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Strongholds of Safety

Strongholds of Safety
by Annette Capps

   When we talk about strongholds, we usually think about the “pulling down of strongholds” as Paul described in 2 Corinthians 10:4. But there are two different areas of strongholds. The strongholds of the enemy keep people bound, but the stronghold of the Lord keeps people safe and secure. There is a stronghold of safety and protection in the secret place of the Most High. We all know about the stronghold of the enemy and have personally experienced his assault on our minds, our bodies, our homes, and our finances. However, we can find deliverance and safety in the stronghold of God.

   The psalmist David often spoke of his safety in God, his Fortress. Where did David get his ideas of God being his “stronghold” or “fortress”? Could it be that living in the rocks and cliffs gave him those thoughts? In 1 Samuel 23:29, the Bible says, “David went up from there and dwelt in the strongholds of En-Gedi.” When I read this, I pictured a desert with no vegetation, only sand, dirt, and rocks. But it’s actually a beautiful place with water flowing, and there’s a freshwater spring. There are also cliffs in the rocks above the oasis.

   I was reading about this stronghold in En-Gedi in the archeological Bible, which is one of my favorites because I love learning about the archeology of the Middle East. It brings a different light on the Word of God and the surrounding story of David’s life.

   It says En-Gedi is an oasis on the western shore of the Dead Sea. The strongholds in which David hid may refer to wild camps found by archeologists on several of En-Gedi’s summits. It should come as no surprise that David chose this place to hide from King Saul who was intent on killing him because God chose David to reign as king after Saul disobeyed God.

   “After Saul had returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, ‘David is in the wilderness of En-Gedi.’ Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all of Israel and went to seek David and his men among the rocks of the Wild Goats.” (1 Samuel 24:1-2)

   David had been anointed by Samuel, the prophet of God, to be king over Israel. He was young, probably around 15 years old. After King Saul had been disobedient to God, God spoke through Samuel and declared that “the kingdom has been taken from you. God is not pleased with you.” (1 Samuel 15:28) The prophet Samuel (just like any of us would be) was very disappointed, discouraged, and upset.

   And God said, “Why do you sit around wallowing in this misery? Get up and go anoint a king that I’ve chosen.” (1 Samuel 16:1) And so, Samuel found and anointed David as king of Israel. However, it was a very long time before David actually acted as king and was anointed and appointed as king by the people of Israel.

   From the time Saul determined to kill David until he became king was a period of 7 to 10 years. The anointed of God dwelt in the rocks and caverns and strongholds in Israel. He couldn’t stay in one place very long because he was constantly being chased. There was always someone who was willing to reveal his position, so he had to move again and again, constantly on the run, a man whose life was in constant danger.

   Sometimes I feel like my life is surrounded with stress and pressure and I am sure you do also. The atmosphere of evil in the world presses against all of us. But when I think about David being chased constantly by those intent on killing him, I have a greater understanding of the degree to which he learned to depend on God for supernatural protection. It wasn’t really the physical rocks that brought true safety, it was hiding in God — my Rock, my Fortress.

   Look at how many times strongholds are mentioned in the Old Testament! 1 Samuel 13:6 (AMPC) says, “When the men of Israel saw that they were in a tight situation—for their troops were hard pressed—they hid in caves, holes, rocks, tombs, and pits or cisterns.”

Advance or Retreat?

   There is a time to advance and a time to retreat. So, what is important is that you do so at the direction of the Lord. There is a retreat directed by the Spirit of God. This is not a retreat by the spirit of fear. One is faith in God’s guidance, the other is fear of the enemy. Here is the key to David’s survival while living in the rocks and the caves. Each time it says, “David inquired of the Lord, shall I go? Will you be with us? Shall I go?” David inquired of the Lord.

   How many times have we missed it in our own life because we didn’t inquire of the Lord? David constantly inquired of the Lord. Shall we go? God was on Israel’s side, so they would automatically win the battle, (at least the reasoning mind would say so). If God is on your side, then you should be able to step forward and defeat all the enemies. Right? Yes. But did you inquire of the Lord? And when you inquired of the Lord, did he say for you to advance? Or did he say for you to retreat? When you retreat at God’s direction, He provides for you just as He did for David at En-Gedi.

   Success or defeat ultimately depends on you following the commander-in-chief! There is a time to advance forward in faith and win the battles of the Lord, and there is a time to retreat into the stronghold of safety and wait for the word of the Lord. This is David’s strength. David was a man after God’s own heart. What does that mean? His heart was turned toward God, and he had to hear from God, the commander-in-chief.

Are You Listening to the Commander-in-Chief?

   David spent 7 to 10 years in rocks and caves, and he survived. In a final heart-wrenching goodbye to his best friend, Jonathan, Saul’s son, David said, “Your father set his heart to kill me.” Jonathan replied, “Yes, but I also know that you will reign as king in Israel because God is with you.” (1 Samuel 23:17) How did David mentally, emotionally, and spiritually survive all of those years of hardship, knowing he was called of God to be king, yet hiding like a fugitive with the threat of death over his head day and night?

   If God spoke to you and told you that a certain thing was going to happen, but 10 years go by and it doesn’t happen, would you be discouraged? Again, the real key to living a victorious life is to hear from God and then stand fast. We can declare the Word, transform, and renew our minds, but the truth of the matter is we each have to inquire of the Lord.

   We each have to have a word from the Lord for our lives. What is God’s plan and purpose for my life? It doesn’t necessarily have to be the full plan from beginning to end, but what is God’s plan for me right now? Where am I supposed to be? What am I supposed to be doing? And when God gives you that word, then you know what? You do it until God says it’s time to do something else.

When Things Don’t Happen Fast Enough

   This is where many people make mistakes. God sends them on assignment, and they get agitated after a year or two, thinking it is time to move somewhere else. If they find things are difficult or the assignment doesn’t meet their expectations, they feel the need to move on. Did you inquire of the Lord? Is that what the Lord said to you? Has He said anything different to you since the first thing He led you to do?

   When you are a soldier in the army, you do what you are told. After you’ve done what you’ve been told to do, you wait for the next order. If you persist in departing outside of God’s will, you will find yourself outside of His protective fortress.

   David recognized that “Yahweh is in charge of my life.” When Yahweh is in charge of your life, He is your Strength, your Stronghold, your Fortress. The word fortress is the same as the word stronghold in Hebrew.

   I went online and looked at drawings and photos of a stronghold. Sometimes it helps to look outside of “religious definitions” because tradition can distort original meanings. Online I saw photos of big castles with moats and fortresses on the tops of mountains. My husband and I visited forts in the Yucatan with huge stone walls lining the sea. These were seemingly unscalable and impenetrable, with towers for observations and slots for cannons. Can you imagine trying to climb up there and break into that fort? People are on top of the wall with cannons and guns firing.

A Safe Place to Dwell with a View

   We also visited Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico, where the ancient Puebloans (the ancestral Puebloans) lived. They were cliff dwellers. We actually climbed up the sheer face of the rock on three different wooden ladders. When we reached the uppermost part of a rock cliff and stepped into the cave-like dwelling place, the view was phenomenal. And I realized it was a long way up! If the cliff dwellers saw the enemy coming, all they had to do was climb to safety and pull the ladders up behind them! There was safety in this stronghold.

   We also visited the ancestral Puebloan site, Mesa Verde, in Colorado. It’s an expansive view from the dwellings in the cleft of the rock. You can see the beauty of the landscape. But you can also see anyone who approaches from a great distance, and you feel protected, knowing you are elevated high above the enemy, hidden in the cleft. This is what it looks like from inside a stronghold. It reminds me of Psalm 91 that in the secret place of the Most High, only with my eyes shall I see and behold the reward of the wicked.

   We can choose to obey Him and dwell in His secret place. David lived those 7-10 years in places like I just described, and there were probably walled cities where he was safe. But he recognized that as safe as those caves are, as safe as the cleft of the rock is, true safety only comes from God.

God Will See You Through Every Difficulty

   And God had a plan for his life, just as He has a plan for yours. He had faith in God that God would see him through every difficulty, and one day he would sit on the throne as the shepherd of Israel. God is able to strengthen and sustain you, whatever the situation, and accomplish His promises, His plan, and His purpose in your life. It may take some time, and you may be wondering, “How long, oh Lord?” But as the Apostle Paul declared, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) What God starts, He always finishes and you can be assured that as you dwell in the secret place of the Most High, God’s stronghold of safety, He is working out His plan for your life — one of hope and blessing.

 

 

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