Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.

8.30.2011

Though He Slay Me

A fool hanging out with similar brats, Joachim decided to spend a day with his pals in church. It didn't matter that Joachim's father had preached the Gospel, and his grandfather, and for that matter his great-grandfather, and even his great-great-grandfather. No, he was actually looking forward to the sport of mocking the pastor and his congregation. But on that Sunday in Germany in 1670, God had other plans for Joachim, and the Holy Spirit came upon him and convicted him mightily, and soon after, God saved him, and he had dedicated his life to God. 

Photo Credit
By 1680, Joachim was a pastor and the "first hymnwriter from the Calvinist branch of Protestantism [1]." He was also dying of tuberculosis at the young age of thirty. As he strolled through his favorite walking spot, a beautiful gorge with a river flowing through, he composed one of his most famous hymns, writing joyfully,

Praise ye the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation.
O my soul praise Him, for He is thy Health and Salvation.
He died soon after writing "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty." 

After Joachim's death, his favorite spot was named after him, and still exists today. Sadly, however, in 1856, his name became synonymous with something other than hymnody and God. For Joachim's last name was Neander, and the gorge became known as Neander Tal (valley in Old German). It was 1856 that miners discovered bones in the valley and a professor of anatomy declared them the "missing link." So was Neander's legacy one of humanistic evolution or praising the Lord, the King of Creation?

Move forward to 1943; the world was in an upheaval, taking sides, shouldering arms, and going to war. At the center of the chaos was Germany with a madman at the helm, but at the epicenter of the insanity in Berlin was a spacious house filled with people making music. There was a friend on the violin, and several other friends rounding out the choir, but the rest of the singers and musicians were all from one family—the Bonhoeffer family. They were practicing a German cantata—“Lobe den Herrn,” and ten days later, they serenaded Karl Bonhoeffer, the patriarch of the clan, on his 75th birthday, with their voices raised in praise to God.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor, theologian, and spy in the German resistance, sat at the piano and sang along with his family as they blessed his father and enjoyed the grand occasion, but less than a month later, he was arrested by the Gestapo for rescuing Jews. Self-pity, however, was not on his mind, and he wrote his parents from prison, “I can still hear the chorale that we sang in the morning and evening, with all the voices and instruments: ‘praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation….shelters thee under his wings, yea, and gently sustaineth.’ That is true, and it is what we must always rely on [2].”

Months later, Dietrich wrote his good friend, “It makes me so happy to remember you practicing the cantata…last year! It did us all so much good [2]!”

A year after Dietrich Bonhoeffer's arrest, that great hymn was still ringing in his mind, for Dietrich brought it up again in a letter to his father and wrote that the difficulties of the past year had only confirmed the words that they had sung. From that gloomy cell, held hostage by the diabolical Nazis for doing what was right, Dietrich could truly say that his torturous experiences of the last twelve months had only made his testimony stronger. He could sincerely exclaim, “Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore Him!”

Those on God's side do not always win the battles. Sometimes they become synonymous with godless evolutionism rather than God-glorifying hymns. They are imprisoned and afflicted, martyred and mocked. They are tortured and persecuted. Brightening a corner does not mean that you will be the brightest, the most revered, the most blessed, or the most well-known. Ultimately, however, the Neanderthal fossils have been disproven as a missing link between so-called cave men and humans, and Christians the world over have praised God using Neander's ancient words.

"Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him."
Job 13:15a

Bonhoeffer, like Neander, chose the Lord’s side long ago, and it was never a question for him of whether or not he would resist the God-hating men ruining his nation. Another year passed before Bonhoeffer was martyred for his courageous faith, but he was still praising the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation. “This is the end,” he said when he was moved to a concentration camp to be hung on the gallows. “For me, the beginning of life.”

Photo Credit: Samurai John
[1] Morgan, Robert. Then Sings My Soul. 2003, Tennessee, Thomas Nelson.
[2] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Letters and Papers from Prison. 2010, Fortress Press.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

7 comments:

  1. I very much enjoyed learning of the history and the writer of this hymn that I love! Mikaela, I especially appreciated your last couple of paragraphs. Just yesterday I read John 15 and Jesus' words to His disciples - "They hated me, so they will hate you." Truly identification to Christ comes at earthly costs, but has great eternal rewards.

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  2. Beautiful. Immediately upon finishing this post, I pulled up that hymn on itunes and listened to it. Such a beautiful testimony to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

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  3. That's a great passage to bring up, Ruthie. What a sin it is to fear man more than God!

    Thank you Samantha. I'm so glad you did listen to the hymn; I was hoping people would go find their favorite version to listen to again and worship God! I planned my church's song service last Sunday and played piano, so what do you suppose the opening hymn was? ;-)

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  4. Very encouraging and inspirational post!

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  5. I have read the book "Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy" by Eric Metaxas. It is a wonderful book about an inspirational man who dedicated his life to the work of God. I wrote a post about him that you might enjoy(I've never tried to add a link to a comment, so this might not work) http://tcavey.blogspot.com/2011/08/even-adults-need-role-models.html.

    "Who stands fast? Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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  6. TC--Yes, I am nearly finished with that book, and, as you may have guessed, it was the inspiration for this post, although I obviously burrowed deeper into historical records and such to formulate this blog post. I plan to write a summation of the book some time in the future. I will definitely check out your post on him. And thanks for the quote--it's one of my favorites from Bonhoeffer!

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