Early American Indian tribes like the Apache, the Mohawk and the Cheyenne had a unique practice of training young braves. It involved deep woods and blindfolds — and overwhelming fear. Terror has a way of focusing your attention on an important lesson.
How did the tribe teach young braves to be courageous? On the night of a boy’s thirteenth birthday, after learning hunting, scouting, and fishing skills, he was put to one final test. He was placed in a dense forest to spend the entire night alone. Until then, he had never been away from the security of the family and the tribe. But on this night, he was blindfolded and taken several miles away. When he took off the blindfold, he was in the middle of a thick woods and he was terrified! Every time a twig snapped, he visualized a wild animal ready to pounce. After what seemed like an eternity, dawn broke and the first rays of sunlight entered the interior of the forest. Looking around, the boy saw flowers, trees, and the outline of the path. Then, to his utter astonishment, he beheld the figure of a man standing just a few feet away, armed with a bow and arrow. It was his father. He had been there all night long.
As they walked back to the tribe’s encampment, the boy’s father would recount stories of braves who had courageously faced enemies, overcome hardship and endured tremendous difficulties. He would instruct his son about a brave’s responsibility to the tribe. He would remind his son that, even when he thinks he is totally alone, the Great Spirit is always watching over him just as his father did.
I’m not going to show up and blindfold you, but I would like to get your undivided attention on today’s verse, which says HE WHO DWELLS IN THE SECRET PLACE OF THE MOST HIGH WILL REST IN THE SHADOW OF THE ALMIGHTY.
Apache braves are not the only ones who need to be reminded of the need to be courageous. Nor are they the only ones being watched over from above.
But make no mistake, we are not promised protection from every strike or even victory in every earthly battle as we stand in our own strength. There are blessings that are given to the one WHO DWELLS IN THE SECRET PLACE OF THE MOST HIGH, and they are a function of God and His protection. They are for the one who says to the LORD, “You are my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
He will deliver you from the snares of the enemy, your foot will escape hidden traps as you walk with God in integrity. Even a deadly plague will not touch you, because His faithfulness is a shield. Neither the terrors of the night nor the fears of the day will lay their hands upon you. As you stay close to God’s side, no weapon forged against you can succeed. Even if ten thousand people around you are stuck down, you will remain standing; a testimony that no harm can come near you.
HE WHO DWELLS IN THE SECRET PLACE OF THE MOST HIGH WILL REST IN THE SHADOW OF THE ALMIGHTY and no evil will be allowed to conquer you. God makes promises that only He can keep. He says that even in famine He will redeem you from death, and in battle from the strike of the opponent’s weapon. You will be hidden from the attack of the tongue, people speaking against you; and in fact you’ll condemn every tongue that rises against you.
And yet there is the tension of faith. The battles we face, within and without; even danger. In those circumstances we have the promise of the place He has prepared for us with Him. The bible gives us many of these areas of tension, we are protected and yet can be slaughtered. Angels attend us to guard us in all our ways, but we are called to lay down our lives. We live in a fallen world with the promise of a better one – and so we press on. Our obedience is the measure of our devotion.
You may have heard about the “American aid worker” who was murdered last week in Baghdad, Iraq. He was executed as he drove onto the street where he, his wife and his three young daughters lived. But he wasn’t just an “aid worker.” He was a missionary with a special call to the Middle East. As I’ve said before, how you die is largely irrelevant; what matters most is how you live.
It reminds me of some others who never made it home, but died on another evening as Iraqi extremists sprayed bullets into their passing truck. Later, a letter to be opened and read after her death was found among the belongings of one of those killed. In it she said, among other things, “To obey was my objective, to suffer was expected, …. His glory is my reward.”
“To obey was my objective.” That kind of radical obedience should be the objective of every Christian, knowing that we are protected until He comes to take us to our eternal home — where His glory will be our reward.
O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. Lord, hide me in the shadow of your wings, and remind me that to obey is my objective until we meet in glory.