A Mighty Fortress Is Our God (5)
Every Friday in 2015 we consider a verse from our “Hymn of the Month.”
A mighty fortress is our God
A sword and shield victorious
He breaks the cruel oppressor's rod
And wins salvation glorious
The old satanic foe
Has sworn to work us woe
With craft and dreadful might
He arms himself to fight
On earth he has no equal
Though there are a number of verses to A Mighty Fortress, this week we conclude looking at this hymn by focusing in on the fifth verse. Most times the song is sung only the first four verses are sung. It is worthwhile to take the time and read or sing the entire song. I recommend that all readers look up the verses sometime on their own.
We begin this week by again zeroing in on the main theme on Luther’s mind, which is Psalm 46. We sing “A mighty fortress is our God; a sword and shield victorious.” We have already sung of God being a fortress for a Christian to hide within. But now we introduce two more common biblical metaphors of the sword and shield. Deuteronomy 33:29 declares, “Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord, the shield of your help, and the sword of your triumph!” How much more true of the Church.
In this battle that God is engaged in on our behalf, “He breaks the cruel oppressor’s rod; And wins salvation glorious.” In Psalm 46:9 we read “He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; the burns the chariots with fire.” We are talking about utter desolation and domination. And the spoils of the battle results in our salvation. No longer enslaved to Satan or to sin, Christians “have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace (Ephesians 1:7).
That final battle is still to be fought, however. Thus we still are open to attack. “The old satanic foe; Has sworn to work us woe.” As we have noted, one of the unique features of this hymn is its acknowledgement and focus on Satan as our mortal enemy. Since the beginning (Genesis 3) he has been actively working against those who bear the image of the One he hates most. Even today he “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Even though our enemy is a defeated enemy, he is still an enemy. And even though he is weaker than our God, he is not impotent. “With craft and dreadful might; He arms himself to fight; On earth he has no equal.” This harkens back to the first verse of the hymn. Satan is sly, as his first appearance in Scripture attests to (Genesis 3). He is deceitful, being called by Jesus “a liar, and the father of lies” (John 8:44). And, as a fallen angel, he is a powerful being. Indeed, except for Christ, no one on earth has been able to match him.
But thank God for Christ. Our victor! Our champion! A Mighty Fortress Is Our God because in Christ we find salvation, shelter, and safety. May he be our praise for all of eternity!