21st Century culture, to followers of Jesus, is intense, Scripture-revealing and prophecy-fulfilling, and calls for us to dig deeply into Truth, not looking to the left or to the right. Martin Luther’s 16th Century lyrics (shockingly, back in the day, set to a rollicking beerhall, stein-swinging tune – today, this same melody is considered the epitome of high-brow ecclesiastical hymnody!) now translated for us into English, offer a glimpse into the society facing the church in his day. There are surprising similarities! I offer them here for your reading, but also with a little exercise, should you be so inclined, to flesh out the richness of the text:
A Mighty Fortress is Our God
(Words and music by Martin Luther (1529). Translated by Frederick Hedge (1853). Public domain.)
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark1 never failing;
our helper he, amid the flood of mortal ills2 prevailing.
For still our ancient foe does seek to work us woe;
his craft and power 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.
You ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth3 his name, from age to age the same; and he must win the battle.
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God has willed his truth to triumph through us.4
The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure, for lo! his doom is sure; one little word5 shall fell him.
That Word above all earthly powers no thanks to them abideth;
the Spirit and the gifts6 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!7
1 What does this word mean?
2 How would you describe ‘mortal ills’ today?
3 What does Lord Sabaoth mean?
4 What Scriptures confirm this statement?
5 What ‘little word’ is Luther referring to, do you think?
6 What is your reaction to ‘The Spirit and the gifts are ours’?
7 What Scriptures confirm this exciting statement?