It is time to begin to connect the dots. One of the most magnificent glimpses of grace is found by discovering the importance of three words: where, who, and what. Remember that the public proclamation of the gospel had been floundering in a sea of confusion and covered with a shroud of darkness for over a thousand year. Now enter the importance of “where.” Where concerns the small town of Whittenberg (pronounced Vittenberg) located in north central Germany. It became ground zero for the public resurgence, redefining, and redistribution of the gospel. We must first ask ourselves, why Germany?
Repetition: Recall with me that Noah’s sons were commanded by God to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Gen. 9:1). Add to this Noah’s strange interaction with his younger son, Ham, that led to his prophetic words concerning the future of his sons. “Blessed be the Lord, The God of Shem, And may Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and may he dwell in the tents of Shem; and may Canaan be his servant” (Gen. 9:26-27). We have been looking closely at the historical meaning of this prophecy and recently the small phrase, “and may he (Japheth) dwell in the tents of Shem.”Remember that this tent dwelling meant that Japheth was going to profit spiritually from his involvement with Shem and vice versa. How this truth played out and is still playing out in history is nothing short of amazing.
Remember that when Noah’s sons and their families left the ark, Japheth moved north of the fertile crescent above the Mediterranean Sea and settled in the center of what became known as the Endo-European area. My opinion is based on linguistic evidence and followed by many scholars. His first son, Gomer (father of the Cimmerians), settled in a broad area that included Germany (Gen. 10:1). Gomer’s son Ashkenaz settled in Poland, Russia, Ukraine, France, and a huge amount in the precise area known as Germany. German Jews from this area became known as “Ashkenazi Jews,” or German Jews. I made the statement that it is my opinion Japheth’s first tent pegs were driven into the geographical middle of this European landmass now known as Germany. As I reasoned the import of this thought, my pulse rate began to rise. I said in my thinking – “God, you are the ultimate genius of all of human history.” Wow! It was not mere chance that the clarity of the gospel would be publicly pulled from the floundering melting pot of religious confusion from this exact place.
Next concerns the “who.” Martin Luther is obviously a well-known person of history. He was born in 1483, just a few short years from Columbus’ famous journey. What is not often recognized is that Martin Luther was a great-great, – several great’s back genealogical grandson of Japheth, Noah’s eldest son. Again, God is the great genius! Martin Luther had always been in God’s plan. Martin received a classical high school education – meaning he was required to speak fluent Latin, the language of the universities and of lawyers. At the age of 21, he had completed his Master of Arts degree. His parents had been peasants in Germany. His father’s dream was that Martin become a lawyer. Martin did not disappoint. As a student he marked himself as a future Master of Jurisprudence. He was a brilliant student. He later applied his law background to his study of Scripture.
In July of 1505, an incident happened to Luther that would ultimately retrieve the gospel of grace and, in fact, change the world. Luther was walking home from the university in the middle of the day. A sudden thunderstorm formed surrounding him. A lightning bolt struck the ground near him. Luther interpreted this as a message from God. He was shaken to his bones and cried out for help from St. Anne (the mother of Mary) the minor’s saint. If she would deliver him, he would become a monk. He obviously did not die and true to his vow, he moved to an Augustinian monastery in the city of Erfurt. History says that he chose this monastery because it was the most demanding of all monasteries.
As a monk and as a promising student, he was educated to the hilt with the best of Catholic doctrines. He was soon to be ordained priest. In order to receive his priesthood, he had to perform a mass. It was at this mass that his Catholic life began to fall apart. A crowd was in attendance – including his father who had wanted his son to be a lawyer. In the midst of the mass, Luther’s mind stopped working. He suffered a panic attack that caused him to run away. This mind-altering meltdown was based on the Catholic understanding of justification before God. A part of Catholic doctrine is justification by good works. They refer often to Romans 5:5. This verse says in part that hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Rom. 5:5). Catholics believe that it is this Spirit’s pouring out of God’s love in us that moves us to more and more goodness and performing more and more good deed that will ultimately lead us to being justified before God.
Luther knew in his heart that he was not good – he was a sinner. His fear was that he could never reach that ultimate panicle. His private thoughts constantly pounded in his brain. He got to a place in the mass where he simply could not finish. His guilt before God had found him out. He became crushed under this load. He walked out to the embarrassment of all who were there. This led Luther to a life of doing the penance of constantly punishing his flesh in the attempt to purge his sin and please God. He saw God – not as a God of love – but a demanding tyrant just waiting for Luther to die. Luther’s search for how one can be forever just before God leads us to the “what.” Blessings!