What Is a Bulwark in The Bible?

The word “bulwark” appears several times in the Bible, referring to a strong defense or fortification that protects from external attacks or dangers. In the Old Testament, it is often used in a literal, physical sense of a protective wall or rampart guarding a city or nation. However, it also takes on a figurative meaning, pointing to God as the ultimate spiritual bulwark who defends and strengthens His people.

Key Takeaways:

  • Bulwark refers to a strong defense or fortification in the Bible.
  • God is described as a bulwark for His people, providing safety, security and strength.
  • Christians are called to trust in God as their bulwark rather than relying on their own defenses.
  • Though trials and enemies may come against believers, God promises to be their refuge and strength.
  • Jesus is the ultimate bulwark – through His sacrifice on the cross, He defends us from sin and death.
What Is a Bulwark in The Bible?

God as a Bulwark

One of the most well-known passages describing God as a bulwark is Psalm 18:2:

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:2 NKJV)

Here David exalts the Lord as his rock, fortress, deliverer and strength. God is the solid, unshakable bulwark upon whom David relies fully for protection and security. The imagery depicts God as an impenetrable defense against every enemy that would seek to destroy.

This psalm echoes the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 32:4, where he extols God’s faithfulness and uprightness:

“He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.” (Deuteronomy 32:4 NKJV)

The Hebrew word translated as “rock” or “stronghold” conveys the idea of a steep, unscalable cliff that assails cannot penetrate. This describes God’s stalwart presence guarding His people. Though dangers encroach, the Almighty stands as an unbreachable bulwark against their enemies.

One of the most striking metaphors of God as a fortress and deliverer comes from the prophecy of Isaiah:

“But thus says the Lord: “Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, And the prey of the terrible be delivered; For I will contend with him who contends with you, And I will save your children. I will feed those who oppress you with their own flesh, And they shall be drunk with their own blood as with sweet wine. All flesh shall know That I, the Lord, am your Savior, And your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” (Isaiah 49:25-26 NKJV)

Though His people faced captivity and oppression from mighty enemies, God promises to mightily deliver them, utterly destroying their foes. He alone has the power to tear down the strongest defenses and defeat the most terrible armies. The Lord Himself serves as an impenetrable bulwark against any force that would threaten His beloved children.

We also see God depicted as a refuge and strength for those who trust in Him:

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. (Psalm 46:1-3 NKJV)

No earthly fortress compares with the Lord’s strength and protection. Believers can confidently rest in Him as disasters and enemies assault, assured of His deliverance. This psalm concludes with the triumphant declaration, “The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge” (Psalm 46:11).

Trusting God, Not Self

A key theme throughout the Bible is that we must rely fully on God as our bulwark rather than trusting in our own defenses and strength. King David warned:

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the Lord our God. (Psalm 20:7 NKJV)

The mightiest military machines and firepower cannot protect like the Almighty. Elsewhere David proclaimed, “No king is saved by the multitude of an army; A mighty man is not delivered by great strength” (Psalm 33:16). True security is found only in God.

Isaiah also warned against putting confidence in man-made defenses rather than the Lord:

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, And rely on horses, Who trust in chariots because they are many, And in horsemen because they are very strong, But who do not look to the Holy One of Israel, Nor seek the Lord! (Isaiah 31:1 NKJV)

Rather than relying on political and military alliances for defense, God’s people must look to Him alone as their bulwark. The Lord is rightfully jealous of our devotion and trusts. He wants us to place absolute confidence in His protection.

The prophet Jeremiah proclaimed that the person who trusts in God will be like a tree planted by water, whose leaf remains green in times of drought (Jeremiah 17:7-8). By contrast, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool” (Proverbs 28:26). True security is found when we make God our rock, fortress and shield.

God Our Refuge in Trials

When storms of affliction crash against us, we can anchor to the Lord for refuge. David wrote, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Yet too often we rely on our own defenses and strategies to withstand trials. God wants us to recognize that only His grace is sufficient, as Paul discovered:

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 NKJV)

By prayerfully acknowledging our dependence on the Lord, trials become opportunities to witness His strength magnified in our weakness. We all face storms like Job, who lost everything dear to him. Yet he refused to curse God, declaring, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). Like an anchor in a swirling tempest, Job clung to God his Rock.

We also look to Christ, who endured unspeakable affliction on the cross yet entrusted Himself to the Father as a sheep led to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7). Jesus should be our model for unwavering faith in God our bulwark amid suffering.

God Our Fortress Against Spiritual Attack

Not only does the Lord defend us against tangible threats, but He stands as our fortress against spiritual attack. The apostle Paul described the armor of God that empowers Christians to stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:10-17). Our spiritual defenses include truth, righteousness, faith, salvation, the Word of God and prayer. Jesus Christ stands at the center of this bulwark as the shield of faith who intercedes for us.

Paul also wrote that we wrestle against demonic powers and principalities, not flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). But Jesus has defeated Satan through His atoning work on the cross. No weapon formed against us can breach the impenetrable fortress of God’s redemptive love.

When overwhelmed by condemnation or lies from the accuser, we take refuge in Christ’s righteousness on our behalf. Though the devil aims flaming darts of doubt at our hearts, God’s Word dispels the darkness with divine truth. Jesus promised His disciples and all believers:

“I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17 NKJV)

Through the abiding Holy Spirit, God fortifies us from spiritual assault. We have access to the very power that raised Christ from the dead (Ephesians 1:19-20). Therefore we can confidently wage spiritual warfare wearing God’s armor and wielding His Word. No evil can overcome the church bulwarked by the Almighty.

Jesus Our Ultimate Bulwark

While God in His omnipotence serves as a mighty bulwark for His people, Jesus Christ stands as the ultimate stronghold through His sacrificial death for humankind’s sins. We see this foreshadowed in the Old Testament through the cities of refuge.

Moses recorded God’s instructions to set aside six cities in Canaan where people could flee for refuge from avengers of blood (Exodus 21:13, Numbers 35:6-34). These cities foreshadowed Christ, who offers eternal refuge to sinners deserving of death. Because of God’s mercy, we can safely abide in Jesus. As the apostle Paul wrote:

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 5:8-10 NKJV)

Those who believe in Christ’s atoning death can find sanctuary from sin and condemnation in His salvation. We run to the strong tower of Jesus’ name, where the righteous find protection (Proverbs 18:10).

The author of Hebrews also used sanctuary imagery to portray Christ’s protection:

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:19-20 NKJV)

Just as the high priest entered the holy of holies to make atonement for sins, Jesus our great High Priest offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice to reconcile us with God. Through His death, Christ opened the way into God’s presence where we can find mercy and grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

What beautiful news – Jesus bore God’s judgment so we could pass from death into eternal life! No sin can separate us from God’s love anchored in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39). The cross of Christ stands eternally as the bulwark between the punishment we deserved and the reward of salvation through faith in Him.

The Lord Shall Be Your Bulwark

Throughout various seasons of life, we continually learn to trust God more fully as our rock, refuge and mighty fortress. When fears, uncertainties and trials besiege us, we can confidently declare:

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies. (Psalm 18:2-3 NKJV)

No earthly power can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Through faith in Him, we have peace in knowing the Lord Himself is our eternal bulwark.

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