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The Compassion of God

November 28, 2019
By Martin Luther

Abimelech had not approached [Sarah]. So he said, "Lord, will You kill an innocent people? Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, 'He is my brother.' "

GENESIS 20:4-5

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The Compassion of God

The prayer with which Abimelech excuses himself before God deserves our careful examination. He does not despair at once because of that awful preaching of the Law which he hears from the Lord: "You will surely die"; but first he asserts his innocence. Furthermore, he has firm hope in God's justice, that is, in His compassion. For God's justice is not, as they have taught in the schools, the severity, sternness, or violent anger with which God condemns; it is the justice through which He has mercy on the humble as He protects them against unjust violence and punishes the guilty. . . . But what Abimelech states in this passage is also required, namely, that he have a pure heart and innocent hands. This means that it is necessary to have a good conscience. But since those who yield to sin and to the flesh cannot have a good conscience, they must, if they are to be converted, first be frightened, and not slightly at that, but in such a way that they do not know where to turn, as we see in Peter and in David. Since they are conscious of their guilt, they do not excuse themselves; but when they acknowledge their sin, they are wretchedly perplexed and humbled. Yet they eventually lay hold of mercy and thus are reconciled through faith, which accepts the Mediator.