Wednesday of the Week of Reformation – Psalm 46

1God is our refuge and strength,
   a very present help in trouble.
2Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
   though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3though its waters roar and foam,
   though the mountains tremble at its swelling. 

 4There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
   the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
   God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
   he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The LORD of hosts is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our fortress. 

 8 Come, behold the works of the LORD,
   how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
   he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
   I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The LORD of hosts is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our fortress. 

His friends looked on with growing alarm that day in mid-April of 1521. Luther stood before the Emperor and the assembled members of the imperial nobility. He refused their demand that he disavow his writings. The Emperor was not used to being disobeyed, especially by a lowly monk. Luther could be somewhat politically obtuse. His friends grabbed him firmly by the elbow and escorted him out of the room and they just kept walking. They smiled at the guards, walked through the city gate, and came to the horses and cart which they had prepared for just such an emergency. They sent Luther out of town before he could be arrested. Somewhere outside of town, Luther’s party was surrounded, and he was taken “prisoner.”

Many people thought that was the end of Luther, but it was not. His prince, the Elector Frederick, sometimes called “the Wise” but perhaps the German is better translated “the Crafty,” had arranged for Luther to be kidnapped and brought to a secure fortress high on a hill in Saxony. It still stands and you can visit. It is called the Wartburg.

In the 10 months he spent in the Wartburg, Luther grew a beard and took on a new identity as Knight George. We even have a painting of him at the time. I have included it for you. The psalm this week repeats the phrase: “the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Those words would become the opening blast of Luther’s most famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” As Luther pondered God and the Reformation from that lofty perch in the Wartburg, he probably prayed and meditated upon this psalm. As a monk he recited his way through the psalter on a regular schedule. People build fortresses like the Wartburg to defend against an enemy. Luther was safe there, at least from the emperor. But the emperor was not Luther’s only foe. To be safe from those other foes like sin, death, and devil, would take another fortress, a fortress which Luther sings about in that hymn and this psalm describes. Inside that fortress city the river of life flows. Outside is chaos and tumult. You have been brought to that fortress in your baptism and the promise of God to you. Here we may rest unmolested by the world, the devil, or anyone else. A mighty fortress is our God, a trusty shield and weapon; He helps us free from ev’ry need That hath us now o’ertaken

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