May 22, 1991
Heidelberg Castle towers high on the south bank of the Neckar River. Once the home of the elected princes of Germany, it is a huge fortress designed to protect its inhabitants from enemies who sought their life, liberty and land. It was seldom conquered.
Bob and I scaled several hundred stone steps from an underground parking lot to the courtyard, went through massive gates, crossed the wooden bridge over a dry moat and entered another time frame. Here monarchs once traded their daughters for political favors and princes protected their reign with lances and shields. We could almost hear the swish of royal robes, the clattering hooves of war horses and the slosh of wooden pails dropping into the courtyard well to draw water for their thirst. Psalm 18 came easily to mind: “The Lord is my rock and my fortress... in whom I take refuge... my stronghold.. and I am saved from my enemies.”
Twenty-six times the psalms describe God as a fortress, a strong tower, a place of refuge where His children can seek shelter from their enemies. Heidelberg Castle made all those metaphors visible. Surely our God is like that immense fortress.
The Bible makes it clear our real enemies are not human. Instead, they are called “principalities and powers” (referring to demonic spirits) who appeal to our sinful desires, selfish attitudes, and godless motives. These enemies seek our allegiance, affections, and attention. They may not bear arms we can see with our eyes, but we are often victims of their attacks.
When I was a new Christian, my God protected me from those dangers. I was not aware they existed. As I gained knowledge of spiritual forces and the power of my enemies, He showed me His provision: spiritual armor and weapons and how to use them. I’ve been strengthened by spiritual battles.
However, other dangers threatened -- one of which was like the danger that caused many nobles to lose their life, liberty and land to the enemy; I began to think I was invincible. Nothing could defeat me. After all, my weapons were His weapons and they were very effective. However, God had another battle strategy to teach me -- the lesson of the strong fortress.
He allowed an attack from a totally unexpected direction. It was a powerful assault, almost shattering my allegiance and affection for God because it seemed His weapons had failed me. It also diverted my attention from serving Him to counting my losses. All seemed destroyed.
But the Fortress still stood. Instead of bleeding to death on the battle field, God called me to run to Him, take refuge within His strong walls of love and protection, snuggle in safety hiding there, and let Him take the enemy fire.
Some may call it retreating to regroup but that is not the purpose of a fortress. The castles of Europe were not a place of retreat but a harbor of defense, a fortress of deliverance. So is God. In Him I can hide and heal, while He shields me from enemy fire. His weapons didn’t let me down; He just wanted me to know that the weapons are not the main protection -- He is.
Heidelberg Castle was not invincible. Louis XIV’s gunpowder blew apart two of its towers; the split-off pieces remain today as reminders. But my Tower, the Christian’s Mighty Fortress, cannot be destroyed. He remains forever a strong place of refuge for all those who rely on His loving protection.