Dietrich Bonhoeffer was visiting America shortly before Hitler’s reign and was troubled by not hearing the gospel in American churches. He also saw amazing racial prejudice and oppression of the blacks, and no distinction among professing Christians. He wrote:
In New York they preach about virtually everything, only one thing is not addressed, or is addressed so rarely that I have as yet been unable to hear it, namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the cross, sin and forgiveness, death and life.
Then he went to a black church in Harlem and found real faith. There was the gospel, there was passion, and there was music that stirred his soul. They sang the truth to God, they lamented, for persecution against them was rampant. They cried out to God for help, and placed their trust in Him, as the psalms have taught us to do. Bonhoeffer taught Sunday School there for four years — a white German who felt far more at home there than in the white churches of New York.
Bonhoeffer was aghast at the persecution against the blacks. writing: “It is a bit unnerving that in a country with so inordinately many slogans agout brotherhood, peace, and so on, such things still continue completely uncorrected.”
Psalm 12 is an elaboration of t Psalm 11, showing how words can crush. Flattering words, prideful words, and sheer lies repeated can convince a society. This is how the enemy works. Bonhoeffer wrote that he could see no parallel in Germany. But that was soon to change. Bonhoeffer returned to Germany after a time of enormous spiritual growth, and then he saw the same hatred growing in his homeland — only this time the Jews were the target.
Here is an eight minute interview with Eric Metaxis from CBN, where he tells part of this story. Listen carefully:
I cannot read Bonhoeffer without being stirred to the depth of my soul and ask myself: “Am I living a life influenced by lies, or am I living by the truth of God? Psalm 12 contrasts the two: the words of this ungodly world and the words of God. Living by the words of God means living radically.
And our lives, like the lives of believing African-Americans in the time of rampant racism, or the lives of believing Jews in the time of Hitler, may be hard. If we take a stand, as did Bonhoeffer, it will cost us. But we have a God who hears our laments and comes running. He comes running over the mountains, over the seas — for we are indeed His beloved, and He will, in His time, deal bountifully with us. This song, originally suggested by Staci, has become our theme song on this blog. It is based on The Song of Solomon and Joyce found this version with different photographs on you-tube. At first I noticed they misspelled break to be brake — but I also thought, Lies both break us and brake us. We are called to the poor, to the prisoner, to the orphan, to the oppressed — but we allow lies to brake us, to keep us from running to them and to Him. So I love this spelling. Here it is:
ON A PERSONAL NOTE
I know I’ve been missing in action the last half of last week, and I felt badly as I know we have so many newcomers! I’ll be able to pay attention to you better the beginning of this week. When I’m speaking, I feel it is important for me to be present with the women at the retreat. Sometimes I even get to meet some of you, as I did Renee two weeks ago, and this week I met our own Nancy from Wisconsin and her precious daughter. For some reason I am not being allowed to post her picture here but I’ll put it on my author Facebook page. Nancy is warm, articulate, pretty and very much like the person I have gotten to know and love on the blog — and her daughter is soooo dear. I know that I can count on you to be present for each other and stand in the gap for me — thank you so much. Many of you also prayed for the retreat and the presence of the Lord was so real. I felt the Song of Songs went so well and the amazing worship team with orchestra played The Song of Solomon twice (our theme song, thanks to Staci) and it was AMAZING. HE CAME RUNNING.
This week is about singing the blues, as the psalms have taught us to do, for this life is hard. At the retreat a woman who had lost her daughter last year was being ministered to, and talked to the other speaker, Angie Smith (wonderful young speaker with a great heart) as Angie also lost a daughter. But that very night (this last Friday night) this woman’s son was killed in an auto accident along with three other teens. It seems like too much pain — and we are praying so for her and her family. So often Aslan does not feel safe, but we must sing the truth to our souls, that He is in control and that He cares — for He went all the way to the cross.
1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
2. Bonhoeffer immersed himself in the psalms so that God’s truth could guide His life. What particularly stands out to you about this man and why?
During Lent, we are doing as Bonhoeffer advised: Spending time allowing songs to soften our heart, time in the Word, and then time praying that Word. Here are suggestions for songs that go with the themes of Psalms 12 and 13 — and you may find others to suggest to us.
Psalm 12: The Words of the Lord are Pure Words
(This is the Psalm project — so open to the psalm as you listen)
Psalm 13: How Long, O Lord?
You will read from Bonhoeffer how we must first see Christ in a psalm before we “pray it aright.” Brian Doerkson helps us to do just that with this song:
(This is the Psalm project — so open the psalm as you listen)
Monday-Wednesday Bible Study: The Word and Praying the Word
Soften your heart with music each day.
3. Read Psalm 12:
A. What is the lament and plea of verse 1?
B. In verses 2-4 find:
1) At least three different ways words can deceive
2) The motive behind deceptive words in verse 4
C. Now comes a prophetic word from God through David. Find it in verses 5-7.
D. Contrast verses 2 and 6.
E. Take a lie, or a double-speak, or a boast, or a flattery from this world and contrast it with the pure Word of God. I’ll start:
Your life is your own, so you may do with it as you wish.
You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
4. Pray for your heart, using psalm 12.
This little book is worth its weight in gold. Bonhoeffer says the psalms are the prayer book of the Bible, and prayers are the words of men — so how can these also be the words of God? This is what he says:
We grasp this when we remember we can only learn true prayer from Jesus Christ. If we prayer his prayer with him, these prayers become again the word of God.
We must not ask first what they have to do with us, but what they have to do with Jesus Christ.
Do you see? Then Christ prays with us. We may be praying contrary to our own heart, but often that is necessary, Bonhoeffer says, if we are to pray aright.
5. The setting for Psalm 13 may be Absalom’s revolt against David — David is hiding, not well, and exhausted. Read the psalm and find evidence of all this. Then think of times Christ must have felt the same.
6. Psalm 13 is a classic lament, so find these three elements:
A. The lament — the sorrow expressed honestly to God. Find the four “How longs” and put them in your own words, imagining Christ praying them from the cross.
B. The turn — the psalmist turns from focusing on self to focusing on God
C. The truth — the psalmist remembers God’s character, promises, or past faithfulness
7. Now you are ready to pray this psalm, taking a concern You have personally or for others to Him, and know that Christ is praying with you, and understands. God through the three steps of the lament.
Listen to the sermon on Psalm 13 for sure, and if you have time, also the sermon on Psalm 12. I am loving these men from England — not just the accent, but that they know the classics. I do believe that higher education in England and theological training is better than in America. I remember when one of my books was published in England and I met with them and they told me that in England Christians are fewer but deeper than in America.
Optional Sermon on Psalm 12 by Stuart Olyott :
Required Sermon on Psalm 13 by Peter Baker: LINK
8. Share your sermons notes and thoughts.
9. Have you gotten an optional book by or on Bonhoeffer to read during Lent? If so, what is it?
10. What is your take-a-way and why?