Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Might Fortress Is Our God

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
By: Martin Luther

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 pow'r 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 tho this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph thro' 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 pow'rs, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours thro' 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. 

 We think of Martin Luther as a great reformer, Bible translator, and political leader. But I don't think many people realize that he wrote many hymns. He was born in an area of Germany which was known for its music. In his little Thuringian village, Martin grew up listening to his mother sing. He joined a boy's choir that sang at weddings and funerals. He became quite proficient with the flute (recorder), and his volcanic emotions often erupted in song. 
 
 When the Protestant Reformation began, Luther determined to restore worship to the German church. He worked with skilled musicians to create new music for Christians to be sung in the vernacular. He helped revive congregational singing and wrote a number of hymns. The years following 1520 were dark and filled with danger for Martin Luther. Despite serving for several years as an Augustinian priest, he had become an adversary of the Catholic church after publicizing his objections to the practice of selling indulgences. Eventually, Luther was excommunicated for this position, and his public declarations and criticism placed him at the center of controversy. Threatened with arrest and extradition to Rome for trial, Luther was "kidnapped" by men Frederick the Wise of Saxony had sent, and taken to Wartburg Castle where he remained for over a year. (Frederick the Wise was someone who cared about Luther and tried to protect him.) It was during this time in isolation that he began translation the Bible from Greek into German. He felt strongly that the people ought to be able to read the Holy Scriptures in their own language and also to speak directly to God through hymns in their native tongue. He composed a hymn book for use by German congregations. With the translation of the New Testament into German in 1522, the publication of a hymn book in 1524, and the completion of the Old Testament translation in 1534, Luther provided the foundation for the Protestant Reformation in Germany. In his honor, German Protestants became known as Lutherans.

If there was a theme song of the Reformation it would have to be Luther's powerful hymn, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." Based on the first verse of Psalm forty-six, "God is our refuge and strength," this hymn became the rallying cry of peasants and dissidents across Europe. In difficulty and danger, Luther would often resort to this song, saying to his associate, "Come Philipp, let us sing the 46th Psalm." It has been translated into almost every known language, and is today the national hymn of Germany. 

Martin Luther knew the power of congregational singing and saw it as a powerful tool for bringing men and women closer to God. He wrote: "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." He also wrote: "Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world. It controls our thoughts, minds, hearts, and spirits..."

When he died in 1546, in his hometown of Eisleben, Germany, Luther had, through his theological writings, his Bible translations, and hymns, laid the foundations of a movement that would forever change the religious history of the world. In recognition of this, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" was sung at his funeral and the first line of the hymn is inscribed on his tomb in Eisleben.

I hope you all enjoyed reading about this hymn and had a wonderful Lord's day. 

In God's abounding love,
Ashley

1 comment:

  1. An excellent post Ashley! I went to youtube to hear the song played as I read your post. I am thankful for all the contributions Luther made for Christians, and what a beautiful mighty song this is that he wrote. Blessings to you today :)

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