I really thought that the word fortress would be a simple thing to look at and relate to God. I guess it is, but I got so sidetracked because the word fortress in English comes from a number of Hebrew words which in turn are translated not only as fortress but also strength or refuge. So, in the midst of this turning back and forth and trying to unravel the complexities of translation, I got stuck. Gradually the simplicity appeared to me. The root of all of the Hebrew words expresses a place of safety or protection.
The verses that describe God as our fortress always seem to come at the beginning of praise poetry by David. We find it in 2 Samuel 22:2 ‘The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer,’ and in Psalm 91:2 ‘I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.”’ These uses of fortress come from the Hebrew word ‘matsuwd,’ transliterated to English. The literal translation is castle.
You see, in my wanderings of the words of the Bible, I came to see more clearly that rock, strength, refuge and fortress are indeed different – they are all places of safety, but the fortress is a place of safety specifically when under attack. God provides safety when under attack. He does not leave us to defend ourselves. He is the defensive place where we can find a wall of support around us. Inside the castle, we find sleeping quarters and storehouses of food and a source of water. We find that we are not alone in a castle either; they are grand places full of bustling activity to care for everyone throughout the attack. There is the staff for the upkeep and maintenance as well as the castle guard for stand for us upon the wall and man the gate.
The castle is always at the ready to defend but is never used in attack. There is no intention to arm and go attacking the enemy. The fortress is intended to be held and to fight off the enemy and its advances.
This reminds me of the armor of God in Ephesians 6. We are exhorted to wear the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, feet fitted with gospel of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, at all times. The belt, breastplate, shoes, shield, and helmet are all defensive. It is only the sword which can be used in attack. One of six, less than 17% of the armor is offensive. And that percentage is the word of God. God is the offense. When at war, He is the one who will strategize and advance on the enemy. He has tucked us away in the fortress to keep us safe and guarded while He is working for us.
God our fortress is who we must remember when we are under attack and cowering from the shots at all sides. He sets the wall to defend us and puts others in our lives to accompany us. God our fortress is our safety and protection.