This is one of the best known hymns in the entire world and certainly the best known of all those written by German Monk, Musician, Preacher and Reformer Martin Luther [1483-1546]. It is believed that Luther composed this hymn and it's music between 1527 and 1529. The poem itself is a dramatic re-writing of the 46th Psalm. Here is a picture of what is believed to be the oldest extant printing of this marvelous hymn in it's original German ["Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott"]
Where do we even begin when discussing the significance of Luther and The Great reformation? In about 1991, early in my first marriage, I had my own weak mind good and blown by my first reading of Roland Bainton's great biography HERE I STAND, and I have been fascinated by the old "Champion Of Free Grace" ever since. Luther had his faults, to be sure-- not the least of which were his shameful espousal of the state-church model and his (eventual) anti-semitism-- but the effect of his Gospel-based rebellion against "formalized legalism" and "sacralized statecraft" [to use Leonard Verduin's memorable labels] has influenced our "Western World" for an uncommon amount of good... no question about it!
Sola scriptura (by Scripture alone),
Sola fide (by faith alone),
Sola gratia (by grace alone),
Solo Christo (through Christ alone),
Soli Deo gloria (glory to God alone)!
So yeah... I have to praise Almighty God for that old beer-guzzling, music-loving, German "Statist!" And what a great hymn this is, too! Let's hear old Tennessee Ernie Ford's surprisingly reverent version [sorry he left out the third verse, but I printed it here, of course... it's a vital part of the whole poem.] :
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;"Luther and his companions, with all their bold readiness for danger and death in the cause of truth, had times when their feelings were akin to those of a divine singer, who said, 'Why art thou cast down, O my soul?' But in such hours the unflinching Reformer would cheerily say to his friend Melancthon, 'Come, Philip, let us sing the forty-sixth Psalm;' and they could sing it in Luther's own characteristic version."
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.
—S. W. Christophers, in "Hymn Writers and their Hymns," 1866
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea..." Psalm 46:1,2