God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble. ~Psalm 46:1
We think of Martin Luther as a great reformer, Bible translator, political leader, fiery preacher, and theologian. But he was also a musician, having been born in an area of Germany known for it's music. There in his little Thuringian village, young Martin grew up listening to his mother sing. He joined a boys choir that sang at weddings and funerals. He became proficient with the flute (recorder), and his volcanic emotions often erupted in song.
When the protestant reformation began, Luther determined to restore worship to the German Church. He worked with skilled musicians to create new music for Christians, to be sung in the vernacular. He helped revive congregational singing and wrote a number of hymns.
Often he "borrowed" popular secular melodies for his hymns, though occasionally a tune brought criticism and he was "compelled to let the devil have it back again" because it was too closely associated with bars and taverns.
In the forward of a book, Luther once wrote: "Next to the word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world. It controls our thoughts, minds, and spirits.... A person who... does not regard music as a marvelous creation of God ... does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs."
Luther's most famous hymn is "Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott," --- "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." Based on Psalm 46, it reflects Luther's awareness of our intense struggle with Satan. In difficulty and danger, Luther would often resort to this song, saying to his associate, "Come, Philipp, let us sing the 46th Psalm."
This is a difficult hymn to translate because the original German is so vivid. At least 80 English versions are available. The most popular in America was done by Frederic Henry Hodge, but an older version appeared in the Pennsylvania Lutheran Church Book of 1868:
A mighty fortress is our God, A trusty Shield and Weapon;
He helps us free from every need, That hath us now o'ertaken.
The British version of "A Mighty Fortress" is Thomas Carlyle's translation:
A safe stronghold our God is still, A trusty shield and weapon;
He'll help us clear from all the ill, That hath us now o'ertaken.
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 Saboath 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.
Special thanks to Robert J Morgan for another wonderful excerpt from Then Sings My Soul: 250 of the World's Greatest Hymn Stories. Also enjoy the following links:
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God - Matt Boswell
The "high church" version is always uplifting: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
As we get closer to Christ's return, we should consider all of the possibilities of players and scenarios, regardless of our personal End Times theology. Preparation means to beware, to avoid being deceived by an ever persistent enemy. Keep watch, Beloved ones, and do not fear. It's a long video, but worth the watch: Revelation: The Bride, the Beast & Babylon