Friday, January 13, 2012

Leaning on Emotions

This evening I heard on the radio a song/hymn and its authors being praised. The song is “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.” It has as a Scriptural basis: “The eternal God is your Refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33:27

The song turns my stomach. I’ve heard it in a couple of movies before. It causes me to realize why so many people think that Christians are emotional boobs.

This song, while promoted as Gospel and comfort is 100 percent Law, without a word of the Gospel even suggested. I won’t post it here, but if you want to examine it, click here. But be warned, the music plays and it is the kind of sickly tune that refuses to leave one’s head.

The Gospel is not empty emotionalism. The Gospel tells us where this eternal God is found and how He is available. The Gospel tells us of the means of grace, through which this merciful God fills the emptiness that we feel.

This song purportedly was written to give comfort to two men whose wives died and left them grieving. If the text from Deuteronomy had actually been applied as it stands written, it would have been comfort of the greatest kind, rather than teaching that people should lean emotionally on imaginary arms that do nothing and cannot be felt or seen except as fantasy.

The text of Deuteronomy 33:27 is one portion of the great blessing that Moses pronounced upon the people of God to carry them forward in faith as they entered into the land of promise, the land where they would live in the safety of the true worship established by the Lord until the promised Seed would be born of woman to save them and all the world from sin and all of the consequences of sin, most especially everlasting death. Such words of blessing provide real and substantial comfort.

The entire Thirty-third chapter should be read and pondered, but even the last four verses are marvelous:

     There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky. The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them. Israel then shall dwell in safety alone: the fountain of Jacob shall be upon a land of corn and wine; also his heavens shall drop down dew. Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places. (Deuteronomy 33:26-29)

These arms do not require one to lean upon them. They actually go before and defeat the enemy who would destroy through deception and false worship. These arms prepare the way for God’s people to sojourn in safety. And these last verses, spoken specifically to the tribe of Asher, are given in connection with the entire communion of the people of God. Special words are spoken to each tribe regarding their portion in the promised inheritance that would keep them united until the Messiah would come. It is all based upon the Lord’s faithfulness as it was displayed in delivering the people from their bondage in Egypt and in the giving of the Torah or Law upon Mount Sinai.

The patriarchs died in the comfort of these promises. In remembrance of these promises the Lord brought the people out of their bondage and to this land of promise. He provided for them through their journey, even after they disobeyed. He brought them safely to the border of the new land and now Moses proclaimed to them these final words of blessing. After leading them for forty years, he now blessed them one final time to prepare them for the new life that awaited them.

The centuries of waiting have been fulfilled. The promised King and Savior has come. He has gone forth and has carried our troubles and infirmities in His own body. He has faced death for us and has risen victorious over sin and death and the devil. He has ascended to the throne of God and rules on our behalf. And He has given us not only words to comfort us, but He has given us the Sacrament of water and Spirit through which He lifts us up from our sin death and joins us into His everlasting kingdom. He has given us the Sacrament of His body and blood through which He actually comes to us and gives us Himself to strengthen us and keep us united in Him throughout all our days and even unto everlasting life. When we face the death of our loved ones who have been washed into His Holy Communion of blessedness and life, we need not imagine some fictitious arms on which to lean in our minds, for we know that our loved ones are safe with Him and that we remain in His protection in His body, the Church, until our time of blessed departure comes.

Don’t sing any hyped up emotional nonsense to me. Give me the solid Law and Gospel by which I will stand unmoved upon the Rock. Sing to me “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” and “The Church’s One Foundation” and “I Know that My Redeemer Lives”! Sing to me “The Kyrie Eleison” and “The Sanctus” and “The Agnus Dei” and “The Nunc Dimittis”! Then I shall be truly comforted and you will have shown yourself a true friend.

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