Posted by: rcottrill | January 3, 2019

A Mighty Fortress

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Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Martin Luther (b. Nov. 10, 1483; d. Feb. 18, 1546)
Music: Ein feste Burg, by Martin Luther

Wordwise Hymns (Martin Luther) (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Martin Luther was a brilliant Augustinian monk, and a professor of theology at the University of Wittenberg. Studying the book of Romans, he became concerned that some traditional teachings of the Church of Rome were contrary to the Scriptures. On October 31, 1517, he posted his 95 Theses (propositions to be debated), on the door of the Wittenberg Church–which was used as a kind of bulletin board.

When asked what he would replace all the rituals and images and relics of the church with, his answer was, “Christ.” Luther’s fundamental position was summarized by five “solas,” the Latin word for alone: Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), Sola fidè (faith alone), Sola gratia (by grace alone), Sola Christus (through Christ alone), Sola Deo gloria (glory to God alone).

His views were rejected by the church, and in a time of harassment and persecution, he very much depended on the Lord for protection. Martin Luther is credited with returning congregational participation to the worship of the church. Including this, his most famous hymn, he wrote nearly three dozen of them, providing his own tunes for many of them.

t the beginning of the Second World War, Singapore was the major British military base in South-East Asia and a key to their defense planning in the South Pacific.

With 100,000 troops, and massive fortifications that were heavily armed, it was dubbed “Fortress Singapore,” and was considered impregnable. But on February 15, 1942, the base was captured by the forces of Japan, and 80,000 troops became prisoners of war. British prime minister, Winston Churchill, called it the worst disaster in British military history.

Like other disasters and defeats, it’s a stark reminder that human ingenuity and armed might are no guarantee of security. Before the Battle of Waterloo, one of Napoleon’s generals reminded him that, “Man proposes, but God disposes.” But Napoleon, arrogantly retorted, “I want you to understand sir, that Napoleon proposes, and Napoleon disposes.” Later, his forces were beaten, and he was taken captive.

The Bible tells us:

“It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes” (Ps. 118:8-9).

Numbering of chapters and verses is slightly different in some Bible versions, but Psalm 118:8 is often considered the middle verse of the entire Bible. It fits well as a central theme. Self rule and self confidence brought the fall of man, and have been our problem ever since. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding,”warns Proverbs 3:5. And instead of a military fortress, we need to trust in God Himself as our Protector and Defender.

Several times in Psalms, God is referred to as our divine Fortress. For example:

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust” (Ps. 18:2).

“You are my rock and my fortress; therefore, for Your name’s sake, lead me and guide me” (Ps. 31:3).

“Blessed be the Lord my Rock…my lovingkindness and my fortress, my high tower and my deliverer, my shield and the One in whom I take refuge” (Ps. 144:1-2).

The opening words of Psalm 46, call God our “Refuge”–which translates the same Hebrew word rendered “fortress” in the above verses. And it is this psalm that became the basis for Martin Luther’s powerful hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. He also composed the tune. And it’s not only Luther’s greatest hymn, but the greatest of the Protestant Reformation. It is still being sung more that four centuries after he wrote it. (Note: In the second stanza, “Lord Sabaoth” means Lord of Hosts.)

CH-1) 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.”

CH-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.

CH-4) 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.

1) In what ways is “our ancient foe” (Satan) clearly at work in today’s world?

2) In your view, who are the most effective champions today, faithfully proclaiming the Word in writing or the spoken word?

Wordwise Hymns (Martin Luther) (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. Please note that the second verse you reference is omitted in your blog. Also, there is another version of this which many Lutherans prefer; since this is a translation from the German, it is not a variance based on ideas or concepts but just the way in which it was translated.

    • Thanks for the note Eric. As to the second stanza being missing, I seldom include all of the stanzas in my posts. Most of them started out as newspaper articles, so I had to fit the space I was given. There are other factors in my choices as well, but this is the reason I give links to both the Cyber Hymnal and They usually do include the whole hymn. (And both of them also have the version Lutherans prefer.) My main goal is to call attention to biblical themes in our traditional hymns. God bless.


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