‘A sure stronghold our God is he,
a trusty shield and weapon.
Our help he’ll be and set us free
from every ill can happen
that old malicious foe, means us deadly woe
armed with might from Hell
and deepest craft as well
on earth is not his fellow.’
I’m sure you recognize this as an early translation of “A Mighty Fortress is
Our God”. Martin Luther who wrote the words once said, ‘the Devil hates
music because he cannot stand gaiety,’ and ‘Satan can smirk but he cannot
laugh; he can sneer but he cannot sing.’ Because he believed in the power of
song the great reformer spent a lot of time compiling a hymn book for use in
One writer has said that ‘Luther translated the Bible into German so God
could speak directly to the people; and provided the hymn so that the people
could answer God in their songs.’ He is credited with thirty-seven hymns,
by far the most popular being, “A Mighty Fortress”. It was written in 1529
at time when Luther and his followers were going through a particularly
rough patch of opposition; with the Emperor, Charles V, seemingly determined
to suppress the new movement.
During those days of struggle Luther turned often to Psalm 46 and was
greatly encouraged by the words of verse one, ‘God is our refuge and
strength, a very present help in trouble.’
Soon a song was inspired, and Luther began in fine style with the bold
declaration – ‘Ein feste burg ist unswer Gott’ – ‘A sure stronghold our God
is He.’ It was Frederick Hedge, in his translation of 1852, who changed this
to the more familiar “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”.
Luther’s original composition became immediately popular with the common
people of reformation Germany, being sung continually in the streets and
chanted by the martyrs as they awaited their grim fate. What a moving sound
that must have made!
And still today its words turns our eyes and thoughts away from the
afflictions of this world, and the opposition of Satanic hosts, and fixes
them upon the person of the Lord Jesus – the Lord Sabaoth as Luther so
rightly refers to Him in one of the verses:
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 is His Name,
From age to age the same;
And HE must win the battle.
Dr Bob Griffin
“Jesus Knows Me, This I Love!”