"GOD IS MY STRONG SALVATION"
"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?" (Ps. 27.1)
INTRO.: A hymn which exhorts Christians to fulfill their responsibility to trust in the Lord as our light and our salvation is "God Is My Strong Salvation." The text was written by James Montgomery (1771-1854). Based on Psalm 27, it was first published in his 1822 collection of Psalm paraphrases, Songs of Zion. Montgomery’s best known hymn is perhaps "In the Hour of Trial." Many tunes have been used with "God Is My Strong Salvation," including one (Aurelia) by Samuel S. Wesley which we usually associate with "The Church’s One Foundation" and another one (Wedlock) which is a traditional American melody taken from The Sacred Harp of 1844. Many older books have a tune (Christus Der Ist Mein Leben, or just Mein Leben) that was composed by Melchior Vulpius who was born around 1560 to 1570 at Wasungen near Meiningen in Thuringia, Germany. After teaching Latin at a school in Schleusingen, where he became known as a song leader and composer, he moved in 1596 to Weimar to serve as a church song leader. Some of his earliest works were contrapuntal settings that were published in his Cantiones Sacres of 1602 and 1604.
Also in 1604 Vulpius published Kirchengeseng und geistliche Lieder Dr. M. Luthers. The second enlarged edition of 1609, which contained this melody, had the title Ein schon geistlich Gesangbuch. In 1610 he published a German translation, with additions, of Heinrich Faber’s Musicae Compendium and several years later composed a setting of the Passion According to St. Matthew. After his death at Weimar on Aug. 7, 1615 (some sources give 1616), many of his other hymns were published in the 1646 Kantional at Gotha. In all, Vulpius, one of the most inventive and significant composers of the sixteenth century, is credited with over 200 motets and 400 hymns. The modern harmonization of the melody was made by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, a version of the song, beginning "The Lord Is Our Salvation," with textual alterations made and an extra stanza added, using an 1853 tune (Ewing) by Alexander Ewing also arranged, appeared in the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 edited by L. O. Sanderson who did all the changes.
The song expresses trust in the Lord and explains why those who trust Him need not fear.
I. Stanza 1 points to God as our salvation
"God is my strong salvation: What foe have I to fear?
In darkness and temptation, My light, my help is near."
A. To say that "God is my strong salvation" means that he is our rescuer, and the most important thing from which He will rescue us is sin: 1 Tim. 2.3-4
B. Because God has promised to save those who come to Him, they have nothing to fear: Matt. 10.28
C. For those who draw near to Him, He will always be near them: Jas. 4.8
II. Stanza 2 points to God as our protection
"Though hosts encamp around me, Firm in the fight I stand;
What terror can confound me, With God at my right hand?"
A. The hosts that encamp about us are the spiritual hosts of wickedness against which we fight: Eph. 6.12
B. However, we need to stand firm in fighting the good fight of the faith: 1 Tim. 6.12
C. This we can do knowing that God is our protector who stands at our right hand: Ps. 16.8
III. Stanza 3 points to God as our reliance
"Place on the Lord reliance, My soul, with courage wait;
His truth be thine affiance, When faint and desolate."
A. To place on the Lord reliance means to trust in Him: Ps. 37.3-5
B. Trusting in the Lord also means having the courage and patience to wait on Him: Ps. 62.5-7
C. We do not use the word "affiance" very much today, but the dictionary defines it as trust or something in which trust is placed, and certainly God’s truth should be our affiance because only it can make us free: Jn. 8.32
IV. Stanza 4 points to God as our strength
"His might thy heart shall strengthen, His love thy joy increase;
Mercy thy days shall lengthen; The Lord will give thee peace."
A. It is by God’s power that we are strengthened with might in the inner man: Eph. 3.16
B. His love our joy will increase because it is by His kindness and love that we are saved: Tit. 3.4-5
C. Also, to those who look to Him for strength, He will give peace: Phil. 4.6-7
CONCL.: Montgomery’s original poem was in two stanzas of eight lines each, and the longer tunes maintain that format. However, for the shorter tune, each stanza must be divided into two with the result being four stanzas of four lines each. This song is not well known among brethren (even Sanderson’s arrangement was not often sung when we used Christian Hymns No. 2 as I was growing up), but I do recall a preacher friend of mine who quoted it in lesson that he presented. Certainly as I face the various trials and tribulations of life, I need to put my trust in the Lord and say, "God Is My Strong Salvation."