joseph had to face! Here was an unmarried young servant, perhaps twenty-six or twenty-seven years old, not a cold, unfeeling automaton, but a normal man, held and swayed by those powerful emotions which the almighty Creator Himself implanted to prevent the race from dying out, the mysterious energies which through sin, can become treacherous, destructive passions, especially during the throbbing, pulsating years of youth. Some of you young people who spurn the very suggestion of stealing, who recoil from the mere thought of injuring your fellow man, to whom slander and profanity are repulsive, who zealously maintain a loyal interest in your home and church will agree that among all temptations those which lead to the violation of purity have the most penetrating persistence and assail your highest resolve with battering, shattering attacks.

The force of Joseph’s temptation was increased by the fact that he was far from his home, alone in a strange land, separated from his mother, who could have supported him in this crisis, cut off from his father, who himself had once seen Jehovah face to face. Similarly millions in training camps and government service, in defense work, college, or business, are away from home—and away from its protection. The danger for many is that, “out of sight, out of mind,” you forget parental love and teachings. You start going with a fast crowd. You tell yourself, “When in Rome, do as Romans do!” But how thoughtless and cruel that is! The best friends you have are your parents. No one has ever gone wrong by following the counsel of a Christian father or mother. And while some of you hardly take time to write your family, back home your mother is on her knees praying for your soul, your father beseeching the Savior to strengthen you against evil.

Joseph’s battle was the harder because Egypt was a country of loose morals. Its ancient records and its painted walls show the debauchery and perversions of the age. For about ten years Joseph, living in these surroundings, had seen enough to know that if he consented to his master’s wife’s proposition, he would be acting in accord with the popular spirit of that day and land. You, too, live in the midst of an adulterous and perverse generation which often smiles at unchastity and applauds impurity. The printed pages rolling off huge presses, the books and magazines eagerly read by millions in our country are often sex-drugged. The moronic motion picture, with its risqué plot and attacks on marriage, is a major moral hazard, a source of incalculable evil, to be shunned by every self-respecting young person. Colleges and universities have sometimes given room to instructors who encourage premarital unchastity and free love. Married life in America has suffered under the growing attacks of easy, dishonest, anti-Scriptural divorce and the blight of sinful birth control. The number of unwed mothers, illegitimate children, and abortions is startling; and with all this, many young people are beginning to think that they can do anything provided they do not get caught and know how to avoid consequences. What is more, certain misguided city governments are making immorality easy and accessible. In this national crisis especially we should have emergency legislation abolishing all commercialized vice, as far as possible removing that damnable temptation. During these difficult times we ought to close every saloon and dance hall where the morals of youth are attacked. We should ban every lascivious magazine from the mails and public distribution. The Government should clamp down on the licentious entertainments. With every power at our disposal as citizens and Christians we should help clean up these appalling conditions and reinforce our national reserve of righteousness.

The brunt of Joseph’s temptation was made the more severe by the fact that it came from the wife of his master. Had Joseph been guided by a worldly-wise policy of “get what you can,” he might have considered the invitation a steppingstone in his career, an opportunity to gain the favor of one who could further his ambitions. A similar situation is created today in the allurements which come from high places. Here is a young man, reared in a Christian home, confronted in his classroom by that complete denial of personal purity which some widely applauded sociologists advance. If an uncouth, long-haired radical would expound these doctrines from a soapbox on the street corner, the danger would be reduced, but because these attacks on Christian ethics come from those in positions of recognized authority, they are doubly dangerous. Or there is a young woman, approached by her employer with dishonorable intentions; a conflict arises between following Christ and perhaps losing her position or, on the other hand, rejecting Jesus and securing personal advancement.

Added to the lure of Joseph’s enticement was the fact that it came repeatedly. “She spoke unto Joseph day by day,” we read; and nothing is more deadly in its devastating force than such continued, relentless hammering against good intentions and high resolves, especially if it comes from a woman. It is bad enough when a man becomes a slave to his passions, but somehow it seems immeasurably worse if a woman, with the gentler nature and the finer feelings of her sex, wantonly serves as an agent of hell in leading others into vice. Women of America, you have within your grasp the power, under God, to elevate our country’s moral standards or tear them down, to help promote purity or assist in the breakdown of decency. Do not abuse this power through immodest dress, wanton talk, suggestive actions! Pray God in Christ’s name to make and keep you clean and honest!

II

YOUTH CAN DEFEAT ITS TEMPTATIONS—THROUGH CHRIST

As we find a deep warning in Joseph’s temptation, so we should learn important lessons from his reply. First of all, he does not stop to consider and debate this unholy proposition as though there might be something good in it; and neither should you or I dally, once we know that according to God’s holy will these sins of the flesh are condemned. “Flee . . . youthful lusts,” His Word demands. Get away immediately from every contact with uncleanness! Break off every unholy connection now!

Joseph rebukes the temptress with this pointed charge: “My master . . . hath committed all that he hath to my hand; there is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back anything from me but thee, because thou art his wife.” By yielding to her he would violate his trust and injure his master. If only each of us were moved by this firm sense of loyalty to others! If only every young man would see that the sins of the flesh can bring unspeakable misery on innocent victims! Those who break the commandment of purity, besides running the risk of ruining their own bodies with the most loathsome diseases, poisoning their minds and destroying their souls, may also bring suffering to others, physical torture to their husbands or wives, unspeakable handicaps to their children who may be born blind, diseased, maimed—soul agony and shame to their nearest and dearest.

Yet, the real reason Joseph spurned this temptation lies deeper and is expressed in his words “How . . . can I do this great wickedness?” He calls adultery by its right name. It is a monstrous evil, a “great wickedness,” so vile that it provokes some of the most abhorrent punishments: disease-ridden bodies, peace-robbed minds, accusing consciences, sin-crushed souls. Today, in shocking contrast, certain teachers glorify the very sin Joseph spurned and declare, “Abstinence is nervously and mentally undesirable.” I want you young folks to know that the best modern medical opinion contradicts this claim and asserts: “A clean moral life . . . is not prejudicial to the health but on the contrary is to be recommended from a purely hygienic standpoint. . . . This is the consensus of most of the great medical thinkers.” The more clean and chaste our young people are, the healthier and stronger—as a whole—they will be.

In spurning this temptation, however, Joseph was moved by motives even deeper than the thought that impurity does not pay. Most intelligent persons, even many enemies of the Christian faith, will agree that lust often exacts terrifying ravages. But when Joseph protested, “How . . . can I do this great wickedness AND SIN AGAINST GOD?” he showed the most vicious and damning side of unchastity. It is a rebellion against the Almighty, a brazen uprising against His holy will. Joseph knew how much he owed the Lord. God had given him life; God sustained him while his own brothers sought to destroy him; God marvelously strengthened him in the dungeon and brought him forth safely; and the same God, holy, sinless, perfect, demanded a clean, chaste life and would punish in hell every unforgiven sin of impurity. “‘How then,’” Joseph concludes, “‘can I do this great wickedness and sin against God,’ the God who made me, who loved me, and who can destroy me?”

With even greater clearness we should understand how the Almighty hates these sins, for we have a guide which Joseph never knew—the whole Bible. Listen to these clear-cut statements in the Word which has never made a mistake and never will: “Flee fornication!” “Be not deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters . . . shall inherit the kingdom of God!” “This is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication.” “Fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not be once named among you!” “Adulterers God will judge.” When our heavenly Father speaks in this unmistakable condemnation and with such dread-filled threats, it should be understood that illicit relations before or after marriage cannot be lightly dismissed; for these sins, if not removed, are damning, soul-destroying transgressions leading to eternal punishment, from which no brains, money, influence, no prayer can offer escape.

Besides, we can now see clearly in fulfillment what Joseph could perceive only dimly in prophecy—Christ suffering for my sins, yours, and the transgressions of the whole world. Anyone who has beheld that Savior during the dark, desperate hours of anguish in Gethsemane, witnessed the unplumbed depths of His suffering on Calvary, heard His dying cry of agony break out over that rumbling darkness on Golgotha—should recognize personally how God hates sin and how terrifying are its consequences, since we can be saved from their penalty—not by a lifetime of repayment and regret, not through the merits and intercessions of a whole army of saints, but only by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, our Savior. He had to become our Substitute on the cross to pay the full, final penalty for all human iniquities, the Innocent suffering for the guilty, the Sinless for the sin-cursed. Therefore, my fellow redeemed, young or old, can you, knowing how God abhors sin, how He punishes it, what an overwhelming price He paid to free us from it, behold the bleeding head, the blanched face, the nail-pierced hands and feet of that pain-racked Sufferer on Calvary, tortured in our stead—and still think lightly of your misdeeds, still continue in sordid sin? Can you behold your wounded, dying Savior and, turning away from Him, sneer, “What is that to me?” Can you knowingly crucify Him anew by a lust-filled life? God forbid!

On the contrary, let us follow Joseph by viewing our transgressions in their relation to the Almighty! For then—blessed assurance!—we also find that our heavenly Father, for Jesus’ sake, is ready to forgive freely and to remove completely every transgression of His holy law, no matter how degrading and unforgivable these sins may seem. The loving Redeemer who refused to cast a stone on a woman taken in adultery but graciously pardoned her, though others sought to destroy her, is still the same ever merciful Christ who would fill your hearts with the feeling of repentance and a deep-rooted trust in His power to save to the uttermost. Come to Him, although you scarcely dare to lift your head, even if your whole life up till this moment has been lived against Jesus and your transgressions seem too vile, too repulsive, to be forgiven!

Only your own refusal to accept Christ can keep you from His pardoning grace. For here is His promise, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Whether you need forgiveness for a single rash act or for a lifetime of shame; whether you are troubled by lustful thoughts, evil desires—and who would dare say that he has not thus been besieged?—or whether you now shrink from a long list of shocking wickedness, Jesus is ready to forgive you freely, if only with faith in Him as God’s Son and your Redeemer you penitently beseech His mercy. Anyone can come to Christ, no matter how high or how low he may be in the scale of human favor; everyone, but particularly you; any time, but especially now, when the Spirit knocks at your heart, can be the right time to approach Him for His pardon and His blessed peace; in any place you can come close to Jesus—in camp, on shipboard, at home, in a hotel; anywhere, but notably the spot at which you now find yourself, before your radio, with the promise of divine mercy directed especially for your needs! Kneel before the Christ of all compassion with trusting faith, and you will rise restored to God, your sins completely removed!

But more: our blessed Savior, whose mercy is so magnificent that we can never even begin to exhaust its promises, not only remits your transgressions, redeems your soul and reunites you with His Father; almighty God that He is, He gives His own new strength to resist temptation and to follow Him along the pathways of purity. If these sins of the flesh seem to have secured a strangle hold on your life; if with all your good resolutions you fall back into the very evils you seek and pray to avoid; if you have read many books on personal chastity and find these human remedies helpless in emergencies, then come to the Lord Jesus with this ancient prayer for purity, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me!” and the God who promises, “A new heart will I give you!” by the Holy Spirit and the miracle of the second birth will make you a new creature in Christ, with heavenly power to resist evil and triumph over your temptations! No matter how many times you have already tried and failed; regardless of the clutching grip had habits may have on your life; in spite of the fact that Satan may even now be whispering into your ear: “This is too late for you! You have gone too far! You have dropped too low! There is no help for you!” Jesus, blessed Savior, can still make you clean.

Can you not see, therefore, that the great purpose in your life must be to cling close to the Lord Jesus and employ His divine aids to a clean, happy life? And here they are, His powerful helps to purity: First: The Bible, which, as no other book, has within its covers a heavenly strength. Read Scripture every morning and every evening! Read it even though scoffers may make fun of you! Read it reverently and build up your spiritual reserve! Second: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper—these holy ordinances, which, through faith, can help strengthen and preserve you against temptation. If you have never been baptized, write now and let us help you! Third: The divine power of Christ-centered prayer. Jesus promised, “Ask, and ye shall receive!” and does not He who understands the problems of youth better than youth itself mean especially that if we ask for power to resist temptation, He will grant it? So pray fervently and in Jesus’ name! Invoke Christ’s presence in every household, whether torn by dissension or blessed by peace! Fourth: Attend a true Christian church regularly! If you really love the Lord Jesus, you will not be satisfied until you join others in Christ-dedicated worship and hear God’s Word expounded! We will be glad to assist you in finding a real spiritual home. Fifth: Busy yourself with Christian work which will bring the Savior’s promise of grace to others or help the destitute and distressed in the spirit of the Savior’s charity! Once you start testifying of Christ, unsealing lips which have never yet spoken in His behalf, you will find, as a blessing from above, that your faith is fortified, your resolution steeled to meet temptations. In this connection I plead with the Christians of America to open their homes to the young men and women in the nation’s service and provide wholesome influences for those who are making heavy sacrifices in our behalf.

The struggle against sin is never easy, and in the eyes of the world it seldom brings reward. Joseph was thrown into prison because he spurned the call of lust; and sneering skeptics who saw him languishing in the Egyptian jail might have asked cynically: “Well, what did the saint get for his purity? Had he been wiser, he might have had everything his own way.” In our lives, too, it may seem at times that we lose by rejecting temptation; yet purity always pays rich, repeated compensation. If Joseph had not been imprisoned, he could not have been exalted to the second highest rank in all Egypt and to the position of food director in the seven years of agricultural depression in the Nile Valley. True, we can promise youth today little of material blessings if they remain loyal to Christ. Before us stretches a future which can bring more hardships, fewer opportunities, heavier burdens for the rising generation than any previous period of American history. But come what may, young people who have the Lord Jesus Christ enshrined in their hearts will be able to find strength to triumph over whatever difficulties may seek to overwhelm them.

Men of Fort Leonard Wood, soldiers, sailors, air men, marines throughout the country; youth of America, youth of Christ: for pardon and strength in your own lives, for the sake of your devoted Christian parents, in behalf of your future husbands and wives, in the name of your unborn children, for our country’s defense, since righteousness is our greatest asset, for the upbuilding of Christ’s Church, I ask you, standing in spirit with me beneath the flag of our glorious nation and beneath the cross of our Savior, to repeat this declaration of loyalty: “‘I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all’; I also pledge allegiance to the Cross and to the faith for which it stands, one Savior—King eternal—Jesus Christ, with grace and mercy for all. So help me God!” Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: November 23, 1941

If ye turn again unto the Lord, your brethren and your children shall find compassion before them that lead them captive, so that they shall come again into this land; for the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away His face from you if ye return unto Him.2 Chronicles 30:9

God, Eternal and Triune:

We confess to Thee that as a nation, as members of Thy Church, as families, as individuals, we have broken Thy holy Law so repeatedly and grievously that we have no right even to approach Thee. Yet, trusting Thy pledge of mercy, we bow before Thee, contritely and with firm trust. O Father, forgive us all our iniquities for Jesus’ sake! O cleansing Spirit, purify our hearts and make us new creatures through faith in His crucifixion and resurrection! O  precious Savior, as we raise our eyes to behold Thee on the cross paying the penalty of all sin, drive from our selfish hearts thoughts of pride, demands for recognition, requests for reward! Thou, who art Three in One, teach us rather that without Thee we can do nothing, that Thou art strongest in us when we are weakest! Make us humble, thankful, faithful and keep us for Thee and with Thee through time and into eternity. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

ALMOST 150 years ago, during the administration of John Adams, our second president, the United States found itself confronted by opposition remarkably similar in principle to that which faces us today. Our ships were attacked by French fleets; commerce was virtually cut off; our liberties were threatened by European dictatorship; peace was menaced. In that emergency President Adams did what we have done in this crisis: he enlarged the Army, created a strong Navy, and instituted a firm defense program. But he also went farther than we have gone. He issued a presidential proclamation requesting “a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer, that the citizens of these states, abstaining from their customary worldly occupations, offer their devout addresses to the Father of mercies.” The dominant spirit in the United States at that time was so penitent that it could ask the people to stop their work or play, fast for a whole day, and in solemn church services fall on their knees before God to confess their sins, individual as national. Even more significant is the fact that the people followed President Adam’s plea; and most noteworthy of all is the record that war was averted, peace established, and a period of prosperity begun.

During the dark hours of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln, who appealed for national prayer more often than any other chief executive, declared that our people should “confess their sins and transgressions . . . pray with all fervency and contrition for the pardon of their past offenses.” The great Emancipator expressed the fear—and these are his words—that “the awful calamity of the Civil War that now desolates the land may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins.” Pointedly he warned the American citizens, “It behooves us, therefore, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.” By divine grace, when the nation, following Lincoln’s guidance, humbled itself before God, the war soon ended, the breach between the North and the South began to heal.

What a contrast all this presents to much of our present-day attitude! We are surrounded by war; labor conflicts increase to menacing proportions; national indebtedness pyramids; industrial and social problems multiply. Our financial outlook, according to some monetary experts, points to inflation, tax confiscation, or even repudiation. Yet at a time when the need for humble, penitent supplication to the Almighty is greater than ever before, we witness an unmistakable religious decline, a more widespread disregard of heaven than in any previous period. Where are the voices like Adams’ and Lincoln’’ pleading for true repentance? Where are national days of humiliation?

Will you not stand shoulder to shoulder with me, then, when I say that the plea in this perilous hour, the necessary appeal of our souls, our families, our churches, our nation, must be

GOD, MAKE US PENITENT!

That is always the earnest petition of every Christian, but it addresses itself to us with particular force on this Lord’s Day, set aside from olden times as Humiliation and Prayer Sunday. Today as followers of Jesus bow down before the holy God to confess their transgressions and beseech Christ’s mercies, may we similarly humble ourselves to learn the vital lessons of our text, Second Chronicles, chapter thirty, verse nine, “If ye turn again unto the Lord, your brethren and your children shall find compassion before them that lead them captive, so that they shall come again into this land; for the Lord your God is gracious and merciful; and will not turn away His face from you if ye return unto Him.”

I

WE NEED PENITENCE

This remarkable pledge was written by Hezekiah to the inhabitants of his kingdom. The great, good ruler, who had cleansed Jerusalem of its idolatry and restored the worship of Jehovah, sought to bring all the subjects of his realm back to the one true God. In his zeal for the Lord of hosts, he even planned to reunite all Israel, the ten tribes of the North, and his own southern dominion, not for a political alliance, but for the spiritual unity which would recognize Jehovah and Him alone. Therefore he sent messengers throughout both kingdoms, “from Beersheba even to Dan,” calling for a solemn celebration of the Passover Festival such as had not been seen since David’s day. This appeal was also accompanied by a plea for repentance. Hezekiah reminded the people of the North and of the South that the Lord was “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” In truth, what compassionate love the Almighty had showered on the people of Israel! He chose them above all others to be His own, called by His name. He led them out of Egyptian bondage, through the desert’s sand and sweat, into Canaan, the happy homeland. He marched before them to protect them against formidable foes, far stronger than they. He gave them His Word in writing, the only people in history thus to be honored. He sent them His prophets; and as the climax of His grace He announced that His own Son, the Savior of the world, would be born of a Judean virgin-mother.

Despite the lavish outpouring of these distinctions, Israel had turned from its God and ungratefully denied Him. Again and again during the seven hundred years from Moses to Hezekiah, the twelve tribes had rebelled against the Lord, their Redeemer. But whenever they repented and cried for mercy, His fatherly compassion forgave and restored them. Now, because of their willful, continued uprising, another punishment, the hardest yet experienced, was to overtake this ungrateful people. They were to be led away into captivity. Yet even then Jehovah’s longsuffering and love were not exhausted. He permitted Hezekiah to announce, “If ye turn again unto the Lord, your brethren and your children shall find compassion before them that lead them captive, so that they shall come again into this land.” Even when it seemed that no hope remained for Israel, they could still regain their lost blessings and the prosperity they had sacrificed through unbelief if through sincere repentance they returned to God. The cry throughout the land, therefore, was, “Back to Jehovah of hosts!”

In all this a powerful lesson presents itself for our country. Gloriously blessed above other nations in our day is America.—This message comes to you from Canada, and for 3,900 miles from Maine to Washington, Nova Scotia to British Columbia, the borderline is undefended. No land mines, pillbox defenses, underground military tunnels, concrete fortresses mark that boundary. By contrast, picture Europe, bristling with fortifications; and remember that while no enemy air-bomb has even fallen on our United States soil, millions in England and on the continent have lost their homes, their entire possessions, in many cases their limbs, sight, hearing, by the air-raids’ shattering destruction!

We have food, otherwise unequalled in quality and in quantity, so much in fact that for years the Government, following a philosophy of scarcity, restricted the size of certain crops. But reports from China tell us food is so scarce in Shantung, once the Orient’s richest agricultural province, that worms sell for four dollars a quart. Our wealthier classes display silver-fox neckpieces, chinchilla wraps, matched-pearl necklaces, huge, flawless diamonds. But masses of our fellow men in Europe, Asia, Africa, who came into the world just as you and I did, literally wear rags. We have more coined gold than all the rest of the world; and just now the pay envelopes of multitudes are fat and bulging. To appreciate what we have in America, we ought to visualize, for example, the hopeless poverty in crushed France, the regimentation of most workers throughout Europe. We have comfortable homes—at least two thirds of us—the most attractive, convenient houses, on the average, to be found anywhere; but think of the masses huddled in air-raid shelters! And when people open windows to cool a steam-heated apartment, they should picture the long lines in European capitals clutching their ration cards, eager to secure a few sticks of charcoal, so that the whole family can keep warm by crowding into one room.

Or, consider the higher blessings with which the United States has been endowed! We still have a free government, and despite present-day weaknesses of democracy, we are infinitely better off than Nazi Germany and the totalitarian world. We still have freedom of speech; and how much more fortunate are we than some of the belligerents. With our freedom of worship this country is indescribably more blessed, for instance, than Spain, where Protestant churches are banned.

Now, my fellow countrymen, these and many other preeminences have been granted us not because our country is racially, morally, or religiously superior to the other nations, but because of God’s marvelous mercy in Christ; and the warning of Holy Scripture that bears constant repetition is the reminder “Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” America has been mightily favored by God, so that it should be a powerful force for God.

How have we responded to this divine generosity? Have we consistently praised Him, from whom all blessings, and particularly national glory, must flow? Has this country of unparalleled favor been unequaled in its devotion to the Almighty? God forgive us! As Israel in haughty pride turned from Jehovah, so we in the United States have encouraged the bloated conceit that we are the creators of our own greatness, the builders of our own grandeur, the authors of our own prosperity. Millions have swept God aside and sought to revoke the Ten Commandments, to nullify the divine will.

What have we done with our money? Luxury taxes are not strong enough to stop the squandering for destructive vices. Even Christians, who repeat, “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish,” love this perishing world so little that they give only on the average thirty-two cents a year for foreign missions.

What have we done with our home life? In too many instances the Lord Jesus Christ has been completely exiled from American households, the divine laws for domestic happiness completely discarded.

Have we shown our appreciation for free government? Masses of American citizens have not raised their hearts to God in thanks for our liberties or to beseech His divine guidance for the President and the Congress. An increasing number of our countrymen are pledged to radical, revolutionary theories which would overthrow the American form of government. Corruption has sometimes taken the place of political honesty.

Has this nation given evidence of its gratitude to the Lord for freedom of conscience and of worship? Have we come closer to the Lord and devoutly acknowledged His power and grace? You know the answer. Unbelief is on the march. Doubt and denial become bolder even within certain churches, the questioning of the divine Word more frequent in schools, the rejection of Christ’s redemption more brazen, the evidence of doctrinal indifference and worldliness more repeated and undisguised.—Let it be said frankly: as a nation we have not grown in faith, progressed in holiness, advanced in spiritual truths!

When multitudes sing lustily, “God Bless America!” it is not easy to proclaim publicly that God will bless only a repentant, contrite America. It is not a light responsibility (when, as last Sunday, a speaker broadcasting after me asserted that we are definitely on the road to universal brotherhood and worldwide peace) to stand before this microphone and tell masses in our country to the contrary, that they are on the road to hell if they do not come to Him who alone is the Way to heaven, Jesus, our Christ. I can imagine a hundred other messages far more popular than Scripture’s warning that no nation, no home, no church, no individual, can prosper indefinitely without God. But we dare not seek to please men and court popularity. We who are Christ’s are to be watchmen, and if we do not warn sinners of their evil ways, their blood will be on our hands.

Therefore, the message of the Christian Church today must be that of our text, “Turn again unto the Lord”! Humble yourselves! Repent, you destroyers of public morals, who with lewd entertainment, filthy books and magazines have increased the love for sin! Repent, you corrupters of the home who have made purity seem old­fashioned and chastity a burden to be scorned! Repent, you rich who have oppressed the poor, and you poor who have hated the rich! Repent, you teachers who lead our youth from Christ! Repent, you adulterous husbands and unfaithful wives, you self-seeking parents and you self­directed children! Repent, you perjurers, blasphemers, abusers of God’s holy name! Repent, you public officials who have misused your high office! Repent, you merchants of horrifying death, who delight in war for selfish gain’s sake and cloak your lust for profit with the mantle of patriotism! Repent, you scoffers, skeptics, unbelievers, enemies of God, defaming the Lord who made America great! Repent, you preachers of lies who, robed in costly gowns and speaking unctuous words, reject the redemption by God’s Son and ridicule His divine Word!

Before all else, however, you and I need repentance for ourselves. The sins in our own lives that we may seek to deny, cover up, excuse, laugh away; the transgression which, unforgiven, will separate us eternally from Christ and His redeemed—the depravity of our human nature, our impure desires, hot-tempered words, sinful actions—Oh, confess them all today!—these should bring us down on our knees in humility and contrition before the holy God! A repentant nation is a country in which the individual citizens unmistakably show their sorrow over sin. Contrition is a personal, not a political matter. Therefore, the admission to be spoken by every American Christian today should embody the full, unreserved acknowledgment of our own guilt and the statement of our faith in the Savior, taken from the hymnbook of my Church: “O Almighty God, merciful Father, I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto Thee all my sins and iniquities with which I have offended Thee and justly deserved Thy temporal and eternal punishment. But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them, and I pray Thee of Thy boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, and bitter sufferings and death of Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor sinful being.”

II

GOD WILL BLESS THE PENITENT

This confession will help answer the question, What is real repentance? Do not confuse repentance with fear for the consequences of your wrongdoing, the dread that you will be detected, the terror that your secret sins will be exposed! Some, I know, are burdened by the thought that you have stolen money over a period of years and that your theft may soon be revealed. Or you have broken the commandment of purity and may soon become unwed fathers or mothers. You have neglected your parents, and people will soon discover your selfishness. But fear of detection is not repentance. Neither is a sense of disgust over your sins. You are ashamed now when you see the hideousness that sin has produced in your life. You regret the spectacle you presented when in a drunken stupor you made a beast of yourself. You recoil from sordid lusts which in a moment of inflamed passions seemed most enticing. True humiliation, however, means much more. It demands, first, that we acknowledge every sin in our lives, even those which the world applauds. Without reservation or restriction we must confess to God how often, how grievously we have broken each of His commandments, and then declare humbly, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son!”

In the second place, true repentance means real, heartfelt sorrow over our misdeeds. Do not get into the habit of blaming the Lord for your errors! People who practice the sins of the flesh often like to say: “I was born with these impulses. They are part of human nature. They cannot be so very wrong. Why did God make me this way?”—when they should fight against this evil that can destroy both body and soul in hell. Yet remorse is not enough. Endless weeping, ceaseless lamenting, moaning through grief-filled days and sorrow-stricken nights will never bring you before the gracious Father. You must know Him who says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life!”—Jesus Christ, your Redeemer.

Here, once more, we stand before the most glorious assurance Heaven has ever given mortal men, the pledge which, I pray, will take blessed root in every stubborn, self-righteous soul. Since God is so perfect in His holiness that nothing sinful can ever approach Him, you and I would be cut off forever from the hope of heaven were it not for our blessed Savior. Praise be His endless grace, He not only canceled our transgressions, paid their penalty, assumed their guilt, but He cleansed our sin-marked lives and so completely transferred to Himself our transgressions against God, our fellow men, and ourselves that in our Lord’s sight and before the bar of His exacting justice we actually have no sin! Keep this glorious Gospel promise uppermost in your mind: Our righteous God does not simply forget sin, overlook it, smile indulgently at it, discount, or disregard it! He hates it, He damns it. But He loves the sinner with such depth of devotion that in His measureless mercy He has removed our guilt, every part of its eternal punishment, by accepting as our Substitute the Redeemer on whom all our transgressions are laid, Jesus, His beloved Son. When Christ is yours in trusting faith, the way to God is open. His love has broken every barrier down. Despite past transgressions you can bow before Him whom cherubim and seraphim continually exalt, and plead: “My Father, accept me, just as I am, for Jesus’ sake! Look upon me, not in my sins, for Thy Son, my Savior, has removed them forever, but behold me with Thy grace!” And as true as God is eternal, all-powerful, and all-merciful in Christ, every penitent, contrite believer whose “hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness” will hear the God of grace answer, “Thy sins are forgiven fully, freely, forever!” Do not despair of finding a compassionate Lord when you come to bow before Him in that humble, contrite faith! His own Word assures us, “The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace,” the peace purchased by our Lord’s anguish and death, “be removed.”

Genuine repentance, of course, implies sincerity shown by a heartfelt resolve to improve our lives and battle against sin. In the text Hezekiah appeals that all Israel “turn again unto the Lord.” Their fathers, the verses before our text explain, had despised Jehovah and continued in evil. If now the people’s hearts are changed, their hatred of evil should be evident in a God-fearing, reverent walk of life. Hezekiah himself had unmistakably shown His people what it means to “turn again unto the Lord.” He had hardly assumed the kingship at Jerusalem when, as a young man of twenty-six, he restored the true religion, purified the defiled Temple, banished abominations and immoralities. To him real repentance had to be demonstrated by an improved, cleansed, sanctified life.

Similarly, if you are truly contrite, then on this Day of Humiliation and Prayer, resolve that, God helping you, His Spirit sustaining you, you will break with the evil that seeks to destroy your soul! If you are living in illicit relations, end them today! If you are stealing, stop and begin to make restitution! If you have slandered, curb this ugly sin and, as far as you can, correct every untruth you have uttered! If your heart is filled with hate, ask Christ to cleanse it! Show love to those whom you have wronged! If you have deserted your wife, your husband, or your children, go back to them now! If you are cheating at your work, wasting your employer’s time or his materials, quit it and restore what you have destroyed!

If you thus follow divine direction, you will experience a joy of life, a peace of mind which many have never known before. True repentance, then, brings you the assurance of redemption through the Lord Jesus Christ, reconciliation with the Father, restoration to eternal life in heaven. For the sake of your immortal soul, I plead with you, get right with God now!

But more: this humbling yourself before the Lord can be a mighty power for the nation’s good. If in place of a regimented America you are eager to preserve a free America; if instead of a war-wracked nation you ask for a country crowned with honorable peace; if rather than class conflict you want class harmony, free government before dictatorship, then bow contritely before the Almighty and urge your countrymen to humble themselves before His invincible power. Let legislatures pass necessary laws, parents make happy homes, teachers maintain good schools, statesmen exert building influences; but more than all else, let us turn to the Almighty in this hour of national need, and we will find divine healing for our land, Heaven’s solution to our problems, unfailing answer to our perplexities.

True repentance has the promise of divine acceptance. Pointedly Hezekiah’s messages proclaim this truth throughout the land, “If ye turn again unto the Lord, your brethren and your children shall find compassion . . . for the Lord your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away His face from you if ye return unto Him.” It is Christ’s repeated pledge that He receives the truly contrite. Isaiah proclaims, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon!” David assures all believers, “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.”

This true humility must be expressed in prayer, the pleading with God, which proves that we completely accept His Word and confide in Him children trust their father. To go back to the past of American history again, we ought to recall the remarks by Benjamin Franklin at Philadelphia in 1787 before the convention which was to draft our Constitution. For days this group of distinguished Americans had labored almost in vain. The interests of the various States conflicted, and regional prejudices threatened the whole effort with disaster. Then it was that Franklin, himself no evangelical Christian but far-sighted enough to recognize undeniable evidence, arose to declare: “The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs the affairs of men; and if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it possible that this empire can rise without His aid? . . . I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of heaven and its blessings on our deliberations be held in this assembly every morning.”

The deep-seated difficulty, of course, is this, that many in our country have no desire or time for prayer. They openly boast that it is childish and unmanly; that it destroys self-reliance; that God, if there is a God, is too exalted to be moved by our pleading. If this unbelief increases, perhaps our country will have to suffer far more until by the lessons of bitter experience it learns how completely it must rely on the Lord.

Again, others refuse to take time for prayer. They are not particularly antagonistic to its practice, but because they do not recognize their sins, their needs, and the assurance of divine power, they never realize the necessity of pouring their hearts out to the Almighty. Their souls have shriveled up; their spiritual life is stunted, and when they stand before heavy afflictions, they are bewildered and helpless.

Prayer is often misdirected. To begin with, many do not know to whom their pleas are spoken. They picture God as a vague, impersonal, abstract force, unknown and unknowable, when in truth Jesus has clearly revealed the true God who is no hazy, undefinable force, but the Father, together with Christ and the Spirit, the holy Trinity in blessed Unity. Only He is worthy to receive men’s praise, and only He can answer their petitions. The one who can help America and in whom alone there is deliverance and salvation is the God of the Bible, the God of Christian truth, the God of the Apostles’ Creed, Father, Son, and Spirit.

Others similarly misunderstand prayer because they have not learned that we must beseech the Almighty in Christ’s name, that is, with trusting faith and unquestioning acceptance of His blood-bought atonement, life­giving death, and heaven-assuring resurrection. When we come to the mercy seat with that triumphant faith, we have the Savior’s own assurance “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you.” Therefore it is doubly to be regretted that men in public life, often in prominent circles, omit the ever-blessed name of Jesus Christ in their public prayers because they hesitate to mention Him before His enemies. How pointed the warning raised by our Lord Himself, “Whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven”!

Prayers are also unanswered because they are spoken from hate-filled hearts, while our Savior warns us that we cannot expect to find forgiveness if we willfully withhold pardon from those who have transgressed against us. Our prayers are often not heard because we ask something destructive, injurious to soul or body, and of course our gracious Father will not give us the means of harming ourselves eternally. Frequently, too, we pray merely by rote and rule. We insult God when we address Him, because our thoughts wander far away, as our petitions become mere recitations.

True Christian prayer always brings God’s blessed answer. I am firmly convinced that if all over the blood­soaked earth human hearts were regularly, earnestly raised to the Almighty in Jesus’ name, beseeching His help, without any thought of personal or national gain, but with intercession even for our enemies, as Jesus commanded, we would have a mighty power for ending this war and establishing peace.

Humiliation and Prayer Sunday, then, reminds us “what a privilege it is to carry everything to God” in fervent pleading. If for your own heart and life you want the joy of Christ’s salvation, then approach your Savior now in prayer! No matter how unwelcome you may be to others, He is ever ready to receive you provided you come repentant and rely on His full mercy. You need bring no credentials, no one to intercede for you, no record of past performances; for if, kneeling in contrite faith, you pray the publican’s prayer, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” you can rise with the assurance that your transgressions have been washed away, the horrors of hell removed and heaven assured you. If you want Christ’s peace and blessing in your home, make your dwelling a house of prayer! Have parents and children assemble each day for family worship, and Christ, who in the days of His humility entered Palestinian homes to bring salvation, health after sickness, life after death, will now in the glory of His exaltation, enrich your household far beyond your understanding. For a better America, pray as you have never prayed before that God in His mercy for Jesus’ sake would save us from enemies without as from treachery within and continue the outpouring of His miraculous, undeserved, and often thanklessly received mercy! If you want peace—and I mean helpful, cooperative harmony, with tyranny, selfish class-interests, national hatred subdued, the mutual rights and needs of nations respected, a peace with a far better basis for understanding between peoples than we have yet seen—then beseech God for Jesus’ sake to grant us that grace! For He who “maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth”; He who “breaketh the bow and cutteth the spear in sunder”; He who “burneth the chariot in the fire” can, if it be His will, grant the world years of necessary reconstruction.

What, then, can we do in this crisis day—both those who have long loved the Lord and those who, by the Spirit’s power, now resolve to accept Him as their Ransom and Redeemer? What, if not humble ourselves in penitence and prayer? What, if not proclaim this divine assurance by God Himself for blessing in our souls, our homes, our country, our churches, “If ye turn again unto the Lord, your brethren and your children shall find compassion, . . . for the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away His face from you if ye return unto Him”? God grant you this true penitence and the promise of salvation by faith through Jesus Christ, our Lord! Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: November 16, 1941

He is my Defense; I shall not be moved. . . . Trust in Him at all times, ye people!Psalm 62:6, 8

Holy Spirit, Our Comforter and Sustainer:

Many powerful enemies have been mobilized against the nation and the Church. From both without and within our own lives we feel the attack of dark, hateful forces which oppose the free and full grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Forgive us, we beseech Thee, for the Savior’s sake, our many disloyalties, our repeated sins against Him in whom alone there is heavenly hope! If in our own strength we seek to resist the foes of the faith, we are lost, for “with might of ours can naught be done.” But be Thou, O blessed Spirit, together with the Father and the Son, our Shield and Protection against the onslaughts of hell, the assaults of our own conscience, and the enticement of a sinful world! Show us that our victory is granted by our trust in the power of the Cross! Defend our blessed homeland against all adversaries, the menace of unbelief, rejection of divine grace, and destructive godlessness! Thou art our Defense. Hear us and help us, then, for Jesus’ sake! Amen.

TODAY is Defense Sunday, and this is to be a defense message—but not the kind which certain congregations are featuring and for which many pastors have received especially prepared sermon outlines. True churches of Christ do not need such reminders of their members’ duty to defend our country and its liberties. It is a vital part of the Christian creed that we who accept the Lord Jesus follow His injunction “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s!” obey His word “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers!” accept its instruction “Be subject to principalities and powers!” and “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake!”

Those who should receive these defense-talk reminders are the groups in our country which have repeatedly opposed our system of government. The appeal for wholehearted endorsement of our military, naval, and air preparation should be sent to the Association for the Advancement of Atheism and like-minded infidels who are steadily undermining national foundations. The plea to work harder, longer, more intensively for the protection of the United States should be directed to the Communists, many of whom are pledged to overthrow our American institutions. For unbelievers who reject the Bible and its repeated appeals for loyalty and allegiance to the constituted authorities are those, above all others, who need constant instruction in the duties of citizenship.

My remarks will differ from the opinions some of you heard in your churches this morning, because this broadcast is dedicated to the truth that only in Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of mankind can our age and the millions in our country find sure defense. Men who do not know the Redeemer, who propagate a creed opposed to Christ or who at best omit all mention of the Lord from the sermons they preach on this Sunday, understand neither the greatest weakness of our nation nor the divine help to be found in Jesus and His Word during these darkened days.

Therefore, when military leaders, production experts, and government officials point to the increasing war clouds on the international horizon, the Christian churches should reemphasize our responsibilities as citizens of this uniquely favored land, unparalleled in its divine blessing; but let Christian pulpits, in addition, call attention especially to the moral and religious dangers confronting us and the necessity of protecting our hearts, our homes, our national institutions against the assaults of unbelief.

So when I speak to you on defense, I want to stress the side that many politicians forget in this crisis, America’s need of a spiritual bulwark, the safeguarding of our souls. To that end I give you this divine assurance for the present emergency:

GOD IS OUR DEFENSE—

a pledge from the unbreakable Bible, the words of Psalm Sixty-two, verses six and eight: “He is my Defense; I shall not be moved. . . . Trust in Him at all times, ye people!”

I

GOD IS OUR BEST NATIONAL DEFENSE

In a world of international greed, hatred, bloodshed, the United States should have a strong, complete defense. It is the earnest prayer of every American Christian that our country be adequately protected and made too strong for successful attack by any foreign foe. That is in harmony with the Bible—and it is good common sense. The writers of the sacred Scriptures and the founding fathers were not pacifists; and neither should we be. They never entertained the mistaken notion that the world was continually improving and that therefore it was unnecessary for us to have strong military and naval forces; and neither should we, in a world aflame with the fire of war, stop short of protecting our homeland adequately. No sacrifice will be too great to shield our blessings. Those who love God know that He expects them to obey their government in everything—except in any proposal contrary to His revealed will. Christians of America have put their hard-earned savings into Defense Bonds. They have not created bottlenecks in defense work. They love this divinely endowed land, and they will work for it, save for it, fight for it, die for it. True followers of Christ are true patriots. They are like that mighty defender of spiritual liberty Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, who on the battlefield of Luetzen 309 years ago this very day, helped seal modern religious freedom with his blood. Christian soldiers stood with Washington at Valley Forge. They fought and fell at Gettysburg. They lie buried in the Argonne Forest. Yesterday Saint Louis witnessed an impressive service commemorating the devotion of the first young man from our city to lay down his life during the present hostilities; and Signalman Ralph Kloepper of the ill-fated Reuben James, whom we thus mourned, was a member in good standing of our Lutheran Church.

When a nation exalts God and heeds His Word, its people can say in the certainty of our text, “He is my Defense,” and be marvelously shielded by the Almighty’s guidance. In 713 B.C. the trained armies of Sennacherib, Assyrian king, with regiment upon regiment of fully equipped veterans, came up to besiege Jerusalem. The city seemed doomed, but King Hezekiah, the prophet Isaiah, the priests, and the leaders resorted to the house of God, prayed earnestly for divine help and received His assurance “I will defend this city to save it.” Despite overwhelming odds, Sennacherib was completely defeated when the angel of the Lord destroyed 185,000 Assyrians. Remember also how in past crisis moments of American history, during Colonial times, the Revolution, the Civil War, our heavenly Father answered the pleas of the masses by delivering our people from overwhelming enemies. God’s promise “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee” and these records combine to tell us that where the Lord is honored, the people can say, “He is my Defense,” and be comforted by the knowledge that ultimately His good, gracious purpose must prevail.

A country may be attacked not only from without by foreign foes but also from within by even more formidable enemies. Destructive forces, seeking to sap its strength and undermine its resistance, can hew down the pillars which support: freedom, blessing, prosperity, rest. Here they are, these powerful but often unrecognized adversaries of a better America: National Enemy Number One: unbelief, rebellion against God. This rejection of the Almighty has no armies to oppose our military forces, no air squadrons for the bombing of our cities, no naval craft to shell our shores; but it has a satanic might more deadly than tanks, airplanes, and cruisers, a force that is not many miles distant, but a spiritual TNT at work now, within our boundaries. The multitudes of Americans who have rejected Christ, His Word, His Church; the pride that boasts, “We don’t need God”; the insolence which ridicules the Christian religion; the perjury, blasphemy, and profanity which desecrate God’s holy name, the sarcasm heaped on the Almighty in literature, entertainment, often in everyday life; altogether, then, the 50 percent of America that does not honor God, the ungrateful masses who will not find a moment to remember the Lord even on the two coming days of national Thanksgiving—these constitute the most formidable danger to our country’s welfare. The Almighty will not continue indefinitely to bless a people in which unbelief constantly grows bolder. The verdict of His Word and of history is this: “The nation . . . that will not serve Thee shall perish”; and again, “If they will not obey, I will utterly pluck up and destroy that nation, saith the Lord.”

National Enemy Number Two: godlessness and crime. Larger than any battalions which can invade us is the army of our past and present criminals, almost five million fellow Americans convicted (and the many others unconvicted) of serious crime: murder, assault, robbery, the heavy sins of violence and greed, the oppression of the poor and underprivileged; the getting rich at the expense of widows and orphans—this can inflict more severe and lasting damage on the United States than any war. For the Holy Word warns: “The Lord hath a controversy with the nations. . . . He will give them that are wicked to the sword, saith the Lord,” and again, “Behold the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth.”

National Enemy Number Three: corrupt government. Never before has our country witnessed graft, bribery, official dishonesty on the large scale this generation has produced: judges conniving with criminals, law-enforcement officials working hand in hand with the underworld; legislators selling their votes for patronage and expedience—all this lies over the land as a heavy shadow to forebode evil; for the eternal truth records that while judgment establishes the land, “he that receiveth gifts overthroweth it.” Again Scripture warns, “It is an abomination” for those in authority “to commit wickedness.”

National Enemy Number Four: unfaithful churches. The studied insolence heaped against the Bible in thousands of American congregations; the rejection of Christ’s vicarious atonement at ministerial training schools where not a single faculty member accepts the inspiration of the Bible or the promises of the Cross and the Blood; the worldliness, the lip worship, the “form of godliness” even in sound churches—these are disasters far more grievous even than the loss of many a battle. “Be not deceived,” the divine Word protests, “God is not mocked.”

National Enemy Number Five: immorality in the home. We record to our shame that the United States has more broken families than any other civilized nation, excepting Russia; that unfaithfulness between husband and wife is increasing; that young people are constantly lured to break the purity commandment. The loose spirit in our age, the bad example by elders, the ridicule of decency, the spurning of parenthood, the disregard of childhood, all combine to form a menace of tremendous proportions. No country can ever be stronger than its homes. To the extent to which our American households crumble, a vast part of our moral foundation is destroyed.

National Enemy Number Six: anti-Christian education. This tragedy will be more deadly in the years ahead, when today’s boys and girls will be tomorrow’s fathers and mothers. If our youth is trained to be mentally cunning instead of spiritually good; if its education molds the brain but neglects the soul; if schools refuse to recognize sin and wrong, have no place for God and His grace in Christ, can you not see, should this treachery toward our youth assume control of American education, that the ship of our state may slowly but surely be steered toward destruction on the rocky shoals of unbelief?

National Enemy Number Seven: the disregard of God’s law in labor and industry. When, on the one hand, radical elements direct American working men away from the Lord and His will, as the toiling classes are tempted to misuse for selfish interests the power which is theirs in united action; when, on the other hand, the moneyed groups help make the poor poorer and in this day of rising prices, increasing living costs, refuse to share a greater part of their profit with workers, this double disregard of divine instruction may help to produce hard, bleeding days of internal strife and long-drawn class war.

In short, America needs to be defended against itself. Some years ago Sir Edward Arnold told the students at Harvard University: “In 1776 and in 1812 you conquered your fathers. . . . From 1861 to 1865 you conquered your brothers. . . . Your next victory must be over yourselves.” He was right, and the conquest over these seven national dangers can be won only by a penitent return to God and His Word, by a widespread spiritual revival which will bring masses to the atoning Christ and His divine protection. We must strengthen the nation from within and build its religious foundation firm and strong.

Because no people can be weak with God on its side, the Christian cry in this crisis hour should be: Defend America by accepting Christ! Every man, woman, and child in the United States who acclaims Jesus Savior and Sovereign can help bring divine protection on this land through personal prayer. If God was ready to spare degenerate Sodom and Gomorrah, provided they contained only ten righteous people, most assuredly He will regard with blessing multitudes which turn penitently to His grace. Besides, every Christian with his regenerated life and his determination to follow the Savior’s footsteps, as far as humanly possible, adds to the country’s moral strength, increases the righteousness which exalts a nation, and battles against the reproach of sin. No appeal to America in this international emergency is more vital than the plea of our text which, pointing to the gracious God, urges, “Trust in Him at all times, ye people!” Look to Christ for the guidance, strength, reliance, that says, “‘He is’ our ‘Defense!’”

Therefore, fortify America by keeping Jesus in the churches built and dedicated to the glory of His name! Every Christian pastor who, seeking to please God rather than men, avoids soft, Christless preaching and instead reveals God’s whole truth, the punishment of His Law and the promise of our Savior’s pardon, increases spiritual reserve.

Defend America by strengthening Christian homes! Husbands and wives who keep Jesus in their households as the honored Guest, who train the children they bring into the world to be God-fearing, useful, law-abiding, patriotic citizens, do more good than many frequently quoted and frequently married public figures.

Defend America by supporting Christian education! Colleges where the fear of the Lord is still the beginning of all wisdom, where atheists and Christ-deniers are banned from the faculty; lower schools like those conducted by my Church, but open to all, where children are instructed not only in the customary branches, but are daily taught also to love the Lord Jesus, to obey their parents, to thank God for America—these are powerful factors in the promotion of national good and the rejection of evil.

Defend America by putting Christ’s teachings into capital and labor! If the American workingman, in conformity with God’s Word, gives honest, wholehearted return for his salary, rejects every recourse to violence and oppression, and does unto his employer as he would have the employer do unto him; if capital refuses to exploit the toilers, but accepts the Scriptural program of fair, upright treatment for the working classes, ours will be a stronger and happier country.

Defend America by purifying its political life! Exercise your privilege and responsibilities as citizens! Send men to the legislatures who cannot be bought, who refuse to connive with evil, and will stop the enactment of legislation contrary to divine Law! Give us patriots instead of politicians, Christian statesmen rather than partisan leaders, and America, under God, will be defended.

I do not say that if these principles were followed in our country, we would experience no national difficulty, attacks from without or serious problems from within; for sometimes the Almighty sends reverses to make a people spiritually and morally stronger. But I am equally confident that if multiplied millions of Americans look to the Lord in Christ and say, “‘He is’ our ‘Defense,’” our heavenly Father will powerfully, if necessary, miraculously, protect and bless us.

II

GOD IS EVERY BELIEVER’S DEFENSE

Many of you, however, desperately need defense for your own personal selves. You are besieged by relentless fears and worries. Your conscience haunts you, as the memories of flaming sins, now after thirty, forty and more years, flare up to mock you with their ghastly horror. You want to get rid of your transgressions, to silence the accusing voice, to enjoy rest for your soul.

No human being will give you that pardon and peace. But Jesus, blessed Jesus, can. When He, God’s Son and Mary’s, your Savior and Substitute, went to the cross of shame, He took with Him my sins, your sins, the whole world’s sins, suffered their appalling punishment, endured their frightful curse, paid their death penalty. By believing this Gospel grace we can find pardon, escape hell’s terrors, defeat the grave, triumph over despair. Through this faith we have the immovable, unmistakable confidence that salvation is ours completely, ours eternally; that a special place has been prepared for us in the many mansions; that in the heavens opened by the Redeemer’s atonement ours will be the glory—oh, marvelous privilege!—of seeing Him face to face, with endless rapture and adoration.

What matchless love in Jesus! Think of all the vile criminals throughout history who have been sentenced to death, and ask yourself how often you have heard anyone volunteer to take their places at the gallows, the guillotine, the electric chair! But Jesus, merciful Jesus, did even more! He died for the worst of sinners, to save them from the horror of eternal death. Picture the millions in misery all over the earth, either paying the consequences of their own sins or groaning under imposed cruelty. Can you find anyone who has said, “Let me suffer for them, die in their stead, so that they can live in freedom and happiness”? But Jesus, beloved Jesus, did this and more. He went the hard Calvary road to restore to His Father’s love a world lost in its own wickedness.

Now forget the rest of humanity for a moment and concentrate on yourself! Review your own transgressions, your hate-filled, lust-laden thoughts, your cruel, cutting words, your shameful acts, sometimes hidden from human gaze, but—be sure of this!—known in all their sordid details to the holy God; and as His Word and your conscience remind you that you cannot stand before Him with unforgiven transgressions, I ask you: Do you know any man, saint, or angel who can transfer your guilt to himself? But Jesus, precious Jesus, did: “His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree.” His cross is your defense against sin; His blood, your defense against hell; His death, your defense against the decay of the grave. When Christ is enthroned in your heart, you can face an accusing conscience with the triumph: “Jesus ‘is my Defense!’” “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” With the Savior controlling your life, you can reject the coaxing of satanic temptations. When doubts assail you, you can push them aside to declare: “Jesus ‘is my Defense!’” “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” If Christ is your Lord, you can face divine justice and though your sins are many, grievous, and disheartening, tell the Judge of eternity: “O Father, Jesus ‘is my Defense.’ ‘He was wounded for’ my ‘transgressions, He was bruised for’ my ‘iniquities.’”

My fellow redeemed, if you want a sure protection against evil, acclaim Christ your own Savior! Accept Him now! A day, even an hour’s hesitation, may prove too long and too late. If the Ark Royal had been an hour or two earlier, it could have been towed safely into the shelter of Gibraltar, only twenty-five miles away. That delay sent the mighty craft to the bottom of the Mediterranean. Some of you have been limping through life, battered and shattered by the enemies of your soul, but now at this moment the refuge in your Redeemer, the Lord Jesus, is close at hand. Will it be life with Christ or death without Him for you? Give the Spirit His way into your heart and declare: From this moment on, despite my past sins, my backsliding, my thanklessness, Jesus is mine, God helping me, forever!

As our Lord is the divine Defense against sin, so He is unfailing Protection against life’s sorrows, dangers, and fears. Take courage, you the crushed in spirit who feel yourselves ground under the heel of continued cruelty! His Savior-love is extended especially to the world-weary, the heavily afflicted, the burden-bearers. Look steadfastly unto Jesus, for He not only knows your suffering, since He endured far more than we will ever be asked to bear, but He also promises to help you carry your cross! Through the night of black sorrow, in the depth of depressing gloom, hold your head high because you raise it to Him and repeat the Psalmist’s confidence, “He is my Defense; I shall not be moved”! Keep your eyes focused on Calvary and remember you are so precious in God’s sight that Jesus lived, died, and rose again to free you from the shackles of sorrow! God, the almighty Creator, can help you in every need. He wants to help you, since He loves you in Christ; He will help you even in desperate moments when every human prop gives way!

What, then, are the surrounding afflictions which you would escape? Are you laid low by sickness? The Savior can be your Rampart against its ravages. He can start where medical science stops. Even more, He can use bodily illness to create a healthy soul. Last week a Christian young woman told me: “I was sick for years, unable to work, confined to my home. But that suffering helped bring me fully to Christ, and if I had to go through all those years of agony again to receive Jesus as I now know Him, I would gladly endure everything once more to have the Savior in my heart.” Are you attacked by money troubles, want, poverty? The Lord is your Defense here, too. He who has the riches of all the universe at His disposal can make you prosperous overnight if this is for your good. And if Jesus keeps you poor, He can perform a greater wonder: change this burden to a mighty advantage, transform your earthly poverty to a treasury of spiritual riches. Is your happiness assailed by the tragedy of a loveless family, a broken home, loneliness, desertion? Once again, find sustaining comfort in Jesus! He is able to restore shattered happiness and make it even more radiant. Your own letters testify how divorces were averted and peace restored in your households after Jesus was made the Head of your home. If in His inscrutable wisdom the Lord sees fit to have you suffer under repeated instances of unfaithfulness and continued strife, believe that divine compensation will give you unsurpassable soul peace in the close companionship with your Savior!

Whatever the gloom encircling your life may be, let Christ dispel it! However many enemies may be mobilized against your soul: opposition, persecution, ridicule, cruelty, broken hopes, shattered ambitions, Jesus can repulse every one of them and make life’s defeats faith’s glorious victories. The Savior will not forsake you as long as you cling to Him—that is your confidence for these clouded years as you go into an unpromising future, overcast with the specters of war and the signs of deeper suffering for all mankind. If in these darkened moments you rely on yourselves, you are lost. But if you trust God in Christ; if you, the unfaithful, who have turned from your heavenly Father, now return to His grace with penitent hearts but with the faith which takes His Son at His Word, then, though the noise of battle roar and hatreds rage, through the wail and woe of suffering, let this be your battle cry, “He is my Defense,” and this your triumphant hymn of praise:

A mighty Fortress is our God,

A trusty Shield and Weapon.

He helps us free from every need

That hath us now o’ertaken.

God grant every one of you that eternal victory through Jesus Christ, the Captain of our salvation! Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: November 9, 1941

Jesus . . . asked His disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am? And they said, Some say that Thou art John the Baptist; some Elias; and others, Jeremias or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.Matthew 16:13-16

O Jesus, Thou Prince of the Soul’s Peace:

Mercifully look down on our torn, bleeding world; behold the victims of war: sailors struggling in the cold seas, aviators with broken bodies, soldiers maimed and crippled, women and children undernourished, starving, families homeless through bombing, hostages innocently killed! Survey the wide suffering, anguish, torture, that men are inflicting on their fellow men—and then, beloved Jesus, give us a true victory over hatred! May the teachings of Thy truth everywhere prevail and the compassions of Thy “new commandment,” “that ye love one another,” overcome the greed and aggression of power-seeking dictators! Forgive us, we beseech Thee, our many sins, out repeated thanklessness, and for the sake of Thy redeeming death on the cross completely remove all our transgressions! Amid toil and turmoil without, we can have Thy blessed assurance within—peace with our heavenly Father, peace with our conscience, through Thee, our only Savior. We need Thee, merciful Jesus, not only every hour, but during each moment of these trying times. Be with us, therefore, to bless us and in turn to make us a blessing for others! We ask it confidently, because we pray in Thy name and with Thy promise. Amen.

HOW long will the war last? What will be the role of the United States? Where will the young men in our expeditionary forces be sent?—Such are the questions of the hour, discussed throughout the breadth of the land and answered by military experts, newspaper columnists, radio commentators, only too often on the basis of personal bias.

As far-reaching as these critical issues are, many of you are more directly moved by the perplexities in your own life, the private burdens that weigh heavily on your soul and mind, the restless anxiety about health, home, money, the need of love, companionship, guidance, the mounting fears for the future. Yet, no matter how grave the world problems or how seriously personal difficulties distress you, today this broadcast puts before every one of you a more vital question that centers in eternity itself, an issue of life and death, heaven and hell, everlasting salvation or never­ending damnation, the question concerning Jesus Christ: Who is He? And what is He to you?

This may be the first time many of you have tuned in our broadcast, or it may be the last time for some; but first or last, whoever you are and wherever you may hear these words, the supreme question for everyone, irrespective of age, class, creed, or color is not a matter of war or peace, wages or work, health or home, but: Jesus. Who is He whose name is used in prayer and abused in cursing; who is honored by churches built for His worship and dishonored in vulgar cartoons by atheists; the Jesus whom some of His own countrymen have learned to call their Savior, while others still brand Him a satanic deceiver; the Jesus whom Bruce Barton called “The Man Nobody Knows,” but of whom Martin Luther said, “So real is Christ to me now as if He had this very hour poured forth His blood”; the Jesus whom certain other broadcasts and churches regard as only another man, but whom this mission of the air exalts as what He really is: God and Savior.

Here, then, as the center of our Bible, our Christian faith, our evangelical churches, is an issue which cannot be successfully sidestepped or completely avoided. Your reply to this question involves your soul, your joy in life, and your assurance in death.

WHO IS THIS JESUS?

For our answer we turn to the source of unfailing truth, God’s infallible Word, and there, in the record of Saint Matthew, chapter sixteen, verses thirteen to sixteen, we read: “Jesus . . . asked His disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am? And they said, Some say that Thou art John the Baptist; some Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

I

HE IS MORE THAN MERE MAN

When Jesus asked, “Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” He was alone with His disciples in the foothills of beautiful Mount Hermon. If Christ withdrew from the crowded, noisy world to teach His followers eternal truths, how much more should we, in this day of increasing tumult and strife, take reverent time to meet Him in His Word, and, cut off from the disastrous allurements of our age, center our thoughts on His promises! The deep-rooted trouble with many churches in our day is this, that their members do not give up all else and at Jesus’ feet learn the vital truths of His peace and pardon. They have interest a-plenty for the social activities attached to the congregation’s work, ample energy for theatricals, suppers, entertainments, organizational activities, but not even a few spare moments for the study of God’s Book, nor a regular Sunday hour to follow the Savior’s pointed command “Learn of Me!” Instead, church services are shortened, sermons streamlined, the tempo of hymns stepped up, the speed of our whole religious life increased. As a consequence the American pulpit has too often featured snap judgments in place of earnest instruction over which the preacher has studied hard and long. People hear emotional outbursts rather than solid interpretation. They behold Christ in hazy, blurred pictures, not in sharp, clear-cut lines. Millions in this hour—I can sum it up in one short sentence—need to detach themselves from the world and learn the lessons that our Lord, the Master of grace and wisdom, would impart.

Our Lord was resting in Mount Hermon’s shadows also because He sought to evade that murderer of John the Baptist, Herod, whose agents now hunted Christ. Even Jesus had to experience the hatred in high places which Saint Paul felt, the opposition of the mighty that sought to destroy Martin Luther, the hostility on the part of world leaders which many Christians feel today. Why is it that when men reach positions of power and fame, they frequently begin to show contempt for religion and are guilty of Herod’s readiness to persecute Christ? People who wax wealthy often forget God, boast that they do not need Jesus, even declare themselves open enemies of the Christian faith. The sin against which we must be on guard during these months of easy money, higher salaries, inflation prices, overtime wages, is the conceited pride and its pompous boasting: “We don’t need God. We don’t want Him.”

Perhaps because His disciples were beginning to lose their faith under Herod’s steady opposition, Jesus sought to strengthen their trust in Him by asking them, “Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” The answers they gave were not different in principle from the statements we hear today, nineteen momentous centuries later. There was no agreement concerning the Savior then, as there is none today. Some said He was John the Baptist. Among these was Herod, who thought, “The man whom I beheaded has come back to life.” His conscience gave him no rest. Day and night he saw that blood-spattered head which in a moment of aroused lust he had presented to a lewd dancer. The memories of that murder were rising up to accuse him, just as the remembrance of wrong relentlessly haunts many of you.

Others said that Jesus was Elijah who, they believed, would precede the Messiah. They concluded that Jesus was too humble and lowly, too poor and persecuted to be the glorious Redeemer of Israel; yet even in His lowliness something strange and compelling about Him made them concede that He might be the Messiah’s messenger.

Still others, perhaps recalling the opposition Jesus endured, thought Him to be Jeremiah, the prophet of suffering; while many, having heard with their own ears how Christ preached as no man had ever spoken, were satisfied to call Him “one of the prophets.”

You find in these contradictory opinions agreement on only one point: public sentiment in those days had a highly respectful impression of our Lord. They ranked Him among the most distinguished figures in Israel’s history, just as today every person of sound mind and intelligent judgment has paid Him tribute. People with the average quota of common sense can see that Jesus has showered benefits on the whole race. They recognize that it was He who helped the downtrodden groups of mankind, liberated womanhood from the tyranny of lust, elevated childhood from the depths of despair, turned the toil of slavery into the honor of labor, changed the hideousness of heathendom into decent, progressive society—in short, heaped multiplied blessings on all classes and centuries of men. Nobody except a degenerate atheist, a perverted brute, denies Jesus’ greatness. Listen to this testimony: “For the man Christ . . . I have the highest admiration and respect. They crucified a kind and perfectly innocent man. . . . To that great and serene man I gladly pay my homage of admiration and my tears.” Do you know who spoke these words? Robert G. Ingersoll, the American infidel who crisscrossed the country and for $250 a night told his audiences that Christianity was a forgery and a sham! Listen to this acknowledgment: “What sweetness, what purity in Christ’s ways, what touching grace in His teachings, what loftiness in His maxims, what profound wisdom in His words!” Can you guess who penned those lines? Not a preacher, nor a God-fearing scholar, but Jean Jacques Rousseau, a French scoffer, guilty of serious immorality.

An almost endless list of similar praise even by His enemies shows there should be little difficulty about convincing a normal person that Jesus is at least one of the mightiest figures in history. But this is not enough. Our Lord was not satisfied with such answers, and neither can you be satisfied with only a mortal Jesus. Call Him whatever you want: Teacher, Leader, Master, Guide, Friend, Model; exalt Him to the loftiest heights as the greatest earthly Figure during all the ages, the most magnificent Man, the mightiest Genius ever to be born; glorify His worship with tall cathedrals, erect His statues throughout the world; but when all this honor is given Christ only as a Man, it is futile, false, fatal.

Of what good for your soul’s salvation is a merely human Jesus? If the lips that spoke the promise “Thy sins be forgiven thee!” are only man’s, these words may be wrong and false. If the voice that proclaimed, “Let not your heart be troubled! . . . My peace I give unto you,” is but the utterance of another mortal teacher, how can we be sure of its truth? If the arms stretched toward all the weary, burdened souls with the invitation, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!” are only the arms of an earthly Comforter, of what benefit can they be to us in life’s repeated trials and increasing sorrows when we need heavenly assurance? If He who was nailed to the cross was only a noble, self­sacrificing sufferer, how can Calvary mean any more to us than Valley Forge, Gettysburg, Flanders Field? If the Jesus who promised, “I am the Resurrection and the Life; He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live,” contradicted that pledge with His own death and remained to molder and decay in His grave, as all men must, then how can we find any positive pledge of the resurrection and the life everlasting?

No man can take your sins away, bear the punishment of your transgressions, become your substitute before the bar of divine justice. None of your fellow men, not even the godliest, can ever remove sin’s stain. The purest life, the cleanest mind that human records list, can never make you spotless in God’s sight. Plainly and pointedly does Holy Scripture declare, “None of them can by any means redeem his brother nor give to God a ransom for him.” A few days ago an airplane hurtled to the ground in Minnesota. It was close to the airport—only two miles away but not close enough, and fourteen passengers met a tragic death. You may be near Christ, but not near enough for spiritual safety if with all your praise you echo the verdict of His countrymen: He is a great prophet but only a prophet.

Our age especially should be ready to welcome One who is more than man, for the deep-rooted trouble with these twisted, tangled years is this, that we have placed our confidence only in earthly guides who, with all their broken promises and pitiful failures, have proved blind leaders of the blind. Every burden in this bleeding age; all the horrors of a Second World War; each conflict between capitalists and laborers; all the battered nations, broken homes, blighted lives in our greedy, gory generation come from rejecting God and relying on ourselves. We have made idols of wisdom, strength, cunning, but we have forgotten God. More than during any other period we, in these frightful forties, ought to confess man’s utter sinfulness, the complete depravity of the race, and on bended knees, with folded hands and pleading hearts, beseech the Almighty to forgive us, to grant us divine help, to enlighten us for the one and only true answer to the question “Who is this Jesus on whom our hope of heaven depends?”

Yet how forceful is this Scriptural warning “Thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved.” At a time when the very tragedy of a world collapsing about us should drive us to God and to a reverent appreciation of the true Jesus, we must witness a growing determination to keep Christ down on the human level. A recent book, written by a professor of a celebrated Massachusetts college, stated boldly, “The view of Him [Jesus] as the supernatural Being . . . we cannot honestly accept.” That college was founded just 150 years ago by Christians who would rather have had the earth open wide to swallow them up than to reduce Jesus to such depths. At this school the first foreign missionary society in the United States was organized; yet now at the same place the brazen denial of the true Lord finds applause. Is it any wonder, with many colleges practical agencies of atheism, that parents have wept bitter tears when their son or daughter, who left home for the university as a child of God, returned, enriched by a degree but robbed of faith? This dethroning of Christ marks our entire modem social system.  With a full realization of this indictment, I raise these charges: First, many American churches, especially some of the largest and wealthiest, have brazenly denied that Christ is anything more than man. Second, some Protestant leaders have been guilty of the same damnable sin. Third, church groups, national councils, called “the voice of Protestantism,” have chosen officials, printed statements, adopted policies rejecting the truth in a way which leaves no charitable doubt that they have cast the true doctrine concerning the Savior aside. Fourth, some religious broadcasts, which receive chain facilities entirely free (while we pay for every moment on the air), have persistently preached only a human Jesus. Fifth, certain divinity schools, including some of the oldest and wealthiest, systematically teach this pernicious error. Sixth, denominational papers picture Jesus as though He were one of us, and only that. Seventh, the training of our youth in many Sunday schools has the same poisoned basis, with the result that we are educating millions of children who, unless God graciously intercedes, will never know the saving love of Christ who says, “Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not!”

Facing this widespread denial, what must we who love the Lord Jesus do? To begin with, we should realize the acute danger confronting the churches in the United States and Canada. Sixteen million people over ten years old in the United States cannot read or write, but seventy million are spiritually so illiterate that they have never signed their names beneath an oath of allegiance to Jesus nor read His Gospel. If this rejection of our Lord is not checked, their opportunity for true spiritual instruction will be cut off, as more high places in American church life are usurped by men who bow before a false Christ. Is this country following Europe’s destructive example in letting rationalism and religious radicalism assume control? If you who look to Jesus and say, “I know whom I have believed,” want to avoid that calamity, pray a hundred times more fervently! Testify! If you do not rise up in protest every time the true Scriptural Jesus is swept aside in your pulpit, you come under this condemnation by our Lord, “Whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven.” Speak up, and if continued protests are unheeded, either you or those who dethrone the Son of God must step out of that church! Benedict Arnold seems a bungling amateur in comparison with some men who receive their salaries from Christian congregations and yet publicly question the Savior’s truth and privately ridicule it. A man who insists that Jesus is merely of common human stock cannot be a true disciple of Christ and has no place in His Church. Those who spurn the Scriptural Redeemer have plenty of freedom to form their own religious groups or join with other like-minded apostates, but if they are not honest enough to follow that open course, they ought to be barred from the churches.

II

HE IS THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD

How refreshing, by contrast, to hear Peter give the only true, divinely approved answer to the question “Who is this Jesus?”! Without hesitation the eager disciple turns to our Lord and in words imprinted on the souls of millions since that day testifies, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

The word Christ is used so carelessly and so often abused in profanity that most people fail to grasp its full meaning as the “name which is above every name.” Indeed, there is not a person living, however learned he may be and however imposing the list of degrees behind his name, who can understand or express to others the fullness of grace and glory concealed in this name. Since its full brilliance is too dazzling, we can only single out some of its radiance and say: To be the Christ means far more than to be John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or any of the other prophets. Jesus—this is Christianity’s keystone creed, separating it from every other religion—as the Christ is the long-promised, divinely anointed, sin-destroying Deliverer, “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” the Substitute for every sinner, the Ransom for every wrong, the Payment for the entire penalty of our transgressions, the Reconciliation of a race estranged from God, the Restorer of the holiness and happiness lost in rebellion against the Almighty. Take all your own sins—and before Jesus do not try to parade yourself as innocent of evil, for each one of us, without exception, stands condemned by God’s Word for our lustful longings, covetous desires, unclean hearts; take your total guilt, your accumulated soul-terror, the fear that your violation of God’s Law and man’s will be exposed or their crushing consequences visited on you; bring all this to the Cross, and there through faith in the sin-bearing Deliverer you know that His blood can remove your sins forever. Last week a Pennsylvania invalid wrote: “Can a murderess and an adulteress be forgiven? This worries me nearly to death. Oh, pray for my poor soul! Can you give me any encouragement?” In the name of the compassionate Christ, I tell that distracted sufferer and every burdened heart throughout the nation, in Canada and Mexico, that every iniquity, however vile and loathsome it may be, can be removed by the grace of Him who says, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

Christ Jesus is the Savior also of the whole race, with none barred from His mercy. Heap up the mountains of universal guilt; invite men of every country, color, and condition to bring their transgressions before the Crucified, and His mercy will be so marvelous that again a single drop of the blood He shed in His atoning death can wipe out the world’s hideous rebellion against God’s truth, love, and purity.

Above all, believe that you yourself may come just as you are, depressed over the repeated victories sin has won in your life, almost desperately eager to find forgiveness, peace for a restless conscience, the assurance of God’s love; and at Calvary through faith you learn that while Jesus here “died for all,” He died especially for you, to cancel the charges written in the book of justice against your name, to prepare your place in heaven.

This is what the name Christ means: complete compassion, limitless love, matchless mercy, glorious grace, free forgiveness. Do you now answer the question “Who is this Jesus?” by exulting, “He is my Savior, my Atonement”? Or—God forbid!—do you behold the writhing agony of the Crucified, suffering for your sins, and then try to laugh this off by rejecting His grace? I read the other day that a group of men sitting on the deck of a steamer on its way up the Delaware River to Philadelphia saw flaming clouds of smoke over the city and paused to discuss that scene of weird beauty. After the ship had docked, one of the men in the party was told, “Your factory has been entirely destroyed by fire!” Unknowingly he had admired a blaze that had wiped out his own business. Yet with even greater tragedy some of you behold the Lord, concede that He may have done good, but detach yourselves completely from His love, little realizing that everything worthwhile in this life and the next is being destroyed while you are fascinated by the ravages of sin.

Yet, as we ask once more, “Who is this Jesus?” there now comes an answer of glorious climax.—Praised be the love that brought Him from heaven to the shame and agony of the cross!—Christ—Let earth and heaven rejoice, men and angels exult!—is, as Peter triumphantly concluded, “the Son of the living God,” of equal majesty with the Father and the Spirit, Lord of lords, King of kings, very God of very God.

Jesus must be God, because only a divine Redeemer can overcome sin; because only One who is Life itself can defeat death; because nothing short of the almighty power of Heaven itself can conquer hell. And Jesus is God! Pointing to Christ, the Bible declares, “This is the true God!” In the Old Testament Jeremiah called Him “the Lord” and in the New Testament Saint John begins his Gospel by stating that He, Jesus, “the Word, was God.” Our Lord Himself declared, “I and My Father are One.” He told men that those who beheld Him beheld the Father. In turn, the Father acknowledged Him as His well-beloved Son. Jesus proved He was God by executing the almost endless list of miracles only the Almighty could perform. If the unbreakable Scriptures give Him the names and titles by which men address God; if they ascribe to Him those marvelous powers which can be only God’s: eternity, unlimited strength, all-embracing knowledge, and especially the authority to forgive sins; if Christ is honored as God by prophets and apostles, praised as God by saints and martyrs, acknowledged as God both in heaven and hell, the call to everyone of us is to bow before Him and with full reverence of heart, soul, mind, repeat Thomas’ conviction “My Lord, and my God!”

Some of you demand, “How can you convince me?” In answer, as the Savior told Peter, “Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven,” so I tell you that the deity of our Lord cannot be proved or disproved by scientific research, technical tests, or elaborate experiments. Only God, through His Spirit, can convince you that what I say is true. Give that Spirit a place in your heart! Ask Him to remove any stubborn resistance, any willful blindness! Yield to Him the direction of your life and let Him persuade you that Christ is your God!—Some years ago Charles Bradlaugh, a blasphemous atheist, challenged a courageous Christian minister to a public debate. Immediately the clergyman accepted, but he specified, “I will bring with me to the debate a hundred men and women who have been saved from lives of sin by the Gospel of Christ. They will give their evidence, and you will be allowed to cross-examine them. I will ask you that you bring with you a hundred men and women who have been similarly helped by the . . . infidelity which you preach.” That challenge was never met; and there will be no debate in your mind as to the deity of Jesus Christ when you, saved by the power of His love, know Him as your own.

My fellow redeemed, while the Spirit is close to you and in this moment seeks entrance into your heart, I plead with you who have never known Christ, who have consistently rejected Him, or who, once having pledged Him allegiance, have turned traitorously from His mercy, confess Him your Christ, your Savior, your God! Blessings, endless and immeasurable, for time and eternity, will be yours when your soul rings with Peter’s positive acknowledgment of Jesus. What you need, what I need, what this whole bleeding and battered world needs is the answer to our question “Who is this Jesus?” given to the world 400 years ago by the great Reformer and Restorer of Christ’s full and free mercies in a ringing statement of faith which I repeat annually as the summary and theme of our broadcasts, this deathless declaration: “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.”

Who is this Jesus? God grant that you will answer joyfully, “He is my Savior and my God!” Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.