There are few hymns and songs so venerated and transcendent as Luther’s A Mighty Fortress is our God. In the midst of trial and struggle against threats rejection, economic distress and even of death from the Rhenish Palatinate, Luther penned the words for this powerful hymn to reinforce the mission of the Protestant church. Faced with a choice, the priests who had followed Luther could either turn away from him and reject all that Luther had stood for or they could themselves be condemned by the Holy Roman Church and undergo the same rejection Luther suffered, potentially even leading to death.
When I have been slandered, this hymn has reminded me of God’s faithfulness and graciousness to me. I am reminded, when the world stands in opposition to the Gospel, He is our refuge and strength. No power of hell can overcome Him and no ill can defeat Him! Luther was concerned for the heart of his fellow priests and he encouraged their labor and efforts with music. Not a sermon, not a stirring pamphlet… music. Music engages us in a way that other mediums cannot. For me, it is in moments of toil and distress that I seek the Sabbath of
song, the solace of melody, and the poetry of truth! Luther saw the faint heart of fellow priests and sought strength in songs of God! Psalm 46 freshly on his heart and mind, the German theologian and pastor sat down and reminded all faithful Christians of these deep truths.
A mighty Fortress is our God,
A Bulwark never failing;
Our Helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
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:
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.
And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through 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.
That word above all earthly powers,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through 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.
In these four stanzas, Luther brings assurance that no enemy can stand against the Lord of Hosts! He is victorious and it is in Him and Him alone that Christians take refuge. Though all be torn asunder, Jesus remains, our mighty fortress.
In recent years, Shane and Shane has produced a version of Psalm 46 that is tremendously edifying as well. Go have a listen: Psalm 46.