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The Humble Fear of God
Scripture and a reading from Luther's sermons and devotional writings

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

5 Likewise you that are younger be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you.

1 Peter 5:5–6, RSV

From Luther

The heart, through knowledge of its sin, becomes terrified in the presence of God’s anger and anxiously seeks grace. Thus a humility is born, not merely external and before men, but of the heart and of God, from fear of God and knowledge of one’s own unworthiness and weakness. He who fears God and trembles at his word will surely not boast against any one. He will even manifest a gentle spirit toward his enemies. Therefore he finds favor with God and men.

The cause of this shall be “the mighty hand of God.” God’s hand is powerful and mighty in a twofold manner. It dashes down and overthrows the proud and self-secure, however hard and iron-like their heads and hearts may be. They must languish in dust and ashes; must lie despondent and desperate in the anguish and torments of hell, if he touch them but a little with the terrors of his anger. These are experiences through which the saints also pass, and concerning whose severity they lament.

In the second place God’s hand is mighty to raise, to comfort and strengthen the humble and fearful, and to exalt them. Those who have been cast down in terror should not despair, or flee before God, but rise again and be comforted in God. God wishes to have it preached and published that he never lays his hand upon us in order that we may perish and be damned. But he must pursue this course to lead us to repentance, else we would never inquire about his Word and will. If we seek his grace, he is ready to help us up again, to grant us forgiveness of sins, the Holy Spirit and eternal life.

So God will also “exalt you in due time.” Though his help be delayed, and the humble and suffering seem to lie oppressed all too long under his hand and to languish, let them hold to the promise Paul has given: God “will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able,” but will hear your cry, and will help at the proper time; and thus let us be comforted. God has already stretched forth his mighty hand, both to cast down the godless and to exalt the humble.

Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 229–30.

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