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 thru 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.
For several years in one of my pastorates it was my privilege and honor to have Kenneth O. Osbeck serve as our minister of music. He is acclaimed for writing several books on hymnology published by Kregel Publications. In his volume, 101 Hymn Stories,he states that the first line of this national hymn of Protestant Germany is fittingly inscribed on the tomb of the great reformer, Martin Luther, at Wittenberg, and may still be read with appreciation by travelers to that historic spot.
Brother Osbeck comments that Luther had strong convictions about the use and power of sacred music and expressed his convictions this way, “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. I wish to compose sacred hymns so that the Word of God may swell among the people also by means of songs.” Historians have stated that Martin Luther won more converts to Christ through his encouragement of congregational singing than even through his strong preaching and teaching.
Luther’s great hymn is based on Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” And that He is! If you read the stanzas above very carefully, you will see that our enemy has not changed (for still our ancient foe doeth seek to work us woe); the world has not changed (and tho this world with devils filled, should threaten to undo us); our weakness has not changed (did we in our own strength confide our striving would be losing); BUT nor has our God changed or His promise (a mighty fortress is our God….God hath willed His truth to triumph thru us…his (Satan) rage we can endure, for lo! his doom is sure–one little word (God’s Word) shall fell him- Isaiah 14:12-15).
More than likely when we die, we will not choose Martin Luther’s epitaph to be ours, but nonetheless, while we are living the great words of this ancient hymn can be an encouragement of God’s great promise to us that He will be our unfailing fortress.
God Is My Refuge
God is my Refuge, helping through perilous storms,
I will not fear though billows sore, I will trust His will to perform.
I am as secure as that City, the place they call God’s home.
The City that never ceases, the City that bears His Throne.
In my deepest valley, He says to me be still.
He is my Fortress and my God working His sovereign will.
— Maynard H. Belt