One of my favorite hymns is Martin Luther’s A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. The second part of the first verse paints a pretty bleak picture of our position on earth compared to the Prince of Darkness:
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
We are terribly outmatched. In fact, we do not stand a chance before the greatest of all angels who believed he should be god.
It must have been child’s play for him to beguile Adam and Eve into believing that they should be gods, too. Adam and Eve were perfect, lived in complete harmony with their creator, and wanted for nothing. Yet they ushered in the reign of death over all creation after one little conversation with the serpent! What sheep! How could they have been so easily deceived? And yet we learn this about ourselves in Isaiah 53:6, “All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own…” (NLT).
How can we be so naïve, and so easily leave the path of life for the path of death? A good friend once used this analogy for what happened to all of us when Adam and Eve fell: In the fall, all humanity was infected with the serpent’s DNA. We now see with serpent’s eyes and understand life from a serpent’s point of view. God appears to be the ultimate enemy who seeks our destruction, and we must be the source of our own salvation. That may seem exaggerated to you, but have you listened to or read the news lately? Doesn’t it seem like the forces of the dark kingdom are being united against their ancient enemy and his followers?
Yes, we are desperately outmatched. How can there be any hope for those who identify with the kingdom of light? Of course, there is much more to the story of darkness and light, just as there are more verses to A Mighty Fortress! As powerful as Satan is, he is still a created being. Before Lucifer became Satan, God planned our rescue. Matthew 1:21 tells us very simply, “And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (NLT).
There is a line in the third verse of A Mighty Fortress that has always sent a thrill through me as I hear it or sing it. The second half of that verse goes like this:
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
“One little word shall fell him” are the words that make this hymn one of my favorites. One word from the Living Word is all it takes to completely destroy the reign of evil and death and make everything new. The one who outmatches us has been supremely outmatched!
Not only is that good news for later, but it is also good news now! That same Word who will destroy the serpent already lives in us. The same power that raised Jesus from the grave and will annihilate sin and death is able to destroy the power of sin in our lives. Thank God he has already won the victory and will give us victory everyday as we live in and breathe the life-giving Word.
Most of the world does not even know that they are in the fight of their lives with an enemy they cannot beat. Will you give so that their eyes may be opened to see the One who loves them with an eternal love? So that they can know that “one little word” from the Living Word, Jesus Christ, can defeat the enemy of their souls and give them eternal life?
Roy Heggland is Associate for Biblical Stewardship for the Church of the Lutheran Brethren.