Four Branches – February 2023

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Exegetical Theology:  Head & Helper: A Mixed Metaphor

Part 2 Namer and Helper

After creating Adam, God waited to make Eve. The man first named the animals and realized there wasn’t another person who completed him. He was alone, and God said it wasn’t good. Adam was ready to receive with appreciation the gift Eve would be.

It’s interesting that God gave Adam the job of naming the animals. Because in the creation account, God did all the naming. It was God who named/called (וַיִּקְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים) the light “day,” the darkness “night,” the vault “sky,” the dry ground “land,” the waters “seas,” etc. And whatever God called it, that was its name. Calling or naming is divine activity. (Think of God renaming Jacob, Israel.) As one made in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27), man would be a little picture or representative of God on earth. So man got to do something God does: call or name things authoritatively. Whatever he called each living creature (יִּקְרָא), that was its name (Genesis 2:19). (God didn’t step in and say, “Really? Anteater? That’s the best you got?” Adam got to have the final authoritative say on naming the animals.) Most significantly, Adam called (יִקָּרֵ֣א) this new human being made from his side “woman” as the very bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh (Genesis 2:23).

For Adam, God said, “I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). She would be the one who corresponds to him and completes him; the helper he was insufficient without.

It’s interesting that God gave Eve the job of being the helper. Because in the rest of the Bible, God’s the one who’s called the helper more than anyone else. God is constantly referred to as the helper (עֵ֫זֶר) of his people (Exodus 18:4; Deuteronomy 33:29; Psalm 27:9; Psalm 118:7). He is the essential, strong, can’t-survive-without-you God who comes to help his people. As one made in God’s image and likeness, woman would be a little picture or representative of God on earth. So woman got to do something God does: help in an active, essential, strong, can’t-survive-without-you way. She was the one Adam needed to help and support him in their united mission to rule over creation.

Admittedly, to our ears “namer and helper” is a strange coupling of terms, but it’s tight to the biblical text. We’ll come back to the implications of this metaphor in part three of this series. But for now, consider what God shows us by calling man and woman “namer and helper” at the beginning (not “head and helper”). Both were made in the image of God. Both were given divine activity as his representatives on earth. Both, while different, were equals who together make humanity complete.

Just like Adam and Eve in the garden, God gives men and women today important work. Each doing the very things God does. Because men and women together are the crown of God’s creation.

Rev. Kurtis Wetzel serves as pastor at Cross of Christ in Boise and Nampa, ID.

Systematic Theology:  The Time of Grace and Pharaoh’s Hard Heart

“Pharaoh’s time of grace essentially ended when the Lord began to harden Pharaoh’s heart.”  This was the assertion I made as we recently studied the plague narrative in an Exodus Bible class.  A faithful and thoughtful parishioner pressed me on it, knowing well that we typically speak about a person’s time of grace coming to an end when that person dies-and rightly so (Luke 16:19-31).  This prompted me to reexamine my assertion in light of all the Scriptures say.  Can we equate the Lord’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart with the ending of his time of grace?

First, what is a hardened heart?  Professor Daniel Deutschlander offers this concise summary: “A hardened heart comes to those who sin so persistently against conscience and better knowledge that they block out the help of God in their need.” (Grace Abounds, p.249) Professor Ken Cherney adds this: “(A hardened heart) is oblivious to reality, above all, the reality of its standing with God.  It cannot engage in critical self-analysis and is impervious to advice…A ‘hardened heart’ has no ability to extricate itself from its own bondage.” (WLQ Vol.120, No.1, p.160

There are a number of scriptural examples of people who are described as having hard hearts or as having hardened their own hearts against the Lord: Pharaoh (Exod 7-9), the Israelites in the wilderness (Ps 95:8), and the Pharisees (Mark 10:5) to name a few. Furthermore, hardness of heart describes the natural spiritual condition of all people, a condition which we are completely powerless to overcome.  Nevertheless, this is the condition which the Holy Spirit has overcome in all those whom he has brought to faith in Christ.  Therefore, it is easy to assert that people who have hardened their own hearts against the Lord are still living in a time of God’s grace and can still be converted to faith in Christ and be saved.  But can the same be said about someone whose heart has been hardened by the Lord?

It is true that there are no explicit references in Scripture which equate the Lord hardening a heart with the end of a time of grace.  Nevertheless, this is the strong implication.  Consider John 12:37,39-40: “37 Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him…39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: 40 He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.”  Those hearts which the Lord hardened cannot turn to the Lord.  This seems to describe a final act of judgment on the Lord’s part.  Francis Pieper writes, “Obduracy is God’s dreadful judgment upon those who despise the grace offered them and resist the operation of the Holy Spirit” (Christian Dogmatics, Vol. II, p.30).

Those words of John 12 about the unbelieving Jews can also be applied to Pharaoh. Through the course of the first six plagues, the Lord was extending to Pharaoh a time of grace and a call to repentance.  But Pharaoh continuously hardened his heart.  Therefore, God withdrew his grace from Pharaoh.  The Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he could not turn.

In its article on election, the Formula of Concord speaks about Pharaoh’s hardness of heart in this way. “That God hardened Pharaoh’s heart…was a punishment for his previous sin and his horrible tyranny…Because God had his Word preached to him and his will proclaimed to him and Pharaoh arrogantly rebelled against every admonition and warning, God withdrew his hand from him.  In this way Pharaoh’s heart became hardened and obdurate, and God made him an example of divine judgment.  For he was nothing else except ‘liable to the hell of fire.’” (FC:SD 11, 83-85)

The Lord’s Word grants us unique insight into what was happening in Pharaoh’s heart.  Apart from divine revelation, we could never assert that someone has a hard heart or that someone has had his heart hardened by the Lord. Only God knows hearts.  However, it is altogether proper for us to warn those willfully living in sin about the eternal danger of hardening their hearts against the Lord.  May such warnings lead us to opportunities to proclaim the full and free forgiveness of a gracious God.

For an excellent and thorough study of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, see Professor Ken Cherney’s article in the most recent Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly (Winter 2023).

Rev. Shane Krause serves as pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran in Onalaska, WI.

Historical Theology:  Treasured Lutheran Prayer Books, Part 2

In last month’s installment, we looked at the popular book of prayers compiled by Andreas Musculus. Musculus’s book, however, was by no means the most popular Lutheran prayer book. That distinction belongs to the prayer book by Johann Habermann or Avenarius (1516–1590). (Avenarius [Latin] and Habermann [German] both mean “oat-man.” In Latinizing his name, Habermann was following a custom in vogue among university-trained men of his day. He should not be confused with several other Johann Avenariuses.)

Born in Eger, Bohemia (today Cheb, Czech Republic), Habermann was won over to Lutheranism between 1540 and 1542. After serving as a pastor in numerous places in Electoral Saxony in rapid succession, he became a professor of theology in 1573, receiving his theological doctorate the following year. He became the superintendent of Naumburg and Zeitz in 1576. He was also responsible for presenting the Book of Concord to the University of Wittenberg faculty for their subscription in 1581. In his academic roles, Habermann occupied himself with the Old Testament and the study of Hebrew.

But it was not his Hebrew scholarship that gained him fame. In 1565 he had his first prayer book published in Breslau (today Wrocław, Poland), Christliche Gebet für alle Not und Stende der gantzen Christenheit (Christian Prayer for Every Need and Station in All of Christendom). It was so popular that no original edition has survived to the present, and he had a revised and augmented edition published in Hof just two years later. By 1574, Habermann was compelled to publish another revised edition because of all the shoddy reprintings in circulation.

Lutherans treasured Habermann’s prayer booklet, often simply called the Little Habermann, for multiple centuries. It was one of the books that fed the devotional life of the underground Lutherans in the Archbishopric of Salzburg (today western Austria) and was one of the books they took with them when they were expelled from that territory in 1732. In 1904, a Missouri Synod pastor described a theological discussion he had with a Methodist preacher in 1860. Regarding the booklet the Methodist used, the pastor simply said it was “a little bigger than the Little Habermann.” I myself recently came into the possession of my great-grandfather’s Little Habermann.

The strength of Habermann’s prayer book does not lie in his eloquence or flair, but in his strong outline and scriptural language. By basing his outline on 1 Timothy 2:1 and permeating his prayers with the language of Scripture, he imitates Jesus in teaching us not just what to pray, but also how to pray. He is also thorough, truly covering “every need and station in all of Christendom.” I have provided a modern translation of Habermann’s 1574 dedication, prayer lists, and eight prayers for Sunday in the links below. Emil Rausch provided a decent English translation of Habermann’s prayer booklet, but it was published in 1918 and its language is dated. Additionally, not all of its content originates with Habermann.

Habermann’s Dedicatory Preface and Prayers for Sunday

1918 English Edition (Trans. Emil H. Rausch)

1579 Frankfurt am Main Edition

1576 Wittenberg Latin Edition

1579 English Edition (Trans. Thomas Rogers from the Latin)

Rev. Nathaniel Biebert serves as pastor at Trinity Lutheran in Winner, SD.

Practical Theology:  Love Where You Are Called

There are a variety of quotes and anecdotes I remember from my Seminary professors during my three years on the Mequon campus.  One of them has taken on greater life for me and I wanted to share it with you all to remind you of the great opportunity and privilege we have when called to a particular place.  My professor referenced C.F.W. Walther’s great work, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel.  In his 20th evening lecture, Walther said this.

When a place has been assigned to a Lutheran candidate of theology where he is to discharge the office of a Lutheran minister, that place ought to be to him the dearest, most beautiful, and most precious spot on earth. He should be unwilling to exchange it for a kingdom. Whether it is in a metropolis or in a small town, on a bleak prairie or in a clearing in the forest, in a flourishing settlement or in a desert, to him it should be a miniature paradise. Do not the blessed angels descend from heaven with great joy whenever the Father in heaven sends them to minister to those who are to be heirs of salvation? Why, then, should we poor sinners be unwilling to hurry after them with great joy to any place where we can lead other men, our fellow-sinners, to salvation? [1]

The places where we serve are all different and diverse.  Walther notes some of those differences and you and I could probably add even more today, noting especially the cross-cultural opportunities all around us.  How do you view the place where the Lord Jesus has called you to serve?  Do you view it as a paradise or do you have a longing to be somewhere else?  There are obviously circumstances that arise that warrant a change of location.  But if that isn’t the case, how do you view the place the Lord Jesus called you?

Walther’s words remind me of the letter God inspired Jeremiah to send to his people, exiled in Babylon.  Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:7).  In the verses prior to this one, God commands his people to live in Babylon like it’s Canaan by having kids, planting crops, and building houses. Then he includes verse 7, ask for God’s blessing on that place you live. In other words, this is the place where God has you so make it home! 

How can God’s called workers in all the various places he has called or assigned them, see the place they serve as home, as paradise, as a place you wouldn’t exchange for a kingdom? 

We do that by remembering why the Lord Jesus placed us there: to bring the gospel to fallen sinners.  We are God’s messengers, called and sent by him to proclaim the message of his Son’s death and resurrection that many would be brought to faith.  Our task isn’t our own personal glory or growth of our kingdom, but to bring God glory and have his kingdom come. That’s why the place you are at right now is paradise, the most desirable place on earth.  There are sinners all around you who need to hear from you, that Christ has died and Christ is risen. So get involved and be present in your neighborhood activities and city events.  Cheer on the local high school team and know what’s happening in your area.  Find time to have office hours in places where others can see you.  Coach a team or volunteer at a local non-profit.  Love where you live and find those who need to hear what Christ has called you to proclaim.

[1] Walther, C.F.W. “The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel.”, 2007,

Rev. Jeremy Belter serves as pastor at Shepherd of the Valley, a mission church in Arvada, CO.