This Sunday we have Part 2 following on from last Sunday. We continue Martin Luther’s (1539) ‘Oratio, Meditatio, Tentatio’ and pick up with meditation. Enjoy!
Second, you should meditate, not only in your heart but also outwardly, repeating and comparing the actual, literal words in the book, reading and rereading them with careful attention and thought as to what the Holy Spirit means by them. And guard against being satiated or thinking that when you have read, heard, or said it once or twice you understand it fully; for this will never make an excellent theologian; it will be like immature fruit that falls before it is half ripe.
This is why in the psalm you see David constantly exulting that he would do nothing else, day and night and always, but speak, write, utter, sing, hear, and read God’s Word and commandments. For God will not give you his Spirit apart from the external word. Be guided accordingly, for it was not for nothing that he commanded that his Word should be outwardly written, preached, read, sung, and spoken.
Thirdly, there is trial (tentatio). This is the touchstone that teaches you not only to know and understand but also to experience how right, how true, how sweet, how lovely, how mighty, how comforting is God’s Word, wisdom above all wisdom.
So you see why it is that David so often in this psalm laments concerning all the enemies, the wicked princes and tyrants, the lying and godless spirits, which he must suffer by reason of the very fact that he meditates, that he applies himself to God’s Word, as we have said. For as soon as God’s Word goes forth through you the devil will afflict you and make you a real doctor [of theology] and teach you by his temptations to seek and to love God’s Word. For I myself . . . must be very thankful to my papists for pummelling, pressing, and terrifying me; that is, for making me a fairly good theologian, for otherwise I would not have become one . . .
So there you have David’s rule. If you study well according to this example, you will also sing and praise with him in the words of the same psalm: “The law of thy mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” “Thy commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep thy precepts.” And you will find how flat and mouldy the books of the fathers will taste to you; you will not only despise the enemy’s books but the longer you go on the less will you be pleased with your
own writing and teaching. When you have come to this point then you may confidently trust that you have begun to become a real theologian, who is able to teach not only young and imperfect Christians but also the advanced and mature; for Christ’s church has in it all kinds of Christians, young, old, weak, sick, sound, strong, fresh, lazy, simple, wise, etc.
Martin Luther Preface to Vol.1 of the Wittenberg edition of his German works, 1539, WA 50, 658-661. Cited by Doberstein, The Minister’s Prayer Book: 287-289.