March 22, 2020
A Mighty Fortress is Our God
Psalm 91 Part 3
Rev. Dr. Mark Raeburn Johnston
“Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence.4 He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.” (Psalm 91:3-4)
In the 91st Psalm David sings of God’s protection over his children in the midst of trial and tribulation! This theme resonates with each of us because we’ve all been engaged in the war against the Coronavirus. Many of us are rightly concerned about what safety measures to take that will protect us from this terrible pestilence.
Our Psalm opens with the assurance that God is our shelter of grace, our safe refuge, our impenetrable fortress. But there is more. God also delivers those who place their trust in Him! Not only is He our Defender, He is our Rescuer! The Lord delivers us from the ‘fowler’ who we can identify as Satan, the evil one and the adversary of God.
Martin Luther’s famous Hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” is based on this truth;
“A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing,
Our helper amid the flood,
Of mortal ills prevailing
For still our ancient foe,
Doth seek to work us woe,
His craft and pow’r are great,
And armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.”
Luther composed this great hymn at the outset of the Protestant Reformation around 1527. During that time, Martin Luther was a hunted man whose life was in constant danger. His faith was frequently tried by those hard circumstances that he ascribed to Satanic persecution.
One of the stanzas of his great hymn that we don’t often sing addresses the victorious power of God over the powers of darkness;
“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.”
Luther’s faith rested not in his ability to avoid the harsh circumstances that threatened him, but rather his faith centered upon the One who with “one little word’ could ‘fell’ or topple the dark, demonic powers that sought his ruin.
The deliverance of our God from the snares and traps of sin and death comes through His truth. The Psalmist tells us that God’s truth is a protective shield and a buckler, a protective high wall, that stands between us and those evil powers that seek to snare us. God’s love guards us from the deadly disease that threatens us. The Bible contains God’s truth, and our faith and trust in the Lord can be strengthened by reading the holy Scriptures. As the Apostle Paul writes;
“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God!”
Just as Martin Luther recognized that true evil originates from the unseen realm and manifests in the world, Psalm 91 teaches us that there is Someone greater than ‘the world.’ There is One who has overcome the evils of this world. That One is the Lord Jesus Christ. The words of our Savior to His disciples are worth quoting;
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Because our Savior has overcome the world, we can rest in the assurance that we will also overcome these difficult times as long as we remain within the protective fortress of His word and grace. We do this by centering ourselves through prayer, by the reading of the Bible, and by abiding in His truth. Then, like Marin Luther, we can also sing;
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 is his name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle!