Summary: God is the Rock of Refuge no matter how uncertain the times we live in.
“What is a Bulwark?”
By: Kenneth Emerson Sauer,
Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News, VA
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the Cathedral of Whittenberg, Germany. That date is sometimes called the “4th of July of Protestantism.”
It symbolizes the start of the Protestant Reformation.
And the most powerful hymn of the Protestant Reformation Movement was…well…we just sang it…
…Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”
This hymn became the battle cry of the people, a great source of strength and inspiration even for those who were martyred for their convictions.
Its majestic and thunderous proclamation of our faith is a singing symbol of the Reformation.
The first line of this hymn is inscribed on Luther’s tomb in Wittenburg: “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.”
God, here, is described as a “bulwark never failing.”
What in the world is a bulwark, and why did Luther decide to describe God in this way?
A bulwark literally means a wall-like structure made out of tree trunks built to keep out attackers.
It also means to defend or support somebody strongly.
So, for Luther, God is someone Who protects us, defends us, supports us…and He never fails—there is nothing nor anyone stronger!
The most mighty Force is on our side…
…but we do still have an enemy who wants to ruin us.
And this enemy…Satan…is crafty.
He is armed with cruel hate, and we can’t overcome him on our own.
If we try we will lose.
But, if we put our hope, our trust, and our faith in Jesus Christ…well…we will be partakers in winning the battle over sin, death and hell!
And that, my friends, is Good News!!!
The author of our Psalm for this morning is an old man.
His strength is failing as his enemies are rising against him…
…but he knows Who can help him…
…and he knows Who has helped him throughout the trials and tribulations of his entire life.
His faith…his journey with the Almighty has been lifelong…
…he has seen God do great things for him…
…God has rescued him in his past, and God will rescue him now…in his old age.
Look again at verses 5-6.
Where do we get our confidence to go on through times of trouble…or just through the everyday, ordinary obstacles that this often cruel and hateful world puts in our path?
Is the Sovereign Lord our hope, do we rely on Him, every second of every minute of every day?
We can go to God continually.
He is here with us…whether we know it or not…at all times…and He is on our side!
“From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.”
Let’s think back on our lives.
How long have we known that God loves us more than we can imagine?
How early in our lives can we recall the love and care of God?
I’m sure it is different for all of us, but the important thing to know is that God has always been with each and every one of us…He’s been watching, protecting and loving us as far back as the womb.
What a breathtaking image: God was there when our tiny hearts and minds were still unformed, and now He waits patiently for us to come around and realize this.
Some of us get the message early on in life—seeing our parents praising God and reading Scripture, and we follow suit.
Others of us arrive at the party a lot later, after decades of spiritual sleepwalking or confusion or anger or abuse and neglect.
Many of us walk through this life without relying on the Only One Who is able to protect and support us…without THE BULWARK!
And when pain and suffering inevitably come…our lives come down with a mighty crash!!!
The world will inevitably let us down and eventually drop us to our deaths…
…the world is not “A mighty fortress.”…
…the world is not “a bulwark never failing.”
The other night I was working in the church office and in walked a young kid…just 22 years old.
He had moved up here from Mississippi to live with his girlfriend, but his girlfriend--a drug abuser--had thrown him out of her house that morning.
He took his belongings with him, but hid them because he had to work that day.
When he returned for his belongings, they were gone.
So, here he is. It’s ten O’clock at night.
He’s sitting in my office.