We have chosen LSB 522, Lord God, to Thee We Give All Praise, for our Michaeltide 2021 seasonal hymn. The Michaeltide portion of the long Trinity season begins on the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels (September 29), and lasts until All Saints Day (November 1). The overall theme of Michaeltide is that of endurance. Over the past year or two, many of us have intensely felt the struggle to live out our lives in The Faith. In reality though, Satan has been making war on Christian believers and the Church ever since being conquered by Jesus’ blood and thrown out of heaven (Revelation 12). The battle for endurance in The Faith is nothing new.
To help believers in the struggle for endurance, God has appointed His angels. The word, “angel” is derived from the Greek, ἄγγελος or “angelos,” meaning, “messenger.” We acknowledge the work of God’s angels as we begin and end each day with the prayer, “Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me.” Yet, there is much confusion over the nature and work of angels. Our hymn, which also is Chief Hymn for the Feast, doubles as theological instruction on angels, and our response of praise and thanksgiving to God for the precious gift to us of these, His messengers.
The first stanza opens with the reminder that angels are part of God’s creation (Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 148:2-6; Colossians 1:16), and are present around His throne (Isaiah 6:1-2; Daniel 7:9-10; Matthew 25:31; Luke 1:19; Revelation 7:11). While some have venerated angels, we worship the Creator, not the creature (Romans 1:25; Revelation 19:9-10, 22:8-9)! The second and third stanzas continue with the teaching that the angels are constantly beholding God’s face and at the same time guarding and protecting His flock here on earth (Matthew 18:10-14; Hebrews 1:14). As Moses’ face shown from his being in the presence of God (Exodus 34:29-35), so do the angels shine (Job 38:7). Their “whole delight” is to be with Jesus and to do His will (Psalm 103:20-21). The fourth, fifth and sixth stanzas detail the ongoing threats from Satan. The evil one, the envious and angry ancient dragon, is at constant war with Christian believers (Revelation 12:17). He seeks to divide Jesus’ Church (Romans 16:17-20). He instigated the fall (Genesis 3). As the civil state is of God, to maintain order (Romans 13:1-7), Satan seeks to undermine it as well (Acts 5:29; 1 John 5:19). He prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking to devour Christians (1 Peter 5:8). The threats from the evil one are indeed severe and ongoing. Yet the seventh stanza returns to a reminder and reassurance that God has sent his angels to guard and protect His people in the battle (Psalm 34:7, 91:11-13)!1 Baptized Christian believers thus can counter the accusations of the evil one (1 Peter 3:18-22; Revelation 12:10). In the eighth and final stanza, we the people of God respond to God’s gift of His angels, by joining with them in their endless songs of praise and thanksgiving to Him (Isaiah 6:3; Luke 2:14; Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 4:8-11, 5:9-14, 7:11-12, 15:3-4, 19:1-8).
Lord God, to Thee We Give All Praise was penned by Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560), colleague of Dr. Luther (1483-1546), and principal author of the Augsburg Confession and the Apology of the Augsburg Confession. Melanchthon also wrote Loci Communes, the first Lutheran systematic theology. Additionally, he taught classical languages at the University of Wittenberg, and wrote poems in Latin, of which this hymn was one.2
As we consider the seasonal theme, it is worth remembering that it is in His regular calling and gathering of us to receive His gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation in His Divine Services, that we receive great strength to endure. When we gather in church to hear His word and receive His sacrament, we are joined with angels, archangels and all the company of heaven! Whenever a person is baptized, Satan is cast out. Whenever Pastor preaches Christ and Him-crucified to those who believe, Satan is cast out. Whenever we gather in Church to receive His gifts, we jointly put on His whole armor, that we may be able to stand against Satan’s schemes (Ephesians 6:10-18a). We thank God for His ordaining and constituting the services of angels to do service to Him in heaven, and succor and defend us on earth (c.f. Collect for Feast of St. Michael and All Angels). We further thank Him for bringing you into our midst, and pray His blessings on you as together with us, you receive His gifts for endurance in His Faith.
- God’s Law was delivered by angels through Moses (Acts 7:38, 53; Hebrews 2:2). An angel that announced to Mary (Luke 1:26-38) and Joseph (Matthew 1:20-23) that she would give birth to Jesus. The angels announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-14). Similarly, angels first announced His Resurrection (Matthew 28:2-7; Mark 16:5-7; Luke 24:4-7; John 20:12-13). Angels rejoice whenever sinful individuals repent (Luke 15:10). At the time of death, angels bring the souls of Christians into paradise, where they await the resurrection of the body (Luke 16:22; c.f. LSB 708.3). At Jesus’ final coming on the Last Day, angels will gather His elect to meet Him (Matthew 24:31; 1 Thessalonians 4:16).
- Melanchthon was a humanist professor, meaning that he taught from original Hebrew, Greek and Latin sources. His uncle was the renowned Hebrew scholar Johann Reuchlin (1455-1522). In addition to his work with Luther, he reformed the German education system in line with the humanist principles of his day, and was called Praeceptor Germaniae (Teacher of Germany). The name Melanchthon is Greek for his German surname at birth, Schwarzerd (“black earth”).