Our prelude for our 8AM service this Sunday will be the reformation hymn, I Trust, O Lord, Your Holy Name by a student of Martin Luther by the name of Adam Reusner. I didn’t grow up with this hymn, but I’m very glad that it is picked as the hymn of the day in Lutheran Service Book. It really is a wonderful hymn and you can tell that the author spent a lot of time studying at the feet of Luther.
The hymn comes from a great Reformation tradition of hymns based on the Psalms. These Reformation psalmody hymns are so grounded in the Scripture and so earnest that they speak to us just as clearly as though they were written yesterday. This particular hymn is based on Psalm 31, especially verses 1-5. I’ll be giving you the Psalm verses, followed by the hymn stanzas.
1 In you, O LORD, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me!
Hymn stanza 1:
I trust, O Lord, Your holy name;
O let me not be put to shame
Nor let me be confounded.
My faith, O Lord,
Be in Your Word
Forever firmly grounded.
My Lutheran Study Bible tells me that Luther writes of Psalm 31:1, “It does not say ‘in my’ but ‘in thy righteousness’, that is, in the righteousness of Christ my God which becomes ours through faith and by the grace and mercy of God”. How do we hear of this righteousness that comes from God by faith? We are know of God’s salvation only through His holy Word. Our faith is ‘firmly grounded’ in the Word of God, as Paul writes in 2nd Timothy:
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
Psalm 31:2, 11-13:
2Incline your ear to me;
rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me!
11Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach,
especially to my neighbors,
and an object of dread to my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street flee from me.
12I have been forgotten like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel.
13For I hear the whispering of many—
terror on every side!—
as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.
Hymn stanza 2:
Bow down Your gracious ear to me
And hear my cry, my prayer, my plea;
Make haste for my protection,
For woes and fear
Surround me here.
Help me in my affliction.
This second stanza is an earnest plea for God to protect us from all affliction, danger, and need. When David wrote the Psalms, his life was literally in danger at many times because he had many enemies. The reformers, likewise, knew that their lives were in endangered. Luther spent years of his life hiding in a castle because the pope wanted him dead. It is no wonder, then, that men like Luther and Reusner took refuge in the words of the Psalms. When we sing this stanza, we join David and Luther in asking God to protect us from all dangers that we face in our lives.
3For you are my rock and my fortress;
and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;
4you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
for you are my refuge.
Hymn stanza 3:
You are my strength, my shield, and my rock,
My fortress that withstands each shock,
My help, my life, my tower,
My battle sword,
Who can resist Your power?
This stanza is our answer to the pleas for help in stanza 2. We are rescued from the nets of Satan and we live securely, knowing that our God is our fortress. I love the translator’s use of the word “shock” at the end of the second line. It makes me think of God as a fortress that can stands up against the most powerful explosives and weaponry ever invented. The stanza does not stop there, however, but goes on the offensive. God’s “battle sword”, which is His Holy Word, is a powerful weapon that no one can resist. With it we may live out our Christian lives without fear.
5 Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.
Hymn stanza 4:
With You, O Lord, I cast my lot;
O faithful God, forsake me not,
To You my soul commending.
Lord, be my stay,
And lead the way
Now and when life is ending.
The words of Psalm 31:5 are Jesus’ words from the cross. These words of Jesus teach us that in life and in death we entrust our whole lives to our Lord. Our God has redeemed us, He protects us from all harm and danger, He defeats Satan’s plans to harm us, and He finally brings us safely to heaven to be with Him. What more could there be to sing? Oh yes, the Trinitarian final stanza.
Hymn stanza 5
All honor, praise, and majesty
To Father, Son, and Spirit be,
Our God forever glorious,
In whose rich grace
We run our race
Till we depart victorious.