JTTH: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God (Part Two)

A mighty fortress is our God

A bulwark never failing

Our helper He, amidst 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

One of the reasons I believe this hymn has been beloved by so many for so long is its use of vivid language. Martin Luther was known for using words very powerfully (if you’ve ever read The Bondage of the Will, you know what I mean!), but his amazing tribute to God’s sovereignty and omnipotence has got to be one of the best examples of his skill. Just take a look at the beginning of the song;

A mighty fortress is our God

A bulwark never failing

Our helper He, amidst the flood

Of mortal ills prevailing

In a world where many people have lost the understanding of what was once basic vocabulary, some may not have the best idea of what a fortress or a bulwark is. A fortress is a stronghold, where the enemy cannot only be thwarted but attacked and defeated. A bulwark is defined by Webster’s dictionary as a protection against danger, a fortification that prevents attack or injury to the one who takes refuge behind it.

Fortifications made by human hands can fail and all our fortresses will eventually crumble into dust—but as we see stated in Scripture time and time again, God is a bulwark never failing!

You who fear the LORD, trust in the LORD;
He is their help and their shield.

Psalm 115:11

“Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Behold, all those who are angered at you will be shamed and dishonored;
Those who contend with you will be as nothing and will perish.

You will seek those who quarrel with you, but will not find them,
Those who war with you will be as nothing and non-existent.

For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand,
Who says to you, “Do not fear, I will help you.”

Isaiah 41:10-13

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:28-35, 38-39

The Lord is omnipotent, so He cannot be overpowered. He is omniscient, so He cannot be outwitted. He is omnipresent, so He cannot be outmaneuvered. And He is immutable, so none of that will ever change. He is utterly unable to fail in any of His purposes or plans! How great a comfort should that be for us as Christians, that we can confidently hold to the promise given in Romans 8 (the passage above) and know that our Savior cannot be thwarted! All of His enemies have been cast down, and He has trampled them beneath His feet as the ultimate victor (Col. 2:15).

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

In 1 Peter 5:8, we’re told to

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8

The devil was defeated and all his schemes ultimately frustrated at the cross, where the promised Messiah crushed the serpent’s head and triumphed (Gen. 3:15), but he is still very much a pest. He is the accuser of the saints (Rev. 12:10) and the ruler of this world (John 16:8-11). This is why the preservation of the saints, which we looked at during our study of Amazing Grace, is such a key doctrine in Scripture.

Have you ever seen a newborn fawn? When they’re first born, they’re tiny, cute, and helpless. Sure, they have a spotted coat to help them blend into their surroundings and a few other built-in safety measures—but as soon as the first coyote comes sniffing around, camouflage is no longer enough.

My family has taken care of a few orphaned fawns, so I know firsthand how fragile they are. The first fawn we raised was just a few hours old when someone brought her to us, after her mother was hit in the road. She was so small that I thought she was a rabbit when I first looked into the cardboard box she was in! When she grew too big for the baby pen where we had been keeping her, she stayed in our yard, within the confines of the fence that surrounded our house. My sisters and I used to be terrified that a coyote would come and get her, because even though she was growing and getting stronger, she was still easy prey for whatever predator might happen upon her.

It’s the same way with us as Christians. If believers were simply saved and then left to their own devices, it would be a horrible situation. No matter how strong we think we are, we would fall at the first attack, because we’re impotent. We’re still in this sinful world, and we’re still in our unglorified state. We still need protection against the wiles and temptations of this world. If God Himself were not our Savior and Preserver, we would never survive.

Eve and Adam were innocent in Eden, and yet they fell to the deceitful charms and temptations of Satan. We wouldn’t do any better, because we’re made of the same stuff. When we think that we can handle sin on our own, that’s when we need to step back—way back—and realize that our own pride has already proven us wrong. The only comfort we have that we will not fall before the final day, if we truly believe, is the promise of our Savior.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 1:3-9

But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.

2 Thessalonians 3:3

But we have that promise, that nothing—neither life nor death nor any created thing—will ever separate us from the love of God. We have the assurance that no matter what may come against us, He is always victorious. To put it in simpler words: If the enemy wants to get to us, he’s got to go through Him first. And that’s not a very good idea.

While Satan may have no equal on earth, the God of heaven and earth has no rival anywhere. Were all the nations and powers of the world gathered against Him, He could crush them with a single breath. Man is but a vapor, a fleeting mist that evaporates as soon as it appears, and all the universe is not even a speck of dust to Him. What a terror is this God to His enemies—and what a comfort and refuge to His children!

SDG <><

Top Photo by Sam Forson on Pexels.com

Bottom Photo by Chris F on Pexels.com

This is the twelfth installment in the Journey Through the Hymns series. A new installment will be posted each Wednesday until the series’ completion. (And yes, I know this particular installment was posted on a Friday. But eleven posts out of twelve on schedule isn’t too bad, right?)

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