CIRCLE THE WAGONS

A Word Of Introduction. The following message is one of the most anointed and memorable sermons that I have ever preached. I am happy to share it with you for such a time as this. I pray that God will use the message to inspire all God’s people to love and care for another as if our very lives depended on it. In truth, it does.

INTRODUCTION

During the 1800’s we had what is known in American History as the westward expansion when 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, rest, and amuse themselves behind the wall of protection that their wagons gave them. Based on this familiar scene of a bygone era, the title for our message today is ‘Circle The Wagons’.

SCRIPTURE TEXT

Exodus 17:8-13,  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.

 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 destroyed the great Egyptian army. They’ve entered the Desert of Sin and, 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 in their history that a heathen nation went to war against Israel. Out of all the nations of the Earth, the Amalekites were the first to make war with Israel.

Deuteronomy 25 sheds additional light on how the Amalekites 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 (Deut. 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 did not attack the front, as is customary in battle. But rather, they attacked the rear. And because these Israelites at the rear were weary and weak, many of them were killed. They were simply not physically 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  will for your life; when you’re tired of believing, hoping, and praying for a miracle; when faith turns to doubt and hope turns to despair; that’s the time for you to really be careful and watch your rear because Satan will attack you from the rear.

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, the first to be slaughtered. IT’S DANGEROUS TO LAG BEHIND!

THE ISRAELITE RESPONSE

So what did the Israelites do? They fought back. And won! It was the first war they ever fought and they won! The victory is really  quite signal when you consider the fact that the Israelites had just come out of Egypt. They were shepherds, farmers, brick makers and pyramid builders. They were not experienced warriors. They didn’t have a 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 as our Help.

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 and went to the rescue and the fight at the rear. They did something they never did before: they started shooting their arrows, throwing their spears, and swinging their swords. And in the process, God gave them the victory. Hallelujah! Not by might, nor by power; but by my Spirit, saith the Lord (Zechariah 4:6).

DOING WHAT WE’VE NOT DONE BEFORE

In much the same way, brethren, we’re under attack. Some of us, on a personal level, are engaged with the Devil in a serious fight for our life. And as an assembly of believers, the Devil  is attacking the church that God built through our Pastor. Brethren, God didn’t build a church so that the Devil can  come along and wreck it or close it down. We’re all 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. Like what?

1. STAY TOGETHER AND SUPPORT THE CHURCH. Do you know what happens when a shepherd is smitten? The flock is scattered. On the night that Jesus was arrested He predicted that His sheep would be scattered. Matthew 26:31, Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.  The eleven apostles vociferously objected and proclaimed their undying loyalty to Jesus: they would die with Him if need be. But within a couple of hours, they all forsook Him and fled when the mob came out to take Him.

Brethren, we risk fulfilling the Lord’s prophecy if we choose to leave the church because the pastor and the church are under attack. God’s will is for the unity and continuation of the church. He preserves and keeps together the church that He has founded.

Jesus knew that the apostles would fall apart and be scattered. But He gave them a promise.  Matthew 26:32,  But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. In other words, the Shepherd will reunite His scattered flock and lead them once again. Most of His disciples were from Galilee. They were recruited in Galilee. And Jesus was going there to band them once again as the church triumphant against whom the gates of Hell shall not prevail. Hallelujah!

Brethren, God’s calling all of us to band together. Jesus is leading this wagon train to glory. Now’s not the time for anyone to abandon the train. It’s not His will!

The Devil has split many churches. He’s gotten so many Christians fighting against one another. As a result, many lie buried beneath the desert sands in Rephidim. The Devil’s trying to score another victory here. And I, for one, urge  and implore you to join the Pastor and the Associate Pastor to put his winning days to an end! Enough of our feeble complaints! Enough of our age-old criticisms! Enough of our strifes that make us sick and weary and diseased! 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 train, support the assembly, and let’s find our safety and security—not only in the Lord, but in the sheepfold that we call the local church. We’ll overcome and we’ll survive 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 for one another and be willing to fight the Devil back on each other’s behalf and in 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 marching to Canaan.

To the contrary, as soon as Moses heard what happened he authorized the formation of an army, appointed Joshua as its commander, and he sent them to the rear to go to the help and defense of 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. Who’s at the rear?

  • 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 help you or do anything good for you. You have to stop what you’re doing to help 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, and complain. Frankly, we get sick and tired of hearing their lip.
  • 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?
  • THE BACKSLIDERS. They’ve sown their wild oats. Why not let them reap the harvest of their own destruction?
  • THE GRUMBLERS. They’re the ones who don’t really want to be here. They’d rather be back in Egypt than here in the hot desert. Why not leave them behind?

Why fight for these? Why lay our lives on the line for these? Why get injured and killed for these feet-dragging people at the rear? Why love and care for these? In a word, because they’re our brethren for whom Christ died and He is not  willing  that  any  should  perish,  but  that  all should come to repentance. And sometimes, their coming to repentance involves us running to them in the rear and plucking them out of the fire, hating even the garments spotted by the flesh.

3. CIRCLE THE WAGONS.  Third, in order for us to overcome the Amalekite aggression we’re going to have to go beyond caring, and put caring into action. Your love, prayers, and concern are commendable. We thank you for caring!

But the Lord wants action! Instead of each one of us thinking only about ourself, God wants us to start thinking about the rest of the people who make up this wagon train. We need 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 who Satan seeks to devour and take away 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 pray that temptation away.
  • 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.
  • Here’s a brother struggling with fear and doubt.
  • There’s a sister who’s battling condemnation, rejection, and unforgiveness.

Brethren, we need to 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 at the tip of Amalek’s sword. Jesus bids us, Circle the wagons! To the rescue! To the rear!

4. FIGHT THE ENEMY, NOT ONE ANOTHER. Lastly, in order for us to overcome the Amalekite aggression we need to fight the enemy, not one another. Notice that when the Israelites were attacked, they didn’t start fighting one another. They didn’t bicker and blame Moses for this attack. They could have fought among themselves and blamed Moses and Aaron for not having strong, able-bodied men at the rear to help the weak and weary in their travels. He should have stationed the strong among the weak in order to protect them in case there was an enemy attack. This was a colossal lack of foresight on Moses’ part and the nation could have bogged down, fought against their leaders, and replaced them. The war with the Amalekites could easily have become a civil war with Israelites fighting Israelites.

But they didn’t do that. There was no time for that. The battle was on. There were people dying at the rear. Now was not the time to fight one another. It was time to fight the enemy.

Brethren, don’t let the Devil fool and distract you into fighting with one another. We’ll only end up killing one another while the Devil goes scot free to continue killing the weak and weary at the rear. GOD DOESN’T SUPPORT, SANCTION, OR COUNTENANCE INTERNAL STRIFE OR CIVIL WAR. A house divided against itself cannot stand. DIVISION AND FIGHTING ARE THE DEVIL’S WORK—NOT GOD’S. We must not fight one another. If we do, we’re only helping the Devil win.

Brethren, if we’re going to push the Devil back and thwart his attack we’re going to have to rally around one another. You see, when the Israelites at the rear were attacked, the rest of the Israelites stopped their march to Canaan. They formed an army 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 was, 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 waterboys didn’t resent the grandpas who were minding the babies. 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, this church needs each one of you. 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 gift—is important. We need all of you here in church, functioning in your gift, doing your part to insure that we all—as a train—make it safely to our destination in glory. Our survival as a church, just like the survival of the Israelite nation, depends on all of us—no one excepted, no one excluded—working together, doing what we can, to insure the preservation and well-being of the church.

The truth that we need all of us to fight and survive the Amalekite aggression is manifestly seen in the clearest moral of the story. What is the moral? ONE MAN CAN’T DO IT ALL BY HIMSELF. Moses couldn’t hold the rod up all day without the help of Aaron and Hur. Joshua couldn’t win the battle without his soldiers. The weak and weary couldn’t survive without the help of the strong. The wounded couldn’t recover without the help of the medics. The women couldn’t tend the wounded without the help of their assistants,  the waterboys, the babysitters, and the cooks.

The Pastor has carried the burden of this church all by himself since its inception. But the burden has become too great, now that he’s sick and the church has grown numerically. He needs his Aaron and Hur to help provide spiritual oversight of the church. He needs his Joshua and all his soldiers to engage in the hands-on, practical work of taking care of the physical needs of the church. And he needs all the womenfolk, the children, and the elderly, to pray for, and help, the hurting people in the church. Everyone without exception is needed!

Brethren, it’s time to circle the wagons, roll up our sleeves, and do what we can to help one another survive this attack and make it safely through the desert. With God’s help, we can survive our desert trials! We’ve been overrun by our modern Amalekites. But with God’s grace we can recover, rebound, regroup, fight the Devil back and beat him! 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 love, care, and help one another. God bless you richly.

1 Comment

  1. Nancy Ludden said,

    April 8, 2011 at 10:40 PM

    Very timely message!


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