Somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 years or so ago (not long after Carole and I moved from Arkansas to Statesboro), I learned of an opportunity to tour a WWII vintage U.S. Army Air Force B-17 bomber on display at the Statesboro airport. The study of history has been a favorite pursuit of mine since college, so I jumped at the chance to actually see this famous aircraft, “up close and personal!”
I was surprised at how small the aircraft seemed, especially after climbing aboard. Even so, outfitted with 13 50-caliber machine guns, and a maximum payload of 17,000-plus pounds of bombs, it was appropriately nicknamed “Flying Fortress.” The first one rolled off the assembly line in 1935. Used in both theatres of operation during the war, it was a powerful, fascinating offensive weapon. According to one source, 4,750 B-17s (37 percent of the 12,732 built) were lost during the war.
In 1529, theologian Martin Luther wrote the words of a hymn that has become a favorite of many Christians:
"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 pow’r are great, / And armed with cruel hate, / On earth is not his equal.”
I’m not sure of Luther’s inspiration for this song, but many believe he based it on one of the great fortress psalms of David. Our hymnal indexes it with Psalm 144:1–2, where praise is given to the Lord as the strength of his life:
“Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; he is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples[a] under me.”
Or he may have had in mind the more gentle Psalm 18:1–2: “I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.”
David, a man of great strength and courage who rarely shrank from the constant prospect of battle, and one of Israel’s greatest leaders, knew where his power came from.
Lord, may we, along with king David, never lose sight of the fact that every spiritual victory is directly traceable to your strength and love for us.