As we have heard, it is an art to forget self. We must keep learning this lesson as long as we live, even as all the saints before us, with us, and after us must do. Just as we still feel sin, we must also feel death. Just as we must fight to rid ourselves of sin by clinging to God’s right hand as His Word offers it to us, so we must also battle with death and death’s prince or chief, the devil, until we are free. See how this verse presents the conflict. The devil, or pursuer, presses in on the saints with death. How do they react? They turn away their eyes, yes, their entire bodies. Emptying themselves, they cling to God’s hand and say: “Devil and tyrant, I shall not die, as you pretend. You lie! I shall live, for I will not speak of my own works or those of any man. I know nothing about myself or my own holiness. I have before me only the works of the Lord. Of them I will speak; them I will glorify; on them I will rely. He it is who delivers from sin and death. If you can overthrow His works, you have overthrown me too.”
This verse then emphasizes the two points mentioned above in verses six and seven: comfort and help, with which God blesses the pious and the righteous. Here you see how the right hand of God mightily lifts the heart and comforts it in the midst of death, so that it can say: “Though I die, I die not. Though I suffer, I suffer not. Though I fall, I am not down. Though I am disgraced, I am not dishonored.” This is the consolation. Furthermore, the psalmist says of the help: “I shall live.” Isn’t this an amazing help? The dying live; the suffering rejoice; the fallen rise; the disgraced are honored. It is as Christ says: “He who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). Paul speaks in a similar manner: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair” (2 Cor. 4:8). These are all words that no human heart can comprehend.
Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 14: Selected Psalms III (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.) (Ps 118:18). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
Lord, teach us how to live in your resurrection victory and to die to sin every day! AMEN.