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Appreciating Our Lutheran Hymns

Christ, the Life of All the Living

A Lenten Hymn

#151 in The Lutheran Hymnal

Believers are at times troubled by past sins, for Satan tries to rob us of our peace with God by reminding us of our sins.

And, poor, miserable sinners that we are by nature, Satan has plenty to use against us. Those who come to faith in Christ later in life must be especially vulnerable to these assaults of the devil, who will surely remind them of how much of their life was misspent in service to the world and the flesh.

Such a man was Ernst Homburg (1605-1681). A lawyer by profession, he was also a highly regarded poet. For much of his life his God-given talent was spent entirely on secular poetry, including love songs and drinking songs.

But later in life, the trials of illness and other afflictions led Him to seek the Lord. It was then that he began to use his gift for poetry to write hymns, devoting part of his Sundays to this work.

It is clear that Homburg was troubled by his frivolous and worldly youth. He once wrote that some might say of him, “He follows the common custom of the world and sacrifices unto the world the most precious flower of his youth, but renders only the dry chaff of old age unto God.”

Homburg found the comfort of forgiveness in the cross of the Savior. His hymn Christ, the Life of All the Living speaks of the atonement in each stanza. In a variety of ways the hymn tells of how Christ suffered in place of us sinners to free us from God’s just wrath and punishment for our sins.

    Thou hast borne the smiting only
    That my wounds might all be whole;
    Thou hast suffered, sad and lonely,
    Rest to give my weary soul;
    Yea, the curse of God enduring,
    Blessing unto me securing . . .

Each stanza also expresses the thanks of the redeemed and forgiven sinner with the refrain: Thousand, thousand thanks shall be, Dearest Jesus unto Thee.

We cannot make up for our past sins by future service to God. All of us, whether we come early or late to the kingdom of God, are saved by grace alone, through faith in Christ. But as we look back with regret on the time that we have wasted, let us not think that it is too late for us to serve God.

Think how God has used the above hymn to comfort and strengthen countless believers. So will He accept our thankful service and use it to the blessing of others.

–Pastor John Klatt