"the Lord of hosts is with us"
I was preparing my Awesome Girl's history lesson on Monday, when I found myself ~ on Martin Luther King Jr Day, ironically ~ reading about Martin Luther.
One of the things I love about being my kids' teacher, is how much I find myself learning, or relearning, as I teach them. I'd forgotten some of the details about the Protestant Reformation, and what Martin Luther accomplished in his lifetime.
One of the things I'd forgotten ~ or maybe never realized ~ was that Martin Luther was the author of that beautiful hymn, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God". Knowing that, I did a little research on the history of this classic hymn.
Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. A mighty fortress is our God. He wrote those words sometime between 1527 and 1529, during the time of the Reformation that he helped bring about, and he is credited with composing the words and the tune.
Based on Psalm 46, it's a hymn that celebrates the utter invincibility of God. But, surprisingly, it's a hymn largely about our enemy. I'm sure many have absentmindedly sung the words "on earth is not his equal," thinking they were singing about God. But that line is about satan. To Martin Luther, the devil posed a far more present danger than the earthly adversaries he faced.
I guess he felt that if are going to fully appreciate our "bulwark never failing," then we need to fully appreciate the danger we are in.
But while the song reminds us that the power and hate of our foe is great, it also celebrates that it only takes a word from God to defeat Him, and that Word is Jesus ~ Lord Sabaoth, His name.
Lord Sabaoth is one of the Hebrew names for God, and it means Lord of Hosts, or Lord of Armies. You'll find it in Romans 9 and James 5.
Martin Luther was a prolific writer of hymns, and greatly influenced the development of singing in churches ~ something that was not done before then. But this hymn stands out. It has been incorporated into works by Bach, Pachelbel and Wagner, among others.
The King of Sweden had it played as his forces went to battle in the Thirty Years' War, and it is played every year in London at the celebration of the Queen's birthday. And in our own history ~ if you, too, call yourself an American ~ it was sung at the funeral services of President Dwight Eisenhower, and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and at the Prayer Service held at the National Cathedral three days after September 11, 2001.
So in appreciation of this beautiful hymn:
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 Sabaoth 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
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 pow'rs, 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
And more than appreciating great men, and great love for the Lord, I have a renewed appreciation of the Lord, how much He loves us, and how helpless we are without Him.
~ "Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth" ~