In the late 1520’s Martin Luther composed that famous hymn; ‘A Mighty Fortress is our God’, or in the original German; ‘Ein Feste Burg ist Unser Gott’. There is something about the original German I just love. It makes it sound even stronger somehow. I cannot say what reference inspired him to compose such a powerful hymn. Perhaps it was Psalm 18:2 “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Or perhaps it was Psalm 31:2 “Tun your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.” Or perhaps it was Psalm 46:7 “The LORD almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
Whatever the reference, I do like the idea of God being our fortress. There are some great parallels. Most obvious is safety. In times past, the fortress was one of the safest places a person could be. Its high walls of granite, its sturdy gates of iron, its towers and battlements, its cannons… when a person was shut up in a fortress it was almost impossible for anyone to get at them. So it is with our God. And how much of a comfort is this to our weary souls. We’re almost like the traveler, riding through the howling wilderness and haunted forest, facing the wind and rain, searching desperately for a place of safety where we can rest and spend the nigh, then standing on the hill, we see our fortress – the cross of Jesus Christ – our perfect resting place where guilt of sin is washed away in his atoning blood. Hope and relief stream into our soul and we rejoice in wonder of our salvation. With God our fortress, we rest safe and secure in his love for us. Sins might try to scale the walls, but they can’t get a foothold. The devil might shoot his arrows, but none can reach us. For ‘neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present or the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Romans 8:37&38)
The fortress is also the place of provision. It’s a cozy place, shielded from the wind and rain. Here there are warm fires and warm beds. There is plenty of soup and bread, meat and potatoes, apples and pears, beer and wine. All is provided. There is no shortage here. Here travelers can wash away the mud from their journey, have their fill of supper, and sleep sweetly without disturbance. And how true is this for our God? How graciously and abundantly does he provide for those he loves! Our lives are packed to the rafters with grace upon grace, and mercy upon mercy. There are countless reasons for thanksgiving. And we can walk in full confidence, knowing that God’s grace to us will not run dry. For even to our old age and grey hairs, our God promises to sustain and carry us (Isaiah 46:4).
The fortress is also a high place. God lifts us up above the town, above the world, to the throne of God (Revelation 3:21). How spectacular! Here we enjoy the dizzying heights of God’s salvation that ‘no eye has seen, nor ear heard, no mind has conceived’ (1 Corinthians 2:9) And we stand at the window looking out though the eye of faith beyond the distant river to our heavenly Canaan; a rich green land flowing with milk and honey – a land our loving Father has prepared for us – a place where there will be ‘no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain.’ (Revelation 21:4) And our hearts fill yearning.
Finally, the fortress is a place of good company. There is always good fellowship to be had where God resides. True, there are times when we can’t unburden ourselves completely, (as is the case when we wish to share our whole stories with those who in all likelihood, won’t understand) but there are still friends to be made and stories to be told nonetheless. I honestly can’t tell you how encouraged I was when I met for the first time with a group of men and women who also struggled in the realm of sexuality, yet decided to follow Christ. My heart was so uplifted. I always thank God for these dear brothers and sisters. Perhaps you have felt the same way with others – those select few with whom you can be more open. Our God really is a God who ‘sets the lonely in families’ (Psalm 68:6). And if he hasn’t done so for you yet, hold him to his promises and trust that he is good.
So with all the world against us, with Satan’s hell hounds snapping at our heels, let’s run to our God; our mighty fortress in whom we take refuge. For there is none who can defend us and keep us like our God.