God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. (Psalm 46:1-3)
The above passage from the Holy Bible forms part of the hymn entitled “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” The reformer and prolific hymnodist Martin Luther wrote its words and music and became one of his best-known hymns. The composition of the hymn dates back to the 15th century, between 1527-1529. From its German origin, the hymn was translated into English for not less than 70 times. In addition, it has been set to various languages.
Going back to its biblical roots, it is crystal clear how the hymn exhibits strength. It’s something that one can fully rely on at all times. The first verse alone says it all. God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). The line that follows is an encouragement for us to not feel afraid no matter what happens for He is our rock. It’s no wonder why the song was regarded as one of the noblest and a classic example of Christian hymnody.
The Battle Hymn of the Reformation
On October 31, 1517, the Protestant Reformation also called the “4th of July Protestantism” began. The only most powerful hymn of Luther for this event was “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” Drawing so much strength and inspiration from it, the song became the people’s war cry. Even those who were condemned for their beliefs resorted to the hymn.
Considered as a singing symbol of the Reformation, the hymn proclaims our faith in a solemn but roaring manner. Luther was able to capture in the hymn the very essence of faith and the passion for patriotism derived from Psalm 46.
In the 19th-century, several musicologists debated Luther’s authorship of the music to the hymn. However, in more recent studies, some musical scholars agreed consensually that Luther has indeed composed the famous tune along with the words. On his tomb at Wittenberg, the first line of the hymn was inscribed.
Listen to the hymn below and draw strength from it.
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Martin Luther, Psalm 46