It’s a blessing and a privilege to be called to live in the ‘high places’ in Christ. In Jesus, the fortress of rocks has come to us – our dwelling place rather than sanctuary only in need. It’s where we are assured of perfect protection and provision, and of the life-giving presence of God Himself within us.
He will dwell on high; His place of defense will be the fortress of rocks; Bread will be given him, His water will be sure. (Isaiah 33:16)
Many have fled to the high places and mountains for protection in violent times of war and persecution. It’s a logical choice in one sense in that it’s a lot easier to defend the higher ground than to assault it. Having to attack up a slope makes one doubly vulnerable and more easily visible to the defenders looking down. But there is another vulnerability in the worldly fortress of rock which will ultimately determine victory or defeat. That is the need for food and water. We can survive indefinitely in a mountain stronghold providing we have access to these essentials of life. The tragedy of the Jewish fortress of Masada is a perfect example. Fired by fervour for their faith and refusing to accept Roman rule, this group of people committed suicide when they saw the inevitable Roman victory. Bread and water is essential to any fortress fulfilling its purpose.
God is our fortress of rocks.
The imagery of today’s verse is a high place which cannot be taken or lost. It’s an eternal place with roots in the earth and lofty pinnacles that reach to the sky. There, we cannot be shaken, taken, or destroyed. We are strong and secure, surrounded by immovable rocky walls that shield and protect us, which hide us from our enemy, and which stand unassailable forever. This is what has drawn people to flee to the fortress of rocks for safety. But very few instances actually emerge with a happy ending, both because of superior forces and a lack of food and water. Even if they were able to provide in advance, it was always for a limited time. There was always a defined time of ending. They could stretch this by rationing, of course, but unless something extra happened outside the defences, attackers simply had to starve them out.
It’s critically important that we realise the truth of this, because it’s our ‘baseline’ for understanding the limitless provision and protection of God. Only when we grasp the limitations of an earthly fortress of rocks can we fully appreciate the unlimited fortress that is God our Rock. The fundamental difference here is that mountains are essentially inanimate. They are because He created them, and while they may have plants and animals there, they have no life of their own. God, on the other hand, is a living fortress with limitless creative power. He provides a fortress that is dynamic, vibrant, and powerful because these define His life. While the imagery of a mountain fortress is apt and descriptive, this is as far as we can take it. It works only as far as the truth of life. An inanimate mountain cannot intervene to save us.
Our fortress of rocks is our dwelling place.
There is another fundamental difference between our earthly fortress of rocks and our spiritual one. God, our Rock and fortress, doesn’t expect to simply be a place to which to flee when trouble comes. He desires to be our dwelling place. This is where we live. It’s where we put down roots and make a life and are established. This is such a beautiful image because there’s nothing temporary or transient about it. Instead of being an ‘in the meantime’ existence it’s a forever existence. We don’t run to the Rock for safety only but rather dwell there in constant safety. He is a place we ‘come home’ to rather than simply hide in. We do run and do hide in the assurances of God, but it’s as a people secure in the truth that He is our home rather than our temporary place of safety.
The other beautiful aspect of our fortress of rocks as our home is that it’s individual. Each dwelling place is shaped to meet our individual need – rather like we as humans shape our homes to our preferences. The difference, of course, is that God – who knows what we need and when – does the shaping. We all have different weaknesses, different areas of vulnerability which He knows. In shaping Himself as our fortress He doesn’t change, He cannot. Everything He is remains in Him. The difference is that He responds in all His complete perfection but in different ways. What this tells us is that He has intimate, personal knowledge. We don’t have to make do with what nature has presented to us. He doesn’t squash us into an inanimate refuge of hard walls and no flexibility. When we dwell in Him, we dwell in love, comfort, provision, and power.
Provision in our fortress of rocks.
As we’ve seen, provision is key to the lasting protection and safety of any refuge. It’s always the weak point in any battle. If an attacker can cut off provisions, no matter how strong our fortress of rocks may be, we will inevitably be defeated. This is a fundamental and powerful promise that sets our spiritual refuge apart from any worldly counterpart. Our God is able and willing to provide. We do not have wait for starvation and thirst to destroy us or force our surrender. No siege of our fortress of rocks will ever be successful. God Himself eliminates our vulnerability by providing everything we need. I’m reminded of His provision during the Exodus and for others like Elijah during the seemingly endless drought. He very clearly assures us that He will give our bread and that our water will be sure.
There are no grey areas here. Those who dwell in Him will receive all they need for life. It’s a sure and certain promise. We will dwell, we will receive bread, and our water will be sure. Done. In our fortress of rocks, we can be absolutely sure that He will take and has taken care of every small details. Sometimes, this provision may manifest in miraculous ways. At others, it may seem to be simple, practical, natural provision. We can be sure of one thing, however. Any provision is always supernatural, because all good things come from God alone. It may seem that our provision is simply the logical outworking of something we did, but those who dwell in the Lord will always receive supernatural provision, no matter how it manifests. That is because God is spirit and all He does is by the power of His Spirit.
Our fortress of rocks in Christ.
The more I consider the beautiful simplicity of God’s purposes in Christ, the more I value this incredible blessing. Our fortress of rocks has come to us. We don’t have to scale the heights with the enemy at our heels, or schlep up a mountain every day. In a sense, the mountain has come to us – and would have to Muhammad, too, if he’d listened. We’re told to dwell in the high places in Christ. This dynamic relationship of Christ in us and us in Christ is an incredibly perfect and limitless relationship instituted by God to bring us to Himself. Christ in us empowers us to live and to fight our spiritual battles. Us in Christ is to dwell in our fortress of rocks, to be shielded and protected by the Son of God who is the manifestation of the Father. We need only dwell in Him.
Today, let’s move in to the high places in Christ, put our roots down, and make Him our eternal, unshakeable home. Let’s live rather than hide, because that’s part of why He came.
Thank You, Father God, for reminding us that You are so much more than simply a refuge in times of trouble. Help us to take hold of Your protection, provision, and perfect purpose in Jesus. Help us to truly live in Christ so that You are our dwelling place, eternal and secure, and to respond with love and thanksgiving to Your perfect provision in all things.