Hymn #4: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

Lyrics: Martin Luther, translated to English by Frederick H. Hedge.

Music: EIN FESTE BURG by Martin Luther.

Theme: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.
Psalm 46:1-3

Martin Luther: ‘If any man despises music, as all fanatics do, for him I have no liking; for music is a gift and grace of God, not an invention of men. Thus it drives out the devil and makes people cheerful. Then, one forgets all wrath, impurity, and other devices.”

This video features Mahalia Jackson singing this hymn as it should be sung: slow, stately, full-toned, and powerful.

Fun facts and links related to A MIghty Fortress is Our God:

Luther played the lute and paid his school fees through the money he earned singing in the streets of Eisenach. He later said, “The one who sings, prays double.”

When discouraged, Luther is said to have turned to his friend and co-worker Philip Melancthon and said, “Let us sing the 46th Psalm.” A Mighty Fortress is, of course, a paraphrase of Psalm 46.

Go here to read an alternate English translation of this hymn: A Safe Stronghold Our God Is Still by Thomas Carlyle.

And here’s yet another translation: God Is a Stronghold and a Tower by Elizabeth Wordsworth, 1891.

A Mighty Fortress was sung at the funeral of President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the National Cathedral in Washington DC, March, 1969. And it was also included in the National Service of Prayer and Remembrance, held shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks against America.

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.

Center for Church Music.
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God: Hymns as Poetry.

2 thoughts on “Hymn #4: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

  1. Jon Sedgwick

    What a great song. But I want to remind everyone that the second verse was omitted at the 911 service. I guess it was too radical for America.

  2. Love the quote. The hymn has such powerful words.

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