First… The best perspective…
Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
~ Ephesians 5:19
Those who know the Lord have been given a set of spiritual gifts and special talents. These gifts are sovereignly bestowed and should be developed and used to honor God and for the benefit of the church and those around us.
Many have been gifted with special musical ability – writing, playing instruments, singing. And while God has given me a set of gifts, I’m afraid music or singing are not among them! However, I have always appreciated music and this includes the historic hymns of the faith.
My personal singing is usually in private – perhaps in the car while driving – and there are occasions when I ‘sing’ the great old hymns. Oh, I know the words to quite a number of hymns, having sung so many in church throughout my adult life, but only the Lord Himself can appreciate my feeble attempts at lifting my voice. I will never become part of a church choir or worship team – at least in this life!
Many churches today have completely transitioned in their musical selections, moving away from the long-standing traditional hymns, in favor of a more modern style of music and singing.
However, my purpose is not to criticize current musical style or the transition from hymns to modern music. Instead I want to refocus attention on some of the great old hymns as a vital part of our great spiritual heritage.
The old hymns still should have a place in corporate worship, as they are filled with deep and rich spiritual truth that yet resonates today. They are intensely worshipful, relevant to life, and can provide inner strength as we sing and as we meditate on the truths they present. Most of these great songs have a backstory, or the hymn writer had a personal story that led to the words of the hymn being written.
As Christendom continues the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, I believe some of these old hymns deserve some study and a new appreciation. So… In honor of Martin Luther, who nailed the 95 theses to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenburg in 1517…
All Saints Church, Wittenburg – the door of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses
We begin this monthly series with one of the best known and most beloved of all hymns and one of my favorites. It’s also Luther’s best known hymn – A Mighty Fortress Is Our God – based on Psalm 46, and written about 1529.
The words of this great hymn speak of the need to trust completely in God, who fights and wins spiritual battles on behalf of His people.
Doctrinal and practical truths presented within the hymn include…
~ The sure and certain victory of God over Satan
~ Immutability of God
~ The need to trust in God for victory
~ God never fails His people
~ We cannot win the battle apart from the Lord
~ Preeminence of Jesus, the Son of God
~ Enablement of God’s Holy Spirit
~ Eternity awaits the believer
Here are the words –
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
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 ‘tho this world with devils filled, Should threaten to undo us, We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph thro’ 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 Thro’ 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.
As I begin this monthly series, it is my hope that our appreciation for hymns will be renewed and that we will be reminded of the value of these great old songs as part of our spiritual heritage.