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God’s Word for You

Psalm 119:31 I cling…

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, May 20, 2023

31 I cling to your testimonies, O LORD;
  do not let me be put to shame.

“Cling” is a vivid word. Jonah’s great confession at the center of his book is, “Those who cling to worthless idols forsake the mercy that is theirs” (Jonah 2:8). Paul preaches: “Don’t just pretend to love others. Hate what is evil. Cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). And the Apostle’s command to every preacher is: “He must cling to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he will be able both to encourage people by the sound teaching and also to correct those who oppose him” (Titus 1:9). Solomon also says about godly wisdom: “Those who cling to it are blessed” (Proverbs 3:13).

Here, the poet shows the need believers have to clearly express our faith. To cling to God’s testimonies is both to learn about the word and to confess our faith in it. Since the very beginning of the church, this has been done with confessions or creeds. We should give our most serious attention to the truths expressed in the creeds especially, and the Small Catechism as well. Luther understood the value of this especially at home: “Sermons don’t edify little children very much, and they learn very little that way. It’s more necessary that they be taught and instructed well in (Christian) schools and at home, and that we listen to them (repeat their lessons) and examine what they have learned. This is very profitable. It is wearisome but very necessary.”

When we parents read the Catechism to our children, we sometimes feel ashamed because we have forgotten the words, or the translation has changed and the words are different. For example, when I learned my Second Commandment, old Pastor Gausewitz and his committee translated the words: “That we do not curse, swear, practice superstition, lie, or deceive by his name.” But then in the 1980s, the old concerns of “superstition” were changing, and Luther’s original “or use witchcraft” was put back into the Catechism once again, and that remains to this day.

Parents should throw away their embarrassment if they’ve forgotten the words and read out of the book, because whatever the cost, we need to remember the words of the Catechism and teach them and review them with our children and with one another. There never was written at any time a better, more excellent or complete statement of the Christian faith than the Small Catechism. It should be the first thing we pack when we take a trip. We would do well to read little pieces of it night after night before we pray at mealtimes.

Edgar Allen Poe wrote a story called “Maelstrom.” The main character is a sailor aboard a ship that becomes caught in a huge whirlpool in the freezing ocean. There is no way for the ship to be saved, and the sailors who cling to the ship will all be lost. Yet the one man looks and sees that some things, empty barrels, mostly, are riding out of the whirlpool to safety. He has to let go of what his reason tells him is safety (the ship) and grab what is truly the only way to live. He has to jump out of the ship and swim for a barrel. This is like a little sketch of trusting in the Word of God over against the desperate reasoning of the world. The Scriptures teach us that Jesus is the only way to eternal life (John 14:6, 3:16), and even though the world and its bullying reason and logic try to pound other points of view into our brains, we see that clinging to the precepts, the gospel passages of the Holy Scriptures, are the only way to true life; eternal life.

Learn your Catechism, and teach it to the people you love, no matter how young or how old, so that you and they know it and cherish it. Cling to the gospel of salvation by Jesus, and you will never be put to shame.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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