12:36 AM

Day Thirty-Nine of Lent

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
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 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.
dost ask Who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He.
Lord, sabbaoth 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 hath willed
His truth to triumph through 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 powers,
no thanks to them, abideth
the Spirit and the gifts 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.
ok, this is a honkin' one. it's gonna require some serious breakdown.

stanza 1: "Rock of ages" comes to mind ~ the fact that we can hide from God's condemnation through God's mercy (union with Christ, to be technical) is the beauty of the gospel. as a refuge, He is completely suited to the task, and He is perfectly reliable. though the song seems to highlight worldly, external dangers, we must remember that our "ancient foe" often tries to "work us woe" by means of condemnation and other attacks on our belief in the gospel. and the foe is definitely packing serious heat - he could best any man. any man without God Almighty protecting them, that is.
stanza 2: the fact of the matter is, if we aren't hidden in God, then there is no way we stand a chance. if we fight alone, we fight in vain. but the fact is not merely that we have a Champion to fight for us, but that He has been chosen to do that for us by God Himself. He has chosen our Advocate - the only Advocate that can successfully rescue us. that Hero protects us from and fights for us against the evils of the world, against the power of darkness, but also against the just punishment hell would be. union with Christ makes us victors against any opponent, from satan to the law. (oh, and "sabbaoth" means "set apart as holy" i think, which would make sense. kinda like what we're supposed to do with the sabbath.)
stanza 3: this verse is about our victory in the world. the will of God is to use us in His triumph, and God's will is nonnegotiable. it is that, and the fact that He is acting as our fortress that enables us to look the goliath that satan is in the face and "tremble not." he's here for a time, but he will lose. we will win. and we will win because of Christ.
stanza 4: Christ is, of course, the Word in verses 3-4. His greatness is "above all earthly powers" and owes nothing to those powers. this is especially important to place in historical context - during the reformation, several holy roman empire dukes jumped on the reformation bandwagon. their influence and role in the reformation taking off was significant. but luther is here clearly establishing that God does not need the "help" of those earthly powers to be powerful - His decision to use them is His mercy, not His weakness. "no thanks to them" indeed. moving on... we have the Holy Spirit in us and the gifts due to heirs of our Father, both of which we receive through Christ, our Mediator. these gifts essentially render the rest of "goods and kindred" and even "this mortal life" inconsequential in comparison. i think of what paul says in philippians 3:8 about this: "indeed, i count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. for His sake i have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that i may gain Christ." with paul, luther is proclaiming that Christ is enough; that we can lose the rest of what we have and still be ok. and not only us, but the world is ok. God's character is intact, even if God's people lose everything we have but Him. Him we cannot lose - He has promised. "God's truth abideth still." and "His kingdom is forever."

case closed.


Anonymous said...

Greatest hymn ever.