A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
Martin Luther wrote this hymn as a battle cry of the Reformation movement. This hymn is based on Psalm 46.
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah (ESV)
Luther strongly felt that there was power in sacred music. He is quoted as saying, “If any man despises music, as all fanatics do, for him I have no liking; for music is a gift and grace of God, not an invention of men. Thus it drives out the devil and makes people cheerful. Then one forgets all wrath, impurity and other devices.”
1) A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
There are many times in God’s Word where it states that God is our rock and refuge, our strong defender. Look at 2 Samuel 22:3, Psalm 18:2, Psalm 31:2, Psalm 71:3, Psalm 94:22, Psalm 68:5.
our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.
This line brings to mind Isaiah 43 –
Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
When we go through hard times, our Heavenly Dad is with us AND He knows us by name.
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.
Ephesians 6 tells us to take up the full armor of God so that we can stand against the devil’s schemes.
Martin Luther believed in incorporating the truth of scripture into his songs he wrote. He is quoted as saying, “I wish to compose sacred hymns so that the Word of God may dwell among the people by means of songs.”
And if you think about it, people in general remember the words to songs far easier than just memorizing written word. (There are many studies about this – here is just one link: https://web.colby.edu/cogblog/2014/04/28/does-the-sound-of-music-really-help-with-memory/).
2) 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.
This second verse calls to mind Hebrews 12: verse 2 tells us to look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith; verse 28 tells us we have an unshakable Kingdom. Hebrews 4:14-16 and Hebrews 5 are worth taking the time to study to learn more about Jesus’ love for us and the redemption we have in Him alone.
3) 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.
Jesus, Himself, in Matthew 4 shows us how to fight the devil with the Word of God:
Matthew 4: 1Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”
(You can also read about this in Luke 4: 1- 13.)
4. That Word above all earthly powers, 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.
God’s Word is rich and alive, sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). Psalm 18:30 states, “This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.”
Proverbs 30:5 states, “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”
Isaiah 41:8 tells us that the Word of God will stand forever;
Isaiah 50:4 tells us God sustains us with His Word.
John 1 tells us that Jesus is the Word.
Ephesians 6 tells us the Word of God is our sword.
Colossians 3 exhorts us to let the Word of God dwell in us richly.
Martin Luther, through this hymn, was expressing the truth of these scriptures. Our God is our mighty fortress and it is His Word that sustains us and fights our battles. He truly is our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.