Taken By Surprise Judges 18:7

They dwelt careless, after the manner of the Zidonians, quiet and secure Judges 18:7 (AV).

Long, long ago, many hundreds of years before Christ came to the earth, there was a city away up in the north of Canaan called Laish. It was beautifully situated in the midst of a fertile land with plenty of wood and water. The people who lived in Laish were an easy-going, ease-loving sort of people. They had always had plenty to eat without putting themselves to much trouble; and as their neighbors did not bother themselves to harass them, they did not think it necessary to build defenses round their town or to arm their men.

Now at the time of which I speak the Israelites had just taken possession of the land of Canaan, and they had divided it up, giving a certain part to each tribe. There was one tribe—the tribe of Dan—who were not quite pleased with the bit which had fallen to them. It was rather small for their number, and it was far too near their enemies, the fierce Philistines, so that they were constantly in danger of raids from them.

So the Danites determined that they would look out for a nice piece of land for themselves, and for this purpose they sent five spies all through the land of Canaan. When the five men came to Laish, they said, “Here is the very thing we want—a beautiful wide, fertile country, and people in it who are careless about their defenses, and can be easily conquered.” They returned to the people of Dan, and told them all they had seen, and how easily the land could be subdued. And the Danites took six hundred armed men, and went up, and fell upon the city of Laish and captured it, killing the people, and burning the city.

Now I do not want you to think that the Danites were right in falling upon a defenseless city and slaughtering the inhabitants. That is an act which every right-thinking person nowadays holds in contempt. But what I wish you to notice is that the inhabitants of Laish had no right to leave their city undefended. They were living in wild times and should have done something to protect their homes and children. By acting as they did they were just inviting attack. If the Danites had found high walls round the city and armed men inside they would probably never have thought of trying to capture it; and if they had tried, they would most likely have been beaten. It was because they were so sure of their own safety that the people of Laish were undone.

We are fighting a foe much more crafty than the Danites and much more cruel. His name is Satan, and he is always storming the city of our heart, for he is anxious to capture it. He is very clever, and he is very busy, and he is always on the look out for the people who are “dwelling careless,” so we must guard our city well if we do not wish it to fall into the hands of the enemy.

1. There are two ways that we must guard it. And the first way is to have it well fortified. We must not neglect our defenses, and we must see that they are always in good order. It won’t do to leave a weak spot anywhere, because the enemy is sure to find it. It was just where the people of Laish thought they were strong that they were really weak. They felt quite secure and that feeling of security brought about their downfall.

You remember how the city of Quebec was taken. A strong army under the French general Montcalm had held it all summer in spite of the many attempts of the British to capture it. At last General Wolfe thought of a plan. On the north-western side of the city rose some high land called the Heights of Abraham. The only way to these heights was by very steep cliffs. The French thought it would be impossible for any army to attack them on that side, so they left the north-western side of the city undefended. One dark night, when the people in the city were all asleep, General Wolfe led his men up the steep side of the precipice, and, when morning dawned, there was the British army looking down on the city. A short, fierce battle followed, and in a few hours Quebec was in the hands of the British.

Don’t leave any little corner of your heart-city undefended, for Satan is very clever and he knows exactly where he can most easily get at you. It is often not the places we think weakest that he attacks, because he knows we are hard at work defending these places. No, he has a much more crafty way. He makes us think we are specially strong at some point—we are too honorable to tell a lie, too straight to do anything underhand—then along he sneaks and assaults us at the very point on which we were priding ourselves, and down we go. So we must look well to our defenses.

And what are the best defenses? Well, first of all we must build round our city a high wall—the high wall of prayer. And then we must arm it with a good conscience which tells us what is right and wrong, and a firm will which helps us to follow the right. Our conscience is a splendid defense if we keep it bright and shining. We can do this by listening to it, but if we do not listen, it becomes dull and rusty, and later ceases to be a defense. And our will is a splendid protection if we use it rightly, but if we do not use it in the right way it becomes weak and useless.

2. I said there were two ways in which we must defend our heart-city. The first way is by fortifications and the second way is by watching. For, however well fortified a city is, if we are not guarding it continually, the enemy may still get the better of us. What would you think of the sentinel who said, “Oh well, there are good thick walls round this city and there are splendid guns to defend it, so I’ll just have a little snooze”? Do you know what might happen while he slept? The enemy might scale those high walls and turn the splendid guns on the inhabitants of the city, and reduce the place to ruins.

So we must ever be watching, watching night and day. It is weary work sometimes, and we grow tired of the conflict. But there is One who never grows tired, One who is always watching; and if we have taken Him into the citadel of our heart He will guard it safely and give us the victory over our Arch-Enemy.