In an effort to encourage myself to remember who God is and trust him, I’ve recently made it my goal to learn the words to Martin Luther’s song, A Mighty Fortress is Our God (based on Psalm 46 – See words below). I have Chris Rice’s version on my Droid, and I’ve decided that whenever I’m downcast and start to whine, or complain, or fret (all signs that I’ve forgotten who God is and am losing hope in him) I will play and sing this song very loudly to myself.
All the while I’ve been working through this song, Islamists and al-Qaeda militants have taken over Northern Mali, (You may have read about the French intervention this week.) a country described by the Washington Post as “one of the richest reservoirs of music on the continent.” According to the Post and the UK’s The Guardian, since the takeover, musicians there have been threatened and forced to flee the country along with about 400,000 others Malians.
For Malians unable to flee, just listening to music brings trouble. The Post reported that, “playing music brings lashes with whips” and prison time. According to NPR, Malians caught with a cell-phone that has a musical ring tone, will be punished and will have their phone confiscated. My heart goes out to the people of this country, and I hope that one day they will be able to sing again without fear.
I think it’s interesting that the Islamists see music as such a threat – a strong weapon against their cause; they have machine guns, rockets, missiles, helicopters and tanks after all. But perhaps, they are right to be fearful. Perhaps music is a weapon; I’m using it myself to fight unbelief.
Clarification 1: I realize that the Islamists want to destroy Malian culture and that music is an important cultural component, but in that sense it is still a Malian weapon for if Malians can hang on to the ideas their music conveys, they may be able to maintain the spirit to fight the evil that is being done to them by people of their own religion.
Clarification 2: The sword of the Spirit is the word of God (Eph. 6:17). So it makes sense that when lyrics of a song are composed of the word of God, the song becomes a musical sword so to speak.
At the very least music (that is music used for its intended purpose – to praise and honor God) does play a role in fighting evil. The Apostle Paul noted that, because the days are evil, we are to make the most of our time, understand what the will of the Lord is, and …
be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, (Eph. 5:18b-19, ESV)… .
In other words one way that we make the best use of our time in these evil days is to sing to God with our hearts. And who knows, by singing in the Spirit, you may overcome evil – at least the Islamists think so.
Praying that one day you will be able to sing praise to God with people of every nation including Mali (Ps. 67:3-4).
A Mighty Fortress is Our God
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.
Castillo fuerte es nuestro Dios, defensa y buen escudo.
Con su poder nos librará en todo trance agudo.
Con furia y con afán acósanos Satán,
Por armas deja ver astucia y gran poder;
Cual él no hay en la tierra.
Nuestro valor es nada aquí, con él todo es perdido.
Mas con nosotros luchará de Dios el escogido.
Es nuestro Rey Jesús, el que venció en la cruz,
Señor y Salvador y siendo el solo Dios,
El triunfa en la batalla.
Y si demonios mil están prontos a devorarnos,
No temeremos, porque Dios sabrá como ampararnos.
¡Que muestre su vigor Satán y su furor!
Dañarnos no podrá, pues condenado es ya
Por la palabra santa.
Esa palabra del Señor que el mundo no apetece,
Por el Espíritu de Dios muy firme permanece.
Nos pueden despojar de bienes, nombre hogar,
El cuerpo des truir, mas siempre ha de existir
De Dios el reino eterno.
Other Doxology Blogs You May Enjoy
- Bulwark – (a trusty shield & weapon)
- Lord Sabaoth – from Romans 9:29 (NASB, KJV). Also translated as LORD of Heaven’s armies, Lord of hosts, and LORD JEHOVAH of Hosts in other versions.
- 2 Ch 20:21-22 connects singing with battle victory.
- Singing is not mentioned as a part of the spiritual armor in Eph. 6, but it may be a way of putting on truth, righteousness, and taking up the shield of faith. Martin Luther found solace and strength in the songs of the Psalms. If you are interested in learning more about Luther and this song, I suggest Steven Lawson’s excellent article: Luther and the Psalms: His Solace and Strength
- My daughter recommends Tony Reinke’s excellent post: Jesus Sings.
Daniel, Serge, NPR (npr.org), “Northern Mali: A Violent Islamist Stronghold,” January 3, 2013.
Daniel, Serge, Yahoo! News, UK & Ireland (uk.news.yahoo.com), “France battles Mali Islamists as hostage crisis unfolds,” January 17, 2013.
Denselow, Robin, The Guardian (guardian.co.uk), “Mali music ban by Islamists ‘crushing culture to impose rule,'” January 15, 2013.
Raghavan,Sudarsan, The Washington Post: World (articles.washingtonpost.com), “In northern Mali, music silenced as Islamists drive out artists,”November 30, 2012.