“But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.”
While I really enjoy modern music and I am a big advocate of vertical songs (songs sung directly to God), there is a huge benefit to keeping the hymns of the church alive. Unfortunately, a lot of the language is hard to understand for new believers. So, on this Reformation Day, I thought it would be fitting to talk about Luther’s great hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God.”
A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He amid the flood.
Of mortal ills prevailing.
The word bulwark doesn’t seem to be used very often anymore; dictionary.com’s second definition is this:
2. any protection against external danger, injury, or annoyance
God is a fortress that cannot be shaken. A bulwark is something that protects against attack, against flood, against outside influence. In the flood of the world’s teachings that come at us, God is our helper that can never be moved.
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe-
His craft and pow’r are great,
And armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” I Peter 5:8. Our ancient foe, the devil has great power. He has great cunning. He is a great deceiver. He especially hates those who live for Jesus and wants to crush us. Things sound kind of bleak don’t they? Not if we keep looking at the next verse:
Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing,
Were not the right man on our side,
The man of God’s own choosing.
If we trust in ourselves to defeat the devil; if we trust in our own strength to make it through our lives, we will lose. But we have the right Man on our side!! We have the Man God chose to be the power we need.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He
Lord Sabaoth His name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
You ask who it is that God chose? It is Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath, the Lord of Lords who is our fortress that cannot be shaken through the ages. And he will and must win the battle that we struggle with every day.
And tho this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
his truth to triumph thru us.
The prince of darkness grim,
We tremble not for him
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure:
One little word shall fell him.
The world is full of the devil’s plans. But we have no need to fear, as long as God’s truth is living in us. We do not tremble for the devil, because that one little word, “Jesus,” will fell him. That name will cripple the devil every time.
That word above all earthly pow’rs
No thanks to them abideth;
The spirit and the gifts are ours
Thru Him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also
The body they may kill;
God’s truth abideth still:
His kingdom is forever!
That Word, Jesus Christ, is lifted above every power on earth, and He abides forever. God’s spirit and the gifts of God are ours through Jesus Christ. Therefore, we declare that things of this world are worth nothing compared to knowing Him. His truth is the fortress that cannot be shaking, and His kingdom is a kingdom that will last for eternity!
I praise God that He has given us words such as these that have lived on through the centuries. And I encourage you, the next time you don’t understand a hymn, a Bible passage, look for help! Ask someone about it. I know that there are many people who would be more than willing to explain it to you.
What’s your favorite hymn?