GOD OF OUR FATHERS: Sincerely we thank Thee for the unnumbered blessings of political liberty which has been ours in this divinely blessed nation; and humbly we beseech Thee to guard our blood-bought freedom against the increasing number of those who from within our boundaries, as from without, would overthrow our Government, Guide the hearts and minds of all Americans on election day! Help them to vote gratefully, prayerfully, conscientiously! Above all, so direct the masses in our country that we may choose Thee, the Triune God, as our eternal Leader! Draw us to Thee in the heartfelt repentance that confesses all our sins but looks to the Lord Jesus for pardon and perfect peace! Bring many, especially the destitute, bereaved, forsaken, sick, lonely, oppressed, to Christ for salvation, comfort, courage, and strength! May our military men and women always be assured of His presence as they go out to battle, and always walk with faith in His sustaining love! May He, the Prince of Peace, soon stop all bloodshed! We plead confidently, because we pray in Jesus’ blessed name. Amen!
How quickly men lose their trust in God, and how deeply they often suffer before they learn to rely on Him! A sergeant who recently returned from New Guinea, told me that while on a transport to the South Pacific, he invited another non-commissioned officer to attend church with him, only to be told: “Church? That’s the place for women and children! In the Army only sissies go to church.” Three months later the two young men met again in a military hospital ward at Milne Bay on New Guinea’s western tip, the Christian sergeant sick with fever, the scoffer prostrate with a paralyzed leg. One of the patients, seeing our friend study the Bible, sneered: “Do you read that Book? Do you actually believe that there is a God? Before the Scripture-reading soldier could begin his defense of divine Truth, the former infidel who had boasted that he was through with religion, satisfied to leave it to women and children, challenged the unbeliever: “Have you ever been in battle? I have, for six days straight! First I saw a buddy fall on the right and then one drop on the left. Many were killed on all sides, front and back. Now, do you think that I was spared accidentally, that all those bullets were directed away from me by chance? I know who saved me. When I got back from the front, the first thing I did was to find the chaplain and ask him to help me get right with my Maker. If you have anything to say against God and the Bible, go out to the sewer! That’s the place for the things you say.” So completely converted was the former infidel that before they parted he wanted to pay his Christian companion a high price for his compact copy of the Bible, the Book he had rejected three months earlier.
Nor was this an isolated
instance. The believing sergeant told
me that on the same transport to New Guinea another solider repeatedly
ridiculed his Bible reading. After landing, they separated, but by
orders and divine direction they were later assigned to a mission into
the jungles. The two men were standing together when suddenly a
sniper, concealed in a near-by coconut tree, shot the scoffer right
the heart. He collapsed, but not before he whispered, “Take the Book
of my pocket!” Our friend reached his hand into the pocket and drew
new Testament, the very book its owner had neglected and belittled.
shall I do with it?” he asked. Slowly and emphatically the dying
directed: “If ever people make fun of you for reading the Bible, as I
tell them that this is the Testament of a dying soldier who wishes to
that he had read the Bible far more than he has!” While our Christian
gave him eternal comfort in Christ, his Savior from sin, the former
passed into eternity. I have his New Testament in my home, the very
through which this mortally wounded warrior wished to appeal for a
to God. In accord with the spirit of his last request I read this word
of Jeremiah (chapter seventeen, verses five and seven): “Thus saith the
Lord: Cursed be the man that trusteth in man and maketh flesh his arm
whose heart departeth from the Lord. …Blessed is the man that trusteth
in the Lord and whose Hope the Lord is.” On the basis of this passage
in a pre-election message directed especially to the unconcerned masses
in our country, I appeal
1- THOSE WHO TRUST IN MAN ARE CURSED
Jeremiah spoke these words shortly before his nation was destroyed. Israel had rejected Jehovah, the God who had chosen it to be His own marvelously guided people. He had led them from slavery to liberty, defended them against their enemies, blessed them in all their undertakings; yet they had proudly put themselves in His place, followed human plans instead of divine direction. And the result? Defeat and total devastation, the literal fulfillment of Jeremiah’s warning, “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man!”
Today America, even more lavishly blessed than Israel in its highest glory, America, enriched by the Almighty’s great gifts: vast territory, extensive natural resources, healthful climate, rich soil, is similarly guilty of trusting man and dethroning God. In Jeremiah’s day religion was poisoned by human additions and alterations; false prophets were in control and brazenly they declared, not “Thus saith the Lord,” but “Thus say we.” Likewise today, who are those with names emblazoned in newspaper headlines as theological leaders and church authorities? Are they not often preachers and teachers who deny the deity of the Lord Jesus, reject Scripture truth, spurn the Savior’s atonement, push aside the appeals for repentance, label as false many of the words the Son of God spoke, and thus place human thought above divine assurance, earth’s mistakes above heaven’s verity? In consequence, according to the divine truth, a curse rests on all those religious systems which trust in man instead of the Lord. Years ago, when Cortez conquered Mexico, an Indian chief named Hotney, who had led a desperate opposition, was captured and condemned to be burned alive. At the stake he was urged to embrace the faith, so that his soul could go to heaven. He asked whether white men would be there and when told they would, he cried out” “Then I will not be a Christian, for I would not go to a place where I must find men so cruel.” Similarly, people are being kept out of church and out of heaven by so-called teachers who trust in man rather than his maker and, rejecting the Gospel, preach a Christless system of uncertainty.
Again, Jeremiah found that those in important places sought to destroy Scripture. He was to experience how King Jehoiakim, enraged over the Prophet’s prediction of doom, ripped his writings with a knife and cast them into the flames. We have Scripture-slashers today, too, especially teachers in responsible positions who remove this chapter of the Bible, cut out that section, cross out lines here and rearrange verses there, claiming, against all evidence, that these portions are not genuine. I read recently of a Modernist, Scripture-cutting pastor who taught “higher critical” theories. One day he was called to the bedside of a leading member, fatally sick. When the minister asked, “Shall I read to you?” and his parishioner answered, “Yes,” a Bible was brought, but what a volume it was!. Entire books had been ripped out, hundreds of pages cut away, chapters removed, and on the remaining pages, many verses destroyed. “Have you no better Bible than this?” the preacher asked; and can you imagine the sense of guilt that must have overtaken him when the dying man replied, “Before you came, I had the whole Scripture, but after you preached from the pulpit that some books were fictitious, I tore them out. When you asserted that certain chapters were not genuine, I deleted them. As you attacked individual verses and said they were spurious, I removed them.” Likewise, the modern unbelievers in the pulpit have robbed themselves and their followers of the Gospel’s comforting grace.
Millions in America are trusting in man, making flesh their arm, and departing from the Lord. The election, day after tomorrow, brings the United States before a momentous decision. All eligible citizens, men and women, young and old, should go to the polls on Tuesday. Vote gratefully, thanking God for the fact that we live in a country which still has the privilege of the ballot! Above all, vote prayerfully, sincerely invoking the Almighty’s guidance and blessing, for the proper choice! If the entertainment world celebrates election day with midnight shows, then this year especially Christian churches should be open on Tuesday, so that every citizen, before casting his ballot, could repair to the Lord’s house for private prayer, beseeching divine direction in fulfilling his civic duties.
“Forgive us our election sins,” we may well pray when we think of the attack and slander, violence and murder, that of ten accompany national elections. Yet even more destructive is the failure to remember the heavenly Sovereign of America and give Him the decisive authority in our national affairs. On Tuesday millions will go to the polls trusting in man and forgetting their Creator; for much of our political life is poisoned by this neglect of the Lord. Consider carefully these crimes against God, repeatedly committed during recent years:
Political Sin Number 1: Open denial of divine truth. A frequently quoted person, called the representative of the nation’s commander in chief, has publicly assailed Scripture, denied that man has fallen, as the third chapter of Genesis plainly says he has, questioned the fact of answered prayer, and otherwise sabotaged Holy Writ.
Political Sin Number 2. Brazen attacks on Bible morality. When high figures in Washington circles exalt divorce without mentioning that every broken marriage involves a transgression of the divine code; when the lives of lawmakers are sometimes marked with sins condemned by the Bible, dark and disastrous days have indeed dawned upon us.
Political Sin Number 3. The open endorsement of printed filth. Some months ago a volume appeared which abounds in rape and crime. It involves a white man and a Negro woman who play against a background of sex and degeneracy. Yet this very book has been endorsed by one of the most widely publicized Washington personalities. “How,” one editor correctly asks, ‘can we expect to have a nation strong in its fidelity to the marriage vow, dedicated to the purity of the home and the practices of the fundamentals of Christian morality, when this book is thus highly and enthusiastically recommended as suitable reading matter for decent people?”
Political Sin Number 4.
The adoption of programs plainly hostile
to Scripture; for example, authorizing the destruction of tremendous
quantities, granting divorce for a dozen anti-Scriptural reasons—these
and other violations of the Almighty’s Law which can bring dire
Political Sin Number 5. The open disregard of the Lord. When a cabinet member can quote the atheist poet Henley and tell the public that we are the masters of our fate as long as we have powerful allies, he leaves no room for the Almighty.
Political Sin Number 6. False promises for the future. “We pledge that there will be no more war,” one presidential candidate declares. “We will create a warless, wantless world,” another promises. But God’s Word which can never make a mistake, nowhere assures us of a golden, glittering age with perpetual peace.
Political Sin Number 7. The repeated breaking of promises. The American people have suffered seriously in the last decades when, relying on man rather than on the Almighty, they built on human promises, confidently made, but quickly forgotten! How necessary to revive the Scriptural warning, “Put not your trust in princes!”
Political Sin Number 8. Official attacks on our Christian religion. The United States today sees men in responsible positions who, as practical atheists and enemies of Jesus, have openly pronounced against our faith. These are the foes who are helping to undermine the foundation upon which a blessed America must rest, since it is divinely true that “the nation and kingdom that will not serve Thee shall perish: yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.”
Political Sin Number 9. The violation of the principle separating Church and State. Constitutionally, the Government does not prefer one creed to the other; yet recently a semiofficial representative was appointed to the headquarters of one religion and official deference thus granted that faith.
Political Sin Number 10.
Insults to the Savior. Prayers which
originally mentioned Christ have been offered publicly by notable
figures, yet significantly and regrettably His name has been cut out,
by silence. Sometimes Jesus is mentioned, but not as the redeeming Son
of God. A few weeks ago a political speaker called our Lord “the great
Liberal,” but not in the sense that He freed us from sin, hell, and
not with the appeal that we are to “stand fast…in the liberty wherewith
Christ hath made us free.” No, our blessed Redeemer was hailed a “great
Liberal” under the false, destructive claim that He would endorse the
of the speaker’s political party. Election orators have nothing to say
about Jesus as God’s Son and the race’s Redeemer, because too many
in the United States hate Him.
Political Sin Number 11. The consorting with criminals and atheists. Some of the candidates for public office, as recent investigations have shown, are unhappily allied with the underworld, with disguised, but radical agitators who plan the overthrow of our American way of life, and, calling all religions bad, also seek to destroy the churches. Read the first chapter of Isaiah God’s
for denunciation of officials with such unholy connections!
Political Sin Number 12. The use of falsehood and slander. This entails far more than the ugly charge and countercharge: “Liar!” It involves the systematic attack on character, the “smear” campaign, the studied effort to ruin reputation.
Political Sin Number 13. Making gods of the candidates. When one of them entered an Eastern community, placards proclaimed him “OUR MESSIAH.” The mayor of a large city, referring to the same man, declared, “He is the savior of our country.” No human being has earned that pre-eminence. The crisis now come upon us fairly screams to us as it pleads that we recognize Jesus Christ as our Savior!
Political Sin Number 14. The neglect of civic duties. With a shocking sense of indifference, millions of Americans will again refuse to vote next Tuesday. Large numbers even of Christians, eminently qualified for office, stubbornly refuse to assume these responsibilities. As they spurn the Lord’s injunction, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” they may surrender positions of trust to men of low morals and few qualifications. One of the reasons American public life has often become synonymous with graft, bribery, and corruption is that churchgoing citizens have stolidly resolved to keep their distance from election contests. We encourage our gifted young Christian men and women to become teachers, attorneys, physicians, and surgeons; why do we not help train them to assume their full part in the direction of our state and national affairs?
Political Sin Number 15. The refusal of many officials to recognize the need for repentance in our country. Flag-waving, hurrah-shouting, parade-marching, anthem singing sometimes leave no realization that we in America have sinned grievously, repeatedly, ungratefully; that we ought to be on our knees in contrite confession of our transgressions, in humble pleas for pardon. Can you remember observing a national day of humiliation and repentance? Contrariwise, our modern philosophy of life demands: “Why should we repent? What have we done wrong?”
How differently Abraham Lincoln viewed the struggle in his day! Shortly after the beginning of the Civil War, he wrote with his own hand this admission of America’s sins: “Whereas a joint committee of both Houses of Congress has waited on the president of the United States and requested him to recommend a day of public humiliation, prayer, and fasting…and whereas it is fit and becoming to all people at all times to acknowledge and revere the supreme government of God, to bow in humble submission to His chastisements, to confess and deplore their sins and transgressions in the full conviction that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and to pray with all fervency and contrition for the pardon of their past offenses and for a blessing upon their present and prospective action; and whereas, when our own beloved country, once, by the blessing of God, united, prosperous, and happy, is now afflicted with friction and civil war, it is peculiarly fit for us to recognize the hand of God in this terrible visitation, and in sorrowful remembrance of our own faults and crimes as a nation as individuals to humble ourselves before Him and to pray for His mercy—to pray that we may be spared further punishment, though most greatly deserved….Therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do appoint the last Thursday of September next as a day of humiliation, prayer and fasting for all the peoples of the nation” The Holy Spirit grant that today masses in America may likewise return to God and choose Him as its supreme Ruler, no matter what the presidential choice may be! May we all be strengthened to cry out with Joshua: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve….As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”!
In all this there is an intensely personal appeal to every one of you, asking that in a materialistic age you place complete reliance on Jesus. Millions in America have thought more of the cigarette shortage than of their own shortcoming; they are more concerned about a hundred inconsequential issues than about the one thing needful: faith in Christ. They believe that we have won our victories without God, that our armed forces, leaders, equipment, productive power, financial might, technical skills, natural resources, inventive or scientific ingenuity have granted us our triumphs without the Almighty. But there are two kinds of victories: one which prepares for further and bloodier struggles, and the other which can help nations live together in harmony and co-operation. If you want true peace, help stifle the overbearing pride which boasts that America, able to take care of itself, does not need God.. Thank the Lord, some of our military leaders, who have daily faced war’s horror, recognize from their own experience that the Almighty grants success! We need more of the spirit of General Diaz, who in World War I defended the Allied cause on the banks of the Piave, a sluggish Italian stream. Regiments of Central Powers’ troops, eager to start on the road to Rome, were ready to cross the slow-moving river when unexpectedly clouds gathered and a tempest swept the whole country. Within a few moments bridges were torn down, men and equipment swept away by the rising flood. Forty thousand enemy troops were taken, the rest ran away in hasty flight. When friends congratulated General Diaz, he answered, deeply stirred, “Not I, God did it.”
We, too, should say, “Not I, God did it,” when we count our soul blessings and realize how marvelously we have been delivered from death and destruction. Continually we must be on guard against those who trust in men for their salvation, lean on the arm of flesh, and let their heart depart from the Lord who shed His blood for us. Influential religious groups still teach that we must place our reliance on human ways of redemption. We must be saved, they tell us, by ourselves, by our own good deeds, good resolutions, good intentions, by our charity and churchgoing, fasting and fulfillment of human ordinances, prayers and penances, character and accomplishments, when, in truth, our whole lives, were they spent in penance, could not purchase the eternal release for a single sin. All we have and all we can acquire is far too little in the Almighty’s sight to buy the pardon for our iniquities. Micah asks with intense pleading” “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul!” But the great Prophet knows, as you should, that the heaviest sacrifice you can make will not assure your entrance into heaven.
Nor can your fellow men grant this guarantee. When the Prophet cries out, “Thus saith the Lord, Cursed be the man that trusteth in man,” he warns us against relying on saints and martyrs, pious preachers and teachers, godly fathers and mothers, believing husbands and wives, devoted sons and daughters. We are not to place our first trust in a particular church or denomination. The Son of God went all the say to redeem us; He paid the full price of our ransom; He bore the whole crushing burden of our sins; He suffered our complete punishment; He finished forever the entire task of our redemption and restoration to the Father. When He bowed His head in death and cried out, “It is finished,” everything required for our deliverance had been won by His suffering and death.
Cursed, therefore, is any speaker in any pulpit who contradicts and denounces God’s Word of grace, attacks the clear Gospel promise, tells us that we must save ourselves. Cursed are all who would pull down the Cross as the one hope of the world’s salvation. Cursed are we, according to the solemn text for today, if we reject Christ as the full Savior, make flesh our arm and depart from the Lord. Cursed and lost forever!
2- THOSE WHO TRUST IN GOD ARE BLESSED
Yet, what marvelous, heavenly reality rests in the promise of our text, “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, whose Hope the Lord is.” I know, of course, that many enticing pledges are offered men today. Victory will bring boundless prosperity. The triumph of political parties will grant even higher standards of living, better wages, improved working conditions, the banishment of war, the reign of perpetual peace. The acceptance of certain creeds will guarantee money, civic standing, social prominence.—These and many other promises are given with lavish frequency, only to be shattered completely tomorrow. Jeremiah’s pledge, however, is not a misguided human statement, but God’s unalterable verity. You can always take the Lord at His Word, “The Scripture cannot be broken,” He assures us, and history proves that truth. No matter how many times you have been disappointed by men, with the Almighty you can be sure of blessing. That is why masses of disillusioned people who until this time have followed human leadership, only to witness the crash and collapse of their hopes, are turning to God. An Amsterdam newspaper, for example, asserts that more Bibles were sold last year in occupied Holland than ever before. When everything else gives way; when the reliance you placed on your acquaintances, business associates, neighbors, intimate friends, relatives, even on the members of your closer family circle, is dashed to pieces, you can approach the heavenly Father for unfailing benediction. First of all, when you “trust in the Lord”—and that means more than trying Him to see what happens, more than outward church membership, holding congregational offices, having pious parents, attending church, listing your name on the congregational roster, confessing Christ with your mouth, singing His praises with your lips—trusting God means personally accepting His Word, and then building your faith, your hope, your reliance, on His promises. When you thus trust the Lord with victorious life-and-death confidence, you are “blessed.”
To begin with, you are strengthened by the guarantee that in the Savior your sins are forgiven; that although your repeated rebellion against Heaven and the heavy wrongs which stain your soul have deserved only wrath and condemnation, nevertheless Jesus, the Father’s only Son, your God and Lord, sought you out when you hurried from Him, cherished you when you cursed Him, stretched His arms out to receive you when you blasphemously sought to tear Him out of your heart. Beneath the cross, although you can never understand the depth of this affection nor the height if its holy devotion, you realize that Jesus loved you with such self-sacrificing passion for your soul that He did not hesitate—O wondrous grace!—to suffer in your stead, to transfer all your iniquities to Himself, to atone for your guilt, to remove every charge against you, to change you from a damned slave of sin to a beloved child of God, to take your place at the bar of eternal justice as your Advocate who declares: “Father, I was wounded for his transgressions. I was bruised for his iniquity. The chastisement, which he should have suffered, I endured, and by the stripes cut into My bleeding back he was healed.” There, my fellow redeemed, you have heard the most important message any radio can proclaim, the most sacred blessing even our Lord could offer, a pledge which promises you escape from hell, triumph over death, salvation from sin.
Our country truly faces a critical choice in its selection of a President, but masses within our borders have been postponing an even more vital decision: their acceptance or rejection of Christ. If the American people were called upon in Tuesday’s election to vote for God or against Him, about 50 per cent would be without any church connection, without the positive, personal assurance of the Savior’s cleansing grace. Are you one of those who, having heard the message that Jesus died for you, turn away untouched, in cold, damning indifference, to say, “What is that to me.?” May the Holy Spirit tell you that a million million times more important than the way you vote on the day after tomorrow—as vital as your ballot is—is your decision for the Son of God, your determination to find full assurance in Him who lived for you, died on the cross for you, and rose again for you.
“Blessed,” indeed, “is the man that trusteth in the Lord and whose Hope the Lord is,” “blessed” above all the purchase power of money, the applause of fame, the re-eminence of position, “blessed” with heavenly joy. No one can ever be truly happy who must labor under the burden of unforgiven sins; but when our transgressions are removed “as far as the East if from the West,” we can “rejoice in the Lord.” “Jesus loves me, and I love Him. What more do I want?”—That was the exultant cry, not of a religious amateur, but of one who had long studied the creeds of our race, an authority with world-wide acclaim, Sir M. Monier Williams, professor of Sanskrit of Oxford University. Yes, if the Savior loves us and we love Him, what more do we want? We have complete forgiveness, mercy that cost us nothing, but which nailed Him to the cross. In Christ we have the strength to resist evil, to hate wickedness, to spurn the temptations which would drag us down in sin. Through our royal Redeemer and His Holy Spirit we are granted that divine power which changes sorrow to joy, uses chastisements to bring us closer to God, turns physical suffering into spiritual help and healing, transforms death itself from horrifying, shattering cruelty into the evidence of our Father’s mercy, by which we are resurrected in the divine image, reunited with our dear ones in faith, and re-established in the eternal sonship.
With Christ, our God and Savior, we are blessed and guided by His unfailing protection. We know that since Jesus died for us in that magnificent mercy which brought Him from the celestial throne to Calvary’s cross, he will not leave us as helpless victims of a cruel, crushing fate. Rather, as he promised, He will protect us, even with the vigilance of His angels, so that everything which comes to us, our successes and sorrows, our advantages and afflictions, our victories and defeats, our acclaims and anguishes—all form part of a heavenly plan, undiscerned and unknown to us, by which the Lord daily draws us more closely to Himself, constantly fortifies our faith, steadily makes us more Christlike, and always gives us the assurance by which we can exult: “If God be for us”—and He is, in Christ who gave Himself for us—“who can be against us?…Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.”
The preceding Lutheran Hour sermon first aired in November 1944.