Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church - Marshfield, WI

Lent Devotional - Ash Wednesday 2023

Hymn: “Savior, When in Dust to Thee” (LSB #419, v. 1)
Savior, when in dust to Thee
Low we bow the adoring knee;
When, repentant, to the skies
Scarce we lift our weeping eyes;
O, by all Thy pains and woe
Suffered once for us below,
Bending from Thy throne on high,
Hear our penitential cry!

Where do you go if you want God on high to hear you? When you sin and seek God’s pardon, which direction should you look to go to God? We know from the Bible that God is above even heaven itself and we are on the earth far below. Psalm 113:4 tells us this, “The Lord is high above all nations, His glory is above the heavens!” We might assume then that the right direction to go is up. We may turn our eyes upward. We might try to rev up our feelings into what is called a spiritual high. For many, this is how one knows that they have come to God and that God has heard them.

But the Bible does not depict that being the case. The closer people try to get to God, the more boastful, proud, arrogant, and haughty they became. Luther once noted that if a person tries to work their way into heaven, and somehow manages to get one foot up there, that our job is to pull their other leg down before they become a tyrant and boastful. Against this grain of thought, our hymn captures the biblical truth of how we present ourselves to God.

God does not hear you by your attempts to get closer to Him by going up. Rather the Scripture says that the Lord is near to the broken-hearted. He saves the crushed in spirit, but the haughty and boastful God knows from afar. Psalm 113:5 reads, “Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap.”

To hear Jesus here we turn to the Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are the meek.” God blesses these people. You don’t go up. You are to stay crushed on the ground and let God find you.

God, who is high, can only see the lowly. Savior, when in dust to thee. We go down to the dust. That is how low we go. Into the dust. God told Adam that due to sin, he would return to the dust. It is in the dust that God finds us. It is the dust that Jesus breathed as He was whipped and beaten for our sins. God heard our cries for mercy, and Jesus paid the price for us to receive that mercy.

Who can look up with proud eyes? Who can look at anyone else to compare their lives? We do not look up. We look down. Low we bow to receive from this Savior. As we cry out our repentance over our sin and our shame to the skies, no one’s crying eyes shall bear to stare at God who is high.

But God cannot help but have mercy when we are humbled and brought to ruin. We are not called to keep up appearances, but to admit that we are dust and to dust we shall return.
But God finds us in the dust. By his pains and woe, Jesus suffered for all below. He bent down from on high to come down as low as one can go: into the grave to pull us out again.