Hold the Fort – Devotional Series
Those of you who know me will not be surprised to find out that I am a history guy. This curiosity, love (obsession) with history began at a young age. I started observing historical plaques and signs that noted the history of a particular area in my hometown and would stop and read them – many times over. Statues and monuments that were placed in public parks were an endless source of fascination for me. I would want to know everything about what was being depicted and would research the person or event until my curiosity was satisfied. (I’m sounding cooler by the minute, aren’t I?)
One year in my Canadian elementary school, we went on a school trip to the Halifax Citadel Historical Site (not a Salvation Army), but a 19th century fortress in Halifax, Nova Scotia, whose sole purpose was to defend the then British colony from the marauding French and (sorry to say), those Yankee invaders from the former 13 colonies. Yes, one time our two nations were at war with one another. Thankfully, those days are behind us. But since then I’ve always enjoyed visiting forts and battlefields.
A fort is like a giant artifact from a bygone era. Its function was not only to protect the inhabitants inside and around the fort, but to be a place of security and stability in the midst of war. In our Salvation Army hymnody there are three songs about forts that come to mind: “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” – that great Reformation hymn by Martin Luther; “Storm the Forts of Darkness” which started out as a tavern tune that was given redeemed lyrics; and “Hold the Fort!” by the great 19th century hymn writer, Philip Bliss. It is this song I’d like to focus on for today’s devotional.1
The lyrics of the song suggest a fortress that is about to be overrun by the enemy and is just barely being defended by the soldiers fighting within.
Verse 2: See the mighty host advancing, Satan leading on; Mighty men around us falling, Courage almost gone.
I don’t know about you, but 2020 for me feels like a year of attack. The pandemic has upended our lives in very serious ways. For believers more so, as our places of worship were closed for Sunday worship and weekly in-house programs. Unless we were intentional in seeking out ways to grow in our faith, it is easy to feel like we’ve been under siege. Perhaps, as the second verse of the song suggests, we’ve even seen committed Christians fall away from the faith. May God restore their faith and strengthen our own.
Thankfully however, God does not abandon us when pandemics rage and society is turned upside down. As the weary soldiers within the fort are about to be overrun, they look over the ramparts and see something wonderful. What is it? Fatigued soldiers pick themselves up and look over the wall to the battlefields below and see – wonder of wonders! Jesus Christ the King coming with the armies of Heaven at his side, overwhelming the enemy and rushing to relieve his faithful soldiers inside the fort:
Verse 4: Fierce and long the battle rages, But our help is near; Onward comes our Great Commander; Cheer, my comrades, cheer!
This song inspires me to keep fighting, to keep believing, and to keep sharing my faith in these times of uncertainty. It may feel like we’re alone. It may feel like we’re stuck, and Satan and his legions are all around us, unleashing their full fury. Yet when we, in an act of faith, look beyond ourselves, and truly try to see God at work in the world, we realize that Jesus has been with us this whole time. And though we may experience pain, suffering, even physical death – Jesus is always coming to our rescue!
So, while the enemy looks daunting, let us encourage each other with these words: “Hold the Fort!” Don’t give up. Jesus is coming! You’re not fighting alone! You have an entire Army at your side (a heavenly one, and an earthly one – God’s fighting saints – the Church. In the chorus of the song, Jesus shouts out a greeting of victory to his weary soldiers:
‘Hold the fort, for I am coming’, Jesus signals still; Wave the answer back to Heaven: ‘By thy grace we will.’
“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:2)
1 Song #804 in the 1987 Salvation Army Song Book.
written by Rob Jeffery, Heritage Museum, USA East