In pioneer days in America covered wagons were the primary across-the-country mode of transportation. Wild animals roamed the rugged terrain and Indian attacks were common. When pioneer families traveled, it was in a caravan in the company of other pioneers.
Upon stopping to make camp for the night, the shout was heard, "Circle up the wagons!" Each wagon was put in its designated place around a tight circumference and a bonfire was usually started in the center. No gap was left between the wagons to prevent any stranger, enemy, or creature from sneaking through. The circle served as a safe haven. During the night, watchmen were selected from among the families to keep guard. They often sang songs loudly around the campfire to ward off potential enemies. Surrounded by fellow travelers, the parents and children could lie down in peace and sleep in security.
Some Christians in our day try to be “Lone Rangers” in the sense of ignoring God's loving provision of safety and strength and growth spiritually in the company of other believers. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). That is as foolish as it would have been for a pioneer family to attempt traversing the wild plains and forests and mountains alone on their uncharted Westward journey. Such Christians tend to isolate themselves from fellow believers in times of trouble and need, reluctant even to ask for support in prayer.
Jesus Christ established His Body, the Church, with its many and various parts, to be dependent upon and receive help from the other parts of His Body for mutual strength. God means us to be interdependent, to look after each others backs, and give of ourselves sacrificially for others. We are meant to pray for and encourage one another and “bear one anther’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ,” the law of love.
I'm ever so thankful for my group of “First Responders,” eager an d faithful brothers and sisters in Christ scattered all over the country and the world, who quickly and joyfully surround me in prayer in my time of need or intercede for an urgent need expressed by someone else. They are my circle of strength like the circle of pioneer covered wagons.
In times of darkness and danger, some people whistle in the dark to keep up their spirits. A song on our lips and in our hearts infuses strength into our souls, just as the apostle Paul and Silas sang songs of praise to God while chained in prison at midnight.
The Scripture reinforces this with the declaration, “You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance” (Psalm 32:7). Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but he who trusts in the Lord, loving kindness shall surround him” (v.10). “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, So the LORD surrounds His people from this time forth and forever” (Psalm 125:2). When we ask for the intercession of fellow believers on earth and from those of God's children who have already gone before us into His presence, we receive help from above. Jesus, our One Mediator between God and men, “ever lives to make intercession for us" (Hebrews 7:25). “The righteous will surround me, for You will deal bountifully with me" (Psalm 142:7).
The Lord always acts over and above whatever we ask or think to care for His children. He sends His angel messengers and watchers, sometimes visible, sometimes invisible, to surround us. Other versions of Scripture translate the word surround, “to encamp round about us.” “For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.” All of Psalm 91 is chock full of God's promises of shelter and deliverance as we abide under the shadow of the Almighty—another reminder of the covered wagon circles of safety.
Let's pitch our tent (or park our covered wagon, so to speak) together with other believers so that we may all journey life's road in safety and peace through the growing dark night of fear that threatens us when we look around at world events.