Defense as Offence
In the ancient world, warfare was conducted only where men and animals could go. A mountain with a castle built on top was both an offensive weapon and a defensive stronghold. The army in the fortified position, then and now, has the advantage.
For the Psalmists this was a meaningful metaphor for the Lord Jehovah Himself. His name was a strong and mighty tower. He was the immense rock of safety and provision in a dry and dangerous land. He was their Fortress.
The Long View
Like a castle on a mountain, the Lord has the long view of life. There is no direction from which an enemy can attack that the Lord cannot see. His fortress-like presence is the essence of safety.
There are provisions in the Fortress for family and friends, troops and staff, adequate for any siege attempted. Expert lookouts are posted at every high point of every outcropping of the mountain and every possible crevasse where spies might seek to break the security of the fortress.
A Comforting Sight
It must have been comforting for the residents of some ancient or medieval city to see the Fortress, their Fortress, on the nearby mountain. Most of the time they took no conscious notice of it but in the peripheral of their vision and the peripheral of their minds, they knew it was there.
They knew also that over the horizon in certain directions enemies lived their lives, worshiping different gods in different ways—strange sounding, violent strangers—a constant threat in the backs of their minds. A measure of confidence could be found in the shadow of the Fortress:
- There was a ruler in those elevated rooms who knew what needed to be known.
- There was an army there, ready to defend or to attack.
- There were spies in and out of the Fortress who knew all about the enemy over the horizon.
However, the Fortress only protected those inside it. Just looking at it may be comforting but being inside it was the real place of safety.
And so it is with us.
We have enemies on all sides who have already crossed the horizon. They have spies among us and assassins on assignment. We need more than a peripheral view of our Fortress. We need to be inside. No enemy can harm us there. We have quarters assigned to us there. We have a place of service as well as a place of safety. The King is there and all is well. He has what we need. He knows what needs to be known.
- To read His Word is to run to the Fortress and find entrance.
- To praise and worship Him is to find our residence within the walls.
- To obey the Lord is to find our assignment in His army.
More than just safety, victory is ours because victory is His. Jesus is our fortress.
Psalm 18:2; 28:8; Proverbs 18:10 NIV
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.
The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. Free me from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O Lord, the God of truth… Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief… But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me. Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love. Let me not be put to shame, O Lord, for I have cried out to you; but let the wicked be put to shame and lie silent in the grave. … Praise be to the Lord, for he showed his wonderful love to me when I was in a besieged city. In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight! “Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help. Love the Lord, all his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful, but the proud he pays back in full. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.
Lord Jesus, You are my stronghold and my defense. I will not fear what man can do to me. Neither will I fear what the forces of darkness may design against me. Since I follow You and since You are light, I walk in a light so bright the shadows of hell cannot hide the enemies of my soul. Your Holy Spirit warns me of evil as it approaches in so many disguises. Your name is on my lips and Your Word fills my heart. My hands are dedicated to Your will and my feet to following You. You are the Christus Victor, and I am safe and courageous in You my Fortress. Amen.
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
Words: Martin Luther; Music: Traditional
1. 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 does seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.
2. 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.
You 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.
3. And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God has 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
4. 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!
© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved