Believing is not Experiencing

Lent 5 Friday

Psalm 130:7

“Hope in the Lord, Israel, for with the Lord is grace, and much redemption is with him.”

 

This is truly a golden verse and worthy to be learned with the greatest diligence, because here David wishes and exhorts so that the entire people, following his example, may rely on and remain with the certain hope in the mercy of God. … For this is the fruit of faith: The heart feels that death is overcome by Christ’s death; sin is atoned for and the law is abolished by grace and forgiveness. While this is completely certain in itself, our weakness is so great that we cannot grasp it with certainty. This is why we are still frightened by thoughts of death and sin. Now, if this trust in God’s grace were perfect, no sadness could ever overtake a believing heart. This is why David here uses this exhortation that Israel, after it has obtained forgiveness, may keep up its wait and not let its trust in mercy be taken from it. The word David uses for his exhortation really means “wait.” But he has in view the struggle when the heart begins to doubt God’s mercy when it is afflicted by certain adversities. Hearts fall into despair in these struggles because they do not right away experience what the Word promises and faith believe. David reminds Israel against this affliction that they should remember that they must wait; that they should not abandon the Word or undertake anything against the Word. Why? “For with the Lord is grace.” The flesh thinks in afflictions and dangers that there is nothing but wrath with God. This is why the Spirit comforts us and seeks to take away this godless opinion about God and proclaims that mercy and goodness are with God so long as we wait. But we need this testimony because, when we follow our feelings, we experience the opposite. But we must not judge based on our feelings or on that which is presently at hand, but we must follow the Word and firmly maintain that these things are to be believed, but not experienced. For believing is not experiencing – not as if we should never experience what we believe, but faith must precede experience. We must believe the Word even when our feelings and experiences tell us differently, so that, when hearts in adversities maintain that God is angry with us, does not take care of us, but hates us, faith firmly maintains that there is no wrath, hatred, punishment, or guilt with God. Although God permits that we are afflicted, this does not happen to inflict bad things on us. For with him his grace, and he is about nothing but goodness to rescue us from misfortune, to mortify sins, to increase other gifts in us. … This is why we who believe should add hope to faith, so that we, even when we feel and experience the opposite and it appears as if God inflicts punishments on us like an enemy, nonetheless do not believe any experience more than the Word and the Holy Spirit who proclaims that grace or goodness is with God; that he loves us and desires to do us good. The truth of the Holy Spirit is that we think – in fact, that we maintain with utmost certainty – that there is no wrath with God, but that we, even when some outward burdens take place – hunger, disease, heartache, and similar adversities – overcome these afflictions by faith and hope by demonstrating our patience to God and hoping for the rescue at the right time … For if God did not love us, the devil would not hate us. If we did not have life, our enemy would not pursue us with death. … The saints, I say, experience all this. But for how long would we go astray if we always set aside the Word and followed our feeling and experience? … This is why I want to overcome my thoughts by means of the Word. I want to inscribe this promise in my heart: After coming to faith in Christ and not doubting that my sins are forgiven by his blood, I will not be put to shame, even if all my senses and my experience argue and prove otherwise. In me, I feel God’s wrath, the devil’s hatred, and the world’s raging. But the Holy Spirit does not lie who commands me to hope because “with the Lord is grace, and much redemption is with him.”

 

St. Louis ed., 5:2060-2064.

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