“Plead my cause, O LORD, with those who strive with me; Fight against those who fight against me . . . Say to my soul, ‘I am your salvation’ . . . Let them shout for joy and be glad, Who favor my righteous cause; And let them say continually, ‘Let the LORD be magnified, Who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant'” (Psalm 35:1, 3, 27)
It’s anybody’s guess as to when David set down these words — how many times wasn’t this embattled king surrounded by intrigue and violence? Was it before his reign, when the rejected Saul aimed to make Jesse’s son a youthful pin-cushion? Or was it later, when David’s son, Absalom — beautiful, spoiled Absalom — stole the hearts of the people and sent David and his court packing?
Whatever the case, David had plenty of occasion to appeal to the Lord in the face of opposition and personal danger. It had been so from the time he went out to take bread and cheese to his brothers at war, and heard Goliath taunting Israel and mocking Israel’s God. David found himself in battle — a battle he took very personally. Goliath, after all, was mocking the Lord, the God of his fathers. All David’s hopes were invested in this God — where else could he turn when his cause was endangered? Errand boy for the army, or ruler of Israel, it was all the same to the Psalmist who understood that “his cause” (his duties in the Lord’s service), however humble, was no different than the Lord’s cause:
“Plead my cause, O LORD, with those who strive with me; Fight against those who fight against me.”
So it was for servants of the Lord also in the days of the Reformation. The Lutheran Reformation was an effort to lay bare the shining goblet of Truth, long tarnished by the errors of Rome. Three simple principles governed the Reformers: they were guided by Scripture Alone; they taught that man was saved by Grace Alone; saving grace was received by Faith Alone.
“The LORD Is My Salvation”
These three principles established a Truth among the reformers that was already taught by David in the prayer: “Say to my soul, ‘I am your salvation.'” This was the driving force of the Reformation: the Lutherans (as they wre sneeringly called) found their cause in preaching the true comfort and assurance that “a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith (alone) in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 2:16).
It is well for us to study the history of the Church; especially to reflect on this period of the Reformation, for it was this simple, childlike truth around which the Reformers gathered. They did so against dreadful odds; there were Goliaths (Emperor Charles V), Sauls (Pope Leo X), and Absaloms (Philip Melanchthon, who drafted the Augsburg Confession, but in later years altered many of the clear confessions made earlier). Men like Luther, and later Chemnitz and Andreae, had come to realize that the jewels of the Reformation — Scripture alone, Grace alone, Faith alone — were also the refuge in which they found safety amidst the political, verbal, or physical assaults of their adversaries. For if enemies of the truth were allowed to weaken the Reformer’s commitment to the Scriptures’ truth, they themselves would lose the Lord’s own gift of assurance. To relinquish the authority of Scripture is to lose the Lord’s means of saying to the soul “I am your salvation.”
Better by far to pray for God to plead one’s own cause, and leave the worries to Him. Better by far to continue on the road of the truth come what may; to commit one’s keeping into the hands of our God. It was a personal thing with them; the price of bartering truth for error was just too high.
“Let them shout for joy and be glad, Who favor my righteous cause; And let them say continually, ‘Let the LORD be magnified, Who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant.'”
The Reformation is a personal thing — it is a disciple’s resistance to the dethroning of Christ and the erosion of His truth. If we seek to proclaim the truth of Scripture as we have seen it done in the past, we will undoubtedly meet with our own Goliaths, Sauls, and Absaloms.
But we will, by God’s grace, also hear the joyful shouts of the saints; we will see the salvation of the Lord. May the true spirit of the Reformation be a personal thing with us: the confidence that the Lord is our salvation, and none other.
Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy Word; Curb those who fain by craft and sword Would wrest the Kingdom from Thy Son And set at naught all He hath done.
–Pastor Peter Reim