CIRCLE THE WAGONS

A Word By Way Of Introduction:  I don’t know what your church background is. I come from an independent Charismatic assembly that has seen a lot of internal conflicts and divisions. If you’re going through the same struggle in your church, this blog is for you. The following message was delivered on a Wednesday evening service at Faith Christian Assembly, meeting at the time in Milford, Indiana. It was one of the most anointed and memorable sermons I have ever been blest to preach. At the end of the service, the entire congregation held hands and formed a huge circle in the auditorium. Those who had prayer requests were put in the center of the circle and we, as a church, petitioned the Lord on their behalf. We fought the Devil concerning them.  And we left church with a renewed sense of unity and care. The local church is the Lord’s church. It’s no man’s church, but the Lord’s. And His will for the church is this…That there be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another (1 Corinthians 12:25).

INTRODUCTION:  During the 1800’s we had what is known in American history as the westward expansion. Many settlers in the east packed up their belongings, joined a wagon train, and headed west to settle the frontiers. The wagon trains were headed by a wagon master. Whenever there was an Indian attack the wagon master would issue the order to circle the wagons. The wagon in the lead, and those behind it, would circle around and form a complete circle with the last wagon in the train. This circular barrier was like a makeshift fort out in the open. It gave the settlers a wall of protection and they would stave off the attack, shooting their guns from behind their wagons. When night came, the wagon train would once again circle the wagons so that the settlers could eat, amuse themselves, and rest behind the wall of protection that their wagons gave them. Based on this familiar scene of a bygone era, I would like to  sound the order for us to circle the wagons in view of Satan’s ceaseless attacks against the Church and her Heaven-bound settlers.

TEXT: Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim.  (9)  And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand.  (10)  So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.  (11)  And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.  (12)  But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.  (13)  And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.  (14)  And the Lord said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.  (15)  And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovahnissi:  (16)  For he said, Because the Lord hath sworn that the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation (Exodus 17:8-16).

THE AMALEKITE AGGRESSION: The Israelites have been delivered from a long, dark night of bondage in Egypt. They’ve crossed the Red Sea where the Lord supernaturally destroyed the great Egyptian army. They’re now in the Desert of Sin. Coming to a place called Rephidim, the great company of about 3 million Israelites was attacked by the Amalekites. Now this is a significant page in the annals of Israel’s history because it marked the first time that a foreign nation went to war against Israel. Out of all the nations of the Earth, the Amalekites were the first to make war with Israel.

Just who are the Amalekites? They were the descendants of Amalek, who, in turn, was a grandson of Esau. You can read a little bit about their ancestry in Genesis 36:10-12.

Now the Israelites were descendants of Jacob. Jacob was Esau’s brother. So the Israelites and Amalekites were distant relatives. Brethren, don’t be surprised when family—however close or far—rise up against you to attack you.

While our text here in Exodus 17 records the Amalekite attack against the Israelites, Deuteronomy 25 sheds additional light on how the Amalekites actually carried out their attack. They attacked Israel from the rear. Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; {18} How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God (Deuteronomy 25:17-18).

As you would imagine, a nation of roughly 3 million people formed a rather long caravan line, stretching out for miles in the desert. As is often the case, the weak and weary lagged behind the main body of Israelites. They were the stragglers and they made up the rear. Now when the Amalekites attacked, they didn’t attack the front, but rather, the rear. And because these Israelites at the rear were weary and weak, the great majority of them were killed. They were simply not strong enough to defend themselves and thwart the Amalekite attack.

Like these weary Israelites at the rear, the people who are most susceptible to Satan’s attack and slaughter are those who are spiritually weak and weary. Brethren, when you find yourself getting tired of walking with the Lord; when you start questioning, and resisting, and defying, the Lord’s demands on your life; that’s the time for you to really be careful. You’ve got to watch your rear because that’s where Satan will attack you. He’ll attack the rear first because these are the people who are the weakest and weariest of the bunch. They’re the ones who offer him the least resistance. And because they offer him the least resistance, they hand the Devil his easiest victories. Brethren, do not be weary in well doing. Keep pace with Lord. Keep up with the church. Don’t lag behind because you’ll be the first to be attacked—and quite possibly, be the first victims of the fray. Take earnest note, dear brethren. It’s dangerous to lag behind!

THE ISRAELITE RESPONSE:  So what did the Israelites do? They fought back. And  do you know what? They won! They actually succeeded in thwarting, and defeating, the Amalekites! In this way, the Amalekite aggression is significant not only because it was the first time Israel was attacked, but also because  it was the first war Israel ever fought and won. They just came out of Egypt. They were shepherds, farmers, brick makers and pyramid builders. They were not experienced warriors. They had no trained, professional army. They never saw combat before. They were caught completely off-guard in this surprise, unprevoked attack. But the Israelites fought back. And the marvelous, amazing thing of it was, they won! They defeated an experienced army! With God’s help, of course! But it just goes to show what we as God’s people can do—what we can accomplish—when we have God to help us.

What I’d like for you to focus your attention on is the fact that the Israelites did something they never did before. They never fought a war before. They didn’t know how to fight. They were inexperienced and ignorant in war. But their inexperience aside, they gathered all able-bodied men, went to the rescue, and joined the fight at the rear. They did something they never did before. They started shooting their arrows, throwing their spears, and swinging their swords. When it was all said and done, God gave them the victory. They successfully repelled and defeated the Amalekites in battle.

DOING WHAT WE’VE NOT DONE BEFORE:  In much the same way, brethren, we’re under attack. We’re engaged in an on-going war with the Devil. And in order for us to win this war—I repeat, in order for us to win this war—we’re going to have to start doing some things that we’ve not done before. What kind of things?

1. STAY TOGETHER AND PERSEVERE WITH THE CHURCH.  In past years we upped and left whenever things at church started to sour. When the message started stepping on our toes, when the minister started doing things we didn’t like or approve of, when we didn’t care for certain people in the church, when it was our turn to be rebuked, or when people criticized, hurt, or offended us; it was all too easy for us to up and leave.  We started going to another church. Some quit going to church altogether.  

Now let me hasten to say that there are valid reasons for leaving a church. There are times when we are left with no other recourse but to leave. But I’ve found in many instances that some people’s reasons for leaving a church were not valid. Other people’s reasons were valid, but they didn’t give peace and reconciliation a chance. They acted hastily without trying to work the problems out. Shamefully, regretfully, I include myself in this number.

Some leave because they’re tired of problems in the church. I’ve got news for you. You’re going to have problems wherever you go. No matter what church you go to there’ll be problems, issues, conflicts, and concerns that you’ll wrestle with because people aren’t perfect. There is no such thing as a perfect, problem-free church.  The problems you leave in one church will await and confront you in the next church you attend. So you may as well stay put right here, die out, and start working towards a resolution of the problem.

Unfortunately, this is a tough lesson for some of us to learn. We think our way is the right way. Our solution is the best solution. What’s our solution?  We start fighting with one another. Naturally, we get hurt. A lot of people get hurt. That’s what happens when people fight. Have you ever been in a fist fight, or a verbal fight, where no one got hurt? Someone always get hurt when there’s a fight. And when we get hurt we isolate ourselves from the rest of the brethren. We start skipping church. We lag farther and farther behind the pack. And, like the aged and the feeble at the rear, we’ve set ourselves up for an attack. And wow! How have we been attacked! Our churches are split. Our numbers are dwindling. Brethren are alienated from brethren. Brethren wound brethren. The aged disavow what they once believed. The young take liberties that their parents once forsook. The church is more worldly than holy. And the voice of admonishment or rebuke is silent. Make no mistake, beloved. We’ve been attacked. And the camp here at the rear lies in tatters and ruins.

Some of us have managed to survive the attack—howbeit we’ve been badly bruised and wounded. But, by God’s grace, we’ve made it back. Christ carried us back to the safety and security of the  Heaven-bound wagon train that we call the local church. But many others haven’t. Many lie buried beneath the desert sands in Rephidim. The Devil has had his many victories among us. He’s had too many.  And I say he’s had enough. We’ve given him too many victories. Brethren, it’s time we put his winning days to an end! Enough of our feeble complaints! Enough of our age-old criticisms! Enough of the bickerings that enfeeble and infirm us! Enough of the friendly fires that kill us! It’s time we score one over the Devil! It’s time we do something we’ve not done before. And that is, let’s stay with the pack. Let’s find our safety and security—not only in the Lord, but in the caravan that we call the local church.  The Devil can easily snuff out a single, solitary wagon. But he can’t do the same with an armed and encircled wagon train. Brethren, all our lives are on the line. Let’s unite. And let’s fight our common enemy, the Devil, with determined resolve. We’ll survive and triumph over Amalek’s aggression. But we’ve got to stay together! Keep the unity. Keep the peace. Not separate. And not lag behind!

2. CARE! In order for us to repel the Amalekites we’ve got to love and care enough about each other to fight the Devil back on each other’s defense. You see, when the Israelites at the rear were attacked, their brethren in the middle and up front didn’t leave them behind. They didn’t keep on rolling to Canaan land. They didn’t run and desert their brethren. To the contrary, as soon as Moses heard what happened at the rear he formed an army. He appointed Joshua as its commander. And he sent them to the rear to defend their weary, feeble, aged brethren. You see, the rest of the Israelites cared enough about their brethren to put themselves in harm’s way, take up the sword, enter the battlefield, and risk injury and death. For what reason or purpose? To defend their brethren who were under attack!

Their care for their brethren is all the more marvelous and magnanimous when you consider who it was they cared for.

  • THE FEEBLE. They’re the ones who are too tired to do you any good. They’re the ones you’ve always got to help. It seems they can’t do anything for themselves.
  • THE SICK. They’re  too sick to do anything for you. You’d like to be ministered to, too. But because you’re able-bodied, you have to stop what you’re doing to minister to them. They eat up your time and resources.
  • THE AGED. They’re going to die anyway. They don’t have much time left to live. Why lay your life on the line for these who are going to die anyway?
  • THE WEARY. They’ve done nothing but drag feet, moan, groan, and complain. They’re the ones who’ve discouraged and disheartened the assembly. You’re tired of putting up with them.
  • THE FAINT. They don’t have any energy to keep on going. In the natural, they’re not going to make it with us to the Promised Land. So why bother with them?

Why fight for these? Why lay our lives on the line for these? Why get injured and killed for these people?

  • The backslidden are at the rear. They’ve sown their wild oats. Why not let them reap the harvest of their own destruction?
  • The carnal and worldly are at the rear. They’re the ones who are leading others astray from the path of holiness.
  • The fearful and unbelieving make up the rear, setting an example of fear, doubt and unbelief.
  • Mixed in with all these at the rear are the self-righteous who make us look bad. They make us feel like we’re worthless, no good, and of no value or use to God. 
  • And most miserably of all, those who are at the rear are the critics who do nothing but hurt the church, point fingers, and publicize—yea, magnify—people’s faults.

Why fight for these? Why help and rescue these? Why pray and believe for these? Why love and care for these? Why? In a word, because they’re our brethren. Christ died for them. And He is not  willing  that  any  of them should  perish,  but  that  all should come to repentance. Sometimes, their coming to repentance involves us running to them in the rear and plucking them out of the fire, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh (Jude 23).

Brethren, if we’re going to win this war and make it to the Promised Land we’re going to have to do some things that we’ve not done before—and that is, love and care enough for one another that we would help each other out. Brethren, we can’t stand idly by and do nothing while our brethren perish or fall. Jesus bids us, To the rescue! To the rear!

3. CIRCLE THE WAGONS.  Lastly, in order for us to overcome the Amalekite aggression we’re going to have to go beyond caring and start putting caring into action. Your love, prayers, and concern are commendable. We thank you for caring! But the Lord wants more than just your care. He wants action! He wants all of us to circle the wagons. Instead of each one believing only for himself, pleasing himself, living for himself, and saving his own skin; we’re going to have to start thinking about the rest of the people who make up this wagon train that we call the church. We’re going to have to get off our duffs and go to the defense of those who are under attack. Friends, we’ve got to care enough to do something good for the brethren. We’ve got to rescue those whom Satan seeks to devour from our midst.

  • Here’s a backslidden brother. Circle the wagons, go and bring that brother back.
  • There’s a fallen sister. Circle the wagons, pour in the oil and wine. Bandage her wounds. And restore her to health.
  • Here’s a teen brother who’s battling serious sexual temptation. Circle the wagons, get on your knees with that young man, fight the Devil, and help the brother win this winnable war.
  • There’s a teen sister who’s looking for love and acceptance from the wrong crowd. Circle the wagons, reach out to her, love her, and show her that love and acceptance don’t have to come at the expense of her virginity and her walk with the Lord.
  • Here’s a mother weary with the toils and stress of the children.
  • There’s a father who’s lost his love for wife and children.
  • Here’s a brother struggling with unbelief and doubt.
  • There’s a sister burdened with condemnation and rejection.
  • Here’s a man who’s struggling to make ends meet.
  • There’s a family who could use a bag of clothes or groceries.

Brethren, circle the wagons! To the rescue! The souls of your brothers and sisters are at stake!

Beloved, if we’re going to push the Devil back and thwart his attack we’re going to have to circle the wagons and rally around one another. You see, when the Israelites at the rear were attacked, all of the Israelites stopped their march to the Promised Land. They gathered an army together and went to the rescue of their brethren at the rear. And those who didn’t go to war didn’t sit still. They got involved in the war effort. The women bandaged the wounded. The aged men kept the fires burning. The aged women cooked the food. The little children gave water to the wounded and the helpers. The older children took care of the babies. Everyone had a part to play. And everyone did what they could to help.

Now the thing of it is, they helped without fighting each other. The officers on the battlefield didn’t resent Moses up on the mountain holding up his hands. The soldier swinging his sword didn’t resent his neighbor back home standing sentry over the women and children. The young women who tended the wounded didn’t resent the aged women who were cooking the food. The teenaged water boys didn’t resent the grandpas who were stoking the fires. Do you see what I mean? Each Israelite had a part to play and they played their part without arguing or fighting with one another. They all had a common enemy—the Amalekites. And they all devoted their energies towards defeating that enemy. No matter what a person did for the nation, no one was unimportant. No one was unnecessary. The nation needed everyone, rallying together, working together, for the common good of the entire nation.

In like manner, brethren, we need each one of you. Despite what you think, we need each other—that’s why the Lord put us together in the same wagon train. Each of you—regardless of your age, gender, or spiritual gift—is important. We need all of you here in church, functioning in your gift, doing your part to insure that we all make it safely to our destination in glory. Our well-being as a wagon train depends on each one of us getting involved, doing our part, doing what we can, to insure the preservation and well-being of the train.

Brethren, it’s time to circle the wagons, roll up our sleeves, and do what we can to help one another make it through this desert trip. With God’s help, we can survive our desert trials! We’ve been overrun by our Amalekites. But with God’s grace we can recover, rebound, regroup, fight the Devil back, and triumph over him in our desert wars! We can make it to glory! But we’ve got to circle the wagons! May God help us to this end. May He help us help one another. God bless you richly.

4 Comments

  1. Ron Lemler said,

    June 7, 2010 at 10:51 AM

    Hi Gaylord:this is a very good message and admonition for us .Lord open our eyes to see and help us. Ron Lemler

  2. Victor said,

    June 7, 2010 at 2:14 PM

    Amen brother!

  3. randy krajniak said,

    June 8, 2010 at 9:22 AM

    blessed by the word brother. we’ve never met but hope to. This weekend the Holy Spirit spoke clearly to me, that His people will be expected to stand and no longer forsake the assembling of the saints. That the reasons of the “past mistakes ” or “past hurt” are not a valid reason to miss out on what He is saying and doing. The body works best and is healthiest when the parts are attached, growing,functioning. ( I have been amazed on how casual and even unconcerned the brothers and sisters can be concerning the assembly of believers) we need each other. May God bless your day.

    • gaylorddiaz said,

      June 9, 2010 at 7:49 AM

      Very well put, Randy. The Spirit within me bears witness to what He told you. May God use you to help heal people’s hurts & repair the breaches. As I’m fond of saying, God is not done yet. God bless you.


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