Advent 17: 95 Reasons We All Need a Mighty Fortress (and a Handful of Nails)

By Neptuul (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Neptuul (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. 5  God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. 6  The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. 7  The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah – Psalms 46:1-7 (ESV)

It is amazing the amount of trouble one can cause himself with a pen, some ink, a piece of paper, a hammer and a handful of nails.  Oh, and 95 well thought out ideas that stand in the face of the ecumenical powers-that-be.  One can make himself an enemy of the church pretty quick when they stand against the leadership.

What Luther did on Halloween 1517 was more than just pound a series of beliefs onto a wooden church door.  He called the church out for it’s unbiblical practice of indulgences, whereby people could perform good acts on the behalf of themselves and others to free them from purgatory.  Hence Luther’s antagonist, Dominican friar Johann Tetzel, who went about spreading the heresy of selling indulgences with his famous line, ““When a penny in the coffer rings, a soul from Purgatory springs.”

Nor did Luther do himself any favors when he claimed that the only authority for believers came through Scripture, a point that neutered and displeased the Pope considerably.  (Leo X would excommunicate Luther in January 1521 for refusing to recant of his writings.)

In a time when the Papacy wielded great power, Luther’s stance put his life in danger.  He knew what it meant to need a place of refuge.  And Luther also knew where to turn.

He wrote the famous hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” based on Psalm 46.  Tradition holds that he sang the hymn as he walked in to meet his accusers at the Diet of Worms in 1521.  Here he was deemed a heretic and ordered arrested by Emperor Charles V.  An edict was issued declaring open season on Martin Luther.  Kill him if you see him, but do not aid him in any way.

Luther was already on his way home to Wittenberg when he was absconded by Prince Frederick III and taken to Wartburg Castle. Here he spent several months safely locked away from the Emperor’s men.  But Luther’s true refuge was not made up of stone walls and battlements.  It was God Who protected Luther, and gave him safe shelter.

Martin Luther stood up for what was right.  He took a stand for the Lord, and God honored that.  He saw him safely (not necessarily comfortably) through the ordeal – the pressure to back down, the threat (and later reality) of excommunication from the Pope, the accusations and menacing threats of powerful men, and the fate the emperor had meant for Luther.  God provided safe passage, a powerful ally in Prince Frederick III, and a place of refuge at Wartburg where Luther completed the first ever translation of the New Testament into German, and wrote prodigiously, never letting down on his attacks against the wrongs of the church and their skewed teachings.

Just as Martin Luther discovered that God was most literally and truthfully his refuge, the Lord is our refuge as well.  We have no reason to fear standing up for what is right, for the cause of Christ, because God is with us.  And even if our physical well being is threatened or worse, we still get the far better end of the deal: eternal salvation and life with Christ.

As Jesus promised: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 (ESV)


by Martin Luther

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 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.

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