Where do you look for strength and security in the world today?
The Book of Psalms challenges us to think hard about the source of our security. For years, we have trusted government to provide us with political security, law enforcement to provide us with community security, our medical system to provide us with health security, and our financial system to provide us with economic security. But we are learning every day that there can be breakdowns in these systems, especially our high-tech, web-based financial network.
In today’s cloud-based world, where is real strength and security to be found? The writer of Psalm 71 pleads for God to protect him “until I tell generations about your mighty arm, tell all who are yet to come about your strength, and about your ultimate righteousness, God” (Psalm 71:18-19). We do not know if the psalm-writer was being chased and needed to hide, or if he was struggling with illness, weakness, or age. But in any case, he called out to God for refuge and help.
At times, we all need a strong fortress. Martin Luther felt the need for such a place when he took his stand against the Roman Catholic Church during the Protestant Reformation. In 1529, he wrote a hymn which began, “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing. Our helper he, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.”
When we need a place of refuge, God offers us his mighty fortress. This stronghold cannot be hacked or broken into, since it stands as a fortified town with unbreakable walls. Within this refuge, our value is based on our relationship with God, not on our earthly achievements. Inside this fortified town, we are rescued and saved by the Lord who desires to have an eternal relationship with us.
“Who can compare to you, God?” asks the psalm-writer (verse 19). The answer is “no one.” But life in the mighty fortress is not free of struggles. As long as we live, we are going to face what Luther calls a “flood of mortal ills.” We will still experience personal attacks, betrayals, failures, illnesses, and the difficulties that come with advancing age. The words of the psalm ring true to me in my 60s: “So, even in my old age with gray hair, don’t abandon me, God!” (verse 18).
Psalm 71 challenges us to put our trust in God, rather than in the people or institutions of this world. It invites us to depend on the Lord for strength and security, because God has “done awesome things” (verse 19). When we put our faith in God, we discover that he is truly a mighty fortress, strong and willing to help us, as he guides us through the grand sweep of our lives.
Be my mighty fortress, God, and protect me with your mighty arm. Amen.