Study of Hymns

On Saturday nights this spring the Cornerstone Youth Fellowship met for fellowship and study. They learned about great hymns and music of the Christian church. Some of the well-known ones they studied are “How Great Thou Art” and the renowned Reformation hymn “A Mighty Fortress,” based on Psalm 46, for which Martin Luther wrote not only the lyrics but also the music.

Terry Glaspey has noted in his fascinating stories behind great works of art, literature, music and film that “the ultimate purpose of all Martin Luther’s music was in its message: to shine a fresh and unforgettable light upon the texts and teachings of Scripture, and to give a voice to the joy that the gospel brought to the human heart. As he wrote:

This precious gift has been bestowed on men to remind them that they are created to praise and magnify the Lord. But when natural music is sharpened and polished by art, then one begins to see with amazement the great and perfect wisdom of God in this wonderful work of music, where one voice takes a simple part and around it sing three, four, or five other voices, leaping, springing round about, marvelously gracing the simple part, like a folk dance in heaven with friendly bows, embracing, and hearty swinging of partners. He who does not find this an inexpressible miracle of the Lord is truly a clod. (See p. 77, 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know).

What great comfort this hymn gives us! Commenting on Psalm 46, Timothy Keller says:

Until recently no one imagined the possibility of the world itself being destroyed, but today our films are filled with ways it could happen. But if you have this God as your God, you can face even such cataclysms without any fear. It doesn’t say here that God will help you if you get into a strong refuge. It says He is that refuge. God is a stronghold or city that cannot be bombed or destroyed. Though earthquakes and tidal waves dissolve the solid world and civilizations melt, His rule is unshaken. If God is with you, even the worst thing that happens to you — death — only makes you infinitely happier and greater.

Prayer: Lord, I feel so vulnerable—to disease and injury, to financial loss, to political betrayal, to professional failure. But in this Psalm you say that even earthquakes and mountains melting can’t take away my inheritance of infinite love, resurrection, new heavens, and the new earth. As I praise you for this, my anxiety ebbs. Thank you. Amen. (See p. 96, for April 6:Songs of Jesus)