Until David took the city of Jerusalem, it had never been captured. When Joshua came into the Promised Land, he defeated the king of Jerusalem, but the city itself was never taken. (Joshua 10:23-24, 15:63) The Jebusites boasted that Jerusalem was so secure that its guards were the blind and the lame men. (II Samuel 5:6) Its natural position made it virtually invincible; therefore, it was unnecessary to position the able-bodied soldiers there. These strong warriors were used elsewhere while the rejects defended the city. The city actually “defended itself” since it was built on the top of high cliffs with deep ravines surrounding it. When an attack would come, all these handicapped soldiers had to do was to simply push boulders over the edge of the cliff upon the approaching forces — they did not need to be marksmen or skilled warriors.
David outfoxed the Jebusites by sending some men up the water duct to take the city from the inside. After David took the city, Jerusalem then became his stronghold. (II Samuel 5:7-9) From the city of Jerusalem, we learn a lesson concerning strongholds: their power is in their natural position. You don’t have to have a strong warrior inside a stronghold to be able to protect it because the stronghold itself is its own protection. Let’s apply this principle to our own lives — especially out thought lives. The devil doesn’t have to be strong to have a powerful control over us. He could be blind and crippled — but if he gets inside our stronghold, he can exercise tremendous authority. He doesn’t have to have real strength or ability as long as he has a controlling position in our thought life. When the devil gets inside our thinking and begins to feed us with lies and deception, he saps whatever energy and power was already inside us. Sometimes the devil tries to trick believers with the lame idea that he (the devil) has no power, making the believer lethargic in his spiritual life. Other times, he deceives them with the lame idea that that he (the devil) has lots of power, scaring the believer into retreat. Regardless of his approach, every thought that the enemy inspires is a lie that is totally void within itself. The power that it carries is simply the authority that we give it by allowing it a place inside our minds.
For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope. (Romans 8:20)
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Romans 1:21)
This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind. (Ephesians 4:17)
On the other hand, the truth can get inside our stronghold and make it just as strong a fortification for the truth as it was for the devil’s lies. The power of our mind is incredible. When we believe the evil thoughts of defeat, we are defeated. When the thoughts of God get into our minds and our spirits and fill us with thoughts of success, we are successful. Just as David transformed the city of the Jebusites into his prized capital, Jesus is intent upon taking the strongholds of Satan and making them His treasured show places. One interesting side note is that when David took the city of Jerusalem, he armed it with his mighty men — not the lame and blind men as did the Jebusites. In like fashion — when Christ takes over our minds and hearts, He fortifies our strongholds with the powerful truths of the Word of God! The verb translated “keep” in Philippians 4:7 literally means to build a fort. In Christ, we can fortify our minds with powerful truths that declare and determine victory.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. (II Corinthians 10:3-5)
For many years when I read this passage, I thought that the “things that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God” were things like atheism that says there is no God. I thought that Paul was saying that the weapons of my warfare were for the purpose of destroying the arguments of the people who say there is no God. In actuality, this is not at all what this passage is saying. Our weapons are strong enough to destroy all the arguments against any area of the knowledge about God. There are lots of things that we should know about God; however, for some reason, we don’t because there is an idea that has gotten into our heads that keeps the true knowledge of God from getting into us. We know that God exists, but we fail to attain the true knowledge of who God is and what God does. God is Jehovah Tsidkenu, which means that He is the God of our righteousness. The day that Jesus came into our lives, His righteousness came into us. However, the devil will come to each and every one of us with accusations to combat our righteousness consciousness. If that lie penetrates into our minds and we agree with it, he begins to build a stronghold against the knowledge of God’s righteousness within us. God is also Jehovah Rapha — the God who heals all of our diseases — but the devil wants to plant lies inside us saying that our ailment is either too big for God to heal or too insignificant for Him to notice. The truth is that God is just as willing to heal the little aches and pains as He is willing to heal cancer. He is just as able to heal the most dreaded plague, as He is able to cure a minor ailment. We can go through all the redemptive names and qualities of God to learn what we should be thinking about God. Anytime we allow thoughts contrary to these truths into our hearts, we have permitted the enemy to use his deceit to begin a stronghold in our minds.
A number of years ago, a contestant in a beauty contest knew that she was going to lose to one of the other participants, so she decided to resort to dubious means to defeat her. Her tactic to get the girl out of the completion was to curse her by telling her that every time she looked in the mirror, she would see how ugly she was. The curse worked, and the front-runner dropped out of the completion. In fact, she totally dropped out of life and spent the rest of her life as a recluse in her house. She spent all of her fortune on beauty products and cosmetic surgeries. No matter how many people tried to convince her that she was still a gorgeous lady, she never overcame the lie that had was planted in her mind during that pageant. It was a lame idea, but it took root in the stronghold of her mind and destroyed her future and life.
One of the unique characteristics of strongholds is that they are positioned so that in the event of an attack, enemies would actually bring destruction upon themselves. In Sri Lanka, I have climbed to the top of Sigiriya, the spectacular “Lion Rock” fortress on top a gigantic rock whose sheer walls rise about twelve hundred feet above its luscious green jungle surroundings. This fortress, built in AD 473, was surrounded by huge slaps of stone that were triggered with rope mechanisms so that an avalanche of destruction would instantly engulf any intruding army. In Israel, I was able to climb the equally impressive fortress of Masada that was built by King Herod. This encampment poised atop the thirteen-hundred-foot precipice became the last bastion of the Jewish people against the Roman invasion. When the legion laid siege to the fortress in AD 72, the Romans realized that the only way to take the stronghold was to build a circumvallation wall to allow them to approach the plateau. They forced Jewish slaves to haul in the thousands of tons of stones and earth that it took to build the ramp because the attackers knew that the Jews in the fortress would not kill their national brethren. Otherwise, the Jews hold-up in the fortress would have pummeled their attackers to death with their arsenal of rocks. From my vantage point perched atop Sigiriya or Masada, thinking of the sheer insanity of launching an attack against either of these strongholds, I began to gain a perspective of how well defensible our position is Christ can and should be if we only renew our minds to become strongholds of truth rather than citadels for the enemy’s blind assumptions and lame ideas.
Let’s examinety how David out-tricked the Jebusites when he took the city of Jerusalem from the lame and blind guards. According to II Samuel 5:8, the attack approach was through the water canal. In Ephesians 5:26, Paul uses water as a symbol of the Word of God. If this symbol can also be applied to the story of David’s conquest of Jerusalem, we can see that the lesson exactly parallels biblical truth — the only way we are to take control of the strongholds in our lives is to infiltrate them with the truth of the Word of God — the weapon that is more powerful than the enemy’s lies. One interesting footnote to this story is that the King James translation of this verse says that he sent his men into the city through the gutter. What a powerful thought — what had been a gutter, filled with the garbage thoughts of this world, became the avenue through which the renewing and life-giving truths of God could invade!
Perhaps that is the reason David wrote that he had hidden the Word of God in his heart so that he would not sin against God (Psalm 119:11) and prayed that the Lord would search his heart to see if there was any evil way in it (Psalm 139:23). His son Solomon followed with his own admonition concerning the importance of the heart when he said in Proverbs 4:23, “Keep (guard) thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”
We are repeatedly instructed that God searches the hearts of men (I Kings 8:39, Psalm 44:21, Psalm 139:1-2, Acts 1:24, Romans 2:16, Hebrews 4:13 — to list only a few); yet we are faced with a real problem in that sometimes we don’t even know our own hearts. Jeremiah instructed us concerning this inherent danger of the heart when he said that it is so deceitful that it may even fool the individual himself. (Jeremiah 17:9) But the Apostle Paul offered us a word of consolation that through the human spirit enlightened by the Holy Spirit we can have a true knowledge of our hearts. (I Corinthians 2:11, Romans 8:27) David gave us an example of how to pray for our hearts in Psalm 19:14 when he said, “Let the words of our hearts and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” At this point, it is apparent that there is a real connection between the words of our mouths and the thoughts of our hearts — a truth confirmed by Jesus’ declaration in Matthew 15:18 that those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart.
Actually, one of the best ways to really know our hearts is to listen carefully to the words that come out of our mouths before we have time to contrive a response — when we hit our thumbs with the hammer, when someone pulls in front of us in traffic, or when someone offers us an interesting bit of gossip. An excellent illustration of this principle occurred on national television a few years ago when a contestant on a game show was awarded a brand new car. Before she had time to offer a prepared response, out of her mouth erupted the words, “I can’t take that car! I work for their competitor!” Of course, everyone on the show was stunned — even the winning contestant. After a few seconds, the host gained enough composure to carry on with the show and questioned the lady about what she had said. It was true, she was turning down a prize worth thousands of dollars because inside her was loyalty to her employer. It wasn’t her brain that made the response; it was her heart. As Christians, we must have our hearts so full of the truth of God and the life of God that we will automatically respond with God’s Word and nature from the heart.
In Psalms 141:3, David expressed his desire to guard his mouth and acknowledged that his lips were a gateway. “Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.” However, it is in the following verse that we see that the true heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. “Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practise wicked works with men that work iniquity.”
In Psalm 19:14 we find a powerful key, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” David prayed that the words of his mouth — the sayings he initiated and the things that he repeated from others — would be acceptable unto the Lord. Let me suggest that David likely used the same filter that is described in the New Testament as a screen for eliminating words and thoughts that would have been displeasing to God:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Philippians 4:8)
Here Paul listed eight criteria that must be met before any thought qualifies to be meditated upon. Simply being true does not make it eligible to become part of our thinking process. Once it passes the truth filter, it then must be subjected to the filter of justice and the honesty filter, followed by the purity filter, then the filter of loveliness, the good-report filter, the virtue filter, and the praiseworthiness filter. If it makes it through all these filters, then — and only then — is it acceptable for a Christian to think or meditate on.
So what does this say about the bad news reports that we hear? How should they affect us? First of all, we need to determine if they are true. Quite simply, much of what is published today — especially in tabloids and on the Internet, but even in many reputable news sources — simply is not true. In that case, ignore it unless you have an opportunity to correct the misinformation in order to protect other innocent subjects. Next, we must apply the just and honest filters to determine if what is said is presented with a bias that is distorting the truth. The kernel of truth that inspired the gossip may be true, but what about the assumptions or exaggerations that came along with it? An old expression goes, “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” For example, all of the scientific evidences that have been presented as proof of evolution actually have another story to tell — one that proves the instantaneous creation of the universe by an intelligent being. However, the scientific publications as a whole are unjust and dishonest in the way they report this information. Since the reports have failed the next layers of filters, we have to discard them from our meditations unless we have the ability to correct the interpretations into honest and just concepts. Other filters include purity, loveliness, praiseworthiness, and virtue. These filters readily disqualify any kinds of reports that slander and harm others. Obviously, when people are in error, they need to be corrected; but slander or “getting even” are not correction! Therefore we must not meditate on these aspects of the issue. Rather, we must meditate on a positive quality associated with their wrongdoing — the fact that Jesus came to redeem falling man and that He gave us the ministry of reconciling these wayward men to Him.
One other test is the good-report filter where we have to ask ourselves if the report is good as well as true. If what we hear is true but negative in nature, it does not qualify as a tenant for space in our hearts and minds. That doesn’t mean that we ignore the truth; it simply means that we are not to meditate on it. In an economic downturn, for an example, it would be foolish to ignore the fact that the economy is in serious difficulty; however, to allow that negative report to become a focal point in our thoughts would be disastrous. My own personal experience when our country entered a financial crisis demonstrates how this principle can work. The newspaper reported the results of a study that showed that giving to non-for-profit organizations had fallen off around twenty percent during the first months of a major economic setback. At the same time, a number of ministries I knew of were forced to lay off employees due to lack of funding. All this happened just at a time when I was making the most aggressive faith decisions in our ministry. These news reports were true reports that I could not — and did not want to — ignore. However, these reports were not good reports, so I knew that I could not allow them to become the focus of the meditation of my heart. Instead, I found another report that I also knew to be true but also passed the good-report test: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19) This passage became the focus of my meditation even when I acknowledged the currently prevailing economic difficulties. I knew that I couldn’t ignore the facts, but I also knew that I could not focus my attention on them. With full awareness of the financial strain, I chose to focus on the fact that I had a God who would supply all my needs — not according to the present economy, but according to His riches. Almost as soon as I made the decision to focus on the good report of Philippians rather than the negative report of the media, I was faced with a major request. A pastor I had been assisting in Burma contacted me with a need. Revival was spreading through his area, and he had seen a major influx into his church. In fact, it was so great that he needed to expand his facility. He asked me to help him with the cost of this expansion. Had I been focusing on the news reports, I would have told him that I was sorry; however, I was focusing on the good report that my God would supply every need. Because of that, I was able to promise him in faith that I would help. Not long afterwards, I went to Africa on a mission trip and was given a huge offering which covered the pledge I had made toward his building. Who would ever have thought that I would receive an offering on the mission field, much less one generous enough to undertake a building project! Imagine — even while we were experiencing an economic downturn in America, God supplied for a church in Asia by an offering in Africa!