34–37. When He slew them, they sought Him, and they returned and came to Him early in the morning. And they remembered that God was their Helper, and the Most High God their Redeemer. And they loved Him with their mouth, and with their tongue they lied to Him. But their heart was not right with Him, nor were they counted faithful in His covenant. That is to say, they worship God in slavish fear. As long as they are being punished, they seek Him; but when the punishment stops, they forget. For they do not call on Him out of a love of righteousness, but from fear of bodily punishment. This is what many people do even today. In good times they forget God; in bad times they seek Him in order to be delivered. But all this follows upon the preceding. For those who only savor the flesh certainly seek God only because of the evils of the flesh. Hence they love their own things more than God. And this is the use of God and the enjoyment of the creature, when the creatures are sought by God, whereas God should be sought by the creatures. And if they would have what they want, they would not care about God. This is therefore the extreme of vanity [which, according to Augustine, is complete perversity, like the Samaritans worshiping God and idols at the same time, according to 2 Kings 17:28 ff. This is to limp on both sides (1 Kings 18:21), to serve God and mammon at the same time and not with the whole heart (Matt. 6:24)], knowing that God is the Helper and the Dispenser of all blessings and that these cannot be obtained except by His help and that one cannot escape evil except by His deliverance, and yet continuing to prefer these things to Him and to love the gifts more than the Giver and to fear the evil brought in more than Him who removes it. What causes this? It is greed, for they did not know how to serve God freely and of their own accord, but for the sake of earthly recompense. They have no love for spiritual things, that they might worship God for their sake, but these are God Himself. Hence whoever worships God in this way necessarily lies to Him, and his heart is not right with Him, but it is curved in on himself. In the Hebrew the passage (v. 37) reads: “The heart was not firm with Him, nor did they abide in His covenant.” This they did then and are doing now. Though the Jews today might even die for their law, so that they appear to love God with all their heart, yet in the end it is for the sake of their earthly good and glory that they hope will be theirs in their Messiah.
Luther’s works, vol. 11: First Lectures 2