Luther on the Psalms

Reading the Psalms with Luther

Being a parent can be difficult. You always want to give your kids the absolute best. I’ll admit it, sometimes I buy my kids the off brand. I have even bought the off brand videos. It is not the movie they wanted but it’s the same story. They enjoyed it but they definitely communicated that it was not what they were expecting. I recently felt the same thing myself when I made an online purchase. I purchased Reading the Psalms with Luther, and was very excited when it arrived in the mail less than a week later. However, I was unpleasantly surprised when I realized that the commentary I was hoping for was actually a summary. What I had hoped for was an interpetations of the Psalms by Martin Luther, what I received was a summary of those interpetations of Luther by Bruce A. Cameron. My hopes remained high when the first pages included Luther’s perspective on the Psalms, “Most beautifully and briefly it embraces everything in the entire Bible; it is made into a fine enchiridion, or handbook” (p. 7.) After a brief introduction, the book handles each Psalm in three parts, the commentary, the Psalm, and then a prayer. This is done after a small introduction on how much the Psalms meant to Luther. It was his daily prayer book, the topic of his initial lectures, and to him, the entire Bible encompassed (p. 9.).

He classified each Psalm as either a psalm of prophecy, instruction, comfort, prayer, or thanks. Each psalm pointed to one of the Ten Commandments and one of the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer (p. 9-11.) As we read through, the emssages that Luther is known for shines throughout. Anyone who has done even a light study of Luther knows he teaches on free will and justification, the importance of faith over work, especially indulgences, and the place of authority.

The Law has been removed because it failed (p. 51.) We should take comfort that God’s anger is temporary. He does not wish but good for us and has already interceded on our behalf that we live joyfully (p. 72.) A guilty conscience is the worst kind of torture. This is reminiscent of Luther’s perception of God early in his ministry (p. 96.) God alone does everything for us (p. 101.) The Psalms are filled with his doctrine on justification found in Romans (p. 154.) God’s plan is revealed in our history, the Psalms retell this story showing how God has always been in control (p. 181.) Our salvation is not based on anything of ours (p. 210.) The only reason that the Church has lasted is that it is God’s Will (p. 215.) Worship in the Old Testament fell short, but the New Testament brought about real worship (p. 222.) Christ was the Lowest of the Low and Highest of the High (p. 230.) The Word must be pure (p. 284.)

The only true works are a product of true worship (p. 77.) We are to pray to God that our works be faith filled, and that we do not let our insecurities defame the Gospel (p. 99.)  Relying too heavily on works can produce bad fruit (p. 101.) God’s Word is a gift from the Father (p. 200.) Praising the Father gives Him glory and serves an emotional connection (p. 204.) Faith brings about living (works) (p. 207.) Every work should be doing good and shunning evil (p. 236.) Luther warns against saint worship which has become a new form of idolatry (p. 257.) All human effort is simply emptiness (p. 278.) Do not be like the proud saints who rather than trusting in God trust in their own works (p. 316.) Every human ability is the product of God’s work (p. 330.) False teachers teach material wealth as blessings or that things going well are proof of God’s favor (p. 342.)

Those in authority have misrepresented the Gospel (p. 86.) We are warned to have endurance (p. 92.)  Relying on other sources than God can cause us to give in to greed and a desire for wealth (p. 119.) Luther warns us against the tyrant that rather than build up God’s Word would work to destroy it. They call themselves the true church and any that would oppose them, heretics (p. 133.) Do not think that Luther was against authority! He believed that all authority and order was put in place by God (p. 135, 144, 245, 310.) He thought that we should fight to preserve government. He warned against a constantly unchanging government. This instability he thought was dangerous (p. 143.) He felt that obeying the government was your civic duty and your responsibility as a Christian (p. 145.) After the Gospel, a ruler strengthening God’s laws is the most coveted thing there is (p. 196.) As Luther is teaching the Psalms to future teachers and ministers, he warns them about false teachers and those teaching new doctrine (p. 300, 307.). The very thing is is accused of himself. Pray for worldly authorities (p. 318.) Success in government, victory, and fortune gifts from God and do not come from human ability (p. 341.)
On the whole it is a very enjoyable devotional. I do not regret the purchase because this summary, like the Psalms, are profitable to any Christians’ life. It is built with simple reminders than no matter where you are in your Christian walk you can use. That being said, I cannot recommend it as useful for study on Martin Luther, the Father of the Reformation.

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